There is no war on women: It’s boys who are in trouble
BY RICHARD WHITMIRE AND RISHAWN BIDDLE / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
We have no way of knowing who will win the “war on women” political debate now topping broadcasts and newspaper pages. But with great certainty, we can identify the losers in this battle: boys.
Contrary to what you hear in the political campaign broadsides, females are actually doing pretty well. In our elementary, middle and high schools, they earn the best grades, win most of the academic prizes, get suspended less and graduate at very high rates. That success helps explain why women currently dominate higher education, with many college campuses spilling over the 60% female threshold.
Workforce trends favoring women continue to rain down, with record numbers of women in the workforce. Well-educated women living in large cities out-earn their male counterparts. Their biggest challenge: finding equally educated males to marry.
But that’s not what you’ll hear from either President Obama or Mitt Romney.
Earlier this month, the White House released a “special report” on women in the economy, which promoted “an economy that’s built to last for America’s women.”
Most Presidents try to keep their children out of the public debate, but in this case, Obama made an exception: “As a father, one of the highlights of my day is asking my daughters about theirs. Their hopes and their futures are what drive me every day I step into the Oval Office.”
Obama, of all people, knows that boys, not girls (especially his two daughters attending the elite Sidwell Friends School) are the ones in trouble. There is no way he is unaware of the alarming social indicators we see among African-American males.
But we should not be surprised by the President’s opportunism. Obama won the White House with 8 million more female votes than male votes. If he can’t re-create that same gender vote cushion, he’s toast.
As for Romney, his latest push is to claim most of the jobs lost during the Obama years were female-held positions. So? Not only is workforce participation by females pushing all-time highs, but the striking number of well-educated females hovering just outside the labor market means that number may go even higher.
By contrast, male employment rates among those 25-and-older have been in steady decline.
Again, a politician has his reasons for glossing over the more important gender trends. Romney’s numbers among female voters look abysmal, especially among college-educated white women.
Here’s why we need politicians to get past the pandering and posturing and propose solutions for the group truly in trouble: Boys account for three out of every five high school students who drop out of school. Boys make up 67% of the 5.8 million kids relegated to special education programs. The likelihood of any boy in special education graduating by age 21 is bleak.
Boys, regardless of race, ethnicity or economic class, are also more likely to struggle in reading. Forty percent of Asian fourth-grade boys who qualified for free or reduced lunch were functionally illiterate versus 32% of their female peers, while 37% of fourth-grade black boys who didn’t qualify for free or reduced lunch read at “below basic” proficiency, versus 26% of their female peers.
Young male high school dropouts are at least five times as likely to land in prison by adulthood than peers who graduate, according to Princeton University researcher Bruce Western, in part because boys who struggle in reading in first grade begin acting out and become discipline problems. They are also less likely to marry by the time they reach middle age because women with higher earnings don’t consider them marriage material. They are also more likely to have children out of wedlock, perpetuating the social ills that plague low-income black, white and Latino communities.
Educational and political leaders have long known the consequences of these boy troubles, yet have done little to address illiteracy and the other underlying factors.
Both Obama and Romney have put forth visions of a better educated, more competitive America. As long as the “war on women” dominates the political discourse — and the battle for the future of boys is ignored — those visions will remain on hold.
Airline sex discrimination policy controversy
Three airlines, British Airways, Qantas and Air New Zealand, have attracted criticism for controversial seating policies which discriminate against adult male passengers on the basis of their gender. The companies refuse to allow unaccompanied children to be seated next to adult males on their flights, leading to criticism that they regard all men as a danger to children.
The policies resulted in protests against the airlines and criticism by civil liberties and children's charities. British Airways ended its discriminatory policy in August, 2010 following successful legal action undertaken by Mirko Fischer, himself a victim of the policy.
British AirwaysBA banned men from sitting next tounaccompanied children on flightsIn March 2001, it was revealed that British Airways had a policy of not seating adult male passengers next to unaccompanied children, even if the child's parents are elsewhere on the plane. This led to accusations that the airline considered all men to be potential paedophiles and women to be incapable of such abuse. The issue was first raised when a business executive had moved seats to be closer to two of his colleagues.
