Focusing Rescue Efforts on Women: Sexism or Equality?

So I’m sure most of you know by now that many of the Men’s Rights blogs out there are FREAKING OUT right now because several organizations, like MADRE, have made a commitment to focusing their aid efforts in Haiti on women and children. If you’re not familiar I’ll let the blogger at The Spearhead explain his take on this situation:

However, some relief groups have decided that women deserve more aid, and have come up with a number of reasons why men should be left to die from injuries and disease while women get preferential treatment.

[…]

It is not clear whether such discrimination in the wake of disaster is legal in Haiti. In any event, if men are needlessly dying because these women’s groups are hoarding supplies for women only, the Haitian government should send troops in to seize the supplies and distribute them equally to needy men and women alike. That would be a true act of mercy.

This may seem like a valid, if blown out of proportion, argument at first glance. However, there are a few reasons why I am incredibly reluctant to give creedence to the people complaining about MADRE and like organizations.

The first reason, the “humane” and “compassionate” comments that the readers of this blog leave. For example:

“I hope their plane crashes on the way to Haiti.”

Better still, I hope it gets blown off course and makes a crash landing on a castaway island somewhere, the women-only crew/passengers all survive, they have to get by as best they can for a year with no men around, and at least one of them records what happens (because I wouldn’t be counting on any of them to still be alive to tell the tale).

Misandry is a bubble. Bubbles always pop.

I am waiting for a time when women are paid a cash bonus for aborting a male fetus. This, of course, will distort the gender ratio and make such a civilization ripe for replacement.

There is no law in Haiti beyond the flickering lights of a few UN/InternationalAid Camps. Machete wielding gangs are the real arbitrator of who gets what everywhere else.

Stupid feminists. When they go there and announce that their aid is for women only, they will be unceremoniously chopped up and dismembered. Unless, of course, they can induce some American guys to help them deliberately starve Haitian guys. But that can only work in the very few places where any kind of Law prevails.

I don’t care how much of a jerk someone is, I would never wish for their plane to crash, or even worse for their dismemberment and yet these were the common sentiments on this blog. This is how I made my first assesment: these people are clearly not coming from a good place, a place that values all human life.

The second assesment took a little more digging but, still, I very quickly managed to confirm that, on top of being jerks, these bloggers were also very ignorant. The blog post attempts to act as a call for equality, however, traditional aid that ignores gender completley is rarely equal. Why? Well, lets look at the facts:

  1. Women and children are 14 times more likely to die than men during natural disasters.
  2. “Women have less access to resources – social networks and influence, transportation, information, skills (including literacy), control over land and other economic resources, personal mobility, secure housing and employment, freedom from violence and control over decision-making – that are essential in disaster preparedness, mitigation and rehabilitation.”
  3. “Women are […] overrepresented in the agriculture industry, self-employment and the informal economy, in under-paid jobs with little security and no benefits such as healthcare or union representation. The informal and agricultural sectors are usually the most impacted by natural disasters, thus women become over-represented among the unemployed following a disaster.
  4. “Because housing is often destroyed in the disaster, many families are forced to relocate to shelters. Inadequate facilities for simple daily tasks such as cooking means that women’s domestic burden increases at the same time as her economic burden, leaving her less freedom and mobility to look for alternative sources of income.
  5. “Disasters themselves can serve to increase women’s vulnerability. Aside from the increase in female-headed households and the fact that the majority of shelter residents are women, numerous studies have shown an increase in levels of domestic and sexual violence following disasters. “
  6. “As one of the primary aspects of women’s health in particular, reproductive and sexual health are beginning to be recognized as key components of disaster relief efforts, however attention to them remains inadequate and women’s health suffers disproportionately as a result.

(All but the first fact via GenSalud)

The point? When the MRAs making this complaint see EXTRA aid being given to women, they are neglecting the bigger picture – a picture that shows the huge disadvantage women start out with when dealing with a natural disaster. When that disadvantage is taken into account “extra” aid looks a lot less like a “bonus prize” that callously ignores men and much more like an effort to even the playing field and give women just as much a chance to survive as men. Equality, not callously exterminating men… thats what feminism is all about!

If you plan to donate, please consider contributing to MADRE or the Gender and Disaster Network in their efforts to help foster equality, even in a time of crisis. Or just donate to any Haiti-focused charity but, please, do something. If you know of any other awesome organizations please let us know in the comments!

7 thoughts on “Focusing Rescue Efforts on Women: Sexism or Equality?

  1. So now men complaining about women receiving preferential treatment is sexist of the men. Funny I thought that giving preferential treatment to one sex was sexist.

    All the reasons above are a load BS. Women are always saying that they are biggest victims in every situation. The fact is that it will be the men who have to rebuild the infrastructure and services……men should just stop doing anything at all to help.

  2. Stu, I’d be able to respect your argument a lot more if there actually was one. The reasons above explain very clearly why this treatment is not preferential – since women start off at a disadvantage, a little bit of extra aid to try and even the playing field is hardly preferential. Statistics says that women suffer most in natural disasters, this isn’t just a bunch of whining as you make it out to be.

    Plus, much of the female-specific aid involves feminine hygiene products and things that men DON’T NEED but women do… if it was given out to men & women equally it would be a waste.

    Furthermore, your completely unsubstantiated assertion that men are the only ones who will have to rebuild infrastructure and services reads as total BS to me when you consider just how many women are over there now with the Red Cross and other organizations, working ALONGSIDE men to help rebuild Haiti.

  3. You don’t think a lot of men are at those drops, fighting to get food for their families? These aid-stations shouldn’t be so mob-oriented in the first place. If a man bullies or cuts in line, deny THAT man food! Moreover, if men are so evil – what’s to stop them from simply stealing it from the women, once they get it?

    Denying a person food, because of their gender is wrong – and you know it!

  4. Who said ANYTHING about denying men food for their families? As I have said, and will continue to repeat, most (if not all) female-specific aid revolves around things like feminine hygiene products which, while essential to women, would serve no use to men anyways.

    No one has said men are evil.
    No one is trying to deny men food.

    What these organizations are trying to do, is to help Haiti bounce back as quickly as possible, in this case by targeting aid to try and even the playing field between women and men. To act as if this is taking ANYTHING away from the male survivors is either incredibly deceptive or incredibly ignorant.

  5. I think this article adequatley addresses both your fears, and it comes from a reputable source:

    http://www.alternet.org/blogs/world/145233/sexist_backlash_against_gender-responsive_aid_in_haiti_shows_some_men_really_don%27t_get_it/?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=alternet_blogs_world

    I’d specifically like to point out to Stu that one of the main objectives of these gender-specific programs is to BRING WOMEN INTO THE REHABILITATION EFFORTS.

    Pulling from the article linked:

    “It is not enough to ensure that women receive aid. Women in communities must also be integral to designing and carrying out relief efforts. When relief is distributed by women, it has the best chance of reaching those most in need. That’s not because women are morally superior. It is because their roles as caretakers in the community means they know where every family lives, which households have new babies or disabled elders, and how to reach remote communities even in disaster conditions.”

    So, no, this isn’t women being coddled while men do all of the work; this is women getting their SPECIFIC needs met in the wake of an awful disaster, while also being employed to help meet the needs of the community at large.

  6. Sem and everyone else:

    If you don’t have anything constructive to say in regards to what I have written above, don’t bother commenting because it will be deleted. Telling me to “stop man hating” will not do anything bit irritate me. If you’re so righteous I’d expect you to have something better than that to back up your anger.

    Bring something constructive to the conversation, or don’t bother.

    – J

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