Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Over the weekend I stopped into a local convenience store to purchase some obscenely expensive propane for the grill (long story) and had the pleasure of standing in line for several minutes studying a t-shirt with this charming graphic on it:

10. You can trade an old .44 for two new .22's. 9. You can have a handgun at home and another for the road. 8. If you admire a friend's handgun and tell him so, he will be impressed and let you try a few rounds with it. 7. Your primary handgun doesn't mind if you have a backup. 6. Your handgun will stay with you even if you are out of ammo. 5. A handgun doesn't take up a lot of closet space. 4. Handguns function normally every day of the month. 3. A handgun won't ask,

Needless to say it was a delightful experience, all the way around.

Later in the day, in an unrelated conversation with babydaddy, the topic of suicide rates came up. We were talking about how, in Wyoming, the wind whistles through the house in a spooky, haunting way sometimes no matter how tight your house is. And some people sort of half-jokingly attribute the very high suicide rate in Wyoming to the incessant wind.

But that got me thinking. The suicide rate in Wyoming is very high among white middle-aged males. Extremely high. And for most white middle-aged men in this state, gun ownership is extremely important. Central-to-their-identity important. And, as this t-shirt demonstrates, gun culture tends to coexist with some pretty sexist attitudes and behaviors.* Those sexist attitudes and behaviors are probably really not all that conducive to establishing and maintaining meaningful, fulfilling long-term relationships with women.** And being single is a risk factor for suicide. In fact, having a string of failed romantic relationships in your past is even more of a risk factor. So it seems like maybe having this worldview in which women are just a giant pain in the ass, and an object to be used and disposed of, and inherently flawed, unpredictable creatures, etc might just lead you to be a total failure with women, which might result in a depressing and lonely life. And since your gun is your best friend, why not let it help you out with this little problem you have?

Or maybe it's just a coincidence that gun culture tends to track with both sexism and high male suicide rates.

And maybe there are other causal factors involved here. For instance, it is generally true that middle-aged white and Native American males are the two demographics that are most likely to commit suicide, and we just have a lot of those here in Wyoming, so that's going to naturally push the suicide rate up a bit. Then there's the relatively high male-to-female ratio. That probably contributes to cultural attitudes about gender and relationships, and decreases the chances that a middle-aged man will be in a relationship, or that a woman will stay in a relationship that isn't fulfilling to her. Then there's the prevalence of oil and gas jobs, and ranch work, which tend to isolate married men from their families and keep single men away from places where women tend to be. Fewer interactions with women allow these overgeneralized, stereotypical, demeaning views of women to flourish, and make it less likely that a man will be able to successfully interact with women when he does come in contact with them. So I'd venture to say that there is a bit of a feedback loop going on here, complete with self-fulfilling prophecies and preexisting attitudes that doom relationships from the start and history repeating itself and a howling wind that makes you feel more isolated and lonely than you felt to begin with.

At any rate, it seems like it's probably a little more complicated than:
gun culture + sexist attitudes and behaviors = bitter and lonely single men = high suicide rate.

But it is an interesting correlation, isn't it?

*Isn't this why images of women like Palin hunting and posing with guns is such a spectacle in our culture? Like the image of a woman driving her own Harley, rather than being the bitch on the back. In subcultures that tend to be fairly sexist, or at least dismissive of women, those women who do integrate into the culture seem to be incongruous, and images of them are kind of jarring and fascinating to us.
**Leaving the plight of the "gay cowboy" out of the conversation completely for the time being. Obviously there's a whole range of other issues that come along with being gay in a heavily hetero-centric, male-centric culture, and no doubt those issues correlate with suicide rates as well.


  1. Anonymous7/26/2011

    I love how they assume some 22 year old is gonna want their middle-aged ass to begin with.

  2. And I'm thinking they're not going to be too happy if their friend admires the wifey and wants to "go a few rounds" with her. Funny how it only works in the one direction.

  3. You know, I think it can be all those things. Everything you list is probably a contributing factor. But none of those factors is easy to change, is it?

  4. Anonymous7/27/2011

    My cousin has worked in the oil field on and off for years, and I think there are weeks and weeks when those guys have no contact with women, and they're around a pretty small group of men. Then they're working under dangerous conditions, in harsh weather, where there aren't many options for entertainment or basic liesure. To me the high suicide rate is a biproduct of oil and gas.

