November 19 is International Men's Day. This is a time to focus attention on problems disproportionately experienced by some groups of men. Many of these problems (or "gender gaps," as they are known in sociology) are unknown to the general public, and some are quietly worsening under the radar of society.
The Health Gap
Suicide remains a predominantly male problem, with men making up 75 per cent of suicide victims in Canada. Indeed, every three hours a Canadian man kills himself. Men also make up approximately 80 per cent of people experiencing substance use issues, including alcoholism and drug addiction, sometimes known as "slow-motion suicide."
Sadly, there are very few statutory services devoted specifically to men who face these issues in disproportionate numbers. Organizations such as Movember and the Salvation Army are valiantly attempting to fill in the large gaps, but more can be done.
It is thus unsurprising that recently released figures from the World Health Organization indicate that life expectancy for Canadian men is 80 years, whereas for women it is 84. This figure is even lower for men from vulnerable groups, such as aboriginal men.
The Education Gap
High-school dropout remains a predominantly boy problem across the country. In Quebec, statistics suggest that one in three French-Canadian boys drop out without gaining a high-school diploma, a rate almost double that for girls.
This often leads to a life of petty crime, unemployment and wasted potential. This social problem is hardly acknowledged, let alone addressed.
Some have argued that university campuses have become particularly hostile to men and masculinity. For example, campus men's issues groups have met with virulent opposition, and sometimes even violent protests.
Philosopher Stefan Molyneux has called insistent campus discourse about rape culture a "massive libellous horrendous smear against the vast majority or men" for implicitly portraying all male students as potential barbarians on the verge of rape and pillage. This broad characterization of the issue may contribute to diminishing male enrollment in Canadian universities, with men now making up only around 40 per cent of recent university graduates.
All this means more and more men are left feeling disenfranchised from society and disenchanted with life.
The Justice Gap
A final issue could be called the "justice gap." This refers to differential treatment in the legal system by gender. Family court is where men report multiple injustices at the hands of the law, with data indicating that only seven per cent of men receive full custody of their children. Many men are also left in severe financial difficulties due to unjust rates of alimony.
Other unaddressed justice issues include lack of attention or seriousness given to male victims of domestic abuse. Likewise, UBC Professor Adam Jones has conducted research suggesting that aboriginal men and boys are murdered and missing at a higher rate than women, but the government has refused to incorporate aboriginal men into the national inquiry.
These amassed injustices have been linked to the epidemic of suicide and substance abuse in men.
International Men's Day is an opportune time to ask left-field questions and contemplate unorthodox answers.
There is a belief, especially prevalent among academics, that certain groups of men are running society for their own benefit. However the statistics may tell a different tale. The government, as well as society, has a duty to take action to help disenfranchised men. Canada has a minister for the status of women, whose job is to take measures to improve the lives of Canadian women.
Is it time for a minister for the status of disenfranchised men and boys -- aboriginal, French-Canadian and otherwise? Should the inquiry into missing aboriginal women be expanded to include missing aboriginal men? What other reforms are necessary to advance the mental health and well-being of Canadian men who may slip through the cracks?
International Men's Day is an opportune time to ask left-field questions and contemplate unorthodox answers. This can lead to concrete action that improves the lives of disenfranchised men, their families and society as a whole.
Ignoring the issue is not an option.
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