Should We be Thinking More About What is Happening to Men?

Dissatisfaction amongst working-class male voters and their families has been put forward as part of the reason for the recent Brexit, Trump and One Nation successes. This post concludes that, in Australia, some men really are struggling and feel that some of their problems are being ignored by the political establishment.

Jessica Irvine (1) had some relevant comments about what is happening to men and women in Australia. She said that there is more polarization among men and that more men are working at the top and bottom of the skills ladder. “The proportion of men in the highest fifth of highly skilled jobs rose in the decades since the 1970’s but to a lesser extent to the gains of women. But crucially, the share of men working in the lowest skilled jobs also rose in the 1970s, 1980s 1990s but not in the 2000s.” By contrast, “in every decade since the 1970s, the share of women working in the lowest fifth of skilled jobs has shrunk” and “the proportion of women working in the highest fifth of jobs…has risen.”

She goes on to say that: “This loss of secure, full time traditional jobs is fueling an undercurrent of dissatisfaction among working-class men that is being increasingly exploited by charismatic politicians.”

Changes in the relative position of men and women and the economic downturn in Central Qld are not the only issues affecting men’s lives (and the lives of women associated with them.) Like some women, many men are having a hard time for a variety of reasons, including health and the expectations our culture places on men.

Suicide rates are one of the indicators that suggest that some men are finding life hard. For example, preliminary results for 2015 (2) had 44 men committing suicide each week, compared with the still awful 14 per week for women. These figures are the tip of an iceberg. When someone commits suicide, family, friends etc. all suffer substantially and others may be inspired to commit suicide themselves.

In addition, there are many more people who go through similar hard times but manage to live with these problems and avoid suicide.   People going through hard times may also make things hard for family etc.

Sometimes men face “people problems” that can be resolved by “people solutions.” However, some problems are largely men’s problems or the best solutions for men are not the same as those that are effective for women. Male-specific health problems are an obvious example, but men’s lower life expectancy, educational achievement and greater incidence of suicide may be other examples.

At the moment parties like Labor and the Greens can, quite rightly, be seen to be acting on a range of women’s and people’s issues. However, it is a bit harder to see much sympathy or action on men-specific issues.

REFERENCES:

1. Jessica Irvine “Women’s stocks go up, men’s polarised” – pp16, SMH 28 Nov 2016.

2. MindFrame ABS data (http://www.mindframe-media.info/for-media/reporting-suicide/facts-and-stats)

77 thoughts on “Should We be Thinking More About What is Happening to Men?”

  1. John, this one has been a while in the making.

    I remember back in the late 1980s when I mixed a bit with the inspectors of secondary schools, one of them remarked that he’d been to umpteen high school speech nights, and all the awards, other than sport, were going to girls.

    My youngest son was in secondary school in 2001-2005. It was a smallish private school (450-500 students), with a mission to look after the underprivileged. It only had 30% girls, but when in his senior year they selected student leaders, what in my day were “prefects”, from memory 10 out of 12 were girls.

    Late in the 1990s a sociologist called Richard Sennett wrote a book, The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism. I read it about five years later. This review says:

    The argument may take an occasional detour, but the ultimate point is always clear: the working conditions of modern capitalism are eating away at loyalty, commitment and the kind of long-term thinking that used to make even the most routine work a central ingredient in orderly human life.

    Apparently in the 1996 presidential election campaign, the Angry American Worker, a displaced worker, made a brief appearance. At that time there was relatively full employment, so no-one took much notice.

    However, jobs that you can build a life on had long been rapidly disappearing.

    Back when my son was a teenager there seemed to be a toxic culture within teenage boys, where academic achievement was not cool.

    I think everyone has to pitch in if something is to be done, and political parties certainly need to take it on in their agenda in the context of building a decent society where work has a role. This should be central to social democratic parties, whereas liberals and conservatives are likely to leave it to individuals and markets.

    However, chances are that the men you are talking about will simply be thought of as defective, if not “deplorable”.

  2. Not at all zoot.
    How can I criticise someone for doing the same as I did ?
    I have 3 Sons, all different in many ways, horses for courses.
    My question to Brian is out of surprise as he’s an ardent supporter of Public Education over Private.
    I just wondered about the circumstances pertaining to differing Educational ” value ” when it came to gender.
    Perhaps, given you’ve divulged you have Daughters, you could add your perspective on the Topic of Gender in their impressionable educational years ?

  3. Jumpy, it was a Catholic school run by a teaching order which was founded to teach poor Irish kids. There was no capitalism involved.

    I looked at 6 to 8 schools and we chose the one best suited to our son’s needs, as you do. My second choice was a state high school, but it was too far away.

  4. Thank you Brian.
    I too chose proximity in the beginning of my kids education. That changed after issues with discriminatory treatment.
    My wife and I were thrilled with the Catholic approach of merit based, equal discipline and ” give a shit ” day to day treatment.

