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    Imagine you’re a reporter for your public broadcaster covering this story:

    During the recent fentanyl overdoes epidemic, the BC government has been criticized for not doing enough to combat the suffering. On January 24th, the province, along with Vancouver Coastal Health, announced that they were making available 38 new beds exclusively for women looking for help with their addiction.

    With those facts, you might be wondering why beds were being opened up to just one gender for a problem that affects both. The answer given by CBC reporter Farrah Merali was this: in 2016, of the 914 British Columbians who died because of overdosing on drugs, 176 were women.

    Now, maybe the government-funded discrimination is justified: perhaps there is evidence that one or both of the genders fare better in segregated addiction support; and perhaps there are an equally proportioned number of men-only beds.

    But, if you were a reporter for the CBC—i.e. the taxpayer-funded broadcaster that’s supposed to represent all of us—might you not quickly ask why the group who is making up a minority of sufferers seems to be getting special treatment?

    If so, you would be the rarest of all CBC commentators. In my many years of listening to CBC radio, I have discovered that it is standard procedure never to question the word of women’s advocates.

    In keeping with this tradition, Merali did not mention the men who would be ineligible for the new treatment spaces. After all, we have a crisis affecting women 19% of the time, so it makes sense to create beds exclusively for women.

    Sometimes, I’m sure, journalistic skepticism is daunting when the claim being made is subjective, such that bias and evidence are difficult to disentangle. However, in this case, our reporter had objective information that men were dying at four times the rate that women were, yet women were now getting exclusive treatment opportunities. The skeptical question should have written itself:

    “Why are we segregating?” And, “If segregation has been shown to be beneficial, what are we doing for the other 81%?”

    Again, I am open to the possibility that the government’s gendered plan is justified by the science. But there is no excuse for a reporter from our national broadcaster failing to look into the counter-intuitive discrimination.  Such critical questioning could have illuminated whether the politicians and advocates might have missed a few people in their consideration.

    Posted by SethBlog @ 6:25 PM

  • 4 Responses

    • Tom Says:

      You might look at moves like this as attempts to make up for the many many years of discrimination against women. True that many such moves seem arbitrary and even, perhaps, counterproductive. In other words: you might as well fall flat on your face as bend over too far backwards.

    • SethBlog Says:

      Thanks Tom. You could be right about the pendulum efforts, but I’m not convinced that that’s what’s going on here. I think both genders have been discriminated against significantly over the centuries, in various but often different ways. Perhaps the most common bias against men has been in viewing their suffering as less important (we still hear reports of civilian casualties, “including women and children” as though men dying is less significant.) To my ear, this policy is consistent with that attitude.

    • Tom2 Says:

      If there is an area that women have been neglected in the past; for instance an unequal playing field in professions, then perhaps we focus our attention more on women in this area than on men, but I cannot imagine that women’s drug addiction treatment has been neglected in comparison to men’s. If it has, then the reporter should point that out in this piece.

    • SethBlog Says:

      Thanks Tom2. I agree. The reporter apparently feels no obligation to justify this discrimination against men. I suspect this is because she assumes that all women are intrinsically disadvantaged in all cases. As you suggest, discrimination should always be combated, and I don’t doubt there continues to be discrimination against women as well as men. The difference these days, to my eye (as I argued in THE DOUBLE STANDARD OF DOUBLE STANDARDS), is that, while our media zooms in without skepticism on any perceived bias against women, it rarely acknowledges the most obvious bias against men, as in this case.

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