Recently, news headlines have been riddled with reports of male students committing suicide at one college or another. Suicide among young males is an ever-growing epidemic, but there is a viable solution. Feminism can theoretically decrease the suicide rates of teenage males.
Miles Groth, a psychology professor at Wagner College, states in his work “Boys to Men: The Science of Masculinity and Manhood,” published by Psychology Today, that “Suicides among young males are four times more common than among young females and they are occurring among ever younger males, some in their early teens.” What is the cause for these drastically different suicide rates?
In 2010, Newsweek Magazine attempted to answer this question in its issue, “MAN UP!” According to an article by Andrew Romano and Tony Dokoupil, the concept of masculinity is the fundamental cause for the higher rate of male suicides. The authors explain that with the harsh economy and rapid changes in the workforce, especially regarding the integration of women, men are trying to fulfill an outdated stereotype of what it means to “be a man,” pursuing ineffective beliefs and solutions. Both authors argue, “Suggesting that men should stick to some musty script of masculinity only perpetuates the problem. For starters, it encourages them to confront new challenges the same way they dealt with earlier upheavals: by blaming women.” Due to these unfortunate beliefs about masculinity and inaccurate perceptions of the feminist movement, not many men consider feminism to be the logical answer they’re looking for.
The suicide rates among teenage males are rising because young men undergo new academic challenges such as college when they are not yet comfortable in their manhood. Some may even be trying to prove their own manhood, and may think that they need to persevere through their struggles alone. They do not consider reaching out for help and expressing how they feel as an option because it goes against the stereotypical perception of masculinity. As a result, they feel alienated from their peers and are left without a sufficient source of guidance.
The effects of these outdated beliefs go far beyond that of academic- and socially-induced suicide. The idea of “manning up” is linked to bullying, teenage depression, crime and substance abuse. Archaic notions of masculinity oppress men by insinuating that there is something wrong with expressing emotions because that is a sign of weakness and is “womanly.” Since women are stereotypically more emotional than men, men repress their emotions to avoid acting “womanly” at all costs.
Feminism strives to abolish gender-based stereotypes. Through a change in the idea of what it is to “be a man,” male teenagers trying to find their identity will not be so discouraged to seek out help and express their emotions to someone. They will not feel so much intense pressure to “be a man” and tough it out on their own.
However, men are not innocent bystanders in this battle against stereotypical masculinity, but act as the very roadblocks preventing a solution. Many men are the primary opponents of feminism, believing that women already possess equal rights both socially and legally. They view feminism as a movement to give women power over men, a fundamentally misguided belief. Though they do not realize it, feminism is not the problem, but the solution. These men are standing in their own way.
Please don’t mistake this article as suggesting that it is only important to discuss feminism when pertaining to its benefits for men. Don’t mistake this as an insinuation that men are woman-haters and consequently the sole cause of their own hardships. Many factors are beyond the control of both men and women. It is simply important to understand how feminism does not only benefit women, but men as well, in order to reduce the stigma surrounding it. Feminism eliminates archaic stereotypes and hence liberates both men and women from the struggles these stereotypes promote. Everyone needs and deserves the right to have a good cry, and no one should be considered any less “manly” or any more “womanly” because of it.