24 February 2017

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Discrimination against men

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Discrimination against men

At face value we might think that this is not a subject worth discussing
maybe because men do all the discriminating in the world. The real
problem with this topic is that it is a high impact emotional content
but what makes this topic important is not the emotions it attracts. I
try to explain this in my short essay.

Discrimination against men

A topic about discrimination against men is first and foremost a topic
about discrimination. As a working definition of discrimination we can
use: an intentional act to disadvantage someone for no reason other than
some arbitrary characteristic of the victim.

There are many variations to this definition; for example an act need
not be intentional or maybe subconscious act; and the characteristic
need not necessarily be real, it is sufficient that the perpetrator
thinks that the victim has some characteristic. A more complicated issue
is when the perpetrator acts from peer pressure, or worse, family
pressure. Indeed we can go a step further and suggest that being brought
up in a group who are taught to hate people with a certain characteristic.

By definition, discrimination against others would convey an advantage
to us; or at the very best a perceived advantage. However, I am inclined
to think that discrimination need not confer a direct advantage from
discriminating against the victim. For example, discriminating against a
group might consolidate the coherence of the perpetrators rather than
obtain an advantage directly from the victim: compare this with stealing
someone's property. An example would be the murder of Jews and other
minority groups by the Nazis in Europe. Creating a network throughout
Europe simply to murder six million or more people created a liability
to the war efforts of the Nazis; although discrimination had nothing to
do with the war. And even more when many of those victims would have
easily contributed to the Nazi cause by virtue of national pride or
patriotism. After all, the treaty of Versailles affected everyone in

There is another angle to discrimination in the context that we think
that our survival endeavour in life is first and foremost a fight
against the environment such as wild animals, earthquakes, floods, the
cold etc. We also assume that other tribes and groups will also want to
hurt us or take what we have. In both categories we might perceive this
as a matter "of us" and "them".

But discrimination happens equally against people within the group as
much as "enemies of the group". The rhetoric of the Nazis was not only
against the Jews who were seeking refuge in Germany from the pogroms in
Russia but also to the Jews in Germany who had been there for
generations. The modern equivalent would today be European Citizens in
the United Kingdom or Muslims and citizens from Latin American countries
in the United States.

In other words, discrimination can also be a threat to people from
within the group or society of the victims; a sort of autoimmune disease
where the immune system hurts the body it is supposed to defend rather
than attack invading threats to the body. Indeed a good example of this
type of discrimination is discrimination against people because of their
gender: i.e. discrimination against women and men who are the basis of
any society. Discrimination against men (or women) in a society would be
discrimination against members of the same society.

At this point we are expected to qualify our topic, discrimination
against men, with two caveats. The first is that there is more gender
discrimination against women then there is against men. And secondly,
men are the main suspects of discrimination against women. But this begs
the questions: who discriminates against men and what kind of
discrimination do men suffer? For my arguments on the subject I do not
need these two questions as I will show below.

The answer to who discriminates against men is the same people who
discriminate against women. The stance by the present female Prime
Minister of the United Kingdom by refusing to guarantee the rights of EU
citizens in the UK is no less discriminatory against men as it is
against women. And the policy by the President of the United State,
today, to prevent people of a certain racial background from entering
the US, even though they have legally valid permits or citizens of the
country itself, is no less discriminatory against women as it is against

This means that the perpetrators of gender discrimination are not
necessarily carried out by members of one specific gender or other.
Discrimination is carried out by human beings against other human
beings. But this leaves us with the question of what kind of
discrimination can men suffer that would justify a whole discussion on
the topic.

At a certain philosophical level, discrimination against men or women
does not have any real significant import; although it makes good
headline copy. But on a more empirical level the most important and
serious discrimination against men is is also discrimination against
women (and vice versa). A woman is a man's mother, or sister or daughter
or even wife or partner. Thus wage discrimination against women is first
and foremost also discrimination against men because women with a family
or partner would have less money available for the family. Thus a woman
who is paid less than the norm for being a woman and who has a son, not
only is she being discriminated against, but also her son who is a male
is being discriminated against. And the son is being discriminated
against because his mother has less income to spend on him. We can
extend this argument to include women who do not have sons or male
partners; women who earn less than the norm has less spending power thus
contributing less to society.

