Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Officially ignored

While reading the entry on gender equality on Wiki I was a tad annoyed to find links in it that are via definition not about gender equality (feminism maybe, but not gender equality).

Kind of annoying. Apparently it is assumed that gender equality means caring about women but forgetting men.

For instance we have the Global Gender Gap Report (didn't I blog about this before?)

The Report’s Gender Gap Index ranks economies according to their gender gaps and their scores can be interpreted as the percentage of the inequality between women and men that has been closed. Information about gender imbalances to the advantage of women is explicitly prevented from affecting the score.

Or the Gender Parity Index:

UNESCO describes attempts to eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education and emphasizes the plight of girls in unequal access in third world countries. However, the GPI ignores the gender disparity that benefits first-world women in tertiary education as in Iceland, for example, where 65% of students enrolling in tertiary education are female.

And of course the Gender-related Development Index:

The UN uses a different standard for male and female life expectancy, basically assuming that it is natural that women should live about 5 years longer than men.

That is so egalitarian....anyhow linked via the last one, I came across this:

A "fair innings" between the sexes: are men being treated inequitably?

In most modern developed communities, women are known to live longer than men. A less known fact is that in many statistics reporting differences in life expectancy between socio-economic classes, on average women in the worst-off social class live as long as men in the best-off social class, if not longer. It is true that women tend to have higher morbidity, or lower health-related quality of life, especially at advanced age, but this female disadvantage does not offset the life expectancy advantage sufficiently to lead to the conclusion that men and women enjoy comparable lifetime health prospects in these communities. Although there is much public and policy discussion about the inequity of health inequalities between the social classes, there is relatively little discussion about such inequalities between the sexes. The paper first discusses the applicability of the fair innings argument to the issue of inequality in health between the sexes. It critically examines six arguments concerning why inequality in health between the sexes may or may not be an inequity. Next, special attention is given to the argument that it is wrong to judge the fairness or unfairness of health inequalities in isolation, but that this judgement should be made only after considering other inequalities relevant to overall human well-being, many of which are believed to work to the disadvantage of women. An analytical framework based on the Gender-related Development Index (a supplementary index to the Human Development Index) is taken as a starting point, to address the issue of health and overall well-being. But this is found wanting, and suggestions are made as to how its conceptual and empirical properties could be improved. Meanwhile we conclude that a prima facie case has been made that the current distribution of health in most countries does not give men a "fair innings", but the broader question about general well-being remains unresolved.

Hear, hear. And as I was not able to get the complete article as a source, there are some citations which can be taken from other articles.

The implication [...] is that men do not get a “fair innings” in a publicly financed health care system in which they subsidize women’s health care use [Tsuchiya and Williams (2004)].

The importance of men’s health is not simply a utilitarian matter of the greater good in relation to the economic health of the country. If health inequalities between social and occupational classes or ethnic groups are considered to be a major issue of equity—or intrinsic fairness—then the poorer health status of men poses a similar challenge. It is difficult to diminish the importance of men’s health on the basis of either riskier/unhealthy behaviours, or as a function of occupational roles, when such issues are seen as being important factors to be addressed when confronting other forms of health inequality.

[...]The international literature has identified that men tend to have higher mortality rates, but that women tend to have higher morbidity rates, especially at advanced age. However the reduced quantity of life on the part of men does not appear to be offset by the reduced quality of life on the part of women. Rather, the emerging international literature on quality-adjusted life expectancy and disability adjusted life expectancy in developed countries indicates a persisting inequality of poorer lifetime health outcomes among men compared to women in the same community.

A summary by the same author:

Equitable development towards the abolition of gender will most likely involve two moves. The first is the one where women move into spheres that have traditionally been regarded as male, and as a result, expose themselves to higher levels of health risks. The second is one where men move into spheres that have traditionally been regarded as female. If men are to benefit from the lower health risks traditionally enjoyed by women, they will also have to reduce their labour market activities at the same time. In this respect, a re-assessment of what constitutes “masculinity” would be good for men’s health, and, to the extent that this is in line with what women want, it will be good for women’s well-being as well, if not their health.

[...]For men, the issue is relatively straightforward: they get to engage more with their children, they get to work less, they bear less responsibility for generating cash income, and as a result they get better health. The fact that more men do not currently make choices along these lines (“because the man should put the bread on the table”) is indirect proof that the genderless society is yet to come. On the other hand, for women, the picture is more complicated: they see less of their children, they get to work harder, they bear more responsibility for financing the family, and as a result their health will be worse. So, why would women want to do it? What does “development” mean to women in this context? It is crucial to note that it has been predominantly women, not men, who have struggled for changes in the traditional gender system. Women have wanted to escape an exclusive occupancy in the domestic sphere because it is lonely, repetitive and boring, involving hard work, associated with low nor no social status, under-rewarded and un-paid, etc., whereas men have not valued the prospect of entering closer relationships with their children for the very same reasons. With more
information regarding the health consequences for men, there may be some increased interest amongst men towards gender abolition. However, unless the current conceptualisation of masculinity changes, this is unlikely to lead to a major movement, since the very essence of conventional masculinity is that “real” men should not be affected by concerns over their own health and safety. Furthermore, the public sphere of resources, independence, and politics has
traditionally been valued more highly than the domestic, private sphere of caring. The asymmetric power dimension of the gender system, which links the male with the public (and therefore to superiority) and the female with the private (and therefore to subordination), is highly
relevant in this context.

In gendered societies, women and men have been subjected to different behavioural and aspirational norms, which seem to have long term health effects. We have pointed out that equitable development towards a genderless society will probably have a negative impact on women’s ELQ relative to men’s. An interesting question is, if health and longevity are key elements of well-being, then what does it mean, when improving well-being beyond a certain
point by removing an asymmetric and inequitable social system seems to result in their reduction? It is possible that certain forms of the patriarch gender system have in effect allowed women to exploit men so that they do not have to shoulder the fair share of the health risks
associated with human/social life. The breaking up of the gender system will mean women giving up the undue advantages regarding life time health they have so far enjoyed.

[...]Insofar as the current gender system works to the advantage of female ELQ, equitable development towards abolishing this will imply women having to give up the excess health advantage, just like men having to give up their excess socio-economic advantages. Assuming full information and rational choice, if a significant proportion of women do make choices that imply reducing their own ELQ, it will mean these women do not regard mere ELQ as an absolute
good: they will be better off with less health and more choices/control. Sen (2002) argues “health is among the most important conditions of human life and a critically significant constituent of human capabilities” (p660 l). We agree, but we will also like to point out that health alone is no
good if there are no socio-economic opportunities to pursue. Health and longevity are not absolute, but is something that can be traded off with other opportunities in life.

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