A quick look into the reasons for the attempts to ban the Red Pill Movie and the lies and attacks on the Director and some cast members.
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This video was created 10 years ago and originally was in 4:3 format and fairly low resolution. I have now brought it up to 16:9 and increased the resolution as much as possible while still keeping the original footage and audio. I have also added an Epilogue on the end that takes a brief look at the carnage left since this video was created.
I have long held that compassion and choice are two issues that play a part in nearly every men’s issue. But why? What do compassion and choice have to do with male suicide or male victims of domestic violence or just about any other men’s issue? Quite a bit actually. Let’s take a look at why compassion and choice are limited for men and then see how compassion and choice are essential ingredients to the issues.
The origins of the lack of compassion and
choice for men is gynocentrism. When you start to understand gynocentrism you will start to better understand the plight of men and boys. Gynocentrism at its most basic, is the mandate that women and children be kept safe and provided for at the expense of men. In other words, men are designated to insure the safety and provisions for women and children on an individual level, the family level, community level and on a macro level. This is not a totally bad thing. It has been what has created and maintained many cultures for millennia. As Stefan Molyneux says, “Eggs are scarce and sperm is plentiful.” This means we have needed to sacrifice our sperm in order to insure the safety of our eggs. Without women the culture dies a quick death. Women must be protected. Gynocentrism protects those who carry the eggs and does this at the expense of its men. This has been a very important element to our cultural success but it does come at a price.
One consequence of protecting the women is that the men will need to at times face danger. The women need to be kept safe and the men will protect the boundary and sometimes die in that process. Our human history of gynocentrism is longer and deeper than most assume. We think of the hunter gatherers as serene and bucolic but that was sometimes far from the truth and gynocentrism predominated. Research shows that some South American hunter gatherer groups faced huge numbers of deaths of their men protecting the women and children1. One group averaged the death of nearly 60% of its males in protecting the women from inter tribal attacks that were among other things, designed to steal the other group’s women! (the average for the groups studied was near 30% male deaths as a result of raids, ambush or larger scale conflicts) He who had the most women wins and these groups made a huge sacrifice of their males to insure they kept their women and children safe.
In its most obvious we can see how gynocentrism plays out when we note that men automatically and without question are the ones facing danger in our culture. Our war dead are nearly 100% male. Our deaths in dangerous occupations are 93% men. Our trashmen and sewage workers are nearly all male. The dirtiest and most dangerous jobs are jobs for men. No one questions this. It just seems right. This is the hidden power of gynocentrism. No one questions and no one notices. Hell, if women actually got equality to the above it would be a huge step down for them.
But gynocentrism runs much deeper than simply being about protecting the borders and doing the dangerous work. It has its tendrils into just about everything, silently and without fanfare. What happens when a woman has a flat tire? How many people have seen the help she will usually garner from men? Now think about what happens if a man has a flat tire. Does he get a similar treatment? Probably not. This is gynocentrism. When there are problems we jump to help women but expect the men to handle it themselves even in today’s atmosphere of “equality”.
What happens when a woman is upset and falls into a sea of tears? Pretty much the same thing as the flat tire. People hover to offer support and see what might be wrong and what they can do. But what happens when men fall into a similar sea? People ignore him and avoid him. It is almost as if a woman’s pain is a call to action while a man’s pain is taboo. Compassion offered to men is a fraction of the compassion offered to women.
There are a number of youtube videos that employ actors to portray men beating women in public. The women are shown to get immediate support and help from male onlookers who see the violence. They quickly jump to her aid not knowing it is an arranged scene. These same videos then reverse the roles and show the women beating men in a similar manner and no one lifts a finger, in fact, they laugh. This is gynocentrism. We expect to help the women and expect the men to help themselves. Note also that we allow women to be dependent but do not allow the same for men.
On an even simpler level think of a man and a woman at work who need to move some boxes from one location to another. Some are heavy, some are light. Who will be moving the heavy ones? It is a foregone conclusion that the man will most often move the largest boxes and will protect her from having to do hard labor. This is gynocentrism.
And then there is the question of attractiveness. When a woman is attractive she gets special perks simply due to her appearance. No man can come close to having a similar response. This is gynocentrism. The eggs are protected and the attractive eggs get very special treatment.
Think of that attractive woman being tied to the railroad tracks. What does that do to the hearts and minds of most people? Most of us have an inborn reaction that says DO SOMETHING to help her. But what about a man tied to the tracks? Is your reaction the same or different? Yes, you likely want to see him helped but is it the same gut wrenching sensation? The plots of many movies and novels are fueled by this gynocentric scenario. We all want the woman tied to the tracks safely released even if it means the death of numerous men in the process. A woman’s needs are a call to action while a man’s needs are often just ignored. He needs to save her!
