NCFM PR Director Steven Svoboda book review, The Empathy Gap: Male Disadvantages and the Mechanisms of Their Neglect.
The Empathy Gap: Male Disadvantages and the Mechanisms of Their Neglect. By William Collins. London: LPS Publishing, 2019. 675 pages. No price information on book; amazon gives price as $33.50. Review by J. Steven Svoboda.
Retired engineer and physicist William Collins has published a truly remarkable book. Be warned, at nearly 600 pages of text excluding the more than 65 pages of references and the index, this is not a quick read! Collins is self-educated on men’s rights anyway and very, very smart. What this book basically turns out to be is an updated, understandably UK-focused, more fact-heavy, and slightly more radical version of Warren Farrell’s groundbreaking 1993 blockbuster The Myth of Male Power.
Let me say right off the bat, don’t even think about not buying this book. There is nothing like it.
OK, now that I’ve got that off my chest, as with any book, this is not a perfect work. How could it be? Too much of the pertinent issues are hotly disputed. Collins’ dispassionate tone is deeply appreciated by this reader, as is his ability at this late date to hone in on numerous issues and facts I don’t remember previously seeing discussed, at least not at the level at which they are addressed here.
The empathy gap of Collins’ title refers to “two features – the male disadvantages together with the minimal societal concern which they provoke.” By the end of the very first page of the book, not only have we digested the meaning of the title, we read that “the empathy gap is a remnant of the old gendered mindset,” perhaps an obvious point, but Collins sketches out his plan to show that “one of the problems [leading to this gendered mindset] is that the concept of equality has itself become corrupted.” Corrupted in that some deliberate government muddling is going on, repeatedly suggesting that the laudable goal of equality of opportunity can be advanced by somehow achieving the egregious goal of eliminating inequalities of outcome. An implicit and erroneous assumption is that the prevailing direction of inequality disadvantages women. Collins dispassionately observes that the two British government entities using the term “women and equalities” betray a basic lack of equity in their very names. The Equality and Human Rights Commission devotes only 2.5% of its budget to men’s issues compared with 26% to women, and 9% to LGBT issues.
Part of the problem, the author shrewdly observes, is “a mindset—or perhaps an argument of convenience—that men form an undifferentiated, monolithic sense of humanity: that all men are the same. From such an improbable axiom, no sense can follow.”
Collins rightly calls for explorations of the four-times higher levels of male suicide and of why with crime in general diminishing, numbers and percentages of men in prison are not following suit. Other issues are shorter male life expectancy, homeless people being mostly men, boys’ problems in the educational system, and fathers’ alienation from their children.
Let’s face it: such inequities exist because they don’t feel that bad to most of us, or maybe not bad at all to some. “Society has such a deep-seated need to continue to believe in men’s self-sufficiency, and the empathy gap is a psychological disposition, in both sexes, which facilitates it.” This in turn leads to male deference to women and a flow of resources from men to women. Moreover, “What women say is good becomes men’s definition of good—a ceding of moral authority to women.” Also, men, lacking inherent worth, or at least lacking as much inherent worth as women, find themselves forced to become “human doings” instead of human beings in a usually vain attempt to justify our existence through achievement. And then we get faulted because most of the world’s top CEO’s are men! Claims of male power and privilege are used to justify much of this but as Collins shows, these are largely smokescreens.
I don’t ever recall seeing the ridiculousness of patriarchy theory exposed so clearly: “Under patriarchy theory, men’s resource provision to the family—even if very hard won through endless, back-breaking labour—is recast as financial oppression… It is never explained why men should want to oppress women in this way…. Psychopaths are not noted for spending their lives in hard toil to provide hard-won resources to those whom they are supposed to be oppressing. They would surely be drummed out of the psychopaths’ union for such behaviour.”
Collins is also deft at weaving into the picture how every male disadvantage is cast as men’s fault, while all female disadvantages (to the extent they actually exist, which Collins adeptly problematizes) also seem to be, you guessed it, men’s fault.
Regarding education, Collins opines that boys’ educational disadvantage in the US, at least in one study, “is largely due to boys being marked down for behavioural characteristics less common in girls.” Fascinating. Seems plausible given that males are at least as intelligent as females on average, and according to some sources, more intelligent.
Collins does have an admirable ability for speaking truth forthrightly but at the same time in a way that is hard to gainsay, for example regarding feminist influence in academia: “Am I the only one to whom ‘feminist philosophy’ sounds ominously like ‘Aryan science’? Faculty guidance is now that 40% of recommended authors on philosophy reading lists should be women, and that first names must be included so that the sex of the author is clear. You might have thought that the content of the work was all that mattered, but it seems not.”
Collins later points out the many things that ought to exist if men were treated with the same concern as women, to encourage them to delve into areas such as elementary (in British lingo, “primary”) school teaching where they are under-represented. To pick just a few items from his list:
An annual award for the “Young Man Primary Teacher of the Year”
A National Men in Teaching Day
A calendar celebrating male primary school teachers, and reminding us that they are just 13% of primary teachers
Perhaps the saddest fact; Girls of all ages believe girls are more intelligent (“cleverer” in British English) than boys. And once boys hit age seven or eight, they agree!
