ITEM In 1920 women in the United States lived one year longer than men.3 Today women live seven years longer.4 The male-female life-span gap in­creased 600 percent

We acknowledge that blacks dying six years sooner than whites reflects the powerlessness of blacks in American society.5 Yet men dying seven years sooner than women is rarely seen as a reflection of the powerlessness of men in American society.

Is the seven-year gap biological? If it is, it wouldn’t have been just a one – year gap in 1920.

If men lived seven years longer than women, feminists would have helped us understand that life expectancy was the best measure of who had the power. And they would be right. Power is the ability to control one’s life. Death tends to reduce control. Life expectancy is the bottom line – the ratio of our life’s stresses to our life’s rewards.

If power means having control over one’s own life, then perhaps there is no better ranking of the impact of sex roles and racism on power over our lives than life expectancy. Here is the ranking:

life expectancy6 as a way of seeing who has the power

Females (white)


Females (black)


Males (white)


Males (black)


The white female outlives the black male by almost fourteen years. Imagine the support for affirmative action if a 49-yearold woman were expected to die sooner than a 62-year-old man.