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Male suicide crisis – how gender equality, feminism, and policy engendered this obscure issue – Richard Reeves
It’s a well-known fact that the global suicide rate is alarming, with an average of over 700,000 people taking their own lives each year. What isn’t remotely well-known, however, is that the suicide rate among males is three to four times higher than that among women. Richard V. Reeves, a senior fellow at the highly respected think tank Brookings Institution, where he directs the Future of the Middle-Class Initiative and co-directs the Center on Children and Families, has extensively researched this dark disparity between genders. Despite strong warnings not to, the father of three boys documented his findings in Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do about It in 2022, a critical but bold undertaking in light of our social landscape which dismisses the plight of men by virtue of its (perceived) infinite inferiority to the history of injustices suffered by women. Reeves sets out the structural and social shifts over recent decades, which have effectively left a vacuum previously occupied by permitted and biologically informed masculinity – now tainted as toxic. In an interview with Reeves, the maligned issue of male malaise and the social, cultural and ideological reasons driving this are discussed – highlighting just how crucial addressing the crisis faced by boys and men is to the well-being and flourishing of BOTH genders. – Nadya Swart
See timestamped topics below:
- 00:00 Richard Reeves on the male suicide rate
- 02:39 The social and practical effect of the pandemic
- 05:10 On the lack of awareness and emphasis on suicide gender disparity
- 08:06 On the rate of attempted suicide among women and the distinctive ways in which males and females express their struggle
- 12:45 An overview of male underperformance
- 16:21 The timeline of societal and structural shifts that have culminated in the current crisis plaguing boys and men
- 20:40 On the diagnosis of developmental disorders among boys
- 24:18 On the policy and educational reforms recommended to assist young men and alleviate the issues they face in an educational system that favours females
- 29:06 On the apparent lack of demand for HEAL (healthcare, education, administration and literacy) positions among males
- 31:47 On gender equality and the fundamental differences between genders
- 35:17 On gender equality and the desecration of the value of the nuclear family
- 38:36 On the dad deficit
- 42:00 On the implementation of changes necessary to facilitate both male and female flourishing
- 46:04 On the impact of the crisis faced by modern males on romantic relationships between men and women
Excerpts from the interview with Richard Reeves
Richard Reeves on broad suicide statistics
To answer your question directly, the ratio is about the same everywhere. We’ve got data. This is true both today and historically. The male suicide rate is between three and four times higher than the female one. In the US, it’s close to four times higher. But I should say this; there are some differences in some countries that the overall rate is going down. So even as the gender gap remains, the overall suicide rate is going down. So both for males and females.
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But in the US, it is going up for both – but with the same ratio. In terms of age, the highest rates of suicide are among middle-aged men, and there’s a race gap there, too, actually. This is one statistic where white men are actually more vulnerable. But the fastest growing rates of suicide are among younger men and men of colour. So between 2020 and 2022, the male suicide rate for boys and men between 15 and 24 rose by 8%. That was just in one year.
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On the impact of the female liberation movement on the role of men
The success of the women’s movement, of breaking that chain of dependency between the woman and the man by helping women to become economically independent, has had dramatic consequences for the way we think about families now, good or bad. And the answer is mostly good, some bad. It is good that we don’t have half the population economically dependent on the other. It is good that women have the same economic opportunities as men to be think tankers, journalists, lawyers. That’s a good thing.
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But the bad thing about it is that now it has destabilised identity and especially for men. So for women, they’ve added to their identity. So they’re mothers, but they’re also journalists or lawyers or whatever. So they’ve expanded the set of roles that they can fill. It’s been expansive. It’s been upwardly mobile. They’ve gained independence, and they’ve massively gained economic power. So today, 40% of women earn more than the typical man. In ’79, it was 13% of women. Now, it’s not 50%. If we had absolute gender equality, it would be 50%. But still, 40% of women earn more than the median man now. That’s a completely different world from just 30, 40 years ago. A completely different world.
And so that raises the question, what’s the distinct male role? If the distinct male role used to be provider and women don’t need providers anymore, even when they’re raising children, are men necessary? What about the men? Now, that’s a really important question and one that we’re only just beginning to answer. But the answer is definitely not to go back 50 years or blame feminism or see the women’s movement as anything other than the glorious liberation movement that it was.
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