Movember, the global men's health charity, has funded a new report on masculinity and men's health. The report aims to provide an overview of the current state of men’s health globally and to "illustrate the direct connections between health-risk behaviours and hegemonic masculine norms".
According to the authors of the report (Cody Ragonese, Tim Shand and Gary Barker of Promundo):
"Men’s health matters for everyone: for men themselves; for women, who generally bear the burden of care for sick and disabled men; for children, who can experience adverse outcomes from the poor health of caregivers; and for societies, which bear the social and economic cost of men’s illness and premature death.
"Poor health affects men’s mobility, productivity, and overall quality of life. Furthermore, women are generally responsible for picking up the pieces of men’s poor health or premature death, which create greater care and income-generation burdens for women.
"The loss of a husband, father, son, or brother can have lasting psychological, financial, and social effects on families and communities.On the other hand, men in good physical and mental health are better able to participate in caregiving and household responsibilities, reducing the care burdens on partners and families."
How do we define masculinity?
The report takes a critical view of masculinity defining it as a combination of seven characteristics:
- Self-Sufficiency and Emotional Control
- Acting Tough and Risk-Taking
- Attractiveness (appearing desirable to women and “cool” to your mates)
- Rigid Masculine Gender Roles (e.g. believing that taking care of your health is feminine)
- Superiority Among Males (includes the belief that men who don’t drink excessively and are vegetarian are feminine and should be marginalised)
- Hypersexuality (the belief that men should be heterosexual and always ready for the next sexual conquest)
- Power, Aggression and Control (the need for men to use violence to hold control and power over women and other men).
The authors of the report say that these masculine norms are linked to health-risk behaviours such as poor diet, tobacco use, alcohol use, occupational hazards, unsafe sex, and drug use and health-seeking behaviour.
Positive Masculine Norms
While taking a critical view of masculinity the authors also state that efforts to improve men’s health should “build on men’s strengths rather than pathologise men as problematic or toxic”.
According to the report, there are "some positive masculine norms that may support health-seeking behaviour" with research showing that "men who are more involved as fathers and caregivers are more likely to have better health, suggesting that the care of others may also support an ethic of self-care".
The authors say that more research is needed to understand the ways that positive masculine norms may support men’s health.
The report recommends that researchers, scholars, and academic institutions should widen the breadth of research on alternative dimensions of masculinities that are less researched and that could promote healthy behaviour, such as responsibility, self-control, and how men’s positive involvement as fathers and caregivers may also provide a way to promote self-care and help-seeking.
FIND OUT MORE:
Download The Report: Masculine Norms and Men's Health