Does figuratively hating men contribute to male suicide?

Don’t worry folks, we found a woman to blame.

Different day, same old misogyny.

Another day, another man blaming feminists for the higher male suicide rate. I’ve covered this before in my previous article, Male Suicide: MRAs weigh in on #MeToo. It’s understandable and expected (dare we say hopefully so?) that men are going to be distressed by being caught behaving badly. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reprimand offenders because of the risk that they may attempt suicide. These are two serious problems that both need tackling.

It was entirely predictable. As soon as high-profile men were identified as predators, there were a handful of suicides among this demographic — which is a tragedy — and there were calls for those pesky women to pipe down and think of the men for once. But as I’ve said above, we need to tackle bad and illegal behaviour appropriately, and also help offenders to rehabilitate and come to terms with their actions.

This came up in my Twitter feed, related to an article with the title “Why can’t we hate men?”, a good question given how women have been consistently disadvantaged, harassed and abused at the hands of men. But never ones to miss an opportunity to take a feminist issue out of context, the men are at it again:

Names have been obscured to protect the guilty — and it’s someone who should really know better.

The article referenced in that tweet is actually pretty good, about how women have been conditioned to put up with male dominance and bad behaviour, and how we need men to join us in fighting for change. It talks about hating men in the abstract, recognising that it’s really bloody frustrating to put up with so much collective and individual male bullshit, and then be chastised for pointing it out. Which is exactly what happens if you blame women for men’s emotional problems — which are complex and related to the same issues that feminists wish to tackle.

From the article:

“I’ve yet to see a mass wave of prosecutions or even serious recognition of wrongdoing. On the contrary, cries of “witch hunt” and the plotted resurrection of celebrity offenders came quick on the heels of the outcry over endemic sexual harassment and violence. But we’re not supposed to hate them because . . . #NotAllMen.”

Once again, women need to rein it in for fear of offending men, the very people that have caused 99% of the problem in the first place. Unless we actually address the problem openly, and all men take responsibility for their actions and own the problem, we will not resolve it. This is an issue where the predominant direction of abuse is flowing from men towards women. Yes, women abuse men too, and #NotAllMen are abusers. But we need to accept that the majority of sexual harassers are men, that those men harass and abuse at an alarmingly high rate, and that anyone can abuse.

It’s not something solely carried out by dirty old men hiding in the bushes — it’s our relatives, friends, colleagues. We all know someone that has behaved in a sexually inappropriate way — it is more common than we like to admit. And I bet you’ll be aware of a case where this behaviour was downplayed, or the victim was blamed, or even where the victim was punished for a predator’s actions. This is not on and it needs to change. We won’t get there by paying lip service to the problem — we have all got to acknowledge where the abuse is coming from and do something to fix it.

Everyone can, and must, be a part of the solution. Men need to end this shitty behaviour, and call it out when they see other men perpetuating it. Women (and men and others) need to feel safe enough to complain when they are on the receiving end. And we all need to work towards a culture where the appropriate conversations can happen about consent, relationships, mental health and gender roles — so that these incidents are less likely to happen in the first place.

The toxic culture that has pressured men into bottling things up is the same culture that condones and encourages the everyday harassment of women. Some men rush to defend this version of masculinity, believing it to be an ‘antidote’ to feminism — but it’s full of poison. It teaches men that they are failures unless they emulate a hyper-masculine ideal, and it places women as secondary to men’s performative desires. More than that, it is an impossible goal to achieve. Even if every man could exhibit the characteristics this stereotype demands, the hierarchical concept of “alpha males” means that some are going to be relegated to “beta” status no matter how hard they try. Men — the game is rigged against you.

I began this discussion with two distinct problems that are equally pressing. Men die from suicide at a higher rate than women, with suicide being the greatest killer of men under 50 in the UK; and sexual harassment of women by men is endemic and must be stopped and prevented.

Are feminists ruining things for men, and contributing to the higher male suicide rate? No. This isn’t a zero-sum game — but the MRAs want you to think it is. The world is changing, and plenty of men are not adapting well to this. That’s not an excuse to abandon all progress and strip power and agency from women. The deal with the “successful” male suicide rate in the tweet exchange above is that while men die from suicide at a rate around three times greater than women, women attempt suicide about three times as much as men do. We clearly have a lot of problems that need fixing.

There’s obviously a lot of misery and despair in the world, driving some towards suicide and keeping many others trapped in terrible situations. Our aim should be to reduce suffering and to prevent suicide if possible. But sometimes that can seem like a person’s only option, and they deserve our compassion, even if they have done terrible things. For those that do hold on, life can be so difficult — and we should aim to alleviate their pain as well. The MRA argument is that women must endure pain for men’s gain — of course it does not have to be like that. A world that is kinder to all has enough love for everybody without having to sacrifice one person’s dignity for another’s power.

It’s not feminism that’s killing men. It’s toxic masculinity, if anything. Gender equality has improved things for both women and men, and it continues to do so as we become smarter and more understanding of how inequalities manifest themselves. Sometimes life can become too much, for all sorts of reasons. Each one of us needs to take responsibility for our actions, and to speak up if we are aware of something unsavoury happening. Making a stand against bad behaviour is going to piss people off — the kind of people who think it’s ok to behave like this aren’t likely to graciously accept their wrongdoing.

Men need support in adapting to a changing world. Yes, it’s something that we all do, but there seems to be a specific problem holding men back in achieving gender equality. The same structures that have kept women in their place for centuries are also a prison for men. Men still hold an advantage over women in just about every aspect, but there is a penalty for not conforming to the rules, and then another penalty for men when they do. Feminists have seen this shit before in their own fight for liberation — the double-bind of being a strong woman, but not too strong. There’s a way out of it, but we all need to get on board and attack the patriarchy together.

All over the world, people take their own lives every single day. Since I wrote my original article on 16th March, around 261,000 people will have died by suicide — the overwhelming majority unrelated to #MeToo or allegations of any impropriety. I hope that the MRAs are campaigning as earnestly over those lives lost as they are for the deaths of sexual predators.

If you are in the UK, you may find the following resources useful:

Samaritans 116 123 or email available 24/7 365 days/year

C.A.L.M. 0800 58 58 58 open 5pm — Midnight 365 days/year