Women and Anxiety

Women are twice as prone to anxiety as men — but girls don’t start out more anxious than boys, and it’s not because women are “natural” worriers:

When it comes to our preconceived notions about women and anxiety, women are unfairly being dragged through the mud. While women are indeed more fretful than men on average right now, this difference is mostly the result of a cultural setup—one in which major social and parenting biases lead to girls becoming needlessly nervous adults. In reality, the idea that women are “naturally” twice as anxious as men is nothing more than a pernicious illusion.

In my book Nerve, I call this the “skinned knee effect”: Parents coddle girls who cry after a painful scrape but tell boys to suck it up, and this formative link between emotional outbursts and kisses from mom predisposes girls to react to unpleasant situations with “negative” feelings like anxiety later in life. On top of this, cultural biases about boys being more capable than girls also lead parents to push sons to show courage and confront their fears, while daughters are far more likely to be sheltered from life’s challenges. If little Olivia shows fear, she gets a hug; if little Oliver shows fear, he gets urged to overcome it.

The result of these parenting disparities is that by the time girls grow into young women, they’ve learned fewer effective coping strategies than their male counterparts, which translates to higher anxiety. The sexes learn to deal with fear in two very different ways: men have been conditioned to tackle problems head-on, while women have been taught to worry, ruminate, and complain to each other (hey, I’m just reporting the research) rather than actively confront challenges. These are generalizations, of course; the fact that I have always been an Olympic-caliber worrier offers us just one example of how men can fret with the best of them, and everyone knows at least one woman who appears not even to know what fear is. Still, these differences in upbringing clarify quite a bit about the gender gap in anxiety.

And it’s not just that women are actually more anxious because of cultural factors; they’re also perceived as more anxious even when they display the same emotions as men:

We have an odd tendency to label women as anxious even when they aren’t. A recent, highly revealing study showed that even in situations in which male and female subjects experience the same level of an emotion, women are consistently seen—and even see themselves—as being “more emotional” than men. It shouldn’t be too surprising, then, that this bias holds for anxiety as well; we buy into the fretful-women stereotypes far too often. Another report, for example, found significant differences in the way doctors respond to patients who report common stress symptoms like chest pain: Whereas men get full cardiac workups, women are more often told that they’re just stressed or anxious, and that their symptoms are in their heads.

It should be pretty clear by now that the claims about women being far more innately anxious than men are suspect, but before I depart in a blaze of justice, one final point is in order: Men are getting off much too easily in the anxiety discussion. Probably the most significant reason why women get diagnosed with anxiety disorders twice as often as men isn’t that they’re doubly fearful. It’s because anxious men are much less likely to seek psychological help.

60 comments for “Women and Anxiety

  1. chava
    April 21, 2011 at 11:18 am

    …….so we shouldn’t just emotionally alienate our young boys when they get hurt, we should start doing it to our young girls as well? Talk about correlation vs. causation–show me the fracking causal link between giving Oliver a hug when he skins his knee and therefore not teaching him “effective coping.” Oh, wait–what used to be the non-PC language for that? Turning him into a “sissy” or “a girl.” Hadn’t we moved past this?

    Yeah, no thanks. I got enough of that in Scientology, where pity when you were sick or injured supposedly encouraged you to become accident or illness prone.

  2. April 21, 2011 at 11:28 am

    In my book Nerve, I call this the “skinned knee effect”: Parents coddle girls who cry after a painful scrape but tell boys to suck it up, and this formative link between emotional outbursts and kisses from mom predisposes girls to react to unpleasant situations with “negative” feelings like anxiety later in life. … If little Olivia shows fear, she gets a hug; if little Oliver shows fear, he gets urged to overcome it.

    So what are we to do? If we go by this study and decide to call women “unnaturally nervous” should we try to fix it? Should we treat little girls more like little boys?

    Clark says later:

    The flip side of being raised to always show strength is that men come to feel that going to a therapist is a sign of weakness or failure (think of Tony Soprano’s mopey resistance to the benefits of psychiatry), which is why men constitute just 37 percent of therapy patients, by some estimates.

    So what is the effect of that lack of men in therapy? Well I’d say that men’s obscenely high rate of suicide is likely a result.

    And frankly, if women are “worrying” and men are offing themselves – I know which one I’d rather do.

