My parents used to always warn me that if I kept rolling my eyes so dramatically, they’d get stuck in the back of my head. But if this article didn’t do the trick, I think I’ll be ok.
The title — Warning: Feminism is bad for your health — is bad enough. Here’s the thesis:
Researchers in Sweden, arguably one of the most egalitarian countries in the world, have found that equality could be associated with poorer health for both men and women.
In the study, published in Social Science and Medicine, the researchers compared data from all of Sweden’s 290 municipalities. They used nine indicators of equality in both the private and public sectors, ranging from the proportion of men and women in management jobs to average income. These were related to local life expectancy, disability and absence from work through illness.
The results showed a strong link between gender equality and levels of sickness and disability for both men and women. One of the findings was that equal financial resources between the sexes was associated with higher levels of sickness and disability.
For both sexes, gender equality in managerial positions was associated with lower life expectancy.
Fascinating. It shouldn’t surprise us that even in countries with gender-egalitarian laws, patriarchal practices continue and place stress on both women and men. Many studies have shown that, world-wide, women who work outside the home take on a “second shift” domestically and end up putting in far more unpaid working hours per week than a parter who works the same number of paid hours. It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that women are sick more often. It also shouldn’t surprise us that when men aren’t being universally catered to, they’re slightly less healthy. I’d probably be a lot more healthy if I had free in-house labor to cook for me, clean up after me and generally look after my health and well-being.
But don’t listen to me — check out what the author of this piece admits the scientists who conducted this study said:
The scientists said possible explanations for the correlation is that men’s health may be adversely affected by a loss of what had been seen as traditional male privileges. Women’s health, meanwhile, could be being damaged by greater opportunities for risky behaviour as a result of increased income, along with stress from longer working hours.
Another suggestion was that gender equality has not yet been fully achieved, and that the effects being seen are just transitional.
If feminism and gender equality is indeed bad for your health, then we’d probably find healthier people in less egalitarian nations, right? While there are lots of ways to evaluate “health,” infant mortality and life expectancy rates are pretty decent indicators. Sweden, feminist as it is, should be doing fairly poorly then, right?
Wrong. This isn’t anywhere near an exhaustive list, but Sweden appears to have the second-highest life expectancy rate listed, right along with Australia and Switzerland, just below Japan, and just above Canada. And it has the lowest infant mortality rate on the list (according to a different list, it’s the second-lowest).
The highest infant mortality rates are found in Angola, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Liberia, Mozambique, Niger, Somalia, Mali and Tajikstan.
Beacons of feminism, all.
Obviously poverty plays pretty strongly into these statistics, and poverty is a complicated phenomenon. Here’s a more exhaustive life expectancy list, and, not surprisingly, wealthier countries are toward the top, and poorer countries are a the bottom. Of course, wealth is also fairly correlated with legal gender equality, and while correlation doesn’t equal causation, I think it would be difficult to make the case that the two are entirely unrelated.
But poverty isn’t the only factor. A whole lot of the countries on the bottom of the list are former colonies, which I don’t think is a coincidence. As I wrote in the comments to one of the posts about veiling/Islam, post-colonial societies are struggling to re-assert their identities and independence, and a big part of that relies on emphasizing aggressive masculinity and falling back on traditional gender roles. People in these societies are dealing with multiple oppressions, all of which feed off each other (see post-colonial feminism for a better explanation of this than I can give).
Point being, traditional Western/Northern privilege, coupled with wealth, health care access and a decent social safety net, all influence these statistics. Gender equality is tied up with these other factors, and is also independently influential. Even in the United States, the states with the most gender egalitarian and pro-choice laws (the fewest restrictions on abortion, better contraception access, etc) tend to have higher rates of education, greater wealth, lower divorce rates, higher life expectancies, and lower infant and maternal mortality rates. Since Roe v. Wade and the second-wave feminist movement secured greater gender equality, we’ve seen fantastic results. From my Blog for Choice post:
Women go to college at the same rates as men. We can define ourselves as something other than mothers, or as mothers and something else. Poverty has been cut in half since Roe gave women the right to control their own reproduction. Men can be nurturing too, and are expected to take part in raising their children. Families can be planned. Men have greater choices in their occupations since they aren’t required to be the sole bread-winner. More people have access to education. Women have more power to escape abusive relationships or bad jobs. Parents of both sexes spend more time with their kids than ever before.
We’re wealthier, better-educated, and more family-focused. Sweden, the example of ill health caused by feminism, has one of the highest life expectancy rates and lowest infant mortality rates in the world. It’s also been ranked as having the best business creativity in Europe.
But, yeah, feminism is totally bad for your health. I’m sure Roger Dobson is packing his bags to move from his horribly feminist-friendly home in Europe into a hotbed of gender inequality and misogyny. I hear Afghanistan is pretty affordable right now.