Calling all men: feminism can save your life

Russian bear? Fewer men die early in countries where men and women are more equal, like Iceland.

Is feminism good for men? A growing pay gap at hundreds of British companies has sparked a debate about gender equality. But a more feminist society could be good for men too.

The BBC has revealed that, since last year, the gender pay gap has increased in 40% of private companies in the UK. Those with a wider gap include Npower and Virgin Atlantic.

The shock findings highlight the continued inequality faced by women. But a more equal society could benefit men too.

For example, men tend to die earlier than women. It is just biology?

Last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a report arguing that men’s early deaths are, in fact, tied to gender inequality.

As societies become more equal, the life expectancy gap between men and women gets narrower. In Iceland, which was rated the best in Europe for gender equality, women outlive men by just three years. By contrast, in Russia men die on average almost 11 years earlier than women.

But why?

Ideas of traditional masculinity are strong in Eastern Europe. Nowhere more so than Russia. Here, the report found that heavy drinking “elevates or maintains a man’s status in working-class social groups”.

Shockingly, 25% of Russian men die before they are 55. Russian and Georgian men are also the most likely to smoke, while men from Iceland and other Nordic countries smoke the least.

“Gender […] is one of the most important sociocultural factors influencing health,” the WHO concluded.

Is feminism good for men?

Boys will be boys

Of course, say some. Traditional masculinity puts immense pressure on men, creating a a culture where men are unable to admit to stress or feelings of inadequacy and so turn to unhealthy lifestyles or even suicide. Time to wake up.

Don’t be so sure, respond others. Correlation is not causation, and gender inequality is just one symptom of the real problems in these societies. Countries with greater gender inequality also tend to be more autocratic, have a poorer quality of life and lack protections for workers.

You Decide

  1. Is feminism good for men?


  1. Look up the UK life expectancy. Work out the difference in years between men and women. Is it bigger or smaller than you’d expect? Write a paragraph explaining your thinking.

Some People Say...

“The mark of a real man is being able to tolerate a chest infection for three months before laying off the smokes.”

Robert Webb

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Across all societies, men on average die younger than women. When suffering from stress, men are more likely to turn to alcohol, smoking and drugs. While women have higher rates of depression, men are three times more likely to kill themselves.
What do we not know?
Whether the causes behind men dying earlier are biological or social.

Word Watch

Pay gap
A pay gap is different from unequal pay. Unequal pay when women earn less than men for doing the same work. A pay gap can be caused by factors such as having fewer women in senior or high-paying roles.
World Health Organisation
An agency of the United Nations that is concerned with global health.
Most likely
Almost 60% of men in Russia and Georgia smoke, compared with only 15% in Iceland.
Combining social and cultural factors.
A ruler who has absolute power and is not elected democratically.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.