Systemic Racism? Why Not Systemic Sexism Too? If Overrepresentation Is Evidence of Oppression, Then Men Are Oppressed the Most

Often Sun Tzu is quoted as having said, “know your enemy”, but he actually said this: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know…

Often Sun Tzu is quoted as having said, “know your enemy”, but he actually said this:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.[1]

This is very good advice. Know your adversary and you have a better chance of being victorious. But you also need to know yourself, you need to know your limitations, your capabilities, your resources, etc, etc. It is because of this advice that I work really hard to listen to those with opposing political positions as much as possible, and why I evaluate my own position often. Indeed, if you were to look at my YouTube playlist you would find a large percentage of my watch time is dedicated to listening to hard leftist commentators like Kyle Kulinski, or Jimmy Dore. Both of them are extremely left, and they are just two of those I listen to so I can understand how leftists think.

One of the problems with my Sun Tzu advice above, though is that I do not see every leftist as my enemy, just as I do not see everyone on the right as my ally. I agree more with Jimmy Dore’s anti-invade the Middle East stance than I do Ben Shapiro’s pro-war stance. However, leftists are on the opposite side of a political divide, and therefore the principles of Sun Tzu are still relevant.

But then again, so is just the desire for honest dialogue. It behoves an honest man to do their best to understand those they engage with, especially if they are coming from a very different philosophical basis. At the very least, you will then be able to communicate in a way that people from that position will understand. Or get as close as you possibly can. None of us will do it perfectly.

A basic assumption of much hard left thinking is that Western civilization is intrinsically racist, intrinsically sexist, and intrinsically evil because of these things. Some argue that racism is the original sin of the West. This assumption is fuelled by an understanding that everyone, man and woman, no matter their race or nationality, are basically equal and the same, therefore disparities must result from advantage or disadvantage. There is some truth to this, obviously.

If you are born into a wealthy household, you are more likely to succeed in life. Privilege does exist, and many of those on the left and right agree that those with privilege are meant to use their position to help those who don’t have it. Many on the left don’t know that this is largely a Christian position, but then many on the left do. Indeed, this is why so many Christians tend towards leftist thinking, they see in the Bible similarities to many leftist goals. God is a defender of the oppressed after all. Of course, much of this thinking in society has been disconnected from its Christian roots, but you can trace the thinking and understand it.

So, when someone with this worldview and preconceptions sees that Indigenous Australians account for 28% of the prison population, but only 3.3% of the Australian population[2], there is only one conclusion they could draw: this is systemic racism, Australia is a racist country and it is targeting its indigenous people. Couple this with another quoted figure, 434 Indigenous deaths in custody since 1991[3] and you can see why such a conclusion can be drawn.

Indeed, if you just assume Australia is racist, our systems are biased, and minorities are excluded or oppressed, this is the only conclusion you can draw from such figures. Essentially any overrepresentation of any minority group in any crime figures is seen, a priori, as evidence for an already-established conclusion.

This is not a conclusion many of the left draws because they are all bad, it is because they have certain assumptions, certain ways of thinking. Indeed, many of these people are good people, who are concerned about Indigenous lives and are seeking to attack what they see as the cause of the issues in Indigenous communities.

Their conclusion is not hard to come to when you factor in Australia’s unfortunate history with its indigenous people. This history cannot be denied, nor should it. Indigenous Australians lost their lands and were replaced by a much larger, much more advanced, and much more powerful civilisation. Add all of this together and you find that considering whites to be inherently racist, and holding the indigenous man and woman down still, is not a hard conclusion to come to.

It just happens to be wrong. Let me illustrate how.

Let’s run with the assumption that overrepresentation in the prison system is evidence of systemic oppression. According to the ABS, for every 100 females in Australia, there are 98.4 males.[4] That means the 49.6% of our population is male and 51.4% are female. Men are, by definition, a minority of our population, though only just. Being a minority is an indicator of vulnerability to many on the left.

This vulnerability may be evidenced by the fact that men account for 92% of the Australian prison population.[5] Men are less than half the population but 11.5 times more likely of being put in jail. If we follow the logic that overrepresentation indicates oppression there is only one conclusion we can draw: Australia is a systemically sexist country, that targets men, and throws them in jail at far higher rates than women as a result of this oppression.

Or, to take a more moderated tone from this same philosophical position: Australia is systemically structured to favour women, and oppress men, it may be unintentional, but our structures are clearly built in such a way to push men to the margins. This conclusion must be drawn from the data if overrepresentation is evidence of oppression, in this case sexism.

Indeed, this point can be driven home even more forcefully. “At age 0, the sex ratio for Australia at 30 June 2018 was 106.0 males per 100 females.”[6] This means that more boys are being born than girls, but our system is so structured against men that our society is killing boys at a far higher rate than girls. If overrepresentation and negative results in figures equals oppression, then we have to conclude that Australia is a systemically sexist country, designed to oppress men, and kill them at higher rates than women. The deck is stacked against men if these figures are read this way.

Now no leftist will ever brook such a conclusion being drawn. But that’s just the point. I am simply showing that their conclusion about Australia being a systemically racist country is not driven by statistics, but rather by preconceived notions of how these statistics should be interpreted. You see another way to explain these statistics about males is that they have higher testosterone, and therefore are more likely to engage in risky activity and die at faster rates than women and that men are also just more likely to commit more crimes.

There is perhaps some truth though that our society does not know how to change this so that men are jailed more in line with female numbers. But to account this as systemic sexism is ridiculous. And so is it ridiculous to use similar statistics to argue that Australia is systemically racist. There has to be another answer that doesn’t create so many contradictions than just that overrepresentation equals oppression.

To highlight this, let’s look at another racial group, Asians.

Asians make up at least 10% of the Australian population[7], this is only factoring in groups of immigrants here over a 100,000, so the number is likely larger. Another source brings the number even higher to 12.25%[8]. Yet, excluding others, as these ethnic groups are not identified, Asians make up only 3.7% of the Australian prison population.[9] So again, let’s apply our metric: overrepresentation equals systemic oppression. We have to conclude that Australia is a sexist country that oppresses men, and favours women and Asians because both of these identity groups are vastly underrepresented in Australian jails. So, if you want to avoid oppression being an Asian woman is where it is at, in Australia.

This just highlights how our preconceptions can lead to very contradictory conclusions, that don’t fit larger pools of data. There must be another reason other than systemic racism which explains why Indigenous Australians are overrepresented in the prison system, just as there is another reason other than systemic sexism to explain why men are overrepresented in the prison system.

Find that cause, and you might just find a solution. Continue to look in the wrong direction and all you will do is stoke unnecessary division.


[1] Sun Tzu 2002, The Art of War, Penguin Books edition p.19.

[2] Wikipedia, Indigenous Australians and Crime accessed 12/06/2020.

[3] Lorena Allam, Calla Wahlquist and Nick Evershed 2020, “Aboriginal deaths in custody: 434 have died since 1991, new data shows”. Accessed 12/06/2020

[4] 3101.0 – Australian Demographic Statistics, Jun 2019, accessed 12/06/2020.

[5] 4517.0 – Prisoners in Australia, 2019, accessed 12/06/2020

[6] 3101.0 – Australian Demographic Statistics, Jun 2019, accessed 12/06/2020

[7] Demography of Australia, accessed 12/06/2020

[8] Asian Australians, accessed 12/06/2020

[9] 4517.0 – Prisoners in Australia, 2018, accessed 12/06/2020. Prison Characteristics Australia, Table 7.

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