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(Mis-)Undertanding Men and Health – Part 1

I am so tired of reading about “hegemonic masculinity” and all the advantages it’s supposed to confer. What is hegemonic exactly about having measurably worse health care, dying significantly younger, being of a gender that dies in 95% of workplace fatalities, and having few resources (rarely even an acknowledgment) invested in violence targeted at your gender.

I just finished a book called “Understanding Men and Health: Masculinities, Identity and Well-being” which was full of this nonsense of hegemony but did nevertheless have some fascinating points to make, like the following:

1. We often hear that modern healthcare developments were developed to focus on helping men. This was indeed sometimes the case, although mostly because it was acceptable to use men as ginny-pigs on which to experiment with new and dangerous treatments. But ironically, today’s men are less likely to enjoy the medical benefits obtained through such humiliating and damaging experiments on their fellow men. As those supposedly defining the normal body and exercising “hegemonic power”, men in the 20th century became less appropriate subjects for study and examination:

“Yet the (male-led) development of health promotion/education services around this time did very little directly to target information or health promotion campaigns towards such men. Rather, as Welshman’s (1997) work on health education during this period shows, such services and campaigns were more often targeted at mothers, infants and schoolchildren…As feminists have rightly pointed out, it was the poor state of men’s health that generated cause for concern. Yet, the patriarchal nature of health service structures determined that subsequent actions – including the development of a health visiting service, the establishment of maternal and infant welfare clinics, and an expansion of school health services – focused atention (and thereby responsibility) specifically on women and children.” (pg. 136)

More insights in the next post…



Men need a Roe v. Wade

Those who moralize on either side of the tired abortion debate seem to forget it takes two people to conceive a child. I was reminded of that again while listening to the audiobook “Freakenomics”, which attempts to study the psychology of incentives and its effects on microeconomics. One interesting insight discovered was the correlation between the legality of abortion in the US and a drop in crime right around the period that those non-existent babies – over 50% of whom would have been born into families below the poverty line – turned into non-existent criminals.

The book made the compelling point that the benefits of this voluntary eugenics was at least partially apparent to the Justices that made their fateful decision in Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court Majority Opinion, written by justice Harry Blackman, read as follows “the detriment that the state would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent. Maternity, or additional offspring may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by childcare. There is also the distress for all concerned associated with the unwanted child and there is the problem with bringing the child into a family already unable psychologically and otherwise to care for it.”

Which got me thinking, what part of this quote couldn’t just as easily be drafted about men, fathers and paternity. We talk about a woman’s choice and bodily autonomy, and I’m not suggesting women shouldn’t ultimately have the final say over their body, but why have we come to the point where we go out of our way to ignore and sideline the father’s opinion in the issue.

It seems counterintuitive to me to insist a man have no say in the creation of a life, then complain that he makes a crummy father and seems less interested in childreadring. A doctor is expected to give the woman as much information as needed to make an informed abortion decision. Shouldn’t a man who has some of the doubts expressed by Justice Blackman – psychological distress or economic concerns – be encouraged to contribute that information as well to this important family decision.

And if we’re so concerned with bodily autonomy, men ought to have an opt-out available, so that if their partner should say lie about being on birth control, their male body isn’t then held financially accountable to raise a child for 18 years, often necessitating cutting short a possibly fantastic career and instead entering dangerous and unsatisfying (but hence highpaying) jobs.

One last reminder to those feminists who like to pat themselves on the back and tell each other that they and they alone are responsible for women’s progress. All 9 Justices deciding Roe V. Wade were male.


What about the guys? Young Men’s Invisibility in Sexual Risk and Sexual Health Research

Finally, someone gets it…

I realize this happened today, but it’s nice to see a poster like this for a change:

Presentation Title: What about the guys? Young men’s invisibility in sexual risk and sexual health research

**Co-sponsored by the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution, York University

Elizabeth Saewyc, PhD, RN, CIHR/PHAC CIHR/PHAC Applied Public Health Chair in Youth Health; Associate Professor, University of British Columbia School of Nursing; Research Director, McCreary Centre Society

Much of the research on adolescent sexual health and risk behaviours focuses only on girls and young women, whether the studies are about teen births, contraceptive practices, or even sexual violence and exploitation. Yet most of these sexual health events involve more than one person—and that other person is often male. Even sexual violence, although disproportionately experienced by women, is also targeted towards boys and young men, and they too can experience lifelong health issues as a result. So why are they so invisible? This presentation will explore the ways data are gathered for population-level sexual health studies, how and perhaps why sexual health and risk issues get framed as “female” issues, and what we learn when we ask the same questions for adolescent and young adult males.

Dr. Elizabeth M. Saewyc is an Associate Professor in the School of Nursing and the Division of Adolescent Medicine, Department of Pediatrics at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. She holds a Canadian Institute for Health Research/Public Health Agency of Canada Applied Public Health Chair, and is a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Scholar. She also serves as Research Director for the McCreary Centre Society, a community-based youth health research and youth empowerment organization. She teaches public health nursing, adolescent health, and research methods. Her research focuses on the sexual and mental health issues of youth, with a particular emphasis on understanding the links between stigma, violence, and trauma, how these influence their coping and risk behaviours, and what protective factors in their relationships and environments can help reduce their risks and foster resilience. The particular groups of young people include: sexual minority youth (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens), homeless and runaway youth, sexually-abused and sexually-exploited teens, pregnant and parenting adolescents, youth in custody, immigrant and refugee populations, and indigenous young people in Canada and other countries.


Misandric commercial compares boys to “fish in a barrel”

March 10, 2008 – Today I saw one of the most despicable misandric commercials. It featured a 9 or 10 year old girl out to eat with her mother. By making eyes with a boy of similar age sitting further down the restaurant she is able to entice him to purchase for her an icecream. The commercial concludes with the girl saying “like shooting fish in a barrel.” Where do I start on this one? It takes female dependence on males from something in need of change to something to be encouraged. And it turns men – no, 9 year boys – into what I suppose many females end up identifying with men – wallets. It objectifies boys into “fish” in a barrel that can be controlled and exploited for personal gain.

Clubbing men ok?

June 25, 2008 – One of the most misandric popular television shows today is certainly The Simpsons. It’s portrayal of fathers is despicable. It’s differential treatment of the perfect Lisa versus the hopeless Bart is tiring. But here’s a side example. Ever seen the episode where baby Maggy is obsessed with Roofie, a Barnie knock off, and attends a concert of his. The babies stage a riot which the police break up by clubbing the babies. One of the officers says “I don’tfeel right clubbing women and children”. Presumably, clubbing defenseless and innocent men (it bears reminding that most men are defenseless and innocent) is acceptable? A trivial example possibly, but another little slice of media misandry.