    Lastly, I know this is anecdotal coming from a white, cisgendered heterosexual man, but my mother was an egalitarian feminist and refused to tell me to “suck it up.” I was coddled when injured or sick and rewarded for expressing my feelings. I was never chastised for crying. I grew up well adjusted, loving and kind. I never got into competitive sports and still have a dream of being a house-husband some day (as soon as I pay off these student loans.) I am a bit of a worry-wart, though.
    Suffice to say, I fully support raising all our kids like little girls. Better have them worry as adults than never reach adulthood.

  3. Kristen J.
    April 21, 2011 at 11:34 am

    What unmitigated bullshit. I’m anxious (as are a good number of my friends – YMMV) because constantly being told that I am supposed to keep everyone fucking happy all.the.time. is stressful. Women and girls are often held responsible for the emotional well-being of everyone else in their lives. Husband isn’t happy, your fault, why aren’t you doing X, Y, Z to make it better. Kids aren’t happy? You’re the cause. And no one freaking coddled me when I skinned my knee. They told me to stop those unladylike outbursts.

  4. Helen
    April 21, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Ah, more guilt tripping for parents. You really don’t see enough of that these days…

    Again, this is anecdotal but I’d put my anxiety issues down to being bullied throughout school and having a very turbulent home life during my late teens. In fact if I had more support and reassurance during those times I’d imagine I’d be less of an anxious adult.

    So you can mark me down as not convinced, unless he’s got some studies/data that actually demonstrate causation tucked away in that book….

  5. wl
    April 21, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Men also do shit to women that causes anxiety and PTSD.

  6. Li
    April 21, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    EasilyEnthused: So what is the effect of that lack of men in therapy? Well I’d say that men’s obscenely high rate of suicide is likely a result.

    Women have a substantially higher rate of suicidal behaviour than men. Men, however, overwhelmingly choose more lethal means, and thus have a higher successful suicide rate. Add on the fact that queer men have a much higher rate of suicidal behaviour relative to straight men, especially if they are queer men of colour, and the whole “men commit suicide because of teh masculinity” thesis starts to become pretty tenuous.

  7. C
    April 21, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    What Kristen J. said.

    Girls learn early on that it’s their job to take care of everyone. They’re expected to think of everything, be responsible for everything and everyone. And if they fail at this, other people judge them negatively. Plus, women have a much longer list of rules and expectations to worry about breaking: beauty standards, housework standards, mothering standards, etc. Media and advertisers aim everything at women with the message “Are you doing it wrong? You should worry that you’re doing it wrong, even if you didn’t know you were doing it or that there was any wrong way to do it.” That’s pretty damn anxiety-inducing.

    Also, I really doubt that the problem is daughters learning that “emotional outbursts” gain parental rewards. When boys are thought stronger and more capable than girls, parents react with more worry when their daughter faces a challenge, starting in infancy. Kids learn when they should be worried by watching their parents. So girls learn to be more worried, more often.

  8. KJ
    April 21, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    I’d also say that women have more to be anxious about. Think about the way women are culturally conditioned to groom themselves to please others, care for the feelings of others, be hyper vigilant about safety etc.

  9. Glenna
    April 21, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Is this equally true for women versus men across all races and social classes?

    (I’m thinking of ‘white women’s tears’, and how that’s exactly what the research is supporting: [white, middle/upper class] women are rewarded with attention for expressing a “negative” emotion. There doesn’t seem to be an equivalent ‘cis women’s tears’ trope that applies to women of all races, so I’m wondering what would happen if the study expanded beyond parental influence.)

  10. April 21, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    My partner tells me that she can’t stand to hear babies crying at night because it invokes some biological part of herself. She awakens from the sound because, as she postulates, some biological impulse implores her to take of it.

    This causes her anxiety, but this article tries to use a broad brush, when a much more nuanced approach would be far more accurate.

  11. Eve
    April 21, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    wl: Men also do shit to women that causes anxiety and PTSD.

    This.

    Wasn’t there a Feministe post some months back which discussed the strong correlation between infant mortality rates and race in the United States, and how it’s not due to poverty at all but simply the sheer -stress- of racism on non-white women?

    So don’t you think that sexism does that to all women?

    Why am I so gosh-darn anxious? Gee, I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with the constant stress of being threatened with sexual violence…?

    Nah. It must just be because my mommy gave me snuggies when I had an owwie.

  12. April 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Li: Women have a substantially higher rate of suicidal behaviour than men. Men, however, overwhelmingly choose more lethal means, and thus have a higher successful suicide rate. Add on the fact that queer men have a much higher rate of suicidal behaviour relative to straight men, especially if they are queer men of colour, and the whole “men commit suicide because of teh masculinity” thesis starts to become pretty tenuous.

