Men Should be More than a National Afterthought

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Men Should be More than a National Afterthought

By Phillip Cook
June 01, 2010

Our current economic troubles have been called a “mancession” by some pundits due to the significantly higher unemployment rate of men compared to women. Yet just this month, the U.S. transportation secretary, under the auspices of the White House Council for Women (there is no White House Council for Men or any similar agency in the federal government while there are eight such departments for women) announced a new program to help women “to complete undergraduate and graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and math — while pursuing careers in transportation.” And yet, the U.S. Labor Department in 2009 issued an extensive review of the literature and concluded that there was no gender gap in wages.

State and federal government attention to the many issues facing men today remain a national and state afterthought — if they’re given any thought at all. Consider the facts: Lower rates of male educational attainment (women now have much higher rates of attending and completing college and the number of men attending college continues to drop), blatant gender bias in family and divorce law and, even when women and men initiate domestic violence at equal rates, the government’s providing of services to women but not to men. Many nonprofits (including the United Way), foundations and corporations continue to violate their own nondiscrimination policies by not insisting that the domestic violence agencies they fund provide services to all. The state of Oregon under the Department of Human Services has a Women’s Health Program but no Men’s Health Program. Oregon has the Office of Family Health, which “administers programs aimed at improving the overall health of Oregon’s women, infants and children through preventive health programs and services.”

Did you notice who is absent from what the state considers the family? Fathers and men. Having an office or a program dedicated to women’s health assures that there is a focal point for women’s health Attention is directed toward addressing health issues and concerns that may affect women differently from men. And resources are dedicated toward redressing the inequalities in research, health care services, and education that have adversely affected the health of women.

Why shouldn’t we do the same for men? Men continue to suffer from preventable diseases and experience poor health outcomes needlessly. The high costs of premature death and disability are borne by all — men, their families, their communities and ultimately the state of Oregon and the nation.

Gubernatorial candidates Chris Dudley and John Kitzhaber should make a campaign pledge today to create an office of men’s health and include services for men in the current office of family health services. They should pledge to address the crisis in male unemployment and educational achievement. They should pledge to create a Commission for Men as the state of New Hampshire has done. Institutions of higher learning in the state should have as many male centers as women’s centers and an equal number of male and women’s studies programs. Corporations and nonprofits should adhere to their own nondiscrimination policies and demand that the domestic violence programs they support get training into how to serve everyone in need regardless of gender and sexual orientation.

This does not mean of course, that attention and concern for the particular health and social issues affecting women need to be decreased or threatened. Equality is healthy for everyone.

Men are our grandfathers, fathers, brothers, uncles, nephews and sons. Do they really deserve so much less of our attention and concern than women? Apparently that is the case today. It does not need to be that way tomorrow.

Philip W. Cook lives in Beaverton. His most recent published article appeared in the Journal of Elder Abuse.