    Anyway, when it come to the ” feelings ” men have, it would be nice if the Media recognised we have just as many and as deep as women. And stop blaming every bloody bad on us with no recognition of the enormous good we do.

  5. Jumpy, schooling is not offered for profit in Australia, unlike the US where they have charter schools. We had ABC Learning starting to offer it at the lower end, but mercifully they went broke.

  6. Perhaps, given you’ve divulged you have Daughters, you could add your perspective on the Topic of Gender in their impressionable educational years ?

    Trust me, you don’t want to hear what I have to say on this topic. Which is why I have remained silent.

  7. I’ll leave the private school thing as off topic on this thread.

    My wife worked for about 40 years as an early childhood teacher. She says that girls are more conforming in the early years. Boys are more active, and more noisy.

    I know in later years some educators see value in separating the genders for some types of learning.

    There are more complexities than we have space to go into, but by the end of schooling girls seem to get the prizes and more recognition. I know things are different when they go out into the big wide world, but John’s point is that males seem to have gender-specific issues there too.

  8. I’ve stopped counting the amount of men that iv’e known that have killed themselves, another reason I don’t have Facebook.
    And women that have attempted yet live.
    Depression seems to manifest differently between the sexes.
    I see far more women show outward signs of depression, even though most of my time is spent with men. ( for some reason thyroid problems have contributed in most womens cases ?!)

    As for voting intention, men want to hear the fix to any given problem that effects his family and women seem to trust what there husbands want and are happy to be politically ignorant.
    That’s just my observations in my little social ecosystem, others will differ.

  9. Thanks Jumpy for your comments on suicide. The construction industry has about twice the normal suicide rate. Doesn’t surprise me based on the time I have lived in construction and worked on construction sites even though I have never been on a site where anyone has committed suicide or known a construction worker who has committed suicide.
    Construction is not the only industry with high suicide rates. This suggests to me that there may be things that could be done to reduce the number of people who seriously think about suicide.
    I have often read that many women’s suicide attempts are a call for help rather than a serious attempt to kill themselves which may explain why more women attempt to commit suicide than men even though the death rate is much lower.

  10. Brian: One of the oddities of our society is that we are allowing the education system to determine kids futures during one of the rattiest stages of their lives. This is particularly harsh on boys because they seem to be better at putting their rattiness ahead of formal study and homework than girls.
    Things have also been made harder for boys with the switch from exam only based evaluation to systems where half the end mark is based on assignments. The exam based system used in my time meant that I could get away from doing most of the formal homework for most of the year and put in a few weeks of work before the exams to get reasonable marks. Managed to fail 3rd year chem eng because this was the first time I was doing something where the class mark was important.
    Assignment based class marks are a measure of compliance, and in many cases, a measure of the help a student can get with the assignment. Unfortunately, teenage boys tend not to be compliant and have things to do that are more important than assignments.
    I remember one dinner party at Blackwater that got on to education. The women graduates had all worked hard and never failed anything. The men were all hard working, competent managers or similar who admitted that they had failed at least something. We men concluded that failing was character building.
    We really need end of education evaluation systems that are not biased against boys or girls and measure competence and aptitude rather than compliance or examination technique.

  11. John, the so-called latency period between early childhood and sexual awakening, is said to be the preparation time for economic and cultural adult roles. We put kids in school and feed them a basically academic curriculum that they can’t see the purpose of.

    Kids used to be put to work, which tended to lock them into what their parents did, eg. a trade for boys and motherhood for girls. But at least they were active and could see the sense in it.

  12. I used to think that i didn’t do much homework. True if you are talking about the homework that was given out at school. However, I did spend a lot of time reading over a wide range of topics , observing nature and thinking about the meaning of life and everything. If I had had to do school set assignments to look after my class mark my real education would have suffered.
    I am strongly against using class marks as part of the final mark, particularly if assignments are important. Assignments bias the system in favour of girls and students with educated parents.
    I have no problem with using class marks as protection for students who face a crisis during the final exam.

  13. John, I was actually reflecting on the time before compulsory elementary education, which was only introduced in England in 1880, in Australian states mostly in the 1870s.

    I don’t remember doing homework in primary school. What I do remember is working on the mixed farm, which happened as soon as you were physically able, before and after school and on the weekends.

    I remember having to get the cows in every second morning before school at one stage, alternating with my sister.

    My main point is that school is somewhat unnatural, and it’s not surprising that boys find it especially hard to adapt.