Just think for a minute what would happen to a man in the military who started complaining that we needed to have more female war deaths in order to make things equal for everyone. How would he be received? All hell would break loose at this questioning of the gynocentric norm and disregard for the safety of women. We see something similar when the opposite happens and men voice their desires for equal opportunities for services for men in things like domestic violence. Those who stand up for the needs of men in our gynocentric culture are seen as misogynistic, that is, they are routinely accused of hating women simply for pointing out the needs of men. Can you see how the fuel for this is gynocentrism?
Another example of extreme gynocentrism is boot camp in the army. What is done? The recruit is taught that he is nothing. He is now not an individual, he is a part of a fighting group. His personal identity is deleted and he is taught to fight for the group, for a cause. He no longer exists. There is no compassion for his personal feelings and needs. Those are a distant second. He also has zero choice. He does what he is told. That is the extreme gynocentric model that plays out to one degree or another in our everyday life.
Do we care about the feelings of the woman tied to the tracks? Oh yes. Do we care about the feelings of the hero who rescues her? No. We care about his actions. His emotions are not important unless his feelings are about HER. Do we care about the emotions of the boot camp recruit? Nope. We care about his actions and what he does. His feelings need to be kept to himself. In the same way, under the gynocentric default we tend to care about the emotions of women but will be averse to the emotions of men. Our interest moves more towards his actions. Think about the last time you saw a woman cry in public. What was your reaction? Most of us want to help, want to offer support. We are drawn to her neediness. Now think about a man crying under the same circumstances you saw the woman. Are you as open to his tears as the woman? Most of us say no, we are not. We are repulsed by his neediness. The man is not expected to be needy, he is expected to have agency. If he is seen as needy he is judged harshly. This is gynocentrism.
These sorts of advantages for women have been going on for many years. In the 19th century men would strive to do the best job of keeping women safe and provided for. Just read their diaries and the diaries of their wives. These men put women on a pedestal. They thought of them as angelic and would try their best to not have them sully themselves with the grime of daily life outside the home. They worked hard to have them stay away from “dirty”things like the workplace or money. They did this because they saw women as worthy of protection (gynocentrism) and were happy to take on the extra burden in order to keep her safe. Then along comes feminism which makes the incredibly noxious and inaccurate claim that women were not held in high esteem at all, they were being oppressed. They took the protections that women had benefited from for centuries and spun them into being oppression. In my opinion this is the biggest lie of the 20th century and it has left a wake of chaos and vitriol. Women now actually believe themselves to be victims and that they have been shortchanged and oppressed. These are the same women who didn’t have to go to war, didn’t have to do the dirty work of building or maintaining the culture, were held in high esteem and basically worshiped (as American as Mom and Apple Pie) now see this as oppression. Houdini could not have done a more impressive magic trick.
So what do you think happened? It could be easily predicted that gynocentrsim would insure that when women appear to be in danger or need that men will jump and meet those needs as best they can. That’s the way both men and women are programmed. And that is just what happened. The feminists claimed to be tied to the tracks and rode, and continue to ride the gynocentric wave of men keeping women safe. Their unfounded claims that women were oppressed and held back have been taken seriously by well meaning highly gynocentric males, including male legislators. These claims of women being tied to the tracks and needing government intervention were welcomed by our gynocentric legislators who wanted to bend over backwards to help women. Over the years women have been given more and more while simultaneously continuing to enjoy the same gynocentric advantages they have been getting for hundreds of years. Our legislators have backed themselves into a corner and are now afraid to say no. They know that they have been hijacked but don’t have the courage to say no to saving a damsel in distress. Saying no would insure a loss in the next election.
This was the beginning of what I like to call Gynocentrism 2.0. The cultural imperative of caring for women continues and is now amplified by false claims of women having been oppressed. Simultaneously Gynocentrism 2.0 showed not only increased focus on the needs and desires of women, it also made a dramatic switch. Men in gynocentrism 1.0 were held in high esteem when they followed through with their role. They were both respected and admired and this was fuel for the masculine. Both sexes were held in high esteem. Now that fuel for men has run out as the admiration and respect has been gaudily replaced with disdain and blame. Incredibly, now men are seen as the problem and held accountable for social problems as if they were the cause. It is all the men’s fault. Much is said about men not doing very well these days but very few people note this important shift. When you don’t put fuel in the engine it ain’t goin too far.
In Gynocentrism 2.0 entire bureaucracies are built to serve women and cater to their difficulties but there are rarely any such bureaucracies built for men. The women are left with a choice of whether to seek help at a government funded facility (payed for with mostly male tax dollars) built for them while the men are left with no choices.
