A number of people have asked me to expand upon what is meant by the “empathy gap”. So here I give my take on the subject. The empathy gap refers to the fact that male disadvantages tend to go unrecognised. Many people, when they first encounter the red pill world are inclined to believe that all that is necessary is to point out the litany of male disadvantages and all will be rectified. A year or two down the road they find out the other half of the truth – that no one cares. This is the empathy gap.
There are two aspects to the empathy gap: how it is manifest and whence it cometh. Let’s tackle the former first. For MRAs there will be little contentious about this, and it is based soundly on fact. There may be greater contention when I discuss the origins of the empathy gap. That you may regard as opinion, at least in part.
Whenever men, or boys, are blamed for their own disadvantage, this is the empathy gap. Consider, for example, boy’s educational failure. It’s the boys’ own fault for being – well, too boyish. This is the empathy gap. When girls did less well it was not perceived as their own fault but a disadvantage imposed upon them and to be rectified. In contrast, no one is to blame for boys’ failure except themselves – so nothing need be done about it.
Consider men’s poorer health and longevity: it’s men’s own fault because they don’t look after themselves, they don’t go to see their GP and they indulge in risky behaviours. Never mind that less is spent on male health research, never mind that the chief medical officer prioritises female health, and never mind that shorter male longevity is air-brushed away. This is the empathy gap.
A society which regards women as disadvantaged in the workplace but simply shrugs its shoulders at the fact that 98% of work related deaths are men might just be suffering from an empathy gap.
A society which reports an incident thus, “172 people were killed, including 22 women” has an empathy gap.
When charities elicit sympathy by exclusively using pictures of women and girls, and universities advertise their wares with pictures only of young women, then you have an empathy gap.
Consider men who are victims of other men’s violence: we are told it is their own fault because men’s violence is a result of the intrinsically toxic nature of masculinity. This is the empathy gap.
The default presumption is that a male victim of female violence must have done something to deserve it. This is the empathy gap.
That 98% of war deaths are men may be regarded as natural by some. But men’s deaths during, or immediately after, contact with the police are six times more common than those of women and this also excites no interest. It is another sign of the empathy gap.
A government which funds research into suicide but directs none of it to identifying the reasons why 78% of suicide victims – men – do so is suffering from an empathy gap.
A society which condones genital mutilation of infants – providing they are male – is a society with a gender based empathy gap.
A society which actively frustrates a putative father knowing whether a child is his, and whose professional “ethicists” support the acceptability of paternity fraud, is a society with an empathy gap.
A society which is unable even to conceive of the possibility of the sexual abuse of males by females is a society with an empathy gap.
A society which incarcerates vastly more men than women, because the criminal justice process perceives men as dangerous but women as vulnerable when the truth is that both are equally socially disadvantaged, this is a society with an empathy gap.
A society whose leaders consider it acceptable to support policies based on the sentiment that “equality does not mean treating everyone the same” is a society with a deeply ingrained empathy gap.
A society in which world leaders go into major virtue-signalling mode over the kidnap of girls but in which the burning alive of boys does not merit a mention, that is a society with a deeply pernicious empathy gap.
A society which separates fathers from their children on a massive scale, and then fails to have any concern for the subsequent distress of these men, even unto death, this is a society with an empathy gap in the danger zone.
When all the power centres of the State devise, promote and implement policies to prevent violence against women and girls, with no regard for men or boys except in respect of their obligation to protect females – when the substantially greater levels of violence suffered by men and boys is ignored – then society has gone beyond the empathy gap and into the realms of explicit discrimination.
A society which takes all the above and calls it male privilege is in the grip of an endemic sexist mindset.
But worse than these male disadvantages is the fact that society refuses to acknowledge that they exist or are of any great significance. Even if their reality is accepted, we are told that we are just indulging in victimhood Olympics and hence no better than feminists. But no. You see, I personally have not suffered from any of these disadvantages – other than the ubiquitous misandry. I am complaining on behalf of others. And if that is not allowed, then all charity is void. And the implicit claim that feminist whinging is on a par with the above issues is false. This perspective is just another manifestation of the empathy gap.
Before proceeding I must correct any impression that I am letting feminism off the hook by blaming “the empathy gap” for the above male disadvantages. What feminism has done is to take a pre-existing empathy gap and exploit it. Feminism has made many of the male disadvantages worse, and, in some cases has been mostly responsible for their creation. Thus, the failure of boys’ in education, the VAWG policies, the ever escalating male prison population and the mincing machine known as the family courts may all be laid squarely at the door of feminism. What the empathy gap has contributed to these issues is to permit them to happen without demur. The empathy gap is the enabler of feminism.
Other male disadvantages existed before feminism. “Women and children first” is the traditional mindset which underlies many of the issues, especially those relating to male death. Where feminism has had an impact in these cases it is generally to make things worse by blaming men for their own disadvantage via the narrative of “toxic masculinity”, the vilification of maleness (see the quotes at the end of the piece). Feminism actively opposes recognition of male disadvantages even when there would be no obvious detriment to their own objectives, e.g., feminists’ angry reaction to demonstrations against male genital mutilation. The reason, I believe, is that they instinctively understand that the power of feminism is largely invested in the empathy gap – and hence they oppose anything which might weaken the empathy gap by recognising male disadvantage.
In short, the empathy gap preceded feminism. Feminism did not create the empathy gap but exploited it. Feminism has raised lack of empathy to the status of totalitarian control.
Now for the speculative bit: how did the empathy gap come about?