  14. My father in law left school during first year to go down pit and support the family because his father became to sick to work. The lack of education locked a very intelligent man into working underground in the infamous Bellbird Colliery for almost all his working life. Education made an enormous difference to his daughters live even though she married an engineer despite growing up believing “bloodystupid engineer” was one word.
    I have seen research from time to time that says that the benefits of homework are negligible and teachers give it to students to satisfy parent expectations. I would put it more strongly than that. Home work leaves less time for kids to investigate the things they are interested in in depth.
    The other thing is that all the graphs showing university results Vs school performance show an enormous scatter. Suspect the same would apply to performance in life Vs education results.
    ENOUGH ON EDUCATION – The things that are affecting some men’s lives go well beyond education.

  15. Part of the men problem is that we have gone for years where women’s problems have got most of the attention and it has been assumed that men are doing much more OK than women.
    Perhaps we need a minister for men’s issues as well as women’s affairs ministers.

  16. Brian: I would be surprised if the major parties are not thinking seriously about what they have to do avoid becoming victims of something like the Trump/Brexit phenomenon.
    Doing something to help men will be opposed by some women in political parties who see helping men in need will reduce the effort put into women’s issues.
    My own take is that many women will be better off if the problems facing their men are fixed. The same can be said about men being better off if the problems facing their women are fixed.

  17. But then how could the Greens show leadership with mens issues? I mean what policies would they have to adopt to improve mens lot? As we can see from the various contributions it is a complex issue and in some way it appears to be manifesting it self best as a gender issue. Which has it’s disadvantages and advantages.

    Being stigmatised right from birth with ‘blue’ and socialised to be a ‘hero or zero’ in a world where we want boys to become men in the absence of realistic roles and jobs, right to the elevated and rising suicide rates of males. Although it would appear that there are particular hot spots in rural areas, amongst indigenous Australians. Mental health, or should I say hygiene, is probably a larger contributing factor than education to mens well being. So by and large it is a social and cultural based problem, further substantiated by fact that males born overseas generally demonstrate better health than the Australian-born population.

    How to change culture and society? If we perceive the problem to be situated with men then it is only men who can help themselves really. What does that mean? Perhaps oddly, I have never viewed only women ever to be the victim of patriarchy. But it is only them who have systematically identified and addressed the problems hindering their well being and longevity. Personally, when I look back into my recent male ancestry there are some uncomfortable features which tend to have been passed on as well as their lives dotted with inherited ‘privileges’ which were disabling rather than a enabling. The veritable ‘polarising’ factors Jessica Irvine was referring to. It led me to the view, that as a male I can learn a lot from the feminist theory and movement. It provides a good perspective to look at the structural problem and addressing them with a rhetoric and method which enables for relevant social and cultural change from within and without. But it is not as easy as this, men need to probably learn to support themselves to be able unshackle themselves from the vestiges of the so called patriarchy.

    To Brian and the entire Climate+ crew, all the very best for 2017 🙂

  18. John, I still can’t see the major parties as focussing on the problems of men. More likely to see them as defective for voting for Trump and brexit.

    With Trump the win was so narrow that all narratives are valid. If the Russians hadn’t interfered, if the CIA hadn’t investigated Hillary’s emails, etc, etc. The latest is why rural people voted for Donald.

    All these stories in themselves are true.

    Ootz, I think the problem is broader, and relates to how we see ourselves as human beings. We all need to change. I need to explain more, and hope I’ll find time soon.

    Thanks for the compliments of the season. Hope all goes well for you too.

  19. Brian: I tend to agree with

    I still can’t see the major parties as focusing on the problems of men. More likely to see them as defective for voting for Trump and brexit.

    It is this sort of reaction that will make the working class men that Jessica was talking about more inclined to support One Nation. Ditto their partners. Things don’t get easier for women when their men lose their jobs or face other problems.
    Unfortunately, the educated women in the Greens and the Labor left often don’t appear to understand what is happening to the partners of working class me.
    Ootz: The Davidson’s have operated on the “people’s liberation” theory for over 50 yrs. Gives us flexibility re who does what and reduces the pressure when the male breadwinner loses his job. Feel sorry for those who have allowed women’s lib to morf into just another version of the gender wars. Also feel sorry for women who have gone from being told what to do by men into doing what they are told by the feminist movement. Liberation should really mean liberation.

  20. Unfortunately, the educated women in the Greens and the Labor left often don’t appear to understand what is happening to the partners of working class me.

    Yes, indeed!!

    Some ALP wit said, decades ago that ALP Branch meetings, which had once attracted “the cream of the working class”, were (in those days) attracting “the dregs of the middle class”.

    If Australians still act in their own interests most of the time, then a Marxist “class analysis” would suggest that a Party made up mostly of middle class, university-educated, or opportunist ‘careerists’, would be unlikely to be bothered with understanding working class women and men: their lives, their difficulties, their hopes, their beliefs, ….. let alone trying to work in their interests!