So if women are discriminated in the work place, men are equally
discriminated against by have to succumb to peer pressure or "company
culture" to do what is the manly thing to do or at the very least follow
what is expected by those in authority. If it is expected of men that
they get involved in some sports activities and someone does not, this
would put that person at a disadvantage amongst his peers. Although men
don't have glass ceilings they still have to follow the "norms" to
success for example by being ruthless, competitive or more.

In reality serious companies today are more open and would judge someone
by their professional skills rather than past time activities. But I
would still argue it will be a brave man to suggest during work meetings
that he is more interested in the exploits of the Bolshoi Ballet Company
than say the Real Madrid or Manchester United. And likewise for a woman
if she plays in a forward position for her local rugby team!

But I also know of a case when a man was dismissed from a company
because he wanted to spend Saturdays with his family rather than go to
the office because the boss also worked on Saturdays! Of course, today
many companies are more enlightened than in the past; but this does not
negate the reality that many men are placed in positions they'd rather
not be in because of what is "expected" of men.

There is also the issue of discrimination against men when looking for a
partner. What "fat" is for women, "short and fat" is for men when
looking for a partner. But is there a difference between natural
selection choices and social discrimination? For example, at what point
would a man wearing glasses be seen as more attractive than one not
wearing glasses? But of course this question is more enforcing the
stereotype than reality. And we need not go any further than the
fictional characters of Clark Kent and Superman!

In reality, the single most important characteristic of a man that will
get him rejected by a potential partner is, of course, being a prat! And
this is valid for both biological and social reasons. But even then some
people can still make it! However, reality is such that most people
would find a partner if they looked carefully: but what we want and what
we get are two separate events.

And although there will always be an overlap between natural selection
discrimination (tall or short) and social discrimination (supporter of a
given football team) I am inclined to think that discrimination is first
and foremost social discrimination otherwise it makes no sense to
attribute moral condemnation if discrimination was purely biological.

This brings us back to the definition of discrimination. Are there any
cases when discrimination (against men for example) is justified? The
conditions for discrimination are: to disadvantage someone and
discrimination caused by some characteristic of the victim that in many
cases the victim has no control over. Being tall or short are
characteristics a person has no control over them; but what about
supporting a football team or being of a certain religion? But no one
will claim discrimination against men if a woman does not choose a
potential partners because they were fat, thin, short, and paid up
members of the worst football team in the country.

This suggests that a definition of discrimination must exclude matters
of taste or choice. If someone does not like plays, it cannot be
described as discrimination against men if they don't read the works of
Shakespeare. But most certainly it would be discrimination against
Shakespeare the man if people burned books of his plays because they
were not written by a woman.

And to compound the issue: how do we deal with discrimination based on
social class divisions or even castes? Just because we know what our
caste or class is and accept the attitudes of others towards our class,
does this mean that we are not being discriminated against? Is it OK to
discriminate against someone just because that person accepts that such
discrimination is natural or even does not perceive such behaviour as

To conclude I would argue that any form of discrimination is just
discrimination, and while we might feel to categorise discrimination
(sex, religious, race etc) at the philosophical this would have no real
import. And just because we perceive ourselves as not being affected by
the discrimination of others this is not a reasonable or logical
position to hold; certainly not a moral justification of justification.
But on the other hand we really need a robust definition of
discrimination to prevent us from mixing up choice with discrimination.

And maybe this is where and why our topic is relevant for us: even if it
is true that men tend to discriminate more against others (I am not
saying it is or isn't) and especially against women this does not give
us the grounds to claim (and act against) that all men discriminate. Or,
in our case, some men are discriminated against because they are men.
Philosophical robustness prevents us from accepting the argument that
because some members of a group behave in a certain way that all the
members of the group behave the same. After all discrimination, as
opposed to competition, is a social choice rather than a biological
trait and therefore always intentional or an intentional type of behaviour.

Best Lawrence
tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com <mailto:philomadrid@gmail.com>
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every
Thursdays at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Discrimination
against men

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