Reflections upon our project

Our project began out of an interest in exploring assumptions surrounding gender stereotypes and the uncertainties that are produced by having fixed representations of maleness portrayed in mainstream media. We quickly settled on focusing our research on male mental health, as we were all concerned about the current male mental health crisis and believed that the fixed gender stereotypes that the media reinforces, may be negatively impacting male mental health and contributing to this mental health crisis. Whilst this broad framework still captures the contours set for our discussion, the expectations I held for what our research would demonstrate were not entirely confirmed. After analysing masculinity through media and literary representations and analysing psychological studies, gendered health care reports we have found that whilst masculinity more broadly has negative impacts upon mental health, it seems that only very specific aspects of masculinity are having a profound impact upon male mental health and limit men from expressing their emotions.

What, for me has been most interesting, is considering the manner in which aspects of masculinity can be harnessed to produce positive outcomes for male mental health. Analysing various gendered health care projects/ policies have led us to consider which steps should be taken to resolve this male mental health crisis. Looking forward this has led us to question whether these gendered approaches actually have positive impacts as long-term solutions, or whether they contribute to reinforcing the restricted conception of maleness which has had negative outcomes thus far. Further, it has raised questions of the plausibility, practicalities and the usefulness of gender-neutral approaches to mental health, questions that require more research and require further debate to consider both the short term and long term implications of policies, in order to deal with this crisis.

Minutes 13.03.2019


  • Further refined our question, still needs further adaptation, “How does the enforcement of masculinity affect our uncertainty of knowing male emotions/feelings?”
  • In this way we have targeted where uncertainty lies in our project

Identified a structure for our presentation, as it stands it is as follows:

Philosophical argument about what it means to come to know someone’s feelings- behaviouristic argument

How is masculinity defined? – done through an analysis of literature- this conflicts with how we come to know emotion

In what ways is this understanding of masculinity enforced? – done largely through an analysis of mainstream media

Uncertainty – Thus there arises an uncertainty of coming to know male emotions- reflected by statistics. Further mainstream culture has such a clear image of masculinity it ignores the uncertainties of what it is to be a man

We have hypothesised that the enforcement of Masculinity creates uncertainty that we may come to know men’s feelings. It seems that the enforcement of masculinity is limiting men from expressing their emotions.

Data on MMH- Mind’s project demonstrated that various focus groups highlighted the issues of masculinity for expressing their emotions

+Further data psychological data suggests this

However, psychological studies show it is actually very specific aspects of masculinity that are affecting MMH and limiting us from knowing men’s feelings: 1. Self-reliance 2. Power over women 3. Playboy type- these are demonstrated in media through male gaze for example

Gendered Health care, company policies and political policies, and various projects support this and suggest that certain aspects of masculinity can actually be used in a positive light to help men access mental health support and thus this demonstrates that not all aspects of masculinity have detrimental effects on men’s abilities to express their emotions and seek help.

Future considerations – Identify some questions that we want to carry forward beyond this project.




Ongoing tasks

Everyone- meet on Monday and bring together our research and start the presentation, sort out the photographs for the presentation

Áine- Summarise the behaviouristic argument – how we understand people’s emotions

  • Select relevant data and case studies
  • Write what studies have shown

Anuschka- International gendered health care policies, company policy and political policies, quantitative survey data

Augustin- Elaborate on masculinity and how it is defined in literature

Mina- Find the relevant examples from film

Delivering Male


Delivering male is a really important collection of research which shall be vital for our project. This is Mind’s report on delivering effective practice in male mental health care.

The report worked with a number of focus groups and leading professionals and it provides a lot of useful statistics on gendered health care and shall be useful in demonstrating that certain aspects of masculinity may be used in order to help men expressing their emotions.

It emphasises that socialisation and public perceptions of men do have a negative impact upon Men’s ability to express their emotions and access health care services to get help. The following quotes are very useful to demonstrate this.

  • