Focus on Men

This page examines gender relations from a male perspective and presents their various realities in different areas of life. Common gender constructions heavily constrain many men in their actions. Predetermined ideals are difficult to fulfil, and are often not even aspired to. Nevertheless, they put men under huge pressure.

Summary: Conventional gender constructions are often problematic for men, result in dangerous behaviour and frequently have drastic consequences. 

A closer look at constructions of masculinity shows that the life of many men is not purely characterised by privilege. Achieving the "masculine ideal" proves to be no mean feat. Hardly anybody fulfils the masculine ideal (which is also very vague). All too often, the current power structures lead to experiences of marginalisation and disaffection that loom large in many men's lives. As a result of this perception, men also bear the "costs" of the inequality of gender relations and, with that in mind, may benefit from the removal of this inequality. 


Spheres in which problem areas for men are visible: 

In our society, gender is so important that stereotypes are attributed to a child even before it is born. With boys, this may manifest through the parents-to-be expressing a desire for a "son and heir" and continues by typically encouraging autonomy in boys, whereas girls would be encouraged to comply and subordinate. Stereotypical gender-specific attributions are heavily reinforced through toys, clothing and room décor. Even in their infancy, the child learns that its parents and the wider social environment anticipate them to behave in a certain gender-specific way.

The pernicious seed in this regard is sown very early in boys and continues incessantly through their early years: very little contact with adult men. This begins with the, quite common, division of labour, where women tend to be the ones who stay at home with the children. It continues at nursery and through school, where the majority of teaching staff are also female. These absences of men in boys' lives often result in disorientation and also the creation of myths about being male. They have to adopt a male identity and comply with social norms. What a "real man" actually is remains very unclear here. As well as the media's portrayal of superheroes (top athletes, highly successful managers, etc.) and super-macho men (Rocky, Rambo, etc.), negative expressions such as "man up" or "don't be gay", and so forth, also dominate. Yet, the precise meaning of these expressions is often not clearly defined.

However, classic characteristics of "masculinity" often include aspects that are problematic:

•    (Physical) strength
•    Aggressive behaviour (in contrast to reacting and defensive behaviour)
•    Propensity for violence and aggression
•    Courage, willingness to take risks and thirst for adventure
•    Dominance
•    Self-control (through to coolness)
•    Technical and organisational traits
•    Rationalism
 
In everyday life, this image of masculinity often results in a strong desire for power, rivalry and willingness to take risks. Some of the problem areas in men's lives arising from this are detailed below.


Source: Gender Studies in den Ingenieurwissenschaften [Gender Studies in Engineering], Bente Knoll, Brigitte Ratzer, Vienna, 2010

  • Many more young men than women die as a result of suicide or in accidents. Detailed graphs & information can be found at:
    Source: Statistics Austria / Causes of death
  • In Austria, more boys are born than girls. Between the ages of 15 to 60, the ratio of men to women is largely equal. As age increases, the higher life expectancy for women alters the gender proportion increasingly in favour of females.
    Source: Statistics Austria / Population statistics, Demography, 2018
  • In Austria, men live around five years less than women.

Life expectancy at birth:

[Translate to English:] Diagramm

Source: Statistics Austria, Population statistics compiled on 21/05/2019

  • Men's diets are less healthy. They eat considerably less fruit and vegetables, yet eat almost twice as much fresh/processed meat as women per day.
  • Young men tend to pursue more varieties of sport that put their health at risk, such as motor sports and combat sports.  
  • One in five people in the senior age group (60 to 75 years) is significantly overweight or obese (women: 20%, men 22%). Taking account of the age effect, the proportion of men significantly overweight has increased by 3.3 percent since 2006/07, whereas the prevalence of obese women has remained static.
  • Men tend to smoke more often than women. However, women are increasingly catching men up when it comes to smoking.