    Er…so queerness and masculinity are mutually exclusive? Because it kinda sounds like that from your comment.

  13. Cel
    April 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    “Women have a substantially higher rate of suicidal behaviour than men. Men, however, overwhelmingly choose more lethal means, and thus have a higher successful suicide rate. ”

    The male suicide rate is more than four times higher than that of women in America.

    http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suiciderates/en/

    If you claim that women are truly more suicidal than men (but simply fail in their attempts), then that would mean women are more than four times worse than men at killing themselves. In other words, women as a whole are not just incompetent relative to men, but staggeringly incompetent.

    This seems an implausible claim.

    “Add on the fact that queer men have a much higher rate of suicidal behaviour relative to straight men, especially if they are queer men of colour, and the whole “men commit suicide because of teh masculinity” thesis starts to become pretty tenuous.”

    You have not explained how the two facts are contradictory. If one claims that men commit suicide more due to social factors, gay men also live in the same society as we do and are subject to the same social influences. What is your point?

  14. April 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Li: Women have a substantially higher rate of suicidal behaviour than men. Men, however, overwhelmingly choose more lethal means, and thus have a higher successful suicide rate.

    Actually, that supports my point: women choose less-sucessful methods of suicide because they want help. You can’t get help if you’re dead.

    And as far as the queer men killing themselves – no doubt there. It must be hard as hell being attracted to the same sex that has members that want to kill you for being attracted to them.

  15. April 21, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Why am I so gosh-darn anxious? Gee, I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with the constant stress of being threatened with sexual violence…?

    It really is a problem that people like yourself are constantly threatened with sexual violence. It is a commonly repeated theme among feminist women I encounter online. My personal experience with women I know and love in real life hasn’t been the same however.

    Do all women feel the same constant threat of sexual violence as you do?

  16. Brennan
    April 21, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Actually, that supports my point: women choose less-sucessful methods of suicide because they want help. You can’t get help if you’re dead.

    You’re regurgitating a pretty harmful stereotype here. It’s only a hop, skip, and a jump from “they want help” to “they just want attention.” The women downing whole bottles of pills aren’t doing it for the free therapy; they’re doing it because they’re suicidal.

  17. April 21, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Brennan: You’re regurgitating a pretty harmful stereotype here.It’s only a hop, skip, and a jump from “they want help” to “they just want attention.”The women downing whole bottles of pills aren’t doing it for the free therapy; they’re doing it because they’re suicidal.

    I apologize. I should say “they need help” and the men need help too.

    So why do men succeed at it and/or choose more lethal methods?

  18. Jim
    April 21, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Brennan: The women downing whole bottles of pills aren’t doing it for the free therapy; they’re doing it because they’re suicidal.

    And yet they are doing it in a way that somehow manages to get them medical intervention that saves their lives, by a four to one margin.

    Eve: Gee, I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with the constant stress of being threatened with sexual violence…?

    This makes obvious sense. And by that reasoning men should be far more anxious than women about being murdered or maimed. It may be that men are just in denial about the threat.

  19. chava
    April 21, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    MUST we turn this into a thread about whether masculinity is or is not harmful? Last time I checked, acknowledging that constructions of masculinity often hurt men as well as women didn’t always and already give credence to the patriarchy.

  20. preying mantis
    April 21, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    “So why do men succeed at it and/or choose more lethal methods?”

    Greater comfort/familiarity with/access to firearms? Women being socialized to think of others to the extent that they feel intense guilt at the thought of someone having to clean up the mess left by more certain (ie, violent) methods? Men being socialized away from less painful/messy methods by the cry-for-help and feminine stereotype?

  21. PrettyAmiable
    April 21, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    EasilyEnthused: Do all women feel the same constant threat of sexual violence as you do?

    Well, I happen to know that all women feel exactly as I do all the time.

    Lady-folks! We’re currently feeling overly-caffeinated, FYI. Woman-monolith OUT.

  22. Jim
    April 21, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    chava: MUST we turn this into a thread about whether masculinity is or is not harmful?

    Thank you. There is a whole other opposition being outlined, between a stoic worldview and aaaa….I don’t know what to call it – an operatic worldview – one in which shit happens in life, you deal with it or not, end of story, and another one, in which reverses and griefs in life must be exposed, and decried, and if all goes right, the great moral authority in the universe steps in Sets Things Right.