One of the best examples of this is the issue of domestic violence where we have known for decades that men are a sizable portion (likely nearing 50%) of the victims of domestic violence but all of the laws and services are built for women. We spend nearly a billion dollars a year for the Violence Against WOMEN Act (VAWA) that marginalizes the 50% of male victims. Recent research exposed the sad fact that when men who are the victims of domestic violence go to these government funded services for help they are treated very poorly. Often when the men are victims of domestic violence and they turn to the government funded services they are told that they are not victims of domestic violence, they are accused of being the perpetrators! They then send him to treatment for perpetrators! Researchers are calling this “third party abuse”, when the government bureaucracy as a third party, participates in the continued abuse of a victim. This is gynocentrism 2.0 which leaves no compassion for men and far fewer choices in seeking help.
I was involved in lobbying for male victims of domestic violence during the reauthorization of the VAWA in both 2005 and 2012. Our group was well received by then Senator Biden. He and his staff listened to our data and stories about male victims in several meetings at his Senate office. He assured us we would be a part of the hearings. When the hearing came not one of our group was allowed to speak. I couldn’t believe it. Biden was totally aware of the problem of male victims and intentionally sabotaged our efforts to find support for men. It was then that I realized how deeply our system is biased and non-functional. Gynocentrism 2.0.
It’s important to point out that our government has been pushing a gynocentric agenda for some time. In the 1960’s President Johnson set in motion the “War on Poverty” which proceeded to demand the removal of black fathers from their families in order for mom to get welfare. Now our family courts are doing something similar as they remove fathers from the home through no fault on the fathers part. The woman’s needs come first, father’s a distant second.
My state of Maryland created a Commission for Men’s Health a number of years ago. I was fortunate to serve as the vice chair of that commission and wrote three of the four reports that were to be sent to the governor. The reports I wrote were what I call “male friendly.” That is, they voiced and considered the needs of men without bowing to the prevailing political correctness. The chairman of the commission wrote the other report which was a bit more what the Health Department, our host agency, was anticipating. All four reports were unanimously approved by the full commission. When the commission’s work was done and it came time to file the reports to the governor and a host of other Maryland politicians and get them into the Maryland State Library the Health Department only filed the report that was written by the Chairman. They were confronted with this and said, “ooops, we will file it now.” But they didn’t. It took a year to track down the files and finally get them into the Maryland system. The full story of this event will be told in a chapter in Janice Fiamengo’s upcoming book. It couldn’t be more clear that when the needs of men were given voice, the status quo balked. It seems that our mid level bureaucrcrats are filled with gynocentrism 2.0.
I think you can see now how women’s complaints and our legislators zealous rush to help them have turned things topsy turvy. Rape shield laws have been written to protect the rape victims and this is a good thing. But those same laws failed to protect the accused man. His name can be released to the media prior to any conviction. Her name is permanently protected while his name is plastered all over the media and he has his life ruined simply due to an accusation which may or may not be proven false . Gynocentrism 2.0.
Another example is the issue of suicide where males are 80% of all completed suicides. (Chart above: rates are per 100,000 population from CDC WISQARS system.) Incredibly this 80% fact is rarely mentioned in the media leaving most people unaware that the biggest risk factor in suicide is being male. It is not surprising that females get the majority of attention around suicide both clinically and in research. This even though men are the vast majority of those needing help. In 2009 the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) did some research on suicide. I was shocked to see it was a study on girls! I wrote to then NASW Director Elizabeth Clark and asked why the research focused on girls when it was men and boys who were the vast majority of suicides. She wrote me back and said that the funder for the research had specified to only study girls. Just imagine for a moment someone who funded research for Sickle Cell Disease but stipulated the research had to be on whites. Can you imagine the outrage? Blacks are 60-80% of those with Sickle Cell disease and to study only whites would be seen as totally racist but somehow studying only girls and suicide is okay. That is gynocentrism.
Our gynocentric legislators have outlawed any form of genital mutilation of females but have failed to do the same for our baby boys. Boys routinely undergo a surgical removal of part of their penis without anesthesia. Of course the baby boys scream during and after this mutilation. Some nurses say they have seen baby boys scream for days after. Many are thinking today that this trauma creates PTSD for those males who have been circumcised and presently about four out of every 5 males in the United States has suffered this mutilation. Research is showing that psychological impact of circumcision on boys is similar to the psychological impact for girls who have undergone genital mutilation. This procedure is damaging our boys while most people think it is a simple little snip. Wrong. We care about our little girls but fail in mustering enough compassion for boys to shelter them from such barbaric treatment and we give them no choice. Gynocentrism.