    Caveat: I don’t believe the old Communist Parties acted in the interests of working people either, wedded as they were to foreign allegiances, crude theories, and vicious bureaucratic suppression of new thinking. Orthodoxy ruled.

    Meanwhile the Communist parties loudly proclaimed that they alone represented the interests of the oppressed workers. It was verbal flatulence. There was no substance.

    As far as I can tell, the only Communist members who assisted with any useful working class advancement were some elected officials in some trade unions (who kept getting elected because male workers wanted strong voices heading those unions).

    Jesus said, “the poor you shall always have with you.”

    Seemingly, the poor and workers will always struggle to gain anything much. Let alone effective advocates. I except ALP under Hawke and Keating (means testing of benefits allowing stronger support to the poorest) and some other State and Federal govts, occasionally.

  21. Also feel sorry for women who have gone from being told what to do by men into doing what they are told by the feminist movement.

    Got some examples John?
    I haven’t noticed any women of my acquaintance acting against their own instincts or interests in order to conform with some diktat from the ‘feminist movement’.

  22. a Party made up mostly of middle class, university-educated, or opportunist ‘careerists’, would be unlikely to be bothered with understanding working class women and men: their lives, their difficulties, their hopes, their beliefs, ….. let alone trying to work in their interests!

    I remember noticing that some of my Labor supporting friends at university were all for the workers and rather contemptuous of them.
    The Clinton saga is about a party that drifted away from its Labor roots.

  23. John, I don’t know enough about the history of American politics, but I suspect that the Democrats were always ‘liberals’ which is probably more like the Liberal Party under Menzies rather than Australian Labor. Certainly now in the US to be a federal politician you have to be wealthy or sponsored by wealth.

    Back in the 1970s when I studied a bit of sociology in an Education degree, we used to talk about the poor and oppressed internalising dominant class values.

    When the left achieved power, leaders often had the same patriarchal values as the former ruling class, hence George Orwell’s Animal Farm allegory where the pigs took over the palace and acted in the same way as their former overlords.

  24. Brian: The US parties have moved around a lot over the years. The Republicans were the party who ended slavery under Lincoln, the Southern Democrats were major champions of the oppression of Afro-Americans and it was the Democrat Johnson who did a lot to end this oppression.
    On the other hand my understanding was the Chicago Democrats were more like the Labor party.

    l

  25. There are a number of propositions that political parties and other organizations should accept about the serious problems facing many men:
    1. Many men are struggling for one reason or another.
    2. Some of these problems are either men specific and/or the best solutions for men are different to those that are best for women.
    3. When a man is struggling the lives of partners, family, friends and others may be diminished (and vice versa) (Think about what the shutdown of the Townsville nickel refinery is doing to people other than those who have lost their jobs. )
    4. Suicide rates vary considerably with job, industry and where people live. Implies that some of the problems people face depend on job etc., not just the individuals mental health and that these are things that we may be able to fix.
    5. Gender is not the only glass ceiling issue. Many people are held back by glass ceilings associated with who your parents are, what school you went to, race, company culture fit and the prejudices of decision makers.
    6. In most cases fixing men’s problems will have no negative effects on women. However, men and women will compete for some things and there will be winners and losers.

  26. There does seem to be some assumption in several comments here that the difference between male and female suicide rates has increased in recent years, and even some assumption that this may be due to a neglect of men due to the rise of feminism or something like that.

    That doesn’t appear to be correct. There may have been an apparent increase since about the 60s but that may be because the female rate was unusually high then, which may have been related to high prescription rates and usage of tranquillisers. However according to this parliamentary paper (see Table A in Appendix in particular) over the longer term since the 1920s, the difference has remained relatively constant, with the male rate being three to four times the female rate.

    I would suggest, as Ootz also seems to, that the social problems involved here are more about the patriarchal construction of masculinity than about feminism. Feminists have always said that patriarchy hurts men as much as women, but it really isn’t up to us to solve the problem for men – men have to do an equal share.

    There is a national male health policy, by the way.

  27. Val: I am aware that suicide ratios have been relatively consistent over time. I was also surprised when I looked at international figures and found that the ratios for most countries were not all that different than the Aus figures even though the overall suicide rates varied enormously.
    On the other hand suicide attempts show a very different pattern:

    Females attempt suicide three times more often than males. As with suicide deaths, rates of attempted suicide vary considerably among demographic groups. While males are 4 times more likely than females to die by suicide, females attempt suicide 3 times as often as males. The ratio of suicide attempts to suicide death in youth is estimated to be about 25:1, compared to about 4:1 in the elderly.

    Which suggests to me that the nature of male and female suicide is different and require different prevention strategies for men and women.
    I don’t agree with you when you say:

    but it really isn’t up to us to solve the problem for men – men have to do an equal share.