    Those may be/are gendered in our society, but I suspect that state fo affairs is recent and probably particular to specific families and sub-cultures.

    Then there are just plain old individual differenes. My mother used to say that when one of us four got an owwie, she had to quick quick remember which strategy went with which kid. With me, I needed to be comforted. My brother needed to be ignored, or it just compounded the hurt. My sister preferred to be laughed out of things and my little brother preferred to be reminded to pull himself together. And no one but me appreciated being comforted, not at all, resented the fuss really.

  23. SephONE
    April 21, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    “And by that reasoning men should be far more anxious than women about being murdered or maimed.”

    Except sexual violence toward women can often involve murder and maiming anyway, while also being excused, dismissed, enabled, and just plain not addressed by the larger part of our culture. Sexual violence is also more specifically targeted at women, while also being seen as more acceptable, so I think the threat in this case is a /bit/ more focused here and women have a /bit/ more to be stressed about.

  24. james
    April 21, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    “Actually, that supports my point: women choose less-sucessful methods of suicide because they want help. You can’t get help if you’re dead.”

    ?!? WTF? Can you just re-read this to hear what it sounds like? Because it sounds like a flat out admission that you’re wrong, combined with a complete failure to see it. When you say “women choose less-sucessful methods of suicide” because “they want help” and “You can’t get help if you’re dead”; what I hear is “women don’t try and kill themselves” because “they don’t want to die”, and “are anxious to avoid dying”.

    I mean, surely if the motivation isn’t killing yourself and you don’t make a determined effort to do it, then it ain’t a suicide attempt. If you don’t want to die, want help, and don’t use a particularly risky method – what with being worried about dying – then it’s a real stretch to call it suicide. Sure, some people may self-harm, but accidently kill themselves because they cut too deep or swallow too many pills, but that’s more death by misadventure.

  25. April 21, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    SephONE
    Except sexual violence toward women can often involve murder and maiming anyway …

    Often? I’d say a rape victim being murdered happens rarely – given that 1 in 4 women will be raped in her lifetime, if we assume half those rape victims would have to be rape+murdered for it to be an “often” occurrence … then 1 in 8 women being rape+murdered? Maybe 1 in 16?

    I’m not saying you’re wrong about women’s fear for violence being tied to a sexual assault, though. Sexual assault often happens in private, right? If someone is physically assaulting you in public, you probably have less to worry about (escalation-wise) than someone being violated in private.

    But none of this really matters: all that matters is that the vast majority of women must constantly fear sexual assault for it to affect their well being – regardless of the rationality of that fear.

    That said, until I can find (or someone shows me, whichever comes first) that research has shown a majority of women constantly are being threatened with sexual assault, then it’s not honest to legitimately point a finger in that direction when we ask why women are so anxious.

    You might as well say “Because Patriarchy” and consider the question answered.

  26. Eve
    April 21, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Hey, EasilyEnthused – your blog pretty easily identifies you as a misogynistic anti-feminist, so how’s about you step off and lead these terribly complicated and confusing issues to us little ladies, eh?

    Jim: And by that reasoning men should be far more anxious than women about being murdered or maimed. It may be that men are just in denial about the threat.

    Yeah. Two points, dude.

    First, men are more often murdered or maimed in part because men are substantially more likely to be involved in activities which make them likely to be targets, ie, criminal activities. Whereas women are likely to be sexually assaulted because…we were female (oops!). In other words, men have a certain amount of control over the level of danger they face which women do not enjoy.

    Second, some groups of men do have significant anxiety that they will be the subject of physical violence. Jim, I’m going to hazard a guess here that you are white.

  27. April 21, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Eve, your blog pretty easily identifies you as a paranoid misandrist, so how about you stop giving me titles and address the topic at hand instead of accusing me of opinions I don’t hold?

    From your blog:

    Only much later, after college, would this occur to me: he was explaining to them how to attack us.

    You think that your family life, sex-ed class was indoctrinating 7th-grade boys in the fine art of “rape?” WOW. And you got that from line-art drawings of internal organs?

  28. speedbudget
    April 21, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Given that 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, many of them multiple times, yeah, it’s a very real and present threat, and it’s something women think about ALL THE TIME. Your friends might not be conscious of it (because it’s a regular, nonstop occurrence in our lives), but most women are constantly monitoring their behavior in order to avoid the ever-present threat of sexual assault.

  29. speedbudget
    April 21, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    My comment might not be clear. It’s a regular, nonstop occurrence to be monitoring behavior and clothing etc. in order to “keep yourself safe” from an assault. Not that it’s a regular nonstop occurrence to be assaulted.

