This is, admittedly, a rather clickbaity title. But the article won’t disappoint. If nothing else, it’s easy to be aware of our own problems and not notice things other people face, and learning about them might help everybody be kinder to each other.
For the purpose of this article, I’ll presume you live in a more or less secular and modern society. It would be easy to focus on the past, or on other areas in the world (even if very close) where violent patriarchate still rules, but bringing up extreme examples would actually decrease the relevance of arguments discussed here. So, focusing only on average modern secular society, we can notice the following problems people face (or, sometimes, we can notice them only through an experience of somebody close to us):
From TV shows, movies and advertisements, to modern “pick up artists”, women are commonly potrayed as sexual objects without much personality or intelligence, whose physical looks is their most important attribute. Boys and men are often in more or less subtle ways encouraged to perceive women and girls as less than complete personalities. For example, popular movies often send a message that no matter how immature or thoughtless the protagonist acts, he’ll get the girl he wants in the end. This attitude can create a lot of problems for both genders.
Even if lately the media encourage men to be more concerned about their looks too (for the profit of cosmetic industry), women still face much worse consequences of objectification in many aspects of social relationships, which influence their self-esteem negatively: not only comments about their physical looks, but more importantly, devaluing their work and intelligence, less chance of promotion, neglecting their personality and choices, dismissing their opinions as “emotional”, to only mention a few.
Men: loneliness, lack of quality communication and emotional support
Many men are taught from early age that expressing emotions and receiving emotional support is not manly enough. Not only that, but people often presume that men need less of it, too. Thus men can develop and live within some kind of emotional isolation, even within friendly relationships. One of the consequences of this can be more problems in dealing with emotional crises. Another can be lack of communication skills within close relationships, which, of course, can greatly influence the quality and longevity of such a relationship.
It’s also important to notice that, while girls are more commonly taught to be responsible to others and control themselves, boys are more commonly encouraged to express their emotions through action, without first taking responsibility and exploring if those emotions are healthy and realistic. The consequences can be heavy, for both such men and their environment.
Women: sexual violence
Some men might be surprised if a woman is scared to walk alone in the dark or to travel alone, but only rare women never experience some form of sexual molestation, and most experience it more than once (since early puberty or even before that, often by much older men). On top of that, let’s just say that various forms of sexual violence is “considered to be one of the most traumatic, pervasive, and most common human rights violations“.
By the way, considering that most bullies are more likely to choose as their victim a physically smaller person who is less likely to attack them back, it would be logical that women would more often be the targets of petty crime, bullying, crazy neighbors and even fraud (construction workers apparently have a tradition of jacking up prices if they negotiate with a woman rather than a man, for example). But as statistics I can find don’t support this idea, it remains just a theory.
Men: physical violence among boys and men
Fighting for physical dominance is a reality for many young men, and some of my clients have told me that often no provocation on their side is needed to experience a violent attack. This can be a big problem for young men and boys who are not prone to violence. Statistically, outside of their homes, men are more likely to be targets of murder and physical injury. As for what happens inside one’s own home…
Women: higher risk of being abused and murdered by an intimate partner or a rejected admirer
While statistics about emotional abuse vary, so we can presume that both genders are equally likely to use it, most data agree that women are several times more likely to suffer heavy physical violence or murder within marriage or an intimate relationship. I think many women can agree with the comedian who darkly jokes that just agreeing on a date is a brave thing to do for a woman.
Also, while in modern societies a woman who rejects a man is very unlikely to be a target of such “endearing” reactions such as acid attacks, women are 3 times more likely to be the targets of stalking than men.
Men: shaming and stigmatizing of male victims of violence
A man who is a victim of physical or sexual violence, especially if perpetrated by a woman, is not only unlikely to receive adequate help and support, but he is often shamed as weak. There are very few organizations dedicated to help emotionally or physically abused men. On top of that, the perpetrators of such violence are more likely to not suffer adequate consequences. Even if male victims of rape are most often victimized by other men, it’s quite possible for a woman to rape a man. This is more likely to happen in institutions such as prisons or army, when a woman has some sort of power over the man, or in cases when a man is drunk, drugged or otherwise incapacitated.
