The Fallen Hero: Masculinity, Shame and Farmer Suicide in Australia

Citation:

Bryant, Lia, and Bridget Garnham. 2015. “The Fallen Hero: Masculinity, Shame and Farmer Suicide in Australia.” Gender, Place & Culture 22 (1): 67–82.

Authors: Lia Bryant, Bridget Garnham

Abstract:

The drought-stricken Australian rural landscape, cultures of farming masculinity and an economy of value, moral worth and pride form a complex matrix of discourses that shape subjective dynamics that render suicide a possibility for distressed farmers. However, the centrality of a ‘mental health’ perspective and reified notions of ‘stoicism’ within this discursive field operate to exclude consideration of the ways in which cultural identity is linked to emotions. To illuminate and explore complex connections between subjectivity, moral worth and affect in relation to understanding farmer suicide, this article draws on theory and literature on agrarian discourses of masculine subjectivity and shame to analyze empirical data from interviews with farmers during times of environmental, social and economic crisis. The idealized notion of the farming man as ‘Aussie battler’ emerges from romantic agrarian mythology in which pride and self-worth are vested in traditional values of hard work, struggle and self-sacrifice. However, the structural context of agriculture, as it is shaped by the political economy of neoliberalism, threatens farm economic viability and is eroding the pride, self-worth and masculine identity of farmers. The article suggests that the notion of the ‘fallen hero’ captures a discursive shift of a masculinity ‘undone’, a regress from the powerful position of masculine subjectivity imbued with pride to one of shame that is of central importance to understanding how suicide emerges as a possibility for farmers.

Keywords: masculinity, rurality, suicide, farmer, shame

Topics: Economies, Environment, Climate Change, Environmental Disasters, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Health, Mental Health, Political Economies Regions: Oceania Countries: Australia

Year: 2015

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