My view is that the empathy gap, the idea of male disposability, and ‘gynocentrism’ are all closely related, if not identical, phenomena. However I tend to prefer the term “empathy gap” if only because it sounds less accusatory. One aspect of gynocentrism – and in this context that is the better term – is its relationship with the dawn of chivalry and courtly love in the medieval period. This may be called, perhaps, (one of) the historical enhancements of gynocentrism. However, Peter Wright’s site proposes that gynocentrism is biological and very ancient in our species. From this point, therefore, I explore the hypothesis that the empathy gap is actually evolutionary in origin. The argument goes like this…
The two sexes are not the same: there is a crucially important asymmetry – namely that only females have a uterus. My thesis is that this primary asymmetry is the cause of most of the observed differences in the behaviours of the two sexes.
In evolution the production of offspring to the point of sexual maturity is everything. The rate at which the tribe produces children is directly proportional to the number of mature women. The same is not true of men – in principle. One man could keep 100 women permanently pregnant. This is the tournament model of male sexual competition which is adopted by some species and leads to most males not reproducing, but a few being spectacularly successful. In this evolutionary strategy, fitness is determined by fierce male competition.
But this is not the evolutionary strategy followed by Homo sapiens. Instead Homo sapiens have a very strong tendency to pair bond, in which the male remains in a close relationship with the mother well beyond birth – extending to several births – the nuclear family. The reason why evolution produced pair bonding in humans is not hard to rationalise, though I believe it remains scientifically contentious. The answer lies in the extended period over which human children remain physically dependent on adults. This in turn is related to our No.1 attribute – our big brains. As a result, human children need 12 years or more of being looked after. How could a primitive woman find enough food etc for a string of children for so many years on her own?
The matter is not trivial because primates’ offspring also have a protracted maturation but primates do not pair bond. The degree of evolutionary benefit conveyed by the male being a stable resource provider depends upon the rate of childhood mortality should he not do so, and this will be particular to the ecological niche within which the species in question operates. In the case of Homo sapiens, evolution has decided that it is beneficial for a man to form a long lasting partnership with a woman in raising children. Men have evolved to be happy to do just that because this is how they get to pass on their genes – by maximising the chance of their offspring surviving to maturity. Evolutionary fitness, in the case of male Homo sapiens, is determined by the quality of their pair bonding.
The interplay between the evolution of big brains and pair bonding has been discussed by Fletcher et al (2015). They argue that pair-bonding and male investment might have played a significant role in the evolution of human social intelligence.
The feelings of tenderness towards females which overwhelm a male at puberty are simply what it feels like inside to be the product of this evolutionary strategy. I would emphasise the relevance of words like “tenderness”, “adoration”, “devotion” because these seem to me to be the progenitors of sexual desire, rather than the reverse. We might refer to this psychological state as romantic love. So this is gynocentrism, right enough, but of evolutionary rather than medieval origin. Fletcher et al argue that this psychological state promoted the evolved behaviours of pair bonding and the male instinct to provide resource to the family. Note that “resource” may also include protection, as well as other provisions.
[It would be dishonest to suggest that the evolution of human pair-bonding was scientifically established with confidence – see for example Allison Guy. However, human pair-bonding is certainly an ancient innovation, and the consensus is that paternal investment improves offspring survival, e.g., see Finkel and Eastwick, 2015]
The outcome of the pair bonding instinct is that women feel entitled to control men and have men treat them with gentleness and consideration. Women expect men to sacrifice themselves for their benefit, and men do too. Such expectation and entitlement is evolved behaviour. It is the nature of pair bonding. There is no equality in evolution. So, if this perspective is correct, it is inappropriate to cast over these behaviours a pejorative pall.
Again, though, this does not let feminism off the hook. For feminism has milked the gynocentrism and inflamed the entitlement to pathological proportions. What could be plainer than the egregious Emma Watson’s HeForShe?
It seems to me that no one has yet taken seriously the implications of the psychological asymmetry of the two sexes induced by pair bonding. My hypothesis is that, because the needs of the woman (mother) attains primacy in the motivation of the man, this has led to a ceding of moral authority to the woman. This places the man in a subservient position, maintained, not by any external agency, but purely by evolved psychological inclination. This is surely very familiar to most men in the form of men’s great reluctance to upset women. It is the reason why the word “misogynist” has such power. It is the reason, I believe, why the likes of Karen Straughan and Janice Fiamengo have such influence. In addition to their excellent expositions, the fact that they are women advocating for men confers a moral legitimacy which no man is authorised to possess. And my position is that this moral authority is deeply atavistic, a psychological deferral by men which has coevolved with pair bonding.
All this is speculation, though rather natural speculation it seems to me. However, the above cited papers by Fletcher et al and by Finkel and Eastwick suggest that pair bonding evolved in a spirit of sustaining a deep emotional connection with one’s mating partner, completely opposite to the feminist model of male oppression and dominance. My contention, though, is that men’s transference of moral authority to a woman transcends romantic love and becomes a permanent feature, not only of that relationship but of men’s relationship with women in general.
Women, then, have always been the boss. Didn’t your grandparents know this full well, though they had the tact never to mention it? As for patriarchy, that piece of theatre was ever a fig leaf to hide men’s blushes regarding the true power in the domestic realm. Now there is a perspective which may endear me to no one. But it provides the ultimate condemnation of feminism, which, from this point of view stands exposed as the powerful turning savagely on the less powerful. Feminism is sexism, we know. But feminism is also bullying. It is a misuse of moral authority. Internalise this: in my lifetime feminism has gone from nothing to world domination without fighting any wars or winning any elections. How could this be possible unless feminism’s exponents were already possessed of considerable power?