    What is happening to men and women are interlinked in both positive and negative ways. Being married to a man or woman who is struggling with life must be difficult.
    My wife once convinced the Blackwater CWA to help her run a very successful men’s health day. Her rationale for this was that the health and staying alive of husbands was important to the wives welfare as the lives of the men. She also understood that one of the key contributors to men’s health problems was men’s reluctance to go to doctors. So the day had a lot of testing of men to try and find those who really did have a health problem. (My mother became a widow when I was 12. Made her life a lot harder.)

  28. John, your comment at 1:17 pm is accurate so please don’t think I’m arguing against it, I just want to point out that it also cuts both ways:

    There are a number of propositions that political parties and other organizations should accept about the serious problems facing many women:
    1. Many women are struggling for one reason or another.
    2. Some of these problems are either women specific and/or the best solutions for women are different to those that are best for men.
    3. When a woman is struggling the lives of partners, family, friends and others may be diminished (and vice versa) (Think about what the shutdown of the Townsville nickel refinery is doing to people other than those who have lost their jobs. )
    4. Suicide rates vary considerably with job, industry and where people live. Implies that some of the problems people face depend on job etc., not just the individuals mental health and that these are things that we may be able to fix.
    5. Gender is not the only glass ceiling issue. Many people are held back by glass ceilings associated with who your parents are, what school you went to, race, company culture fit and the prejudices of decision makers.
    6. In most cases fixing women’s problems will have no negative effects on men. However, men and women will compete for some things and there will be winners and losers.

  29. Zoot: At the end of the post I said:

    At the moment parties like Labor and the Greens can, quite rightly, be seen to be acting on a range of women’s and people’s issues. However, it is a bit harder to see much sympathy or action on men-specific issues.

    Both genders (and non-genders) face gender specific problems that should be acknowledged and acted upon.
    My problem is with political parties that have women’s policies and spokeswomen while being hostile to the idea of men’s policies and spokesmen.

  30. John, the National Male Health Policy linked to by Val was developed in 2008, by the Labor Govt you seem to be saying was hostile to men’s policies.
    Do you have any examples of a major party expressing hostility towards the idea of men’s policies and spokesmen?

  31. Here’s a PDF explaining why it was/is necessary to be aware of women’s health issues. It’s undated but appears to have been written around 2000.
    I consider the arguments it makes to still be valid, but my point in linking to it is that the authors never express any hostility to men’s health being treated in the same way (which seems to be happening as our collective consciousness regarding gender is raised).
    Feminists (and feminism) are not the enemy (although rad-les-fem-seps, if they still exist, might consider themselves the enemy).

  32. Thanks zoot, that PDF was the biggest pile of crap I’ve seen this year. Gave me a laugh.

    The Bullet points,

    • Male dominated health services and gender-blind service delivery
    When women outnumber men 3:1 as health practitioners ? Look it up.
    • Medicalisation of health
    Mental health and counselling services are dominated by women in both delivery and patients. Look it up.
    • Women as wombs
    See above.
    • Lack of access to information
    No, there is more research done and published and aired in media on women rather than men. Also the internet. Look it up.
    • Gender-blind research and policy.
    I agree there, gender blind research is stupid. Equal funding and research for both sexes. But thats not happening now, its heavily in the female favour. Look it up.

    Or not, whatever.

  33. As usual, Jumpy misses (or ignores) the point I’m making.
    This also underscores why, on Dec 31, I replied to Jumpy:

    Trust me, you don’t want to hear what I have to say on this topic.

    Amiright or amiright? (Thank you Dennis Potter)

  34. When women outnumber men 3:1 as health practitioners ? Look it up.

    I did.

    This handy tool lists all health professions. In 2014 the only ones which meet your criteria of 75% or more female practitioners are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners, Nurses and Midwives, Dental Therapists and Hygienists, Oral Health Therapists, Occupational Therapists and Psychologists (just).
    Which leads to mind numbing mathematics if the relative power of nurses (80-90% women) is to be compared to that of Doctors (around 40% women) in determining which gender dominates health services. It’s not just raw numbers.

  35. Please state your point then zoot, obviously I’m no good at cryptic crosswords.

    As stated in my comment:

    … my point in linking to it is that the authors never express any hostility to men’s health being treated in the same way …

  36. Your Handy Tool didn’t work for me.
    I went here,

    Total workforce
     The highest representation of women working in any industry was in health care and social assistance, at 77.6%. The second highest was education and training, where women comprised 69.4% of workers.
     The highest representation of men working in any industry was construction, at 88.1%. The second highest was mining, where men comprised 85.3% of workers.
     Women comprised less than 40% of the workforce in eight industries: information media and telecommunications; wholesale trade; agriculture, forestry and fishing; manufacturing; electricity, gas, water and waste services; transport, postal and warehousing; mining; and construction.