  30. April 21, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    I’m no statistician, speedbudget, but if 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted, and 1 in 6 women are raped, and 87% of rapes are acquaintance rape, where location and how you dressed have nothing to do with it, then we’re looking at ~10% of 1 in 6 women who will be stranger-raped, correct? That means 1 in 60 women?
    Do I have my figures right?

  31. SephONE
    April 21, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    @EasilyEnthused: Is that it? A petty semantics game with the word often? Assault and murder are not mutually exclusive from rape, Jim implied they were. I’m sorry the point I was making flew so far over your head. Besides that, I care very little if you think I’m right or wrong given you seem to base most of your conclusions on personal experiences (Because the women in your life would totally tell you about those kinds of fears without you even asking amirite? They’d tell you they were raped too, because rape victims get so much support when they do that!) and have incredibly vague definitions of what ‘the majority’ is. And by the way, the world does not revolve around /you/ and so you being convinced doesn’t suddenly mean /now/ it can become a legitimate reason because you agree. Get over yourself.

    Also, maybe the sexual violence against women is /one/ of the reasons for women’s anxiety. No one ever said it was the only reason. And Eve is right, from the very first post I see on Rape Culture on your blog it’s very obvious how ignorant and naive you really are.. but how arrogant you are to assume you know better than Melissa on the subject of rape culture.

    I quote you: “”Supports violence against women” has to be the most obscene public expression that I can imagine in North America. Allow me to demonstrate. Violence against women in the real world is not tolerated. Violence against women in MOVIES/TV is only done by villains (and sometimes they are defined by it.)
    As a society, we DO NOT CONDONE, ENDORSE OR ABIDE violence against women by men. ”

    Haha! You’re so clueless it’s painful. Yeah, so all those rape cases where the woman is basically told she asked for it or she did something to /make/ the man rape her and hurt her, that she had it coming and she should’ve ‘prepared’ for it and so therefore it’s her fault it ‘happened’, no responsibility for the actual rapist (which happen to largely be men. Oh wait, ‘men are just like that’, ‘boys will be boys’, she shouldn’t have dressed like that, she shouldn’t have went into his house after dinner, she shouldn’t have gotten drunk in a bar and not expected him to.. Sounds like condoning to me)! All used as justifications for his behavior and a way to blame the victim totally /don’t/ happen and totally don’t enable rapists. I can see why feminists keep telling you to read Feminism 101. Check Your Privilege. That little bubble of complacency you live in isn’t the real world.

  32. Jim
    April 21, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Eve: First, men are more often murdered or maimed in part because men are substantially more likely to be involved in activities which make them likely to be targets, ie, criminal activities.

    Victim-blaming troll. EE has your number.

    You are not worth talking to.

  33. tree
    April 21, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    so this article moves from parental stereotyping to general gender stereotyping. how exciting! i don’t really have an anxiety disorder that’s partially genetic and partially trauma-related at all. it’s just that my mummy kissed too many of my booboos when i was a little tree. good to know.

    i’m so glad that this condescending man ‘splained it all to me. oh, but, “hey, I’m just reporting the research”, so it’s SCIENCE.

    except that while he cites studies about fear in rats, he neglects to cite studies about the epigenetic effects of fear responses that last for three generations in mice and have nothing to do with how the second and third generations are parented. or that hypervigilance is often selected because it’s a good survival mechanism. or that making sweeping generalisations based on what, exactly? is bad science!

  34. April 21, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    SephONE:
    Haha! You’re so clueless it’s painful. Yeah, so all those rape cases where the woman is basically told she asked for it …

    Link, please?

  35. SephONE
    April 21, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    No, I refuse to continue a conversation with someone so offensively ignorant as this. I quote you: “As a side note, I fully recognize that this point would be valid in Saudi Arabia or many other countries/societies/cultures. However, the VAST VAST MAJORITY of Feminists we encounter are North American or European and cannot claim this aspect of Rape Culture exists where they live.” – They cannot claim because.. you say so and movie villains hurt women so it’s obviously bad because the world is that black and white. Wow. It’s so easy to look at those Other cultures and claim how bad they are while remaining completely shut out to all the problems when it comes to the place you live, isn’t it? You don’t even know the basics of victim blaming and yet you are on a feminist website lecturing others… it boggles my mind.

