The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why Do Men Die Younger Than Women?

Let's be serious. From a genetic point of view, individual human lives aren't important--reproduction is, and raising those children until they themselves can reproduce. Sociobiologically, societies will form rules that reinforce whatever "works" in terms of promoting this. This includes both conscious and unconscious rules. Some of these deny women their rights as individuals. But they often...nearly always...include considering men's lives less important. Again, genetically, this is true--it takes only a few men to impregnate an entire village. But the utterly common practice of men taking the most dangerous jobs, risking their lives to seem "powerful" to gain mates, fighting wars whether those wars are ordered by Kings OR Queens...serves an evolutionary purpose, but is horrible in terms of the mental programming necessary to turn sweet little baby boys into killing machines. Yep, we have testosterone, but we didn't ask to be born with it. And the people who claim "men run the world" never ever factor in men's death rates, which exceed women's almost everywhere. We can watch thousands of men die in movies with barely a blink, but a single woman (of child-bearing age) placed in peril will give us fits. We can play the "men versus women" game, but it is missing the point--we are programmed, and must wake up to this fact and stop blaming each other if we want to change this game. And for the sake of children unborn, it must be changed.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost


Mike Ralls said...

There is a lot of talk about the glass ceiling, rightly so, but something that really needs to get _way_ more attention than it does is The Glass Floor. If you look at who is in jail, or homeless, or dies from doing dangerous jobs, overwhelmingly it is males. Men, collectively, are simply allowed to fall further down then women.

Shady_Grady said...

That is so true Mike, but it is political suicide to talk about that. Do you see that changing any time soon?

Anonymous said...

Mike, very good comment about the glass floor. Gives me something to think about. I really like this post.

Anonymous said...

Nice story you got here. I'd like to read a bit more concerning this matter. Thnx for giving that data.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

1) I'd say that men run the world in the sense that the bulk of people with the most power are men. (No, being sexy to someone with lots of power doesn't give you the same power; Monica Lewinsky didn't get significant power from Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton did, but that marital deal is more complicated than a simple Power/Beauty trade.) I don't think, in power terms, that women's emotional influence generally makes them the equals of the richest, most powerful men.

2) On the other hand, Mike Ralls is also right about the Glass Floor. Men have more variable outcomes, rather than uniformly better ones.

3) With a few exceptions, the men who are getting the goodies in terms of power and money aren't the same as the men who are getting the bulk of the extra danger and risk of death. (There are some exceptions; presidents get a much higher chance of getting killed along with their much greater power. But just plain rich men don't. For the most part, some men get to run the world and different men get to die young.)

4) But the longevity thing is partly biology (women being built to survive the dozen or more pregnancies that we'd get without birth control, and men not needing the same stamina) as well as partly social, so even rich men will on average lose some, relative to women, here.

Lorenzo said...

Young men are disproportionately risk takers is a big factor (see crime, accidents, etc). Also, men tend to be concentrated in higher risk jobs (not unconnected to the first point, since career choices can be made early), hence the much higher male rate of workplace death.

There is something to the masculinity point in general though, particularly as men are more likely to successfully commit suicide. Divorced men hugely more than divorced women, for example.

Amartya Sen makes the point that one sign of serious female disadvantage in the modern world is countries where men live longer than women, given the modern success reducing the risk of childbirth, which used to be much higher than they currently are. Sufficiently high that it may have been a factor in less investment in education of girls.

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