In healthcare we have seen our legislators create seven national commissions for women’s health but none for men. We have official government web sites for womenshealth.gov and girlshealth.gov but just look at what happens when you go to menshealth.gov or boyshealth.gov. Nothing. You find a 404 page not found error. It does not exist. Get the picture? focusWhen anyone starts looking critically at our world it becomes clear that gynocentrism is at its core. We constantly hear criticism of men not going to the doctor, etc, but look at the lack of concern for men’s health. Yes, we have seven commissions for women’s health, but none for men. The one bill to create a national men’s health commission has been languishing in congress for over 20 years, with too few sponsors and a general lack of interest. You see this same lack of interest in not even creating a web site for men or boys. Women in need get the help, and men just need to take care of themselves while simultaneously being blamed for their plight. And no one is even aware this is going on. Gynocentrism.
Warren Farrell put together a group of clinicians, academics, researchers, authors and other experts on men and boys who wrote a proposal for a White House Council on Boys and Men. I was happy to be included as one of those who put the proposal together. President Obama had created a council for women and girls as soon as he got into office. Now he was being asked to do the same for boys and men. One of our group members, a man named Willie Isles was an executive with the Boy Scouts and had a meeting scheduled with the President. The plan was for Willie to have two Boy Scouts introduce the idea of the White House Council on Boys and Men to the President. Just before that meeting was to take place the discussion of a council for boys and men was struck from the agenda. It was forbidden to even be discussed. Gynocentrism anyone?
There is an anti-male bias in mental health research. One study on teen relationship violence found that boys and girls are suffering from this problem at similar rate. But once the research is translated into news articles it only focuses on the hardships the girls face. Worse yet, once the study is translated by legislators into an action plan to help the teen violence problem the only ones offered assistance are the girls while the boys are blamed. Yes, boys are abused but they simply don’t get compassion. Gynocentrism
In one study about childhood rape the researchers found that boys were more often the victims of actual childhood rapes than the girls. Then in writing up their research failed to specifically include this information about boys as victims of rape. Furthermore, when they went to the media they also failed to mention the fact that they have found that boys were raped more often than girls. Gynocentrism.
Title IX — Has been a great help to girls and athletics but has dismantled over 1000 men’s college teams. We focus on helping women but ignore the pain of men.
We have all heard of the racial sentencing bias where blacks tend to get stiffer sentences than whites for the same crime. But the research is telling us that there is a bias that is six times as large as the racial bias that sentences men to longer sentences than women. Yet, we hear nothing of this in the media and no one seems to care. Clearly the judges have less compassion for men and offer them far less choice.
I have seen a number of men in therapy who came to me when their wives wanted an abortion and they (the men) wanted to keep the child. The men were powerless to do anything. Can you see how these men had no choice in the matter? His wife said, “My body, my choice” and he said “My child, your choice, I have none.” He had no choice and if he had said something I feel sure he would have heard some variation of big boys don’t cry. Know what I mean? Can you see how no one really cares or offers them compassion for their plight? Compassion and Choice.
Look at men’s clubs and men’s spaces that have been traditional places for men to gather. Gone. They have been opened to women and not replaced with anything that would give men a safe place to simply gather with other men. Men gathering became the enemy with the accusation of secret deals that would keep women out of business dealings. At the same time all women’s clubs have soared. Women only gyms, women only parking places, women only subway cars, women only everything….but no comparable opportunities for men. There are even groups that keep track of all of the groups for women. One is The National Association of Commissions for Women which keeps track of the literally hundreds of commissions for women. That is gynocentrism 2.0 on steroids.
Instead of thinking of choice for men, the majority of our gynocentric culture are thinking instead the word “should.” Men should do this, men should do that and if they don’t, they are not really men. Most men are caught in this drama that researchers are calling “precarious manhood” where men are forced to prove their worth repeatedly in order to be called men. Women do not face a similar situation.
Professions are not immune to Gynocentrism. The profession of social work is a prime example. This group is focused on women and ignores the needs and the hardships of men. Their educational system offers classes on just about every possible client to work with including women, gays, handicapped, children but fails to teach their charges even the first thing about men and boys. This even though men and boys make up a good portion of the clientele they will be working with.
Our focus thus far has been on gynocentrism on the macro level. It is very easy to see the gynocentric imbalance in so many spheres. The point here is not that the services that have been created were not a good thing, or were undeserved. Many of the services offered have been very helpful to women and girls. The point here is that it has been a very one sided ride with nearly all the services going to women and girls, and the men and boys basically ignored. Men and boys have simply not gotten compassion and choice. Gynocentrism 2.0.
But let’s take a quick look at the impact of gynocentrism on a micro level. We have seen so far that the public has very little interest in men’s emotions. While that is surely true on a macro level it is also the case on the micro. What is the tired and hackneyed message that the some women offer her man? Oh, they say “You are not dealing with your feelings.” I hope you can see now that this sort of shaming is really an excuse to NOT deal with his emotions. Much has been written by gynocentric types about men’s not emoting in public, or men not emoting like women, while maintaining the underlying assumption that there must be something wrong with them. But almost nothing has been written about the brick wall men face when they do emote. When men have emotions people disappear. No one wants to hear it.