  5. Anonymous7/28/2011

    The death of a loved one.
    A divorce, separation, or breakup of a relationship.
    Losing custody of children, or feeling that a child custody decision is not fair.
    A serious loss, such as a loss of a job, house, or money.
    These are a few reasons that people commit suicide. In cases of divorce, women can easily get the house and children, so three of these reasons could be linked. Homelessness, caused by the loss of a house, can cause one to loose their job. These combined reasons can lead to suicide and can stem from a divorce, this is true. Think about this, though, how many people do you know who commit suicide? Do you know why? Also, are more of them men or women? Now think, how many people do you know that tried to commit suicide? Are more men or women? Men are said to choose more violent ways on average to kill themselves, so the success rate is higher than it is for women. Guns are a tool that makes easy work of ending a life. From what i see, more men own guns than women, so obviously more men have the choice to shoot themselves than women. This doesn't mean that there are more men who want to die than women, but that the men are more successful. Also, there are innumerably more help facilities for women in distress, so if a woman needs help, she has more support than any man. This means that the isolation does not have to be physical. The lack of societal support can drive a lonely person to kill him or herself. Now, a sexist society doesn't necessarily have anything to do with this, a society sexist against women that is. If society favors men, then wouldn't there be more support groups for men suffering from issues? Single fathers exist too, and they get little emotional support or motivation for example. Men are made out to be abusive brutes in society by organizations "protecting" women from home abuse, but there are unfair laws that dictate that the stronger of the two is removed from the house, no matter who the abuser is. That means if a woman pulls a knife on a man and the man calls the cops, he is removed from his house because usually he is bigger. He gets no support and he is not the brute society has called him. Actually, more men are taught via culture, parenting, and society to be respectful to their mothers and not strike women, even if stricken, but there is no such moral code stopping women from striking men. In this, I mean to say that men get no support, and are therefor societally isolated from receiving the support and help they could need. Women are not. That could be a reason male suicide rates in particular are high, not the false accusation that men are bad to and hold hatred towards women. Yes, some men do, but so do some women. Some women hate men and some men hate men. Hate can be said to be as much a part of life as love. This is not the point though. There are many scopes with which to examine suicide, so use more than one that focuses on women and society as your primary focus. Everybody is different, so everybody's reason could be completely different from another. One shouldn't just follow what one person has said as a complete truth. Think AND research a bit because you may be surprised by what you find. There are people who were abused in their homes and never got the help hey needed. When they grew up, they were tormented by their repressed and forgotten traumas. This kind of utter confusion could drive someone to commit suicide. A given person's death does not HAVE to relate in any way to societies view of women. This is not meant as an argument, but as more information that you may add to what you have just read.

  6. Wow. I don't think I made any kind of "accusation" that men are bad and hate women. I did say that there are certain cultural forces at work in the state where I live that makes it less likely that some men will be able to successfully establish and maintain relationships with women. Do you see the difference between those two claims?

    And I think some of your facts are a bit off. My former sister-in-law, for instance, was 4'10" and 90 lbs. She had a hell of a temper. On two different occasions she got violent with her 6'1" 275 lb husband, and she spent the night in jail. He stayed home and nursed his wounds. In most jurisdictions, law enforcement who respond to domestic violence calls are required to remove the person who initiated the violence, regardless of that person's gender or size.

    None of this means that there isn't trauma that's unaddressed and untreated and ignored in our culture. Of course there is. You might read my posts on disenfranchised grief, for starters. But what does that have to do with this post? Are you suggesting that more men experience childhood abuse in their homes in Wyoming than in other places?

  7. Anonymous7/28/2011

    I'm suggesting that there are more reasons that people commit suicide than women. and i guess policies that i read about are for a different time period. I'd like to read your other post too, and I responded because i was bored and wanted to talk smack at four in the morning. My purpose was just to say that the lens used to examine these suicides doesn't account for many other causes of suicide. I got distracted by typing. Before i do again, ill say yes, I do believe that there could be more men who experience child abuse because of the amount of space that i assume there is. When a lot of people are in an area, there is less privacy to be abusive. With more space, there is more freedom to abuse the people around you and a smaller chance of being caught, meaning that young men can be abused and have nowhere to seek help. Especially since studies have shown that young men are less likely to speak up about their abuse, but act out as a result.

  8. Meg'n7/28/2011

    Well,I do think it's true that men who are abused are less likely to receive the compassionate attention abused women receive. Some of this is the cultural expectation that they'll man up or something. And it's not "manly" to admit to abuse or seek assistance or counseling.

  9. Well at least you admit men kill themselves more. Too bad the majority due so on Family court stairs where their exwives lied about them being abusive so they could get more money out of their poor husbands. I'm not shocked that a feminist places the blame on men at least you are predictable.

  10. Do you have stats to support this? Please cite your sources.