Feminist issues have been in the press a lot lately, but what about the human rights issues that disproportionately affect men?
Men are more likely to become homeless than women, and there are more male cases of autism than female. On average, men die younger than women. This is partly due to biological or evolutionary reasons, but other factors such as higher suicide rates and more dangerous working conditions, are rooted in society.
Ninety-seven percent of employees who die at work are men. Between the ages of 20 and 40 men are twice as likely as women to die from any cause, in part because they often won’t visit a doctor due to toxic ideas around masculinity.
Aren’t Men’s Rights Advocates People who Bully Feminists?
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Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) are giving men’s rights a bad name. There are some men who bully women on the internet for speaking out about feminist issues, but most activists simply want to ensure that men’s rights are understood and addressed.
Campaigning for men’s rights is not about denying the importance of women’s rights: it’s not a zero-sum game. Campaigning for any kind of group-based rights should be about ensuring that everyone can enjoy their human rights, and acknowledging that some groups, including men, face unique challenges.
So, What Human Rights Issues Do Men Face?
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The male suicide rate is a gendered human rights issue: in the UK and the Republic of Ireland it is consistently very high. The suicide rate for men is three times higher than that of women in the UK. Men aged between 40 and 44 are the most likely group to take their own life. Samaritans have suggested six reasons for why male suicide at this age is so high. Two of which, masculinity and reluctance to engage with mental health services, are specific to men. The Samaritans suggest that “more than women, men respond to stress by taking risks or misusing alcohol and drugs”.
More at Risk
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Last autumn there were 4751 people sleeping rough in England; 4098 of them were men. This is partly because local authorities have to find accommodation for ‘priority cases’, such as mothers and dependent children. Single, older men are not classed as a priority. This problem has only increased due to austerity measures.
If you’re a white, working class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university.
Theresa May, Prime Minister
Men are also less likely to attend university than women with the same socio-economic background. In the last academic year, approximately 30,000 more women than men were enrolled in university in the UK. This table shows that, for the majority of university courses, more women were offered places than men. However, the intersectionality of factors (i.e. your gender combined with your race, class, ethnicity, etc.) widens the gap dramatically. Women are 35 percent more likely to go to university than men. However, when comparing men and women from disadvantaged backgrounds, women are 52 percent more likely to attend university.
When Theresa May became Prime Minister of the UK in July 2016, she said in her first public statement: “If you’re a white, working-class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university”. In fact, white British people are the least likely of any ethnic group in England to attend university. In England in 2012; 170,210 white British girls enrolled in university compared with 136,425 white British boys.
There are also some disciplines where women are over-represented, such as nursing. Nursing is seen as a feminine profession and just 0.8 percent of midwives are male. Male nurses report negative attitudes about their choice of profession, ranging from people assuming they are a doctor or simply asking them why they aren’t a doctor.
Ok, You’ve Convinced Me. What Next?
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There are people and organisations tackling these issues. CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a charity that encourages men to speak up about what’s bothering them, and challenges toxic masculine ideas that encourage men to bottle their feelings.
CALM’s website says: “We believe that there is a cultural barrier preventing men from seeking help as they are expected to be in control at all times, and failure to be seen as such equates to weakness and a loss of masculinity”. There are many other charities that help to prevent male suicide including The Samaritans and Grass Roots Suicide Prevention.
SurvivorsUK is helping male rape and sexual abuse victims by busting some of the myths around male rape and offering counselling and support to victims. There are approximately 9,000 male victims of rape in England and Wales each year and there are campaigns to break the taboos around speaking about it.