Suicide and Sexism

I had a revelation the other night while watching the movie If I Were You. Marcia Gay Harden’s character discovers her husband has been having an affair only days before her mother dies. These losses compounded lead her to contemplate suicide. Her plan is thwarted when her theater troupe comes to her home and remind her of how essential she is to the success of their upcoming play. I won’t spoil it for you by telling you the ending but these were my thoughts when I saw this: “She won’t kill herself because she’ll disappoint too may people!”

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This led me to think about the difference in the suicide rate between men and women. To my current knowledge, men outnumber women on completed attempts. MRA-types like to cite this statistic when arguing men’s oppression. But it makes perfect sense! Women tend to carry immense responsibility in their lives. Not only are they responsible for themselves and how the world perceives them, but oftentimes, they carry responsibility for the behavior and feelings of others. The long-suffering housewife is a stereotype based on some truth.

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Women regularly neglect their needs for the needs of others; using up their sick days at work to fulfill parenting obligations and working through illness to satisfy people at work. Harden’s character in If I Were You is no exception–she juggles her marriage, caring for her ailing mother and a demanding job all while dealing with betrayal and loss. The one thing she decides to do completely for herself is thwarted by her sense of duty to her theater troupe. I don’t doubt many women stop short of suicide due to a sense of obligation and guilt over not fulfilling their responsibility. While I don’t believe in any one factor MOST affecting the likelihood someone will complete a suicide attempt, sexism is definitely significant.

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