… may be men, in some cases. No, this isn’t some sort of militant feminist kick-em-in-the-balls kind of post. I’m referring to the health problems faced by men and the fact that guys appear to kick it a lot more often and a lot sooner than women. This editorial from the New York Times presents some interesting ideas about the lack of male-only tests performed today, despite the fact that they may have a higher chance of contracting a number of nasty diseases.
The author, Dr. Marianne Legato,Ã‚Â cites evidence that women have stronger immune systems and less chance of suffering from coronary heart disease. Legato states that more male fetuses are miscarried, and male children and teens are more likely to take risks and commit suicide. She suggests that these gender differences should be studied more intently with the goal of increasing the length and quality of life for men.
Legato believes that the lack of funding on such studies is due in part to the backlash caused by years of researchers ignoring the particular problems that affect women. Here’s where I disagree with her:
Perhaps the reason many societies offer boys nutritional, educational and vocational advantages over girls is not because of chauvinism Ã¢â‚¬â€ it’s because we’re trying to ensure their survival.
I can’t speak for many societies (okay, technically I can’t speak for any societies), but isn’t there a common perception that men are tougher than women, and therefore don’t need the same level of treatment? It’s even referenced in Legato’s playful title. It seems illogical to suggest that despite this overwhelming perception (be it right or wrong), we purposely have given men better treatment because we’re more worried about them. The much more likely scenario is that the focus on men’s health over women is much more due to the centuries of mysogeny that we went through before finally achieving some sort of balance.
My only other criticism comes from the author’s quip about depression:
While depression is said to be twice as frequent in women as in men, I’m convinced that the diagnosis is just made more frequently in women, who show a greater willingness to discuss their symptoms and to ask for help when in distress. Once, at a dinner party, I asked a group of men whether they believed men were depressed as often as women, but were simply conditioned to be silent in the face of discomfort, sadness or fear. “Of course!” replied one man. “Why do you think we die sooner?”
To be “convinced” that the numbers are even based upon a dinner party conversation is frighteningly fallacious. Her hypothesis is an interesting one, but to dismiss actual research in the face of anecdotal evidence is a tad silly.
All in all, she makes a good point — as I wroteÃ‚Â last week, there are major physiological differences between the genders. True equality of the sexes should result in an honest look at which health problems need to be addressed, regardless of which section of the populace is affected.