Gender bias toward males frequently gets overlooked
By Daily Bruin Staff
Feb. 19, 2001 9:00 p.m.
Angelucci is taking post-graduate courses at UCLA Law School and
is part of the National Coalition of Free Men.
By Marc Angelucci
If you kill a black man driving drunk, you’ll face an
average prison term of two years. If you kill a white man, the term
will increase to four years. And if you kill a white woman, it will
jump to six years. (“Unconventional Wisdom,” Washington
Post, Sept. 7, 2000.)
For some reason, though, our media only likes to tell the racial
part of the story, and leaves the devaluation of male lives hidden
under a cloak of silence.
On Jan. 31, 2001, a Michael Schwartz column described the Prison
Industrial Complex ““ a prison slave labor market of
nonviolent criminals made up of mostly “the poor, the
mentally ill, people of color, drug addicts and many combinations
of these characteristics.” (“Slave labor means big
bucks for U.S. corporations,” Daily Bruin, Viewpoint).
While I agreed with this, I couldn’t help noticing how the
very demographic that accounts for 90 percent of those prisoners,
and 98 percent of death row inmates, went completely unmentioned.
Why was that? Did the writer momentarily forget that gender
If you missed your quiet time today, you can make up for it now.
Close your eyes and imagine what the column would have looked like
if the statistics were reversed. Ready? “Ommm . . .”
Wow. Did you see what I saw? “Women . . . women . . .
This is no joke. It’s a crisis. When a disparity adversely
affects women, even by 1 percent, gender is all over the page, but
when it adversely affects men, even by 98 percent, not a word. We
simply don’t care much about men. In fact, the devaluation of
male lives is so entrenched in our psyches and endemic to our
system that we refuse to see it ““ even when it’s smack
in our face. The criminal justice system is a good example.
According to Pradeep Ramanathan, vice president of the National
Coalition of Free Men, a volunteer, non-profit organization that
has explored and addressed men’s issues since 1976,
“All the research clearly demonstrates that gender is the
most significant biasing factor in determining whether or not
someone will be charged, prosecuted, indicted and sentenced, as
well as determining the severity of the sentence.”
And he’s right. For example, federal crime statistics from
the National Institute of Justice demonstrate that being male
increases your chance of receiving a death sentence for murder by
more than 20 times.
A study of non-accomplice crimes that factored together the
number of charges, convicted offenses, prior felony convictions,
and the race, age, work and family history of the accused, found
that “gender differences, favoring women, are more often
found than race differences, favoring whites,” (Crime and
Delinquency, 1989, v 35, pp 136-168).
In fact, being male increases sentence lengths more than any
other variable, according to researchers Zingraff and Thompson in
the International Journal of the Sociology of Law.
What is behind this? Gender bias researchers John Ryan and Ian
Wilson suggest it stems from stereotypes about women being more
innocent, more reformable, and less dangerous than men. Barbara
Swartz, director of New York’s Women’s Prison Project,
called it the “chivalry factor” and said, “If
there were more women judges, more women would go to jail.”
(“Courts Easier On Women,” The Sunday Record, Oct. 5,
Regardless, it’s the men getting screwed, again, and
nobody wants to talk about it.
Many states do have task forces to study gender bias in the
justice system. But since they pay groups like the National
Organization for Women and the National Association of Women Judges
to decide which issues to study, their conclusions are even more
biased than the system itself.
Here’s an example. For the same crime, women are more
likely to receive probation while men receive a prison term. What
does the commission decide to say? Women are discriminated against
because they receive longer probation periods. (New York Times,
July 2, 1989).
“None of (the commissions) study bias against men,”
said Ramanathan. “NCFM has made some progress in Texas, but
we need more volunteers.”
And sentencing is only one type of anti-male bias in the justice
system. There are others.
Prison rape, for instance, is probably the most underreported
type of rape due to the danger of reporting it and the blind eye
that guards are often said to turn on victims. Some estimates,
using existing data, project that completed rapes occur as often as
242,000 times in male prisons and 5,000 times in female prisons
yearly. (Stephen Donaldson, “Rape of Incarcerated
Americans,” July 1995.)
Whatever the number, our government ignores it. According to
traditional laws defining rape, the government even excludes male
victims from rape statistics and rape shield protection (Evidence
Code 1103). Meanwhile, they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars
to study rapes of women on college campuses, defining it to include
“unwanted sex” and asking women on campuses if they
have ever been “overwhelmed by continual pestering and verbal
pressure” into having sex
While they were playing Sir Gallahan, they excluded men from the
study altogether. Never mind that at least 40 studies (using
similar definitions of rape) found that men are raped by women
almost as often as the reverse. (Sexuality and Culture, v 4, n 3,
Apparently, men’s feelings just don’t count. And
they never will until men transcend their protector roles and
resist. As Dr. Warren Farrell put it, “Men do not speak up,
organize, or publicize, so biases against women are eliminated and
biases against men remain.” (“Women Can’t Hear
What Men Don’t Say,” 1999).
I dream of a day when men of all races join hands, women too,
and insist that discrimination against males be addressed along
with all other discrimination. But that will take activists with
courage, passion and persistence. At present, it remains a vision.
Care to join me? Here’s my hand.