I love Movember.
Firstly, it’s a chance for men to be playful with their facial hair, and how can that be bad? I confess uncategorically here and now, facial hair remains the only thing that makes me jealous of men.
Yep, you can can all that historical legal, social, cultural and economic advantage – it’s the ability to grow sideburns, and little hairy bits on your face that I really envy.
But (slightly) more importantly, it’s the men dealing with social and health issues which effect them in a proactive way which I really love. Prostate and testicular cancers are awful – and as with breast cancer, the sooner they are identified because we know our bodies well, the better they can be treated. Men’s depression is a significant issue in Aotearoa/New Zealand, where men talking about how they feel is still an anathema to many.
Movember is a humourous attempt to get men talking about these things, while funding is raised for support and research into men’s health. This year the $700,000 raised so far is going to the Cancer Society and the Mental Health Foundation. And it’s catching on – check out this map from the Movember website:
One of the most irritating responses those of us who organise around violence against women get regularly is “but what about the men?”
I have lost count of the times I’ve been asked this, particularly in the context of Women’s Refuges. My answer has always been that the explosion of emergency housing for women and children escaping violence in the 1970s onwards happened because women needed it. Women gave up their homes, volunteered their time, took donations and sometimes endured abuse and attacks because other women needed somewhere safe to go. All of this happened without state funding initially – and today Refuges remain woefully underfunded, dependent on a workforce mostly made up of volunteer women.
I believe if the need had been there for men escaping violence, the same thing would have happened. An organic development of men setting up men’s refuge space. Instead the first Refuge for men in the UK opened in just 2003, fully funded by the government. Which is a good thing – don’t get me wrong – but speaks to an enormous difference in need backed up by police and health figures.
Which is again why the men “donating their face for men’s health” in Movember so impress me. This isn’t a competition comparing women’s health with men’s health – or asking women organisers to sort out something for men. It is men taking control of the issues for themselves, and doing it in a humorous and educative way.
Brothers (including mine) are doing it for themselves.