Playboy Forum: Being a Man Is Easy?

By Ishmael Reed Illustration by Justin Page

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Playboy Forum: Being a Man Is Easy?:

Writing on the Tikkun Daily blog, Harriet Fraad notes that the feminist movement began as an integrated working-class movement only to be co-opted by “privileged, educated” women. The producers of some network programs today are women who appear unaware of this hierarchy among women, whom they lump together. So, on a number of shows, these privileged and educated women, successful academics and professionals, complain about the war against them. Even Abby Huntsman, a billionaire’s granddaughter, says the war against women is a war against her. Comedian Nancy Giles appeared earlier this year on Melissa Harris-Perry’s MSNBC show. On Harris-Perry’s program men get shamed every week. Some men even appear on camera to confess their crimes against women or to exhibit their uncritical support for the bourgeois version of sisterhood. But Giles appeared on air and said, “It’s hard to be a woman.” Does this mean being a man is easy? Statistics tend to refute that.

Many years ago, I referred in a magazine article to the rising suicide rate among white men and blamed it on popular media’s image of white men as people with closets filled with superhero capes. Just take a look at the ads for movies and television shows. The white men are at the macho kick-ass center, with women clinging behind them. Their black, Asian or Hispanic sidekicks are shown with less prominence. They’re sidekicks, after all. Even though Jamie Foxx was the star of Django Unchained, when the movie’s producers went after some serious money, the ads featured Leonardo DiCaprio. The same thing happened with 12 Years a Slave when the Italian distributor made (and later apologized for) posters for the movie that featured enlarged images of white actors alongside a small image of the film’s black star.

Since I wrote that article, the suicide rate among white men has worsened. While in 2010 the suicide rate among black males was 8.7 per 100,000, the statistics for white men were 22.6 per 100,000. White men are also more likely to suffer from depression than black men, and the health statistics for black men stink. Life expectancy for black males was 4.7 years less than for white males in 2010. This difference is due to higher death rates for black men from heart disease, homicide, cancer, strokes and other conditions. While acknowledging there are racial disparities in the health industry that are exacerbated by the refusal of some state governments to extend Medicaid to segments of the population, Dr. Michael LeNoir, president of the National Medical Association, says some of the disparity is self-inflicted. “Black men have worse health because they often don’t take care of themselves,” says LeNoir. “They often won’t go to the doctor for regular checkups or until the problems are far advanced. You can’t put it all on low socioeconomic status, because black men die more often and are sicker across all socioeconomic groups.” Involuntary medical experiments on blacks since slavery, which continue to this day, have caused some black men and women to be suspicious of the medical community.

MSNBC has a number of pundits who tackle issues affecting women but no shows addressing issues of men. It may be hard to be a woman, as Giles exclaimed, but statistics show that being a man ain’t no walk in the park either.


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