 

Proportion of daily smokers over the age of 16, from 1972 to 2014

  1972 1979 1986 1997 2006/07 2014
Men 38,7 35,3 34,6 30,0 27,5 26,7
Women 9,8 13,6 17,5 18,8 19,4 22,2

Source: STATISTICS AUSTRIA, Health surveys 2006/07 and 2014, micro census special programme "Smoking habits of the Austrian population" 1972, 1979, 1986 and 1997.

 

In recent decades, women have significantly overtaken men, on average, in educational qualifications. In middle schools, secondary schools, higher education and academies, men are obtaining fewer qualifications than women.

However, when looking at TU Wien in isolation, a whole other picture emerges. Here, we see quite clearly something of a general phenomenon in that educational qualifications are very unequally distributed across the various disciplines and fields. This phenomenon, known as horizontal segregation – i.e. the concentration of women or men in particular educational and occupational fields – is particularly apparent in scientific and technical fields, which are heavily male dominated.

[Translate to English:] Diagramm

Quelle: STATISTIK AUSTRIA, Bildungsstandregister 2017. Erstellt am 30.01.2020.

[Translate to English:] Diagramm

Quelle: STATISTIK AUSTRIA, Bildungsstandregister 2017. Erstellt am 30.01.2020.

[Translate to English:] Tabelle mit Prozentzahlen Frauen und Männer

Quelle: Statistik Austria, Bildungsstandregister, Bildungsstand der Bevölkerung im Alter von 25  bis 64 Jahren 2017

1 Inkl. Personen ohne Pflichtschulabschluss

 

According to data from Statistics Austria, women experience violence in private households much more frequently than men. Women are often financially dependent on men because of their role as second earners. This dilemma is exacerbated by children, poor education and/or immigration backgrounds. Overcoming structural violence particularly requires a comprehensive transformation of society at all levels as regards gender equality.

In contrast, from a statistical point of view, most victims of violent crime outside the home are men. Public and academic discourse pays little attention to the issue of violence towards men – men subjected to violence by other men, but also by women.


Here, the term "male victim" is presented as a cultural paradox: a person is either a victim or a man. The two terms are conceived as incompatible in the binary gender system based on male socialisation. For example, the everyday culture in film and television has long since depicted heroes coming to blows to help good overcome evil. Youth studies verify that a lot of young males attach great importance to not being afraid in the face of physical conflict and do not consider it a bad thing to be hurt, as long as their reputation remains intact. For as long as these principles endure in society, violence against men and violence against women will be subject to double standards. 

"The practised experience of dismissing boys fighting other boys as "quite normal" scraps or fights about ranking, and the habit of seeing women and girls more easily as victims contribute to the social practice of reaffirming the traditional power and gender order." 1

There are also gender-specific differences in convictions.
Many more convicted people are male. This gives reason to suppose that masculine role identity favours criminality. 

 

Convictions between 1975 and 2019

[Translate to English:] Diagramm der Verurteilungen von 1975 bis 2019

Quelle: STATISTIK AUSTRIA, Verurteilungsstatistik. Erstellt am 29.05.2020. 1) Zu den Jugendlichen zählen von 1975 bis 1988 und ab 1.7.2001 12- bis 17-Jährige, von 1989 bis 30.6.2001 14- bis 18-Jährige.


Die Reflexion und in weiterer Folge Überwindung all der angesprochenen Themen kann zu einer Vielfältigkeit männlicher Lebensweisen führen jenseits der alltäglichen Zwänge und des gewaltbereiten Aggressionsgehabes.

Quelle: Gewalt gegen Männer als neues Thema in Forschung und Gesellschaft, Hans-Joachin Lenz IN: Gewalt. Beschreibungen – Analysen – Prävention, Bonn 2006, Wilhelm Heitmeyer, Monika Schröttle (Hrsg.)

1Brückenschläge zwischen den Geschlechtern und den Generationen, Carol Hagemann-White IN Zeitschrift für Frauenforschung und Geschlechterstudien 1-2/2005, S. 6-7