What I have seen repeatedly is that men have very different ways to process emotions. Ways that are invisible to most. They have likely developed these different ways due to the prevalence of gynocentrism and are happy with their paths to work with their own emotions and gladly take care of things on their own without fanfare and “help.” The saddest part of this is that most women simply do not see his different ways and assume he is “doing it wrong” since it isn’t like what she does.
Gynocentrism creates a cultural default both on a micro and macro level where women’s distress is a call to action and a man’s distress is seen at best as a distraction and at worst a taboo. This leaves men being offered considerably less compassion and fewer choices. In the past 50 years the original gynocentric defaults have morphed into gynocentrism 2.0 which has seen a huge increase in both the lop-sided services favoring women and the disdain and blame focused on men.
Very few people are conscious of this habitual default, they simply assume it is just the way the world works.
Becoming more and more aware of gynocentrism makes it easier to see why men are 80% of the completed suicides but are basically ignored. It makes sense now that men are nearly 50% of the victims of domestic violence but are routinely disregarded. It makes sense now why boys genital mutilation is the fourth most popular surgical procedure in the U.S. even though it is unnecessary and highly damaging. The world is geared to have compassion for women’s needs but not as much for the needs of men. We could go on and on about each of the many men’s issues and see how the lack of compassion and choice plays a part in their dilemma.
The unconscious nature of gynocentrism may be its most ruinous aspect. People are simply unaware of the great differences in the way men and women are treated. It is in some ways reminiscent of the racism I remember in the mid 20th century. People were simply unaware of their treatment of blacks. There were surely outright bigots at the time but the majority of people were basically asleep to the impact of their attitudes and behaviors and went along with the status quo that treated blacks and whites in significantly different ways. The general public was duped by a media that portrayed blacks as inferior and an educational system and even academic research that did the same. With gynocentrism 2.0 we are seeing something very similar but instead of the blacks it is now our men. Today’s gynocentrism is made up primarily of people who are basically unaware of the impact of their behaviors and are simply going along with the gynocentric status quo.
It’s time to wake up.
Knowing these things and taking the red pill* makes it important for us to start offering men and boys greater compassion and choice.
And let’s not forget. Men Are Good!
*Having taken the “Red Pill” is the popular phrase used to denote someone who can see the gynocentrism clearly.
A hearty congratulations to you, President Elect Donald Trump on your recent victory. I cannot tell you how deeply your idea of making America Great Again resonates in me. But if we are to make America Great Again we must do one important thing: We must cease our male bashing, our blaming and shaming of men and masculinity and get back to our previous societal default that Men Are Good!
Men have faced continuous bashing in the media, in their relationships, in academia, in our legislatures, our courts, and our government funded school systems Men have quietly weathered this assault fairly well showing their resilience and drive regardless of the insults and false accusations thrown their way. I know you have experienced some of that in your campaign and likely know very well the trauma a false accusation can pack.
But now it is time to bring an end to this devaluing of men and ask our men to join the effort to make this country great again. An important part of this is going to be to let men know how much they are valued, respected, and appreciated. Respect and admiration is the fuel for the masculine and our men have been running low on that resource for over 50 years. It is time for us to give our men the recognition they deserve. The loving fathers, the hard working men who support their families, the creative men who entertain, the brilliant men who theorize, the brave men who protect our borders, the everyday men who day in and day out work for the betterment of our country and do so even within this climate of disdain for men and masculinity.
It is these men who need to be honored and given respect and admiration. It is these men who will be doing the tough work of making the country great again.
As you can imagine, judging by the name of this site, I have many ideas about how to bring the message forward that men are good. Perhaps one of the best ideas would be to have you create a White House Council for Boys and Men. President Obama, immediately following his inauguration created a White House Council for Women and Girls. This has done great things for women and girls. However when a group of us got together and created a proposal to create a White House Council for men and boys we were ignored. Totally. Obama went so far as to strike the topic of a White House Council for Boys and Men from the agenda of a meeting he had with one of our group. He simply didn’t want to talk about it much less do anything. I’m sure you can imagine our frustration and our hopes that you might have a different response.
My sense is that our country is more than ready to see the male bashing be a thing of the past and to embark on a new path of honoring and admiring both our men and our women, our boys and our girls. I am guessing you will feel this way also.
Men Are Good!
