Yes, we live in a patriarchy. But men suffer more intensely and painfully as a result than women. Too bad, we rather install a neo-patriarchy than a postsexistic society. An outcry and three demands.
Violence has no race, no class, no religion or nationality but it does have a gender: this is a rather bombastic sentence by American essayist Rebecca Solnit, which writer Antje Rávic Strubel has been citing at every conceivable opportunity for some weeks now. It would be nice to know how she substantiates the claim. She cannot have read the last book by extreme feminist Hanna Rosin, where a study from Great Britain is presented, full of pride, which indicates how women are now arrested three times more frequently than men for domestic violence. More precise figures can be found in Walter Hollstein’s research on the «disregarded sex» or in the statistics concerning violence between the sexes presented by the Protestant Church, which caused a sensation in 2010. It seems that around the same number of women and men turn to violence within the family, but women are more likely to start aggression and are armed more frequently than men.
Three quarters of all victims are men. Violence committed by women is directed most often towards their own partners, while a third of the acts of violence perpetrated by men are aimed at strangers. Women practice more psychological aggression than men. Men as the victims of psychological aggression: this is still a worse taboo even than men who have suffered physical violence. This is not only applicable to acts perpetrated by women, certainly. But it becomes especially obvious in the case of sexual abuse of boys by women. Andreas Kloiber, a specialist clinic for psychosomatic illness and psychotherapy in Esslingen, carried out the only German study specifically concerned, in a differentiated and detailed way, with the sexual abuse of boys. It starts out from a percentage of female perpetrators ranging from 20 to 35%. And female perpetrators employ sadistic forms of violence, says Ursula Enders from the expert counselling service «Zartbitter» in Cologne. Overall, boys are more often victims of violence than girls.
Women and children
Antje Rávic Strubel cannot have had either Margaret Thatcher or Lynndie England in mind when spreading her assertion in the media. She does not consider that more women than men voted for Hitler and demanded more conquests in the first years of war — naturally brought about by men. Violence has no gender, but it is well aware of one. The fact that men have to stand up to violence is a constitutive element of the patriarchy, as the system evolved as one in which permanently pregnant women and their children were protected by men.
Although the patriarchy is obsolete today because the state guarantees our protection, women are no longer permanently pregnant and helpless, and men tend to be regarded primarily as the restrictors of freedom, we have not escaped the reflexes that also lead Solnit and Strubel to her false, sexist statement. On the contrary, a new blindness regarding the omnipresent violence against men coupled with a seismographic sensitivity to discrimination against women suggests that we now live in patriarchy 2.0 — the neo-patriarchy. While an untimely compliment made by an offended politician concerning the dimensions of a woman journalist’s bust leads to collective hysteria, newspaper reports like this appear as a matter of course: «At least ten civilians have been killed in a bomb attack in South Afghanistan, including four women and three children.» The death of the men weighs less: this inequality reflects a casual willingness for violence against men that can be seen as a first-order indicator of sexism.
A long list
On all levels of life in our society we can see how the patriarchy functions to the disadvantage of men: it is true that german women get eight per cent less pay for the same work, but men do more unpaid overtime. They receive only a fraction of the financial expenditure in the health services, for example on cancer screening — and this is although they suffer more cancer than women and die of it more often. Legal initiatives to improve the situation have failed, whereas the alignment of contributions in private health and life insurance, by contrast, has been successful. In courts of law, men are punished more severely than women for the same offences, from theft to infanticide. When unemployed, men are tackled noticeably sooner than women for drawing benefits on false pretences. Boys get worse marks than girls for the same achievements at school because a girl’s will to achieve is more likely to be acknowledged. Nine out of ten fatal accidents at work happen to men. Homelessness is a man’s problem because women find it easier to get some sort of shelter when they are broke and unwashed. The list is very long and does not end with the striking fact that after a death sentence has been passed in the USA, men are executed more often and more quickly.
But why go on, when there is no mention in any debate on sexism that eight to twelve times more boys than girls commit suicide in puberty? I have experienced women citing the high number of failed suicide attempts by girls as evidence of discrimination against them or asserting that homelessness is less of a problem for a man than for a woman.
