“Something ominous is happening to American men.” This is the slogan for a TV series covering an alleged crisis of masculinity among American males. The series began airing last night on Fox News. Brought to you by alleged journalist Tucker Carlson, this programming is intentionally timed to subvert International Women’s Day as well as to counter Women’s History Month in the US. It will run every week this month on Wednesday night.
In the promos, Carlson claimed he had “stunning” numbers on how bad things are for American males. Knowing full well that American white males are better off than any other subgroup—and getting real tired of hearing their entitled whining—I wanted to see what he had. “Bring it on,” I thought.
The first segment of the program did open with a barrage of statistics, all of which I scribbled down. Here are the highlights:
77% of suicides among Americans are committed by men, up 43% between 1997 and 2014.
More girls than boys go to college. Girls go to better schools, graduate at higher rates. Women “decisively outnumber” men in graduate school, even at the Ph.D. level.
Men die five years earlier than women do. They are also more likely to die from alcohol and drug abuse.
90% of prison inmates are men.
Girls make better grades than boys. They are less likely to be diagnosed with “hyperactivity disorder.” Girls spend less time playing video games. Girls smoke less pot.
Fewer men are getting married or staying married.
Single women buy homes at twice the rate single men do.
Women have higher IQs than men.
70% of men are overweight, while only 59% of women are.
The pay gap is a myth. If you control for type of industry, hours worked, etc., the gap disappears.
Sperm counts are down 60%. Testosterone levels have declined 1% every year since 1987. Low testosterone causes depression.
Women show up to work on time and men don’t.
Men commit mass shootings. Women don’t.
Boys don’t have any role models.
All these incoherent statistics are meant to prove that the women’s movement, which has “a pathological way of looking at the world,” is suddenly causing American men to drink, use drugs, gain weight, go to prison, shoot schoolchildren, and die young.
#TuckerisBadNews Carlson is using this series to put over a conspiracy theory in which women’s rights advocates are producing a big smokescreen (an “ideological war”) that falsely claims a history in which women have been oppressed by men. Carlson wants his viewers to believe that this fog of feminist fiction is keeping America from noticing what is happening to men (they are “failing in body, mind, and spirit”).
This powerful, malevolent newsman claims that “nothing has ever happened to this big a group” and not been a priority. (I guess half the human species being silenced while their human rights were denied for several thousand years doesn’t count.) America is ignoring the decline of its men, asserts Carlson, his makeup opaque, but his fake tears glistening. “When men fail, all of us suffer.”
My mission here is to debunk the statistics. As I am sure you will expect, some of them are true, but Carlson has plucked the numbers from a larger story and falsely reprised them.
For example, it is sadly true that American males are 3.5 times more likely to die from suicide than females. But two other facts are important to keep as context. The first is that women are much more likely to attempt suicide because their incidence of major depression is double that of males (declining testosterone notwithstanding). Men are just more successful in their attempts than are women. There is as yet no expert consensus on the reasons for this “gender paradox” in suicide rates, but most attribute the difference in “success” rates to the method chosen. Men kill themselves with firearms, while women use drugs/poison. The second important bit of context is that this is not, as Carlson implies, a new phenomenon. The increase in male suicide rates between 1997 and 2014 is the result of a return to 1950s levels after a long, but shallow trough. (Yet the American right, led by false prophets like Carlson, is convinced that the decade of the 1950s is a long-lost Eden.) During the heyday of 1970s feminism, male suicide rates in America actually fell, while women’s actually rose. The return to the male suicide rates of the 1950s is a sad fact, but not a new “crisis” attributable to the women’s movement.
Men die from suicide attempts at about 3.5 times the rates that women do. However, this statistic reflects their greater “success” rate at killing themselves, rather than their greater desperation. Women try to kill themselves much more often. However, men use guns while women use poisons. Guns are more reliable in their effects. Notice here that the male suicide rate really has not fluctuated all that much in the past 70 years, but it is currently at the same rate as it was in the 1950s, a time for which conservatives yearn wistfully.
The suicide rate for men in America is also middle-of-the-road by world standards, roughly in keeping with rates in Canada, Australia, India, the United Kingdom, most of Western Europe, and China. That doesn’t mean male suicide is not something we should all worry about. It is. But it is not accurate to frame it as a recent effect of the women’s movement in America.
Men are not 90% of the American prison population. They are 93.3%. That number reflects the simple fact that men commit more crimes, especially violent ones. This is not an American phenomenon. Men commit most crimes in all countries.
What causes men to commit so many violent crimes? Mostly it begins in “a fight about trivial matters of honor, status, and reputation between men.” One man has a status competition with another, they argue, and, if they live in America, one of them impulsively pulls out a gun and shoots the other one dead. That’s why, when a man dies from violence, he is usually the victim of an impulsive action by another male, often a perfect stranger. Women, when they are the victims of violence, are usually killed by a husband or other intimate male. In the truly rare case that women are the perpetrators, they kill a husband or other intimate male. You do the math.
