It’s hard not to talk about suicide without beckoning Camus. The age-old question that underlies the theme “Is life worth living?” has been repeated throughout literature, because life imitates art. However, as I’ve aged a bit now, and have visited that premise on several occasions now as a female writer, I have come to the conclusion – and my last protagonist illustrates this – that the timeless question has been historically addressed by men, for men. Indeed, women who commit suicide do so at one-quarter the rate of men, despite the ironic twist that we suffer from depression at twice the rate.
Allow me the opportunity to project through my current pregnant character: she has a Darwinian and physiological predisposition, like most women, to pro-create. Her genetic profile has been adjusted and fine-tuned to persevere, to struggle, survive and transform for the sake of her newborn. She cannot indulge herself with the question “Is life worth living?” It isn’t in her vocabulary.
It seems to me there is something awry in proposing this discussion with equal footing for men and women. Given the ironic statistics, the math just doesn’t work. Some elusive elements of gender-related factoring could well be worth finding and examining, to open the discussion wider for men and women, selectively, who leave those of us behind wondering what we didn’t see, and how we might have helped – if said help was able to have prevented such loss.
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