    So no, no link for you. Go look yourself. Unless you want to start paying me then I’m not here to teach you anything further (pointing out your obvious ignorance was good enough for me :D). How about looking on that Shakesville site you probably only skimmed over for five seconds? Feminism 101 explains a lot too. There are tags on Shakesville, one is Today In Rape Culture. Go nuts. Hell there are entire sites dedicated to pointing out victim blaming narratives when it comes to rape (and street harassment and abuse and…), I even mentioned a few in my post up there.

  36. Mandolin
    April 21, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    There’s also a correlation between dieting–er, sorry, I mean periodic, short term, severe calorie restriction–and anxious behavior.

  37. Mandolin
    April 21, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Ah, sorry, hadn’t realized this had become a clusterf*ck. (I’m trying to avoid moderation.)

    Anyway, yes, women attempt suicide at an enormously higher rate. Yes, they fail at an enormously higher rate. It’s not because they “want help” rather than to die, but because the suicide methods that are coded as feminine have a significantly smaller likelihood of working successfully.

    Men are more likely to shoot themselves which is seen as a masculine behavior–and is also very effective. They’re also more likely to hang themselves. Women are more likely to choose a “passive” suicide method, which is also slower and less sure, like pills or slitting their wrists, both of which are coded as feminine.

    As I understand it (perhaps one of the actual medical professionals who frequents the site can chime in) there isn’t as much difference as people suppose between attempting suicide “for help” and just plain attempting suicide. Both require a willingness to die.

  38. April 21, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    It’s not because they “want help” rather than to die, but because the suicide methods that are coded as feminine have a significantly smaller likelihood of working successfully.

    I’m not sure why we should assume that these two things are mutually exclusive, Mandolin.

  39. Mandolin
    April 21, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    What is your foundation for assuming people who use ineffective methods don’t want to die?

  40. April 21, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    What is your foundation for assuming people who use ineffective methods don’t want to die?

    My comment here did not put forth that assumption, Mandolin, so I’m not sure why you’re asking me to provide a foundation for it. But I remain curious as to why you assume that people who use ‘coded feminine’ methods of trying to kill themselves might not also have greater ambivalence about actually dying than those who use ‘coded masculine’ methods.

  41. Li
    April 21, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Fiona: Er…so queerness and masculinity are mutually exclusive? Because it kinda sounds like that from your comment.

    Yeah, I noticed that when I reread my comment this morning. I didn’t mean to imply that. Rather, I think that suicidal behaviour can be fairly strongly associated with oppression, since oppression is fucking stressful, oppression can limit access to health services, and elements of queer and trans* oppression in particular (not, for instance, wanting to out oneself to mental health providers or people in general) can play a major role. That is, I think queer men face a whole fuckload of barriers to seeking help over and above the self regulations of stoic masculinity, and that therefore ‘masculinity’ is a fairly inadequate explanation for men’s suicide rate unless people want to play the “heterosexuality as default” game. Does that make more sense?

    Cel: If you claim that women are truly more suicidal than men (but simply fail in their attempts), then that would mean women are more than four times worse than men at killing themselves. In other words, women as a whole are not just incompetent relative to men, but staggeringly incompetent.

    preying mantis pointed this out, but women and men tend to chose different means (I also said this!). Men pick the more lethal ones. There, I think, is a lot of ground to be examined in why that’s the case, but it’s not about competence. I’d also like to point out that in Australia, at least, people in general are overwhelming unsuccessful in their suicide attempts.

    Cel: You have not explained how the two facts are contradictory. If one claims that men commit suicide more due to social factors, gay men also live in the same society as we do and are subject to the same social influences. What is your point?

    I said queer men, not gay men. Straight people are not subject to the extremes of heterosexism. Straight people don’t face bullshit from their mental health providers on the basis of their sexuality. And the disproportionate representation of queer people in suicide stats is more disproportionate for queer men than it is for queer women.

    I’m not trying to throw out the influence of socialisation on queer men, but I am trying to trouble the narratives that lead to men’s suicide being tackled as being exclusively about men as a homogeneous group. Queer men need targeted mental health responses. Campaigns that target men as a whole have, in my experience (Australia), tended to engage with heterosexual masculinities (mateship!) and invisibilise queer ones.

  42. April 21, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    I’ll put this in the right thread: Oh, look, the rape apologist trolls are here!

    Not to mention the bizarre suicide people.

  43. Miss S
    April 21, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    I have generalized anxiety disorder. I’m not sure why I have it, but I’m fairly certain genetics plays a large role- my grandmother had it, half of her sisters had it, my mom has it, and one of my sisters have it.