  37. I would rather have your opinion. How do we close the gender gap in Suicide, Life expectancy and Medical funding ?

  38. The highest representation of women working in any industry was in health care and social assistance, at 77.6%.

    That does not falsify the statement that that health services are dominated by men.
    Galley slaves (if Ben Hur is to be believed) vastly outnumbered their overseers, but they did not dominate their work place.
    I’ll get back to you on suicide.

  39. [Apologies for the length, but I was asked for my thoughts on the subject, and I have a lot of thoughts.]

    I have some knowledge of suicide.
    My first wife killed herself (many years after we divorced). Partly as a result, and again many years later, I volunteered on a phone line taking calls from people who were suicidal or in crisis. I also played a large role in the training of volunteers which led me to research the subject.
    We taught our trainees that most suicides occurred due to untreated depression. I now think this is confusing correlation with causation. According to Beyond Blue, at any one time in Australia there are around 2 million people living with depression. The latest preliminary figures show 3027 deaths by suicide in Australia in 2015. If depression caused suicide that number should be much higher. It is still a risk factor, the same as alcoholism, drug dependency, being male, or being aboriginal make suicide more likely, but I don’t believe it is the cause. I now understand suicide as an existential choice (apologies for the jargon).
    The person whose views best reflect my experience of suicidal people is David Webb. Not everyone agrees with him, but I find his thesis that suicide happens when someone feels both helpless and hopeless rings true for me. If a person feels helpless but still has hope, or if they have lost hope but still feel there is something they can do, they are unlikely to end their life, but the double whammy of helplessness and hopelessness is too much to bear.
    So, what to do about suicide in Australia? Obviously my solution would be to foster everybody’s autonomy and optimism, assist them to find meaning in their lives. For a start, I’d like to see the current neoliberal economic orthodoxy replaced with a system that values people for who they are, not just their role as economic units. This would involve us actually behaving as if we had a Judeo-Christian heritage, that we are here to see each other through, rather than see through each other (thank you Peter DeVries).
    To tackle the suicide gender imbalance, we need to focus on changing stereotypical male attitudes (stiff upper lip, mustn’t grumble etc); men are also victims of the patriarchy. Men’s initiatives such as Men’s Sheds need to be well resourced. We should also get some tips from the women’s movement since they have been successful in getting women’s issues onto the national agenda. More than anything we need to stop believing the BS that we can’t afford a decent health system or a decent education system. That’s where significant change will be initiated.
    Bottom line – people who have something to live for don’t kill themselves. If we’re serious about reducing suicide we need to start looking for ways of helping everyone feel they have a purpose (particularly men).

    [puts away soapbox]

  40. Correction, its about 9.8 years for women and 6.1 years for men. Still a gender power gap favouring women.

  41. This century women have been Health Minister ( Overseers ) at a ratio of 2:1 at the Federal level.

    In the 116 years since Federation there have been 47 Federal Health Ministers of whom 5 have been women.
    A ratio of roughly 1:8.

  42. Correction, it’s roughly 11 years for women and 104 years for men. Still a gender power gap favouring men nearly 10:1.

  43. I hear ya zoot, honestly.
    We need to differentiate between depression and anxiety disorder. I’ve lived with both for many year but I’m not the prime sufferer.
    Also some mental illnesses classified as depression takes a few forms. One person I’m very close to rang Lifeline and was asked ” Are you thinking of harming yourself ?”, she answered ” I’m afraid of dying, thats why I’m calling!”
    I have no clue as to how anyone can go though with it, but Ive pulled 2 back that I know of. Both men.

  44. I don’t want to say a lot, but I don’t think it’s all about health, just as it was not all about education. It’s mainly about identity, who we are and what our lives mean in relation to others.

    If you go back to the Harvester Case of 1901, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration under H.B. Higgins decided:

    that “fair and reasonable” wages for an unskilled male worker required a living wage that was sufficient for “a human being in a civilised community” to support a wife and three children in “frugal comfort”…

    The man was seen as the bread-winner, indeed the “human being in a civilised community” and the woman as the home-maker. Certainly in the 19th century the man pretty much owned his wife. Eric Hobsbawm in an essay in Fractured Times tells how there was basically no secondary education for girls, as they weren’t seen as needing any.

    He says that things changed in Europe from 1870 to 1914, and for every girl who broke the mold there was a father behind her with encouragement and support.

    But the legacy was still very much in evidence in the 1940s when I grew up, though when I went to university, women were on the move. At university there was a young woman Quentin Strachan, who later became Quentin Bryce (I didn’t know her personally) who was showing leadership in women’s issues.

    However, when I joined the public service in Qld in 1969, women still had to resign if they got married, and equal pay didn’t come until Gough Whitlam.

