But nobody really listened. To coincide with this under-represented day, male mental health charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) in the UK highlighted something I have discussed quite a lot in the last couple of years – that of the shocking level of male suicide statistics. I’ve spent the last week reading, re-reading and digesting some of this report (here). I can’t say I am totally surprised that 2013 saw yet another shocking rise in the number of men taking their own lives – it is now at a 15 year high.
When asked about relationships, around three in 10 men felt that they personally lacked qualities and abilities that sexual or romantic partners look for in a man.
Feelings of inadequacy plague men – that fact cannot be denied and when it comes to sex and relationships, that is even more so. Women’s expectations play a part in this, especially when it comes to clinging to romantic fantasies before and while in relationships. The overwhelming majority of men are not 6′, devilishly handsome billionaires. Yet persistently we are held to these standards by society and a female-centred entertainment media.
We are expected to do the chasing and the wooing yet if we make it clear we want to have sex with any given woman, we’re labelled perverts. If we don’t want to have sex with any given woman, we’re shallow. We are virgin-shamed for having too few sexual partners and player-shamed for having too many. Heaven forbid if we’re not conventionally attractive and have the nerve to approach a woman because then we’re creep-shamed.
The relationship between work and self-esteem is more noticeable amongst males aged 35-44 years and 80 per cent rate their job as ‘very important’ or ‘important’ to their self-esteem, notably higher than other males and females of the same age.
Advertisements push the man as the “success object”, as though he is little more than a bank account – a protector and provider. We allow society and allow ourselves to be defined by our education and job far too often – and we enable this attitude in women too in paying for dates and not holding her to her 50% of the relationship – even, and especially when she is the higher earner.
Society’s expectations of us remains that we should be the breadwinner even in a world where women have far more options in the workplace. We have a real gap between how society expects us to be – we are defined by our success in society… we are treated as appliances. If you disagree with this, ask yourself why a woman dating a man less educated or from a poorer background than her is seen as “dating down” but this is not when he is the more educated. This opposite is hypergamy and it is still the norm; ask yourself why a man who does not have a job is a loser, but a woman who does not have a job will rarely be given that label.
I once had an argument on a forum a few years ago with a woman who said she would never date a low earner, even if he had his own business. I asked her if after a couple of years she would date the same man if he was earning a good wage – nothing else about him would change aside from the fact that he was now established in business. When you do this, you are not seeing the man – but the wallet.
We are put into neat little boxes and everyone wants a Real Man(TM) yet what a Real Man(TM) is is up for debate – in Cosmo and Vogue, and on websites such as Jezebel and HuffPo Women. Rarely are men invited to be part of the discussion on men’s issues, unless it relates to how they might affect women.
I am disappointed that the Chief Executive of CALM has chosen to say that men are responsible for this. As a woman, she is not subject to the social pressures of men – but you know what they say, privilege is invisible to those who have it 😉 Had the 80% suicide rate been in women, I guarantee nobody would dare sink to the stereotype that women can help themselves if they only stop being so hysterical and hyper-sensitive.
We can no longer sit back and ignore this problem or allow it to become hijacked by the subset of feminists who think they know what is best for men. These are your fathers and your sons, your brothers, uncles and cousins. Above heart disease and motoring accidents, suicide is now by far the biggest killer of men in the 20-49 year age groups.