Some men who were raped by women report they were afraid to physically defend themselves so that they wouldn’t be accused of committing violence. Rape can also be a result of blackmail or threats, not necessarily physical force. A man raped by a woman is usually exposed to even worse dismissal and laughter than a female rape victim, because of common myths that a) a man cannot have an erection if he doesn’t want it, and b) men always want want sex anyway. Things get particularly dark if a woman rapist ends up pregnant as a result of the rape she committed and decides to give birth – her victim will not only suffer psychological trauma, but can be forced to pay alimony for the child conceived this way.
Women: unwanted (and even desired) pregnancy carries much bigger risks and consequences
Even if the father stays with the mother in the case of an unplanned pregnancy where abortion is for whatever reason not an option, the mother is usually the one who has to give up a huge part of her energy, freedom and business success for many following years. If the father abandons the mother, she is in an especially difficult situation: single mothers are among people who are at the most risk of poverty, stress and social stigma. While single fathers are often perceived as brave and unselfish, single mothers are usually labeled as victims of their own bad decisions. A woman with a child is also much less likely to find a new partner than a childless woman. All together, she is facing 15-20 years, if not more, of heavy self-sacrifice.
Men: often discriminated against in case of divorce and custody fights
Even if official sources deny it, divorced men often report being discriminated against in context of their parental rights and custody over children. The prejudice against men as capable parents are still strong, as is the attitude that a mother is the primary parent – even in the cases where the mother is objectively far less able to be a good parent than the father. Such prejudice not only harms fathers, but can seriously harm children, too. Men also often report that in court cases of divorce, a woman is more likely to be trusted without adequate proof if she tries to paint her (ex) husband in a bad light.
Women: double burden of job, and domestic and family chores
In spite of women being present on job market for decades by now, they are still often expected to do a lion’s share of housekeeping chores and child care – even if the woman works, and the man is unemployed. A woman’s unhappiness with such a lack of balance doesn’t change much. Even if I had a chance to meet couples where it was the opposite, many men still feel that sharing domestic chores is “not manly”. Also, many men are simply not taught to consider all the details such chores entail. Therefore it’s not surprising that studies usually show that women suffer more everyday stress than men, and that married women are more stressed than single women. While marriage can have positive influence on the health of both partners, the benefits for men are reportedly 5 times bigger than for women in terms of prolonging life expectancy.
Men: bigger financial pressure, less choice in profession
The myth that “a man earns, a woman spends” is still common in some places. Such a myth harms both genders; women who believe it might feel dependent of men and put pressure on them to earn more, while some men might believe they don’t deserve a relationship with a woman if they are not rich enough to afford anything she might want. The consequences are predictable and far-reaching.
Also, while it’s usually acceptable for a woman to choose a traditionally male profession (even if she is likely to experience prejudice and discrimination), men might still be ridiculed if they choose a profession traditionally labeled as feminine.
Women: periods, pregnancy, giving birth, breastfeeding
Human reproduction, independently of above mentioned workload, social and financial burden and stress, also drains women physically or even endangers them. Periods are frustrating even when not causing PMS and cramps, and many women spend some days every month in pain or at least physical discomfort. Pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding each bring their own problems (even when there are no complications involved) and possible dangers. The old saying, “the grave of women who have just given birth is open for 40 days” did not appear by accident.
Men: greater risk of physical injury and death
Whether we are talking about heavy physical jobs that include a risk of serious injury, or joining the army and going off to wars, men are the ones who are expected to do this, whether they want it or not, while women who choose such activities are usually there voluntarily.
As for war, there are some men who actively seek and desire such kind of risk and adrenaline rush, but the majority, I believe, are pressured into the army by life circumstances, without wanting it. Yet they might lose their lives – or their peace of mind for the rest of their lives.
Let’s just add that on top of everything mentioned above, people of both genders can also suffer from family trauma, mental disorders, anxiety, depression, lack of self-esteem, health issues and who knows what other problems. So, who has it worse? Anybody, depending of the circumstances.
In the end, the problem is not men vs. women. The real problem is in cultures that encourage selfishness, exploitation and ignoring other points of view. As long as a culture tells its people it’s ok or even desirable to be socially irresponsible and fight for power and status, injustice and blind power struggles will persist. So, rather than wasting time on one-upmanship in suffering, better to invest it into something more useful. Say, breeding mosquitoes. Choose wisely.