Men commit suicide four times as often as women and no one knows why. This has been going on for many years. The chart below shows this ratio as being stable from 1950 to 2014 so that tells us that the ratio is not due to some recent shift in our cultural values or due to the economy or some other external source. (blue line is males, black line females, US suicides per 100,000) There are other stats that show that even in the 19th century this ratio seems to hold up. But why?
Let’s take a male friendly look into the possible reasons for this.
First we need to look at the standard manner of dismissing such a huge difference. So many people, including people in our educational systems, suicide prevention organizations and even researchers make the claim that men commit suicide more often due to their choice of lethal means. They point out that 25,926 males used lethal means to kill themselves in the United States in 2012 and only 2,818 females used the same lethal means. Most listen and then nod in agreement at how many men use lethal means and how few women, assuming this must be why men suicide more often than women. Then it is pointed out that many more males than females commit suicide so it is more accurate to compare the percentage of male and female suicides that use lethal means. Have a look at this chart and notice that men chose the lethal means of hanging or firearms in about 81.6% of their completed suicides. But also notice that women chose those same lethal means in 54.7% of their completed suicides. Those two numbers are not that far apart. Yes, this is probably a part of the reason for men to complete suicide more often than women but it in no way explains the mammoth four to one ratio that has held for years. Something else is obviously happening.
Most people are not even concerned about this difference. If you look at the suicide prevention web sites you will notice that this problem is rarely discussed on the first page and all too often not even on later pages. They usually fail to tell their readers that the largest risk factor for suicide is being male. This is such an important piece of data it is hard to believe that they routinely omit it but they do. Even government reports on suicide, college classes, media stories, suicide conferences and many others tend to fail in alerting people to this problem. People are simply not interested. Even researchers lack interest. Just try and find research studies that look into the reasons for this difference. You probably won’t find much.
There is one man, a psychologist, Thomas Joiner, who has theorized about this difference. Joiner points out a possible contributing factor for the 4 to 1 ratio is that men are more fearless and this fearlessness allows them the courage to end their own lives. A very interesting and at least partially true idea but again, it would be difficult to explain such a huge difference by one psychological trait. I think Joiner is on to something but I think it is just a part of the puzzle.
Let’s turn to some other ideas that might relate to our understanding why boys and men are so much more likely to complete suicide. Let’s first look at cultural messages.
It starts early. Little boys are told that BIG BOYS DON’T CRY. Most of us shudder at the thought that this clearly tells boys they need to stuff their feelings but there is an even more pernicious aspect to this. When an adult tells a little boy that big boys don’t cry they are indeed telling him to stuff his feelings but they are also telling him something else. They are telling him that when he does feel hurt and in need of support that they, the adult offering this idea, will not be there to help and offer compassion. So the message is two fold. First it tells the boys to stuff it and second it alerts him that when he is feeling hurt he should not expect support or compassion. He watches as his sisters get what he lacks. (for more information on boys see my book Helping Mothers be Closer to Their Sons: Understanding the World of Boys)
With this default it is simple to see that he will be unlikely to seek help when he has been taught for years that no support will be there when he is in need.
Much has been said about men being reluctant to express emotions but what has not been pointed out is that no one really wants to hear men’s emotions. How about you? When was the last time you offered to listen to a man who was emoting? Most of us have to answer that we haven’t done that for a very long time or possibly ever. A man’s emotional pain is generally seen as taboo, something that people want to avoid. You can contrast this with the way people see women’s emotional pain and you see that women’s pain is seen as a call to action. When women have tears people scurry to help, when men have tears people simply scurry away.
But that’s far from all our culture does to boys and men. As boys get older the culture refuses to accept any signs of dependency. Men, and sometimes older boys must appear to have things covered by themselves, to appear independent, and when they don’t, guess what happens? They are shamed as not being real men. A man named Peter Marin wrote an excellent article on homelessness and explained this very dynamic. Here’s what he said:
“To put it simply: men are neither supposed nor allowed to be dependent. They are expected to take care of others and themselves. And when they cannot or will not do it, then the assumption at the heart of the culture is that they are somehow less than men and therefore unworthy of help. An irony asserts itself: by being in need of help, men forfeit the right to it.“
Exactly. A man’s choice is to appear independent or face being judged as not being a real man. The hallmark of a suicidal person is to feel hopeless and helpless. So the man who feels hopeless and helpless also knows that if he exposes this he will be judged as not being a real man. This is a very tough double bind that men face. If I do open up about my helplessness and hopelessness I will be judged harshly, if I don’t open up I am totally on my own. Most men choose to be on their own. Can you blame them?
This is just one facet of what scientists have named “precarious manhood.” They have shown that around the world men and young men are expected to prove their manhood repeatedly in order to be considered men. Men are under constant surveillance to appear independent and if they fail to appear independent they pay a severe price in being devalued and judged as not being “real” men. Women face nothing similar. When girls reach physical maturity they are considered women, not so for the boys.
