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The Second Sexism: Discrimination Against Men and Boys

ISBN: 978-0-470-67451-2
304 pages
May 2012, Wiley-Blackwell
The Second Sexism: Discrimination Against Men and Boys (0470674512) cover image
Does sexism against men exist? What it looks like and why we need to take it seriously

This book draws attention to the "second sexism," where it exists, how it works and what it looks like, and responds to those who would deny that it exists. Challenging conventional ways of thinking, it examines controversial issues such as sex-based affirmative action, gender roles, and charges of anti-feminism. The book offers an academically rigorous argument in an accessible style, including the careful use of empirical data, and includes examples and engages in a discussion of how sex discrimination against men and boys also undermines the cause for female equality.

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Preface x

1 Introduction 1

What Is the Second Sexism? 1

Disadvantage 2

Discrimination 3

Wrongful discrimination 3

Sexism 5

The First Sexism 12

Two Kinds of Denialist 13

Forestalling Some Fallacies 16

Structure and Method of the Book 18

2 Male Disadvantage 25

Conscription and Combat 26

Violence 30

Corporal Punishment 33

Sexual Assault 36

Circumcision 41

Education 46

Family and Other Relationships 50

Custody 50

Paternity 51

Paternity leave 53

Homosexuals 54

Bodily Privacy 54

Life Expectancy 57

Imprisonment and Capital Punishment 59

Conclusion 61

3 Explaining Male Disadvantage and Thinking about Sex Differences 77

Beliefs about Males 77

Questions about the Beliefs 84

To what extent, if at all, are the beliefs true? 85

What makes the beliefs true? 89

What, if any, implications are there? 93

Conclusion 96

4 From Disadvantage to Wrongful Discrimination 101

Conscription and Combat 102

Kingsley Browne’s basic argument 103

“Slippage” 104

Military effectiveness 106

Dangers of conservatism 109

Statistical differences 113

Final thoughts on combat and conscription 121

Violence 122

“The perpetrators are men” 123

“Men are better able to defend themselves” 124

“Men pose a greater threat” 125

Two kinds of discrimination 127

Corporal Punishment 128

“Males are more badly behaved” 128

“Corporal punishment is not as damaging to males” 129

Sexual Assault 132

Circumcision 134

Education 135

Family and Other Relationships 137

Bodily Privacy 142

“Women have a greater interest in bodily privacy than do men” 143

“The conditions are different” 145

Equal employment opportunity 148

Life Expectancy 152

Imprisonment and Capital Punishment 155

Conclusion 163

5 Responding to Objections 173

The Inversion Argument 174

Conscription and combat 175

Violence 179

Circumcision 182

Education 183

Sexual assault 185

Bodily privacy 186

Custody 188

Life expectancy 189

Imprisonment 193

The Costs-of-Dominance Argument 194

The Distraction Argument 199

Defining Discrimination 202

6 Affirmative Action 212

Rectifying Injustice 215

The past discrimination argument 216

The present discrimination argument 218

Lessons from “Summers School” 225

Consequentialist Arguments 228

The viewpoint diversity argument 228

The role-model argument 229

The legitimate-sex-preference argument 231

The ideal argument 232

Conclusion 233

7 Conclusion 239

Does Feminism Discriminate against Men? 239

Are Men Worse off than Women? 246

Taking the Second Sexism Seriously 254

Conclusion 259

Bibliography 266

Index 285

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David Benatar is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cape Town. He is the author of Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence (2006).

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“I recommend The Second Sexism to scholars who investigate gender relations, and I urge academic feminists to take Benatar’s thesis seriously and to respond to it with respect rather than with disbelief or derision.”  (American Philosophical Association's Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy, 1 May 2013)

“This book simply must be read . . . . Highly, highly recommended.”  (Mens News Daily, 4 January 2013)

“The Second Sexismis well researched, with voluminous references. As such, it serves the useful function of raising consciousness about an important social issue. Benatar’s research makes a strong case for an in-depth examination of the injustices and discriminations that men suffer in this and other societies in the 21st century.”  (PsycINFO/PsycCRITIQUES, 21 November 2012)

