Most people say they want to be fair...and yet:
Men die 5.2 years younger than women, spend their last decade in worse health, and die earlier of all the leading causes of death. For example, before age 65, twice as many men as women die of heart disease--100,000 more male human beings dead, early, every year. That's thirty times more men than have died, total, in the Iraq War!
Yet, where are the ribbons for early heart attack? The only campaigns I've seen are the American Heart Association's Wear Red campaign to increase awareness of heart disease in women and the Oakland A's initiative on women's heart disease.
And for years, we certainly see ever more pink ribbons against breast cancer. For example, today, I walked into Safeway whereupon I was immediately enveloped in breast cancer activism: (Click on these images to get a better feel for how it dominated the store)
- I entered the store under a canopy of pink breast cancer signs.
- Underneath the canopy, a giant sign touts that Safeway and General Foods are sponsoring this breast cancer initiative.
- Underneath are free-standing displays of Kraft and Nabisco products, most of which have been repackaged to look like pink breast cancer signs, with a notice saying that part of the profits from the sale of those items will go to breast cancer.
- Nearby hangs another prominent sign listing other corporations that are sponsoring breast cancer initiatives.
- Next to that is a table offering free drinks to all who donate, and selling breast cancer shopping bags.
- Throughout the store, countless products have been repackaged to look like breast cancer posters, with signs saying that if the item is purchased, a breast cancer donation will be made.
- Every 30 to 60 seconds, an announcement is heard on the loudspeaker: "Another shopper on checkstand X has made another generous donation of Y dollars to fight breast cancer."
- When I reached the checkstand, I saw that the credit card reader is framed by a pink breast cancer sign.
- The clerk then asked me, "Would I like to donate to breast cancer?" I said, "Did you know that every year, 100,000 more men than women die early of heart disease, yet have you ever seen Safeway or anyone else mount a campaign against that?" She said, "I never thought about that."
At that point, I decided to write this op-ed and send it to Safeway's president Steven Burd (firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Safeway has made a small effort against prostate cancer but that and other corporations' male-oriented initiatives are dwarfed by those on women's health. Here, for example, is the list of corporate sponsors of the Susan B. Komen breast cancer fund.
Have you seen corporations do much to address the more prevalent early heart attack, which disproportionately kills men? Even companies whose products disproportionately are bought by men are unfair to men's diseases. For example, the aforementioned Oakland A's have donated $1,000,000 to breast cancer but dramatically less to prostate cancer. Even more dismaying, the A's initiative on heart disease specifically excluded men. Wells Fargo (which has far more men-owned money under deposit) often has breast cancer ribbons at their ATMs and sells an entire line of breast-cancer checks and checkbook covers, but I could find nothing that Wells has done to fight prostate cancer or heart attack.
Of course, I want to see breast cancer cured, as quickly as possible. But the nearly complete ignoring of men dying younger and spending their last decade in worse health than women makes me feel sad, scared, and yes, angry. When women have a more minor deficit, for example, so-called underrepresentation in engineering, massive redress efforts are initiated. But when men have the deficit, even the ultimate deficit-- they die younger--all we see is the pink-ribbon tidal wave grow ever more massive.
Today, no matter how many sewers men repair, no matter how many fires men put out, no matter how many medical discoveries men make (Indeed, nearly all breast cancer treatments including the state-of-the-art Herceptin were discovered by men,) no matter how many technical discoveries men make (for example, Google, computers, televisions, cell phones, refrigeration, and even this blogging software,) no matter how many roofs men replace, no matter how many Safeway shelves men stock, no matter how bravely men defend our nation, men are, as Dr. Warren Farrell says, the disposable sex.
P.S. When I came home and poured myself a glass of milk, an entire side of the container was devoted to--you guessed it--breast cancer.