Men intuitively understand the above. They live it on a daily basis. However, women are not under similar pressures and don’t realize the hardships men face. Too many times women simply expect men to be more like them. I often see it in the couples therapy I do. The women expect their men to talk openly about their vulnerabilities, their feelings, and their need for help. This of course flies in the face of his certainty that his neediness and feelings will do nothing but harm to him and expose his dependence. He has a natural and learned tendency to do his best to appear independent and he comes by it honestly. For us to suddenly expect him to do a complete 180 degree change and appear needy is a bizarre and unreasonable expectation.
These two elements, not expecting any help to be available and routinely being shamed for any sign of dependence have a cumulative impact on men. When they do feel hopeless and helpless it is easy to see now why he would be less likely to open up about this to anyone.
Let’s turn to the research and see if there are studies that help us understand why men would be so much more likely to complete suicide.
The work of Shelly Taylor is a good example of research that helps us in understanding this problem. Taylor realized in the early 2000’s that nearly all of the research on stress had been done only on male subjects. Women had been left out. What we know about fight and flight surely applies to men. Taylor proceeded to only study women under stress. She wondered if women might have different strategies. She found that women, unlike men, would be much more likely to “tend and befriend.” That is, women were more likely to move towards interaction when stressed, to move towards other people. A sharp contrast to the male tendency of fight and flight that moves men either into action or inaction. So think about it. Can you see how the female nature of moving towards others when stressed will make it much more likely that she will interact with a person who will realize her distress and then push her to seek services? Notice also that the male tendency to move to action or inaction under stress takes him away from concerned others. Indeed action and inaction are very powerful forms of healing (for more info see The Way Men Heal or Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing) but they do leave men more on their own to heal and a very powerful depression is a very difficult thing to heal by ourselves. The more feminine interactive modes are more likely to open avenues of loving others challenging our shame, guilt, and self deprecation. Healing with action and inaction will often lack this outer challenge from someone we love and this leaves men more at risk to persistent negative thoughts, shame, and guilt. His pain is less visible to others and this is dangerous in a powerful depression.
I hope you are seeing that men are taught to keep their emotions to themselves, that their emotional pain is not something that others want to hear, and that it is not something that does them much good if expressed. Rather, they see that if expressed they run into a wall of shame and judgment. It is a short step to now realize that for these reasons he is much less likely to seek “help.” First he knows it is likely not there for him but second he also knows that it’s a trap, if he does show his vulnerability he is toast.
Then there is the biological aspect to this. Men get 10 times more testosterone than women and we are now learning some fascinating things about testosterone. For years scientists have been unsuccessful in trying to connect testosterone with aggression. With improved research techniques they now know that rather than being related to aggression , testosterone pushes men to strive for status and to protect that status once gained. Men and to a lesser degree boys, are built to strive for status. Wanting to succeed, wanting to win, wanting to be good at something and working towards that are all now known to be related to testosterone. It’s easy to see how winning and succeeding are important to men and boys and also are the antithesis of dependency. When we win we are far from dependent. Boys and men are not only socially conditioned to be independent they are pushed in the same direction by their biology. Independence equals success, dependence equals failure.
Another impact of testosterone that has been verified recently is that it reduces fear and increases willingness to take risks. This adds some strength to Joiner’s ideas about fearlessness.
If you look at the factors we are discussing separately they don’t make much sense. Why push boys to not cry? Why try and win all the time? Why does precarious manhood push men to repeatedly prove their manhood? Why would testosterone push men to strive for status and take risks? Each by itself doesn’t make much sense. But if you look at them working together it begins to add up. All of these things are helping men in what is being called the masculine hierarchy. Big Horn Sheep butt heads to determine which male will have access to the top rated females, right? What scientists are now finding is that human males also live in a hierarchy. And, like the sheep, the bottom line of the hierarchy is reproductive access. Precarious manhood, testosterone, the desire to win and not be seen as dependent are all factors in moving upwards in the male hierarchy. None of this really makes much sense until you realize that women really, really, like high status. Men of high status, like millionaires, Senators, professional sports players, famous musicians all have a much better chance of attracting women than most guys on the street. These men are high in the male hierarchy. All men know this and will work hard to be as high in the hierarchy as he can, knowing that higher status means a better chance of success with very attractive women.
So really, the parents discouraging their sons from crying in public is done not as a crazy and inexplicable act but as a way to help him be higher in the hierarchy. They want their son to succeed. Same with precarious manhood. The pushing of males to repeatedly prove their worth is just another way to push him higher in the hierarchy. Testosterone does something similar when it pushes men and boys to strive for status. It is this striving for status that has literally built much of modernity. It is nothing to sneeze at.
