Anti-feminists, MRAs, meninists, or what have you, love to challenge feminists with the statistic showing that more men kill themselves than women. This is remarkably easy to deflect with the fact that more women attempt to kill themselves and men are just more successful at it. But I've seen some impressively long essays from men like this that are written in an attempt to use the former statistic to prove that men must be more oppressed, because they're clearly incredibly miserable if they'd resort to suicide.
It's with a heavy heart that I have to shove this into their faces:
Suicide is now the biggest killer of teenage girls worldwide.
Firstly, let me point out that this is from May of 2015. This must have been pretty widely ignored for me to have missed it.
The reason suicide is now the biggest killer of teen girls is because there has been a significant reduction in deaths from teen pregnancy and childbirth. This is great, but it also revealed the "hidden" (read: ignored) epidemic of self-harm and suicide among these girls across the world. In fact, in every region of the world except Africa, it's in the top three.
The biggest reason for these suicides? What Professor Vikram Patel calls "logical despair."
“Indian media is filled with aspirational images of romance and love,” he says. “The ability to choose your life partner is an idea that’s championed by Bollywood. But that’s completely not the case in reality for most young women.”
Young brides, says Suzanne Petroni, “are very often taken away from their peers. They're subjected to early and unwanted sex, and they’re much more likely to experience partner violence than people who marry later. All of these things put them at greater risk of suicide.”
In India, says Prof Patel, “female suicide rates are highest in parts of the country with the best education and economy, probably because women grow up with greater aspirations only to find their social milieu limits them.”
This is not just a problem in India, but it shows how a culture that tells women they're equal to men and that they can do and be whatever/whomever they want without really meaning it drives women to deep despair and suicide.
This is the biggest problem with tell marginalized people that prejudice and bigotry are over and they totally have equal opportunity. Teens hit 17, 18, 19, and abruptly find out that this is not true. Black teens begin to get profiled and are denied even undervalued jobs. Women find out that sexism in the workplace is still alive, well, and actively keeping them out of higher positions. Most adults still great you differently if you're gay, lesbian, or bisexual. And if you're intersex, pansexual, or trans? Forget it. Employment discrimination is still rampant against disabled individuals, and adults are just as cruel to fat people as high school students.
Things have not gotten nearly better enough. And when that fact hits you in the face after all the lies and propoganda peddled by media and our education system - it hurts, bad.
For girls, there's rape culture to pile on top of that.
Rhea (not her real name) is 17 and has attempted suicide twice. “Porn was everywhere in my school,” she says. Her boyfriend Andy became “obsessed with it”.
She’d “made it clear,” she says, that she “wasn’t ready to have sex,” but one evening he sexually assaulted her in a park. The assaults became routine. Rhea did nothing.
“The constant talk about porn had made me feel like what was happening was normal,” she says. She uses that word repeatedly to describe her attitude towards Andy’s assaults: normal.
“I felt trapped, like everyone thought it was normal and I had to go along with it if I wanted to be accepted.” The pressure to conform to these perceived expectations was so great that, eventually, Rhea says, “I felt like there was no way out.” She tried to kill herself.
Rhea lives in the UK.
Considering how underreported both sexual assaults and suicide attempts are, and considering how many stories I've heard that sound a lot like Rhea's, I'd can easily imagine that this kind of thing is far more routine than anyone wants to admit. How many girls are exactly like Rhea? Being driven to depression, despair, and even self-harm because their boyfriends are actually regularly assaulting them and they don't even realize that's what's happening? Because we normalize it?
I've been suicidal before, in different periods of my life. When I was younger, I didn't realize that what I was doing was self-harm and I didn't even realize I was suicidal because we don't talk about it in our society. Nobody explained to me that self-harm goes beyond cutting, and that wanting to die so badly that you're a little more reckless on the road than you ever should be, even if you don't have an actual plan, is still a state of being suicidal.
Looking back, I can say that every period of suicidal ideation came from feeling trapped. It came when I felt I couldn't escape an abusive situation. It came when I got home from college and found an economy still in tatters. It came when I felt I would never be able to escape the constant, severe anxiety and self-doubt that kept me from even trying to find a better job.
Luckily, I've never had Rhea's experience. But the point is, we set up girls to become trapped in relationships like that. And we set them up to have high hopes, only to fall flat on their faces from all the obstacles that are actually still in our way. That's why we want to die.
It's going to take a lot more than donations, condoms, and clean sheets to fix this problem.