How to reduce the likelihood of dying: be a woman in Scotland

Women in Scotland don’t die. Well, some do, but not at the same rate as men. This means I’m doomed, because men in Scotland are nearly three times more likely to die than women – those are bad odds! I can prove this with statistics, as I’ll show below. However, before I get to that, there are two things I don’t really understand, given that girl and boy babies are born in pretty much equal numbers:

  1. if fewer women die, there should be lots more women in Scotland than men, but I don’t really detect that much of a disparity in numbers;
  2. also, there should be an awful lot of very elderly women in Scotland, but there really don’t seem to be that many (but perhaps my scepticism about TV advertising is misplaced – maybe all these anti-aging creams really DO work! But still, there should then be lots of old-but-young-looking women about, and there don’t appear to be, as noted in point 1).

Anyway… by now you may be asking how I know that fewer women die in Scotland. It’s really very simple: for the entire month of June I’ve been reading the obituaries in the printed version of The Herald. For a while I had a sense that there seemed to be lots of men recorded but very few women, so for the entire month June I compiled figures from the obituaries. These statistics show that men die at a much higher rate than women, and presuming the order in which they appear on the page suggests something about their relative importance, I can also deduce that less important women die more infrequently – this obviously means not only should you be a woman if you want to live longer, but you should be an obscure woman.

– o – o – o – o – o – o – o –

Silliness aside: it is obvious to most of us that the mainstream media is sexist: we often think of the tabloids in this regard, but the broadsheet press is also sexist, even if it doesn’t use naked women as a primary selling point. Compiling obituary information is a clear marker of that: these pages record the passing of significant people, and although I have never heard of many of them (because they lived and worked in fields far removed from my own interests), I find obituaries interesting.

Here is the data I collected:

M 2.6. 1 1 Maitland Mackie
Mary Soames
T 3.6. 1 1 Hilda D Spear
Michael Schmidt
W 4.6. 3 0 Duncan MacLean
John Weir Cook
Matthew Saad Muhammad
Th 5.6. 3 0 Walter Yellowlees
Malcolm MacDonald
Herb Jeffries
F 6.6. 2 1 Matthew K Dickie
Dorothy Robertson
Carl Boehm
S 7.6. 1 2 Jean Petrie
Georgina Scott Sutherland
Alexander Shulgin
M 9.6. 3 0 Harry Hyde
Chester Nez
Zbigniew Pietrzykowski
T 10.6. 1 0 Rik Mayall
W 11.6. 2 0 Max Wallace
Eldon Griffiths
Th 12.6. 1 1 David Kynd Brown
Yuri Kochiyama
F 13.6. 0 2 Jane Gray
Barbara Murray
S 14.6. 2 1 David MacLennan
Rolando Ugolini
M 16.6. 2 1 Duncan Fenton
Eric Hill
Anne Donnan
T 17.6. 2 0 Donald Macaulay
Sam Kelly
W 18.6. 2 0 Jim Keays
Casey Kasem
Th 19.6. 2 1 Charles Letts
Kevin Elyot
Elaine Gerber
F 20.6. 0 1 Rhea Martin
S 21.6. 3 0 Phil Mason
Gerry Goffin
Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos
M 23.6. 2 1 Gerry Conlon
Francis Matthews
Ruby Dee
T 24.6. 2 0 Ian Hughes
Jimmy Scot
W 25.6. 2 0 Harry Wylie
Felix Dennis
Th 26.6. 2 1 David Taylor
Eli Wallach
Martha Hyer
F 27.6. 3 0 Peter Mallan
Tommy Craig
Phil Mason
S 28.6. 2 1 Joan Macintosh
Horace Silver
Patsy Byrne
M 30.6. 2 1 Molly Wood
Bobby Womack
Terry Richards
Totals: 46 16 (that’s 2.875 times as many men as women!)

So we can see that on numerous occasions not a single woman was deemed worthy of an obituary in the Herald (only on two occasions did this happen with insufficient numbers of significant men dying). There’s also a pattern where women more often appear as the last person in the list, preceded by one or two men. And so on… We can see very clearly that men predominate in the obituaries in every way, indicating that men’s lives are interesting and worthy of our attention, whilst women’s lives are less so – all of this is a serious problem that permeates our thinking.

I am not, of course, making these comments to in any way mock the deceased, but simply to point out that what seemed like a pattern to me in the months prior to June is a reality, based on this month’s obituaries.  How we mark those who have died and celebrate what they have given our society is tremendously important – and it’s important that the contributions of men AND women are recorded and celebrated.

Now, about race…

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