Men live in this hierarchy each day, in fact, their lives are surrounded by hierarchy. What are men’s favorite sections of the newspaper? Sports and business right? What do those have in common? Hierarchy after hierarchy. Things are broken down to who is first, second, third and on and on. IBM stock up today, DOW up but the NASDAQ down at the close of trading. RBI’s, batting averages, quarterback ratings and a host of sports stats are the domain and love of many men. Think hierarchy. Many men enjoy this and women are often perplexed.
The hierarchy is what it is, but it does have some lethal effects when it comes to suicide. Men will strive to stay up in the hierarchy as high as they can. But this means putting on your best face whenever possible, putting your best foot forward. In order to maintain your place in the hierarchy you don’t want to share your failures, your dependencies, or your depression. This puts men into a very dangerous place. Their lives have often been filled with striving for status and trying to put a successful face on for the public.
Women often do not understand this. They think that he should just get over it and start talking about stuff. But wait a minute. Women have a similar hierarchy. It’s called attractiveness. Women do their best to put their best foot forward when it comes to their appearance. While men’s hierarchical involvement is more global and touches nearly every sphere of his life, a woman’s hierarchy is more limited to attractiveness. Just as status is one of a man’s tickets to reproductive success, the same is true for women and attractiveness. And most women work hard at this. Just a quick look at the 64 billion dollar cosmetic industry should give you a sense of how important this is. Just for reference, the NFL, MLB and the NBA bring in a combined revenue of about 26 billion dollars. That’s less than half of the cosmetics. So women work hard to stay as near the top of their hierarchy as possible and they spend quite a bit to do so. Have you ever heard of a women refusing to leave the house without her makeup? Can you see how this is similar to the men? She wants to put her best foot forward and be able to mask her imperfections just like the men.
The difference is that women’s decisions to not go out without their makeup tends to have much less severe consequences than a man’s reticence over his depression. Depression is seen as failure, a status dropping weight that needs to be fixed privately and he is all too often left alone in the weight of his troubles.
There is one more factor that is rarely discussed that I think we need to at least mention. The devaluation of men and boys.
China is one of the only countries in the world where women commit suicide more than men. The chart below shows three western countries and then China. Notice that all of the western countries appear to have men outnumbering women. China however flips that and shows that female suicide in China actually outnumbers males. Why would this be? Why would almost every other country show men to outnumber women in suicides but China has more female suicides?
Most of the theorists point towards China’s devaluation of women as being the cause. They say that women in China are seen as inferior, boy babies are preferred to the point of aborting girl babies in order to have a male. Valuing males over females say the theorists, must create an environment where the females are more likely to take their own lives. I tend to think that their assessment is at least partly correct. But what does that tell us about our own country? I think a case can be made that in our country it is the men who are devalued, men are seen as inferior and this devaluation impacts men and boys in the US in the same way theorists are positing it impacts girls and women in China. Just look at how easy it is to bash men. Imagine yourself in public commenting that men are jerks. What response would that bring? I have seen this often and no one bats an eye. Most people will just nod. But now think what would happen if you proclaimed that women were jerks. I have seen this one too and can tell you what I have seen is people immediately defending women and castigating you for saying such a thing. This is a huge and unrecognized double standard. It’s not uncommon for people to laugh at men, for men to be forgotten when it comes to their emotional pain, for men to be devalued and used as cannon fodder, to die on the battlefield (97% male deaths), and in dangerous jobs (93% male deaths). Could it be that this devaluation of men and boys plays a role in their greater numbers of suicides? I am guessing yes.
I hope you are starting to get a sense of why men might commit suicide more often than women. Let’s list the factors we have discussed:
- Choice of more lethal means of suicide.
- Joiner’s ideas of fearlessness
- Big boys don’t cry and knowing there is no support
- Disallowing dependency in men
- Precarious Manhood (facing lifelong judgment about his manhood)
- Testosterone and its encouraging striving for status, limiting fear, and increasing tolerance of risk
- Hierarchical nature of men
- The devaluation of men and boys
Men, due to both biological and social factors are less likely to seek out “help” when they are depressed whether it’s a professional helping connection or a personal one. A great deal of the psychological community views this male tendency to avoid therapy and “help” as being pathological. I am hoping that from reading this article you will be able to see that it is more a natural consequence of the man’s nature, his hormones, and his environment. Our task is to find therapeutic interventions that will work with men. They will likely be starkly different from the traditional modes we now use. Our present therapeutic industry is built for women and their “tend and befriend” styles of healing and their face to face talking and emoting. This works great for most women and some men but it fails miserably for many men and some women. Therapy is not built for men and tends to miss the mark.
If we want to be of service to men we will need to change our ideas about healing and our modes of intervention.