“The Second Sexism is a strong and early step on the way to the awareness, amelioration, and treatment of a widespread and unaddressed problem that affects a not insignificant portion of the human population.”  (New Male Studies Review 3, Jonathan Badiali's, 26 September 2012)

“Benatar’s analysis brings much needed clarity to contemporary debates in gender studies, whose discourse runs the risk of becoming stagnant and dogmatic against a constantly changing social backdrop. Benatar does well to remind us that it is not only females who are constrained and disadvantaged by the roles that they have been socially encouraged to take up.”  (New Male Studies Review 2, J.P. Messina's, 26 September 2012)

“And now, thanks to Professor Benatar, we have an incisive, comprehensive discussion of the phenomenon that feminism has unwittingly brought to the forefront . . . The writing is jargon-free. As a philosopher, Professor Benatar is attentive to conceptual nuance and clear, precise usage.”  (New Male Studies Review 1, Miles Groth's, 26 September 2012)

“This is a very well-argued book that presents an unorthodox thesis and defends it ably.  It would be a useful text in both undergraduate and graduate courses in philosophy and gender studies, where it is certain to arouse a lot of discussion, much of it excited.  Since it is very clearly written, and would be interesting and accessible also to the educated layperson.  Most importantly, however, it is likely to change our understanding of gender relations.”  (Metapsychology, 21 August 2012)

With clarity and cogency, The Second Sexism presents the first sustained philosophical examination of systematic discrimination against men.  This is not part of a backlash against feminism; it is part of the next crucial step toward the construction of social arrangements that are fairer, more humane, and less restrictive of individual freedom.
-Don Hubin, Ohio State University

This book is as courageous as it is brilliant and as honest as it is thought provoking.  The issue is not whether women have been wronged, but whether the responses to the wrongs against women have often resulted in there being wrongs against men.  In quite surprising ways, David Benatar’s book is a wonderful reminder of the tremendous importance of John Stuart Mill’s distinction between “living truth” and “dead dogma”; for it is not at all a conceptual truth that the dogma of sexual inequality has been replaced by and only by living truth with respect to equality for all.  Benatar is absolutely masterful—nay, majestic—in illustrating that reality.
- Laurence Thomas, Syracuse University

David Benatar once again enters the ethico-political debates of our time with his controversial argument about the neglected side of sexism—wrongful discrimination against men. Justice is never a zero-sum game to Benatar, and his well argued and thoughtful book makes a compelling case for taking seriously men's hidden injuries if we are to genuinely build a better world.
-Daphne Patai, University of Massachusetts

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May 14, 2012
Does Male Discrimination Exist?

Ask most people in what ways they think males are discriminated against and they may be hard pushed to think of anything.  Ask them the same question about females and it’s likely that they will have a number of examples, from salary discrepancies to sexual harassment.  But is it actually the case that women bear the brunt of discrimination in today’s society and men get away scot-free?  In his stimulating new book, Professor David Benatar draws attention to this most contentious of subjects and argues that, while few people take the idea seriously (and many may find the mere mention of it laughable), males are also the victim of many and quite serious forms of sexual discrimination and until this is both acknowledged and addressed, gender equality cannot be achieved.

Making careful use of empirical data, drawing on recent research into what constitutes sexism, and backing up his arguments with a range of thought-provoking examples – including the fact that men are more likely to be pressured into joining the military and to fight in war, they are much more likely to be the victims of violence and, in a divorce, are much less likely to gain custody of their children -  Benatar guides the reader comprehensively through what constitutes male sexism and shows us where it exists, how it works and what it looks like.  Along the way he responds to those who would deny it exists and suggests some radical ideas for change.

So, just how do you alter attitudes and find a solution to a problem that is not understood and barely recognised by the bulk of society?  While Benatar acknowledges that the answers are unlikely to be found, or even addressed, anytime soon, his clearly-written, deftly-argued book must certainly be a step in the right direction…

Featured in:
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BBC News Radio 5 Live Men's Hour (Download from http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/5live/menshour/menshour_20120513-2203a.mp3)
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