    Things are very different now, thank heavens, but all identities are now much more fluid. Males in particular do not enjoy the privileged place they once did, and seem to be finding it harder to adapt.

    That may be contested, but it’s my subjective view.

    I would also say that many from my era reached their own accommodation without the help of the second wave of feminism, and some women from that period I know arc up at the mention of the word, and volunteer that feminists don’t speak for them.

    I’ve also had the experience of raising a boy in the 1990s and early 2000s. I’d venture that he would report that the deck was sometimes a little stacked, but not in favour of his gender.

    However, I think there is a more fundamental identity change that needs to take place, on which both genders will have to work as one. I might attempt to write about it, but it will probably look a bit boring.

    It’s about whether we should continue to aspire to being individual, rights-bearing isolates, who transact with each other and ‘tolerate’ difference, or whether the a more communal identity is possible in our fractured times.

  45. Zoot, I liked this bit:

    So, what to do about suicide in Australia? Obviously my solution would be to foster everybody’s autonomy and optimism, assist them to find meaning in their lives. For a start, I’d like to see the current neoliberal economic orthodoxy replaced with a system that values people for who they are, not just their role as economic units. This would involve us actually behaving as if we had a Judeo-Christian heritage, that we are here to see each other through, rather than see through each other (thank you Peter DeVries)

    Concerning men’s sheds, when I had my prostate removed in 2006 it was recommended that I join a men’s group for support. For some reason, I couldn’t think of anything worse.

    On the whole I think women are better listeners, and I have a distinct preference for women to cut my hair, or what is left of it.

  46. I haven’t read all of the comments here yet, but will because they are all interesting.

    My views are simple. The world is really all about women, men are an accessory. Women are magnificently crafted by nature to perform all of the tasks of perpetual regeneration of their species. Men are an accessory. Women not only regenerate, but they educate, sustain, support, delight, and provide the impetus for community and continuity. Men are a sometimes useful accessory.

    The problem with men is that they are all bastards, mostly. When another one gets creamed on the roads, I don’t grieve much. The problem we have is that the world structure as it is was mostly created by men, so if it is not working for men then they only have themselves to blame, and I am for one am not sympathetic in the slightest. Male suicides are, I imagine not the ones you would hope for, they are more likely the victims of themselves or the more bastard of men.

    That is the platform from which I peruse our society. Naturally there are many men who rise above my low esteem for their gender, sadly so few of them are involved with political government.

    There are many sections of our work environment that are performing, but generally there is a massive transition skills structures and life expectations impacting mostly in the younger generations that is making it very difficult to develop a clear perception of what our community is really about. There has been so much structural change in the last two decades that there are no reliable guidelines upon which to plan sustainable futures.

    Our world is a god awful mess impacted mostly by the greed of the baby boomer/command generation, and the even more greed savvy x generation who together rode the property value growth wave, and the mass automation technology growth wealth wave all of the way through the present.

    The concept of sharing is lost. And that is the real problem.

  47. When I think about it some more, the “Command Batten” has now been passed from the baby boomer generation to the X generation, and that might go some of the way to understanding much of the political brutality that we are seeing around the globe.

  48. That is a very selfish thought, Brian, and even unromantic from a Regency perspective….

    *”regretable (my term), to die for love, how can you say so, what could be more glorious?”

    As human primates we aspire to a greater place in nature

    https://youtu.be/YWZAL64E0DI

    *Marianne on love, Sense and Sensibility.

  49. It shows bias, inequity and lack of empathy for 3.6 billion people.
    That’s the attitude that can’t lead to harmony.

    I can’t believe Brian hasn’t erased your comment, or at least rebutted it.

  50. To clarify, I am only addressing the comment, not the person.
    Also, I would not ask for speech to be curtailed but I’m happily surprised such a hateful comment survives.
    ( LP may have left a few lasting scars on me )

  51. Brian: I think we need to be a realistic about how men were better off in the good old days, particularly when talking about what was happening to the working class. For example, my father had fought in WWII and wounded badly enough to spend a year in hospital before being sent back to Aus. When he left the army he went to work in a steelworks foundry while my mother had and raised the kids and did the housework – a full time job with early 1950’s technology.
    My father-in-law left high school during first year high school and went down pit at Bellbird Colliery because his father was too sick to work. (My father in law would have been supporting about 6 people when he started work and worked at Bellbird for almost all of his working life.) My mother in law had the child and did housework.
    Bellbird was a bugger of a pit with 20ft seams and very gassy coal and high mechanical stresses at the mining levels. It was infamous for the Bellbird disaster in 1923 (Fortunately, the disaster occurred on afternoon shift so my father-in-law wasn’t at work at the time.)
    On the basis of growing up in a coal mining family my wife admits she would probably would have been better off as a coal miner’s wife than being a coal miner.
    In the period I am talking about elite men were doing better than women. The difference now is that it is easier for a woman to join the elite groups. However, as Jessica Irvine points out there is a group of men at the bottom that are still struggling and looking for political parties who show some sympathy for their plight.

