Opinion: Feminism Is Not to Blame for High Male Suicide Rates

Walter Rhein

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I wrote an article recently in which I discussed how traditional values do not benefit women. Predictably, this article received plenty of pushback. One reader attempted to derail the conversation by switching the topic to the high rate of suicide among American men.

First of all, it’s ridiculous to respond to an article about women’s issues by trying to switch the topic to men’s issues. In a way, that impulse highlights the problem with American ideology. It’s difficult to have a responsible conversation about the obstacles women face in our culture without having some man come along and demand that we talk about his problems instead.

Second of all, it’s absurd to try to find a link between feminism and male suicide. One of the biggest problems in American society is that people are always trying to find a scapegoat for their problems. Too often, scapegoating is an effort to unfairly smear an idea rather than responsibly seek out a solution.

It’s dangerous to look at statistics and disregard the larger context. When anyone mentions the high suicide rate of American men, they should also mention that women are much more likely than men to be killed by their partners.

There are a lot of statistics like this which suggest interpersonal relationships in the United States are struggling. More recently, the current divisive political climate ushered in by the previous president has resulted in a spike in divorces for political reasons.

Naturally, dishonest actors will survey the scene and decide to blame feminism. What these people fail to recognize is that divorce was less prevalent in the 1950s because women were denied financial autonomy.

Even today, a common tactic of abusive partners is to take complete control of the family finances. It’s interesting to look at previous decades and recognize that the entire social structure was designed to benefit abusers.

But, of course, there’s a large percentage of American males who don’t care at all about the mental health of women in our society. There have also been indications of a renewed authoritarian trend that can be seen through the recent restriction on reproductive healthcare rights.

At some point, perhaps we should consider that the impulse for control and domination which is shown by the American male might hurt mental health. Our country tends to support “strongman” leaders. However, it could be argued that a “strongman” is nothing but a bully.

The ideal of toxic masculinity is to respond to every obstacle with brute force. Violent films are popular because it’s cathartic to see abusive people receive their just desserts. However, films aren’t real life. In real life, you have to develop healthier strategies for dealing with your frustrations.

The reality is that American culture tends to choose showmanship over qualifications. The result is that many men are ill-equipped to handle the exact stresses they're most likely to encounter. However, instead of recognizing this, they double down and insist that “everything would be fine” if we returned to the male-centric ideals of the 1950s.

Modern American men like to present themselves as victims and falsely claim that nobody cares about their mental health. It’s not true that “nobody cares.” It’s just that rational people don’t believe the mental health issues of American men can be solved by restricting and oppressing women.

There’s a simple reason why more men commit suicide than women. That reason is that more men own guns.

One of the facts about gun violence that’s routinely ignored in the United States is that you’re more likely to kill yourself if you own a gun. Gun control would help to prevent suicide just as it would help to prevent domestic violence.

People say, “Why doesn’t anyone talk about the high suicide rate of men? They’re dying and nobody cares!” However, those statements are inaccurate. The truth is that we talk about the high suicide rate of men all the time. Many people in our society work desperately to try to prevent suicide.

The truth is that many people are dishonest about the root causes of male suicide. They refuse to recognize that a dramatic reduction in gun ownership would likely lead to a dramatic reduction in suicide. Instead, they want to absurdly cast blame on female empowerment even though there is no connection between gender equality and an increase in male suicide rates.

Essentially, the false claim that “nobody cares about male suicide rates” is nothing more than yet another example of a right-wing temper tantrum. The truth is that our society does care. We talk about it all the time. It’s just that right-wing men refuse to listen to reason.

Rather than responsibly seek out solutions, there's always an impulse to cast false blame on a concept for political reasons. If we want a healthier, happier society, we have to be more honest about the problems we face.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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