    Having an anxiety disorder (at least the kind I have) is different than simply worrying. It means worrying in such an extreme way that it becomes hard to focus on school, work, or get any sleep.

    Having generalized anxiety disorder means not necessarily worrying about just one thing- ie rape. I don’t think I’ve ever been extremely worried about being raped. Concerned, yes. But that sick to my stomach, chest tightening, anxiety worry? Never. I’m far more likely to worry about what’s going to happen next month than what’s going to happen in the next 2 minutes.

    I think people are overlooking the distinction between typical anxiety, and those who suffer from an anxiety disorder, such as OCD or PTSD, or social anxiety. There is a difference.

  44. April 21, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Wow, this thread has turned really weird really fast.

    Nevertheless, I have to agree with what C and Kristen J said earlier, before this whole shitfest started. A great deal of my anxiety, at least, stems from the fact that I have seen myself as being responsible for everyone’s well-being since I was too young to know what “well-being” meant. As a kid I felt like it was my job to protect my family from anything and everything that might upset them – and because I couldn’t do that (I can’t do it now, as an adult, so I sure as hell couldn’t do it when I was 8) I felt like a bad daughter and a failed person. And now I worry about everything! How shocking.

  45. Tony
    April 21, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    It’s certainly interesting that although men are far more likely to die in suicide or as a victim of violence, women are still seen as more vulnerable. When you turn on the TV there are a lot more episodes about women being murdered than men. In movies you’ll often see hordes of men dying in explosions without shedding a tear, but you know the one female character will be rescued. If she does die, it’s an epic tragedy. So I would say that, the cultural anxiety does not always match the statistics. Just because something is statistically rarer, it does not mean there is proportionately less cultural anxiety over it.

    The same could be said then of individual anxiety. Although men are more in danger, because men are statistically physically stronger, we feel safer. The danger is hidden to us and we don’t see it. On the other hand, although women are statistically safer, they are statistically more aware of their physical vulnerability to men. I am reminded of an incident I read earlier this year about a 31 year old man who was walking alone at night in DC, and he saw a woman being harassed. He went to go help the woman, got into an argument with the man harassing her, the harasser pulled out a gun and shot him dead. The woman ran away. He did not feel fear because he felt that as a man, he was stronger and could be the protector, maybe it was even his duty to do so. So the cultural inculcation was misleading.

  46. Mandolin
    April 21, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Because the methods aren’t coded as ambivalent; they’re coded as feminine. Also, all the stuff I’ve read about suicide in psychology… and also, personal experience with suicidal people of both sexes… none of which is extraordinarily conclusive without cites for the first. But I think there are some really weird assumptions about ambivalence and suicide that come from, maybe, people who aren’t depressed mapping the way they see suicide onto the way people who are suicidal are seeing it? I’m not sure.

  47. Mandolin
    April 21, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    (FTR, I am failing to provide cites because I am lazy/busy… I wouldn’t blame you for blowing me off because of it.)

  48. Tony
    April 21, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    EasilyEnthused: Link, please?

    A clue: the most recent prominent case happened on February 11. And for every prominent, there are…

  49. CBrachyrhynchos
    April 21, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Having an anxiety disorder (at least the kind I have) is different than simply worrying. It means worrying in such an extreme way that it becomes hard to focus on school, work, or get any sleep.

    Oh yes. I think a big problem with how these issues get handled is that we overload the meaning of emotional terms like anxiety and depression.

  50. Bonn
    April 22, 2011 at 12:05 am

    My mom is pretty anxious, and she’s the reason I have a lot of anxieties about … a lot of things.

    It’s so weird when I think about it. She was often telling me how doing X would mean I would get hurt!killed/arrested/kidnapped/raped as a way to make me not do it. In public she liked to shame me by loudly commenting on my appearance in front of strangers. (“OH MY GOD DID YOU EVEN WASH YOUR HAIR IT LOOKS SO OILY!”) Or I would say a word in a perfectly innocent context (“jug” as the thing you drink from or “bugger” as a noun) and she would gasp and shout (again, in public), “DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS??” Any word with a less innocent meaning in another context might as well have been “fuck.”

    Then there was the stuff about grades. Basically, if you got a B you had failed and needed to be punished. My brother and I were given 10 cents per A (keep in mind this was the 90s) but if you got a B you had something taken away from you for the duration of the 9 weeks or semester–however long it was til the next grade card. When I was 9 I got a B plus in math and was informed that my mom had already told “everyone” I would be getting all As and that I had “let the family down” and made her into a liar.