  52. Jumpy, I have to spend time writing new stuff. This thread has now run to 68 comments, and just about everything has been said.

    I wouldn’t take BilB’s comment literally, but it may have a grain of truth. It was said somewhere recently that in traditional societies most of the work was gathering, and was done by the women. Men did some hunting which provided occasional protein, but otherwise had plenty of time on their hands.

  53. zoot,
    Your opinion on bilbs comment ?

    I thought libertarians lived by the principle that even if they disagree with what BilB says they will defend to the death his right to say it? That must only apply to opinions they agree with.
    In the spirit of free and frank discussion I think you should be rebutting BilB’s arguments using logic, evidence and your unimpeachable rhetoric rather than expecting Brian to erase the comment.

  54. John, that’s an interesting slice of real life as it was. I didn’t mean that it was better for men in every way, just that the roles were more clearly etched.

    A few years ago there was a talkback session on local radio where people rang in and described the yuckiest job they had ever done. There were some astonishingly awful ones, and I think not all have been eliminated. If there were women ringing up, I can’t remember any.

  55. Brian: It is about 50 yrs since women’s lib became high profile and since then there has been an ongoing campaign driven by educated women that pushes the line that the system is biased against women and men are doing OK and do not need any targeted help. It is a line that you challenge at your own risk.
    For example, I have been quietly pushing the line that the Greens should have a men’s policy and men’s spokesperson, partly because I do think that there are men who need men specific help and partly because I think gender equality should be an important Green’s principle. The reaction from the women I have talked to has often been negative. “We need to fix the women’s problems first.” “You have got to be joking.” “The Greens will never have a men’s policy.” Some, but not all, of these women calm down a bit when they think about men’s health but many are still opposed to to the idea of gender equality in the form of spokespeople and policies. They seem to see it as win/lose with anything done to help men detracting from what is being done for women.
    My general take on women’s lib is that, for lucky people like the Davidsons women’s lib has morphed into people’s lib. People’s lib liberates both men and women from the rigid expectations and sharing of jobs. For unlucky people women’s lib has simply become yet another weapon in the gender wars.

  56. A poll run by Reachtel for Getup said:

    The ReachTel poll of 2,126 Australians for the progressive political campaign group GetUp shows the Coalition trailing Labor 46% to 54% in two-party preferred terms.
    The poll, taken on Thursday and released on Monday, found One Nation has a primary vote of 9.7%, ahead of the Greens on 8.9%.
    One Nation has steadily risen in the polls, from a nationwide Senate vote of 4.3% at the July election, to a Newspoll in October showing it with a vote of 6%.
    The ReachTel poll found One Nation support was strongest with men, and people over 51, with more than 11% of people in those groups indicating they would vote for it.

    Wonder what the figure would be for working class men?

  57. John, quite high, I should imagine. Apparently last election in Maranoa Labor came third and was the only electorate where Labor’s preferences were distributed. I’m told that they went 50/50 to ON and the LNP. In those areas it’s mainly the working class who vote Labor, but I’m not aware of the gender split.

  58. Brian: I may be wrong but I suspect that the partners of disadvantaged working class men will feel left out as well and be inclined to vote ON. These women may not be all that impressed with the struggles of elite females with glass ceilings. (Clinton may well have lost the critical rust belt states because she couldn’t be bothered going to those states to talk to the women.

  59. John, there was an interesting segment on Life Matters this morning about the problems of raising boys.. A couple of things stood out.

    First, boys indulge in far more risk behaviour then girls.

    Secondly, boys need male adult models or a mentor. With family breakups this often doesn’t happen.

    There was another program on the ABC I heard late at night which said that suicide rates in Australia were actually increasing. In that program they went through a lot of issues for both genders, but the fact that stuck was that females are increasingly engaging in activities that were once limited to men. As they do this their suicide propensity also increases.

  60. Brian: I remember reading years ago that women who were doing “men’s” jobs were living shorter lives and were more likely to suffer from things like heart attacks.
    I also remember that, in my youth I wanted to spend time with my father doing adventurous things, had a strong preference for male teachers and was a member of groups like the Scouts before they were crippled by concerns about legal liability and the need for bales of cotton wool.
    Keep in mind that the selective pressures on men were different than those on women.
    Women could always get pregnant in most societies and the real pressures would have been to get pregnant to men with good genes, be able to care for their children and help them thrive, get the protection/help of powerful men, good hunters etc. and make sure their daughter in laws were producing their son’s children.
    Men on the other hand may have had to compete for women with powerful men usually producing far more descendants that less powerful men. A willingness to take risks and develop competitive skills would have been useful.

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