There is one very simple criterion against which we can measure patriarchy and the way it harms men primarily: life expectancy. The Gender Inequality Index of the United Nations assumes that equality between the sexes already exists when the difference in life expectancy is five years (currently, we are not far away from that in Germany): meaning, in straight terms, that the UN considers it fair if men have to die five years before women. The only scientifically proven fact is that the difference is very slight in monasteries and nunneries or on a kibbutz. It was a year in the United States around 1920; and it was three years in Germany up until the end of the Second World War. Afterwards it rose, although there were no more wars to be fought, to seven years. Life expectancy is an ideal socio-economic variable; rich people have always lived longer because they lived better than the poor.
In 2005, a research group led by Debbi Stanistreet from the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society at the University of Liverpool thus asked whether the patriarchy could be the reason for the higher mortality rate among men. Stanistreet adopted a very robust approach: she examined 51 countries and took the number of offences in which women were killed as a measure of the patriarchal. Then she ascertained that this figure correlated closely to the death rate among men: the earlier the men died, the more danger the women faced. But in all countries, men died sooner than women.
Inasmuch as they are not granted the same protection from the community, patriarchy always disadvantages men first and more than women; it also disadvantages them more than it benefits them. Stanistreet recommended global socio-political measures against this high, socially determined male mortality rate.
Such measures might contribute to an urgently needed end to the patriarchy. In all the fuss about quotas of women and unsuitable dirndl compliments, however, it is almost impossible to get people to talk about the fundamental parameters. Rather than calling for more freedom and individual responsibility for women, more protection is demanded. There are moves to dictate to major market-listed German companies who they should employ, although 48 per cent of new appointments to leading positions in German industry go to women already: we are still in love with the image of the woman as a victim, although men are making the greatest sacrifices. Men are not able to escape, for example, from their social role. Instead, they are accused of «new tearfulness» as soon as they begin to change. Impotence is spreading, one hears, although Warren Farrell ascertained twenty years ago that generally, it is confused with a simple lack of desire. Above all, however, the threat imposed by the New Man is that he will no longer make his unlimited labour available to others. This is why he faces so much opposition.
And there is a second-order effect: the near complete agreement when judging the male sex in the media and the entertainment industry, politics and the judicial system freezes not only the men into a state of inactivity. Today, boys have to grow up with a negative image of men that they will embody later because they are not aware of any other. Hollstein makes this state of affairs responsible for the increase in violence among boys. The fact that the educational professions are dominated by women throws boys back even further. Men are no longer experienced as persons of trust. Our sexist talk creates fresh sexism in this way.
And yet it was men who so often brought about progress in modern science by means of deadly self-experiment, thus lowering mortality rates and overcoming dictatorships. Men lay great art at the feet of women — a reason for criticism from Antje Rávic Strubel — and while women are cleaning the toilets men clean the drains and, in a word coined by Paul Nizon, are the untouchables. In the family man is the better caretaker: blocked pipes are his metier, just like any dirty work with the landlord, tradespeople and the bank. We debate over adoption rights for homosexuals but do not consider automatic custody rights for fathers. As for a father’s right to a voice in the case of an abortion: you must be crazy to demand it. The father is the excluded third party, which is where the circle closes: health develops in the family, as every statistic shows. The man’s arrival at the heart of the family — and here andrologist and professor of social pedagogics at the TU Dresden, Lothar Böhnisch, is quite right — is our most important task on the way to a non-sexist society.
Let the gender quota come for companies on the stock market index and strengthen the neo-patriarchy, since then all women will be quota women by the grace of men. We definitely need countermeasures that do not stop at demanding equal life expectancy for all the people living in the United Nations but also call for:
1. A quota in the expenditure of health insurance schemes: within ten years a maximum of sixty per cent of the annual budget should go to one sex alone;
2. Equality in parentage: right of custody for every natural father within ten years, and an obligation for mothers to cooperate in ascertaining the identity of the father;
3. A quota in the educational professions: within ten years the suppression of men must be stopped and the trend reversed. Forty per cent male child-care workers and teachers!
Ralf Bönt, born in 1963 has been a physicist at CERN, Brookhaven and DESY, before becoming a writer. With his wife Nicola Stäglich and two sons he lives in Berlin. Bönt recently published the bestselling novel “Die Entdeckung des Lichts” on the 19th century researcher Michael Faraday and his brain disease as well as the very controversial non-fictional book “Das entehrte Geschlecht” – a Manifesto for Men.
Copyright Ralf Bönt
English translation by Lucinda Rennison.