Coronavirus and Women's Rights
The experiences of men and women are largely affected by their biological compositions, including life expectancy and resistance to disease. In the midst of the crisis of coronavirus, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed that the death rate from this disease is 1.7% for women, but 2.8% for men.
According to research from Dr. Veena Taneja from Mayo Clinic, female sex hormones cause more effective immune reactions than those of men, meaning women are less susceptible to viruses. Sex hormones exist to serve the differing needs of men and women. For instance, cortisol in women supports a fetus during pregnancy, however also regulates T cells, cells that launch immune responses. Since women often need to protect a developing child and men do not, it makes sense that women would evolve to have a stronger resistance to something like coronavirus.
So is this sexism against men? It sounds silly, but I have heard this reasoning before. Men on average have a shorter life expectancy than women because they have worse immunity and a larger body to support. So, some people claim that because women live longer, they are not “oppressed.” This reasoning causes opposition to the women’s movement and stalls progress because we can not agree on meaningful reforms to help women.
Men do have a shorter average life expectancy than women; However, unfortunately, this is not something that we can do much to control. In fact, what our society can control when it comes to health has actually been skewed in favor of men. According to the Institute of Medicine, men and women are different down to a cellular level, meaning diseases, treatments and chemicals affect us in different ways. Tamarra James-Todd, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School shared that biomedical research was for many years only tested with men, meaning that the techniques are not geared to maximize health benefits for women. For instance, research at the the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 2014 found that only one third of cardiovascular clinical trial subjects are female. As a result, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women in the US.
Unfortunately, more men are dying of coronavirus because of biological factors. However, our society needs to focus on what we can do to promote gender equality in medicine. This includes both confronting the causes of men’s lower immunity and treating men and women equally in medical research.
At the Bipartisan Feminist Project, we aim to explore biases that are not often discussed, so we can understand why people oppose feminism and pave paths to unity.