A few observations in relation to yet another article critical of men

The mainstream media is awash with articles infused with anti-male bias. Indeed after being conditioned through decades of exposure to this material, most people accept what they are told. In comparison to most of those articles, the focus of this post regarding alleged male risk-taking behaviour is admittedly rather benign. Indeed, if taken at face-value it appears to be sympathetic to the welfare of men & boys.

Examined more closely however the article reflects the contrasting and hypocritical manner in which the media addresses men’s & women’s issues.

The same day I noticed this article I came across another in a similar vein. That article mocks men in relation to another trait associated with masculinity – demonstrating protective behaviour towards women.

No there is nothing controversial about shaming men – just men – about pretty much anything nowadays. That’s kind of my point. And the article isn’t so much about “asking why“, but telling us why … apparently men are foolish.

And oddly, whilst this is an article about men’s behaviour, it begins with an account of the drowning of a 23 month old toddler. This seems to infer that even very young boys are dying due to masculinity-induced recklessness. Presumably female toddlers are more careful.

As the article is relatively brief, I’ll provide it here in its entirety:

Drownings blamed on men’s risky behaviour‘ (The Australian, 30 December 2016)

“The twin brother pulled unconscious from a Sydney swimming pool has died three days after his sister, in what has been described as a “deeply disturbing” week for water deaths.

Charli and Robbi Manago, 23 months, had been fighting for life in The Children’s Hospital at Westmead since they were found in their family’s pool around 7pm on December 20. The hospital last night confirmed Robbi had died.

His death takes the number of coastal and inland waterway fatalities since Sunday to 11. Nine of the dead were men.

Experts say a deadly cocktail of conditions — male bravado, consistent warm weather, and a poor understanding of water dangers — has led to the deaths.

As police and volunteers return to Sydney’s Maroubra Beach to find the body of missing teenager Tui Gallaher and search a Wagga river in the south of NSW for a 42-year-old man, experts have warned people not to overestimate their abilities.

Between 80 and 90 per cent of drowning victims are male, according to recent figures.

Four people died on Boxing Day, including 60-year-old Geoffrey Blackadder, who died trying to save young relatives from a rip on the NSW north coast, and 25-year-old Amine Hamza, who died after swimming with friends at Bents Basin in Sydney’s west.

“It’s deeply disturbing. Men are more likely to overestimate their swimming ability and underestimate how dangerous conditions are,” said Justin Scarr, chief executive at the Royal Life -Saving Society Australia.

“Men are more likely to swim in locations away from lifeguards and crowds, and they’re also more likely to consume ­alcohol.””

As you can see, the premise of the article is that substantially more men die from drowning due to those men taking excessive and presumably avoidable risks.

May I ask you, when was the last time you saw a headline “X blamed on women’s risky behaviour”? Where ‘X’ might have been death/rape/injury/cosmetic surgery/whatever. 1965? That’s because journalists know that when they discuss any such situations they must, at all costs, avoid be called-out for ‘victim-blaming’. And yet the same consideration is not on offer when men are the victims. Gender equality when it suits?

The assertion that drowning deaths result from men taking undue risks appears unproven. The examples of swimming outside the flags and drinking are provided, although neither of these behaviours are exclusive to men.

There are other possible explanations for a gender variation in deaths, particularly the likelihood that men venture into the water more often, and for longer periods, than do women. Clearly those who don’t go to the beach, or who lie on their towels 95% of the time, are less likely to drown in the ocean.

All outdoor activities have some degree of inherent risk, i.e. they are all “risky”. Given that men are significantly more likely than women to participate in almost all forms of outdoor recreation, they are clearly more likely to be injured or killed participating in such activities. One of the few exceptions is netball, a sport recognised as having a low risk of drowning.

If a significant number of drowning deaths were due to medical emergencies then it would make more sense to focus on men’s health, than male shaming. It is likely that some of the male drowning deaths were also the result of men attempting to rescue others.

For the purpose of this discussion let’s concede that “risky behaviour” (to be defined) may indeed result in more men drowning than women. And of course it would be preferable that those tragedies not occur. But before rushing to judgement let’s also consider the issue of risk-taking by men in a broader context.

Men tend to take more risks than women, and this risk-taking results in a range of both positive and negative impacts on society. On the positive side I would go so far as to propose that risk-taking by men has been and continues to be the powerhouse of civilisation.

Need someone to step forward to defend a woman being attacked? Men are expected to step forward, and are shamed if they do not. Need someone to defend a country from attack? Ditto.

In Australia 97% of workplace deaths involve men – around 175 people in 2016. Men working in dangerous and unpleasant jobs that women generally won’t accept. Where is the outrage about the risks these men take in providing necessary services to the community?

Based on media coverage, or lack thereof, it would appear that men taking risks in the name of chivalry, industry and national service is acceptable if not expected. In contrast, men taking risks during their leisure hours is unacceptable and worthy of negative media attention.

Men don’t deserve to be shamed for exhibiting the trait of risk-taking, nor for choosing not to do so. In fact greater recognition that male risk-taking more often benefits society would seem appropriate.

Sure there will be times when some men deserve a thoughtful journalistic rap over the knuckles, but this should not be the default position. Similarly there are times when women’s behaviour merits a commensurate sanction. At the moment however women are rarely subject to criticism, are encouraged to take risks, and the blame for any negative repercussions more often placed at the feet of men.

It’s time everyone got on the same page with gender equality, and recognised that there should be one standard to which we are all held. And that support and empathy should be consistently applied and gender-blind. Anything less will see more of the same unfortunate and divisive gender bias that now permeates the mainstream media.

See also:

Reader posts in a related Reddit discussion thread here

Former senior judge Richard Gee latest to die in summer drowning tragedy (3 January 2016)

Further related blog posts that may be of interest include:

On chivalry

Persistent pro-feminist and anti-male bias in the mainstream media

On masculinity and ‘real men’

How men are portrayed … Haw Haw Haw! The jokes on us

Women are held accountable for … (say hello to the Teflon Gender)

Men do more of most things … get a target painted on their backs

On being male or female (incl. innate differences, stereotyping and so on)

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