So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
– Edward Arlington, Richard Cory
In the last few days, I’ve heard a lot of people attributing men’s suffering to the rise of feminism. Less readily discussed is the role of patriarchal enforcement of masculinity in that suffering. Newsweek’s big story right now is all about men and depression.
The Gary Cooper model of manhood—what Tony Soprano called “the strong, silent type” to his psychiatrist, Dr. Melfi—is so deeply embedded in our social psyche that some men would rather kill themselves than confront the fact that they feel despondent, inadequate or helpless . . .
For decades, psychologists believed that men experienced depression at only a fraction of the rate of women. But this overly rosy view, doctors now recognize, was due to the fact that men were better at hiding their feelings. Depressed women often weep and talk about feeling bad; depressed men are more likely to get into bar fights, scream at their wives, have affairs or become enraged by small inconveniences like lousy service at a restaurant.
Commenters at Pandagon immediately picked up on the absurdity of labeling fighting in bars, screaming at wives, having affairs and becoming enraged as “hiding their feelings.” Men haven’t been hiding their feelings at all; they’ve been expressing their feelings in the only way socially acceptable for them – anger. Anger is a manly emotion, one they’re often far more comfortable with than fear or sadness.
Even medical professionals make assumptions based on their gender prejudices. While women suffer the ready presumption of doctors that their physical illnesses are psychosomatic, or “all in their head,” men suffer the opposite. Because men are trained not to reveal emotional weakness or vulnerability, their doctors may not pick up on the physical signs and symptoms of their depression. The article cites the case of one man who committed suicide-by-train at the age of 24:
Totten learned afterward that her brother had indeed visited his primary-care physician but complained only of stomachaches, headaches and just generally “not feeling so great,” she says. The doctor didn’t make the connection.
The article also gives some insight into the lengths doctors must go to in order to convince men to accept counseling and treatment when they are having emotional difficulties. Practitioners re-frame the treatment as “taking control of the situation;” taking control is not in conflict with masculinity, whereas “needing help” would be.
This mandate for men to stay strong at all costs stems from the same system that mandates dependence and subordination for women: Patriarchy. When MRAs rail against the system that sets up fathers as “providers” and mothers as “nurturers,” then prefers to keep children with nurturers when the parents split, they’re railing against Patriarchy. But because the terms “Patriarchy” and “Men” are so often – wrongly – used interchangeably, the true enemy is obscured, and men lash out against the very people who support their right to be vulnerable – feminists.