A flight attendant then asked him to move because he was then sitting next to two unaccompanied children which was a breach of BA company policy. The executive said he felt humiliated as a result, stating "I felt I was being singled out and that I was being accused of something." British Airways admitted that staff were under instructions to keep men away from unaccompanied children whenever possible because of the dangers of male paedophiles.
This issue again came to prominence in 2005 following complaints by Michael Kemp who had been instructed to swap seats with his wife when on a GB Airways flight. The flight attendant informed him that for an adult male stranger to be sitting next to a child was a breach of the airline's child welfare regulations. This case was considered even more bizarre than other instances as the girl's parents were on board the flight but such a policy still applied.Michele Elliott, director of the children's charity Kidscape stated that the rule "is utterly absurd. It brands all men as potential sex offenders".
The most high profile victim of the policy was politician (and later London Mayor) Boris Johnson, who criticised the company after they mistakenly attempted to separate him from his own children on a flight. He stated that those who create or defend such policies "fail to understand the terrible damage that is done by this system of presuming guilt in the entire male population just because of the tendencies of a tiny minority", linking such discrimination to the reduced number of male teachers and therefore lower achievement in schools. Like others, Johnson also raised the policy's flaw in ignoring female abusers and branded airlines with such policies as "cowardly" for giving in to "loony hysteria."
British Airways defended the policy, stating it had been implemented as a result of requests from customers. The company claimed that it "was responding to a fear of sexual assaults."
Court caseIn January 2010 businessman Mirko Fischer from Luxembourg sued the airline for sex discrimination following an incident where he was forced to change seats as a result of the policy, thus separating him from his pregnant wife. Fischer stated "I was made to feel like a criminal in front of other passengers. It was totally humiliating." On 24 June 2010, Mr Fischer was successful in winning compensation from British Airways with the company admitting sex discrimination in Mr Fischer's case. BA paid £2,161 in costs and £750 in damages which Fischer donated to child protection charities. BA said that the "policy was now under review". In August 2010, British Airways changed its policy and began seating unaccompanied minors in a nondiscriminatory manner near the cabin crew.
Qantas and Air New ZealandMen remain barred from sitting next to accompanied children on Qantas planesIn November 2005, it was revealed that Qantas and Air New Zealand have seating policies similar to that of British Airways. The policy came to light following an incident in 2004 when Mark Wolsay, who was seated next to a young boy on a Qantas flight in New Zealand, was asked to change seats with a female passenger. A steward informed him that "it was the airline's policy that only women were allowed to sit next to unaccompanied children".
Mr. Wolsay, a shipping manager, stated he felt the policy "totally discriminatory", and the New Zealand Herald suggested to the airline that the implication of the policy was that "it considered male passengers to be dangerous to children". New Zealand's Green Party stated that the policy was discriminatory and reported the matter to the Human Rights Commissioner. On learning of the policies several protests occurred including a 22 hour tree top protest by double amputee Kevin Gill in Nelson. He stated that the policy could be the thin end of a wedge with men soon banned from sitting next to children at sports events and on other forms of public transport. Gill also raised the issue of what would happen if the policy had been race based and targeted ethnic minorities rather than men.
The publicity given to the issue in 2005 caused other victims of the policy to publicly describe their experiences. For example, Bethlehem fire officer Philip Price revealed he had been forced to switch seats in 2002 on an Air New Zealand flight to Christchurch.
Cameron Murphy, president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, criticised the policy and stated that "there was no basis for the ban". He said it was wrong to assume that all adult males pose a danger to children. The policy has also been criticised for failing to take female abusers into consideration as well as ignoring instances of children who commit sex offences. As with the British Airways case, critics such as school headmaster Kelvin Squire made the link between such policies and wider problems in society such as the shortage of male teachers, with others drawing parallels with the case of Rosa Parks.
Some have defended the policy however, with NSW Commissioner for Children and Young People Gillian Calvert stating that there were more male sex offenders than female and thus "in the absence of any other test, it's one way in which the airline can reduce the risk of children travelling alone". She believes that the likelihood of an attack was rare but not impossible claiming "it's only a few men who do this sort of stuff, but when they do it they diminish all men". Air New Zealand spokesman David Jamieson said the company had no intention of reviewing the policy and admitted that it had been in place for many years.