    And there’s lots of other stuff. Lots and lots and lots.

    But it does make me wonder what on earth HER parents did to make HER be anxious like that. Or was she just born that way or what? I have no idea. Fortunately, my dad’s really easygoing. But now I have severe social anxiety issues and am always worried about everything because, even now, my mom plays behavior police.

    If I tried to cut her off, she would call the cops and report me missing. I tried not speaking to her for a few days (I don’t live anywhere near her) and she threatened in an email to call the embassy. So now there’s the fear of what she would do if I stopped talking to her. Great. Just another thing to worry about …

  51. April 22, 2011 at 12:20 am

    preying mantis:
    “So why do men succeed at it and/or choose more lethal methods?”

    Greater comfort/familiarity with/access to firearms? Women being socialized to think of others to the extent that they feel intense guilt at the thought of someone having to clean up the mess left by more certain (ie, violent) methods? Men being socialized away from less painful/messy methods by the cry-for-help and feminine stereotype?

    Not wanting to leave an ugly corpse?

    Wow, I just creeped myself out. *shudder*

  52. Mandolin
    April 22, 2011 at 12:31 am

    “Not wanting to leave an ugly corpse?”

    This is sometimes explicit.

  53. Mandolin
    April 22, 2011 at 1:07 am

    Ballgame, since I don’t have access to the academic papers I read in college, I attempted to fill in some cites via la google. A bit of quoting turned into 4 pages, which is basically post length. It’s not going to be an awesome post since it was super superficial research & I don’t feel like I have time right now to go more in depth. But at any rate, I think I shouldn’t drop 1,500 words into Feministe’s comments, so I’ll put it on Alas after I have time to compose an intro. (I think you’re still willing to comment there?) Anyway, I’ll drop a link when it’s up.

  54. Cel
    April 22, 2011 at 1:43 am

    “that therefore ‘masculinity’ is a fairly inadequate explanation for men’s suicide rate unless people want to play the “heterosexuality as default” game. Does that make more sense?”

    Then the obvious question: what is the explanation(s) for men’s suicide rate?

    Found a relevant graph from the WHO by the way, showing suicide rates over the last 50 years:

    http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/evolution/en/index.html

    It’s not a good picture.

    “I said queer men, not gay men.”

    What is the difference exactly?

  55. ch
    April 22, 2011 at 1:50 am

    Yeah, I’m with Miss S here. I have social anxiety, which means I worry, in a way that interferes with my life, activities, and normal thought processes, about how I’m perceived in social situations. I worry people don’t like me; I worry that I don’t display the proper social behaviors; I worry that this will affect my career or personal life.

    The root of this, for me, is clearly having been bullied as a kid, combined with the way girls are socialized to be nice and please everyone, etc. And there may be a genetic component here too, of course. So I think the article was right, at least, that the higher rate of anxiety among women is due to the way girls are socialized, though the article engages in some pernicious stereotypes and parenting-shaming, and in reality this anxiety-producing socialization has less to do with coddling and more to do with the expectations of female behavior.

    But for me, at least, my anxiety has little to do with rape or sexual violence. I fear these things to a normal and reasonable level; this fear doesn’t pervade my daily activity the way my other, anxiety-disorder-related fears do. That doesn’t mean that this is true for everyone; certainly some people have anxiety disorders of which sexual violence is a major component (and I would include PTSD in this category, though it certainly also applies to people with other anxiety disorders). But Eve, I think you’re generalizing women’s experiences far too much and misunderstanding the nature of anxiety disorders (as opposed to normal, rational fear– and many women have a fear of rape that is completely rational, no matter what society at large tells us).

  56. Dominique
    April 22, 2011 at 7:42 am

    1) This thread is being derailed by misogynists. Where are the moderators?
    2) Why do misogynists bother saying anything on feminist blogs? We don’t bother going to theirs. It’s called an exercise in futility. Just go away. No one is really paying attention to your comments since we’ve heard them all before and repeatedly. This space is for informative and educated discussion, not for whatever comes out of your brain.

    • April 22, 2011 at 9:21 am

      1) This thread is being derailed by misogynists. Where are the moderators?

      Well, “the moderators” are one person at this point, and that person is me, and sometimes I have to sleep and/or not stare at my computer all day and night.

  57. April 22, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Aaaaand shutting this thread down now because of the influx of assholes. Thanks for playing.

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