I can’t feel sorry for men because they commit more mass shootings, nor because their testosterone levels are declining. I suppose I could thank the universe for the small bit of luck that lower testosterone may mean fewer mass shootings.
Men have died earlier than women for as long as anybody has been counting. They do, indeed, die more often of alcohol and substance abuse. This, too, has been the case for about 100 years. The trend became visible after World War I, when men began living longer in general and fewer were getting killed in war. (Wars that men, not women, start.) Men die of drugs and alcohol use because they start these bad habits earlier and consume larger amounts when they do. Boys introduce boys to drugs; girls learn about drugs from boys. These choices—and I do maintain, as Carlson normally would, that they are choices—run parallel to another characteristic typical of men, a higher propensity to engage in risk behaviors of all kinds.
In spite of all these factors, American men and women both live a very long time as compared to both US history and the rest of the planet. Indeed, Americans have one of the highest life expectancies in the world and, in the past three years, the expected lifespan for both women and men has hit an all-time high.
The pay gap is not a fiction, but a reality that is reflected in any measure you have for it, albeit to different degrees. However, I have sympathy for Carlson’s view that no reliable source exists for measuring the pay gap. That’s because I am enraged by the stream of creeps like Carlson who massage the data (“controlling” for this or that) until the pay gap disappears. The “hard” data do, as Carlson argues, include too many variations that bias the results. But there are many ways to “control” and analysts too often selectively adopt methods that make the case for their own ideology. Just as Carlson did last night.
This is why I always use the World Economic Forum’s survey assessment of the pay gap. This measure allows comparability across nations and is an unambiguous statement of what employers say they are paying women when doing the same or similar work as men. It is such a simple measure that it is not subject to all this motivated manipulation. The WEF call it their “subjective” measure, but I would rather have “subjective” than “massaged.”
It is true that American men are getting married less often and also getting more divorces. So are American women. Duh. It takes two.
Women have been going to college at increasingly higher rates for years and they do “decisively outnumber” men at the graduate level. They also graduate at higher rates and make better grades. It is true that these statistics are attributable to the fact that women are better students. They do their homework, as well as smoke less pot, play fewer videogames. American women have been better students than men for as long as data has been collected—about 100 years. They did not start going to college as often as men until the 1970s. That’s because there were fewer good job opportunities for them until the Second Wave. Females first passed men in tertiary education enrollment in 1980. The upward trend continued for the next 35 years, reaching its current level of 1.4 girls/boys in 2004. The ratio has actually dipped slightly since 2012. This trend is probably a reflection of the women’s movement, but it is in no way, shape, or form a phenomenon of the current political environment in the US. Further, it is not an American thing. Women’s college enrollments have been on a steady upward trend all over the world, from 1970, and they reached equality with men twenty years ago.
The steep increase in female enrollment at colleges and universities since 1970 is a worldwide phenomenon. The United States, like other developed countries, led the trend. Please be mindful that the World average above includes the poorest and most gender-unequal countries on earth.
Nevertheless, American women, like women everywhere, still face major barriers to advancement in the workplace. Important inroads have been made, but males still account for more than twice the number of doctors or lawyers, five times the number of women in leadership positions of all sorts, and more than twenty times the number of CEOs. And boys have no role models? Please.
Since the 1990s, American conservatives have been proposing that school expectations and admissions criteria should be lowered for boys. Reactionaries have been saying it is not fair to boys to be expected to sit in their seats and do their homework. Boys are just not wired like that, they say. Funny that no one noticed that until men were the minority in college. Before that time, it was all about how males dominated tertiary education because they were just smarter than females. Now that the tables have turned, the exact same standards are seen as unfair to boys.
It’s because of the “schools expect too much of boys” line of argument that ADD diagnosis became, in these addled minds, a conspiracy against males. They thought that ordinary “boy behavior” was being pathologized as attention disorder. The truth is that both boys and girls have ADD, but boys are more often diagnosed because they act it out. Girls are so enculturated to sit still and be obedient that their attentional issues go unnoticed and therefore untreated. Women are often diagnosed with ADD late in life—after the damage of the disorder, which ranges from career failure to divorce to massive depression, has already been done.
This “blame the schools” stance is where Carlson ended the program. He thinks that all American schools should be closed because they are discouraging boys. I was speechless when I heard his final solution.
Tucker Carlson’s series is really dangerous. I think everyone reading this blog should be aware that this series is running during the month. It is an intentional assault on the women’s movement. Fox is not even trying to hide their aims.