Features Australia

Gender quotas, blue collars and male suicide

3 June 2017

9:00 AM

3 June 2017

9:00 AM

Let me tell you about a couple of patients who illustrate how feminism can contribute to both domestic violence and male suicide. These are related in that they can be expressions of emotional distress, yet they are often classed in opposition.

Feminist activists inflate statistics surrounding domestic violence to illustrate how all women are oppressed, regardless of circumstance. This is despite the violence being overwhelmingly linked to socio-economic disadvantage. Aboriginal women for example are more likely to be victims by a factor of thirty.

Likewise suicide is the domestic violence for men’s rights activists who use the fact it is three times more common in males as evidence of the psychic vulnerability of all men. Males are more likely to use violent methods and less likely to present to health services. They are also more likely to perpetrate domestic violence upon a partner within six weeks of killing themselves.

One of my male patients is in his twenties, originally from rural Australia but now living in the suburbs attempting to find work. He has a high school education, has completed a diploma and works in retail. His dream is to work in the police, but he missed out last attempt. He is convinced it is related to new gender quotas being implemented, pointing out that a woman he knew with no qualifications was chosen ahead of him. This is certainly the case in states like South Australia which has begun a 50/50 gender strategy but is not explicit in other states.

He had several other psychological vulnerabilities rooted in his development, but there is no question that his perception of missing out on a job due to gender quotas was a trigger to him becoming depressed and consuming more alcohol. He lashed out at his girlfriend one night while intoxicated. They were arguing over his poor management of their finances.

The police arrived, followed the protocol and placed him on an AVO but, as is the norm, by the time a court hearing was due the couple had reunited and the partner had no interest in pursuing the charges. He has since completed an anger management course and cut down on the booze.

Another man was in his late thirties, recently divorced and working in a middle management role for a major corporation. He attempted suicide confronted with the reality of a relationship loss and a custody battle for the children. The trigger to his suicide attempt was failing to gain a promotion. Gender quotas in his organisation were explicit with the bonuses of senior managers linked to having a certain percentage of female managers. This is a known policy of several major companies, such as Qantas and Westpac.

There is every chance he was not the best candidate, but he clearly had a perception that quotas were a factor in his career blow. He has a well paid job, is highly qualified and will likely be fine other than having a bruised ego.

My two patients illustrate one of the key failings of modern feminism and its contribution to the rise of figures like Donald Trump. The movement fails to make any distinctions based on class.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins has told the Federal government to take ‘disruptive action’ and force private sector contractors to hire more female workers. It’s part of a Human Rights Commission strategy to push 40 per cent female quotas on government contractors in industries like construction, water supply and manufacturing. If such a ghastly policy ever occurred, it would disproportionately affect blue collar men.

The gender quotas in the South Australian police are particularly disturbing. For a state struggling to provide blue collar jobs and among the poorest in the nation, the last thing it needs is to bring in policies that penalise ordinary men.

Over half of all men who suicide are unemployed or not in the labour force in some form. They might be retired, a carer or on the disability pension. Unemployed men are nearly ten times more likely to kill themselves compared to those in jobs. When compared to the fairer sex, unemployed men are forty times more likely to end their lives than women with jobs. The trend highlights how the expectation to provide and the identity of a working role are more fundamental for men. If they live in a remote or regional town their risk is higher still. Such statistics must be digested in the current context where underemployment of youth aged 15-24 is at an all time high, according to workforce specialist Conrad Liveris. More kids are stuck in casual or part-time work with few longer term career prospects.

These are measurable factors. It is more difficult to ascertain the impact of the cultural push to feminise workplaces, varying from my colleagues working as surgeons to the military to higher education. The news that male university students in humanities departments are being schooled in their privilege and advised to be less brash and confident in their answers is a notable example.

The underlying prejudice, one that is a pillar of the last half-century of progressivism, is that social progress depends upon diluting traditional masculinity from public and occupational life. Male sexuality is interpreted as innately predatory. It is another version of human perfectibility – that we all might be more feminine and therefore civilised. This extends to my work in a cultural script that sends the message that men are problems rather than ever having problems.

The concerns of feminists are inevitably elite, usually focused on corporate boards and leadership positions, reflecting their own social worlds. Yet one of the most disadvantaged groups is young men with limited skills from regional or outer suburban areas. They are usually white. Any society that cannot find meaningful roles for young men is in trouble.

Policies that unashamedly penalise this group are not just wrong, but downright dangerous. Automation and outsourcing make it hard enough to find jobs in the lower end of the labour market, but gender quotas are surely the icing on a sh-t cake. It is excessive to say feminism is causing male suicide, but it would be wrong to say it has nothing to do with it.

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