Why We Care Less when Men Die in Art and in Life: Moral Typecasting

Comrade Morlock
3 min readOct 12, 2023
The first two images that came up when I googled “victim”. Both stories are about victims in general, yet the illustrators chose women to represent victims.

Like most men, I didn’t care much about men’s suffering. Men have all the power, right? I was a liberal identitarian — my sympathy and my trust was with women, just as it was with people of color, gay people, and anyone who belonged to what I saw as an oppressed group.

Two women showed me the error of my ways. Margaret Thatcher was as brutal as any neoliberal leader of a powerful nation, and Tawana Brawley, a young black woman who I had completely believed when she claimed she was raped and abused by white cops, was exposed as a liar. When I pondered this, I saw the contradiction in my original understanding. I had not grasped that if women are men’s equals, they are our equals in the worst ways as well as the best.

I had been indulging in moral typecasting: I assumed men were more likely to behave immorally and women to be more likely to be victims. Though my moralistic view was based on my understanding of the men at the top of our society, the result was less sympathy for men at the bottom, even though men are more likely than women to be homeless, less likely to go to college, more likely to die younger, and more likely to kill themselves.

Kurt Gray and Daniel Wegner did the first studies in moral typecasting. In 2009, they wrote:

It is difficult to be moral or immoral alone in a room. Yes, some people have tried. However, in a fundamental sense, morality describes a social interaction that takes two — a moral agent who does something right or wrong, and a moral patient who is the recipient of the right or wrong action. Of course, normal adult humans are usually both moral agents and moral patients, so it is tempting to suppose that these moral qualities are inherently linked. In this research, we examined the contrasting hypothesis — that perceptions of moral agency and patiency are not only separable but are inversely related. Through a process we term moral typecasting, a person or entity perceived as a moral agent is less likely to be perceived as a moral patient, and in turn, one perceived as a moral patient is less likely to be seen as a moral agent.

Tania Reynolds and her team has done several studies of moral typecasting in gender relations. They found:

Study 1…

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Comrade Morlock

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