Here is one of Collins’ most trenchant points. In 2014, Michelle Obama told us about the Boko Haram terrorist group that kidnapped Nigerian girls. Outrage was expressed all around and the message that was conveyed was that girls’ education was being attacked. “But, in truth, Boko Haram were, and are, against western education for anyone, not just girls…” Rather than kidnapping the boys, in fact, they shot, beheaded, and burned them alive. After which, as Collins dryly notes, there was little point in trying to educate them.
Another incredible story from Collins: Females but not males were vaccinated for human papilloma virus (HPV) with the excuse of “herd immunity” ostensibly protecting boys, whereas in truth boys and girls have exactly the same risk from HPV. Incredible sexism. It took a full decade of lobbying by health organizations before the UK government finally started vaccinating boys as well as girls for HPV.
Collins goes on to do an excellent job killing the fallacy (which wouldn’t be a proper excuse in any event) that males are less prone to go to the doctor than females. What is true is that males tend to accept higher-paying, less desirable jobs largely out of a desire to earn income to gain female favor. And these jobs tend to keep them from being able to visit their doctor as easily as the less demanding, often part-time jobs that females are statistically more likely to have.
Collins devotes two full chapters to “male genital mutilation” (circumcision) and does a great job with the topic. He ends by noting the “deep prejudice that the spotlight of concern should never be shone upon males [as it would be if males were protected from circumcision]. Females must retain their monopoly on victimhood and its attendant benefits. This is feminist intensified gynocentrism and its correlate, male disposability: the empathy gap.”
There seems to be no limit to the number of new insights the author has into what might have seemed to have been well-trodden paths prior to this book’s publication. Collins notes that two-thirds of public sector employees (at least in the UK) are female, but men pay 73% of the income tax and are the majority of private sector employees. The author argues that, “Thus, it is predominantly women who are the beneficiaries of employment funded predominantly by men, and it is predominantly women who benefit from the highly advantageous public sector pensions whilst their funders, predominantly men, have far less favourable pension terms.” Collins also shows that when all forms of work are considered, including housework, men actually do more work than women rather than less. (Warren Farrell made a similar point in a US context in his book Why Men Earn More.)
The narrative of male abusers and female victims in domestic violence is a tired, repeatedly debunked one, along with the lamentable absence of shelters for men, and Collins proves up to ably addressing these topics as well. He notes that mothers kill their children much more often than fathers, a fact that is almost unknown to the general public. Yet some government authorities focus only on men as potential dangers to children. They thereby put children at serious risk. In fact, children themselves become pawns in the feminist game to extract as much power for women over men as possible and to that end, to eliminate men from families whenever possible while extracting as much money from them as feasible.
Collins shows in detail that one of the biggest reasons for fatherlessness in today’s world is the decline of marriage. For all teenagers not living with both parents, more than two-thirds of the parents were never married and thus divorce was not the issue. In a nutshell, a marriage gap exists now where the wealthy get married and the poor do not. And one reason it is so hard for any woman to find an eligible man these days is the irony “that the men that women want to marry are those men who approximate best to what the feminists disparage as ‘patriarchs.’” Available men of this type are getting rarer and rarer, as it gets harder for them to obtain employment with all job preferences pointing elsewhere and a variety of other feminism-created negative factors. It is worth remembering too that whatever the income level, a father’s interest in and support of his children learning has tremendous positive correlation with the children’s educational success later in life. (This is not so true for the mother.)
Collins is at his brilliant best writing of authors unable to study the tragedy of male suicide without blaming men for it: “We must, at all costs, preserve the notion of men as autonomous and invulnerable to social harm, because men’s neediness would detract from those whose neediness is actually sanctioned. The worldview sanctioned by gynocentrism, male agency and feminism must be protected, if necessary by reconfiguring the world through whatever lens of verbiage is required to distort it to fit our preconceptions.” Collins instead acknowledges the social disadvantage that in many cases leads to the sad demise.
Let’s end with a fantastically important statistic: Around half of all male sex offenders against women have a childhood that involved sexual abuse by a woman. Let that one sink in.
To make it worse, there appear to be plausible reasons why abuse by a woman might be more harmful to a child than similar abuse by a man. In conclusion, “Feminism denies women’s agency whilst paradoxically also asserting that women are strong and capable of being fully independent.” And again, “Only by his own failings can a man be harmed, not by adverse social conditions: that is the fiction which must be maintained. By redirecting the blame back onto the man, society is absolved from any need to assist such men… Men are not authorized to be needy.”
The Empathy Gap is a fantastically comprehensive book. I have had to omit entire topics from this review. However, I won’t leave out saying that if you have a heart, and that heart is beating, run, do not walk, to your favorite bookstore or Internet device and order this book. You will not regret it.
The Empathy Gap: Male Disadvantages and the Mechanisms of Their Neglect.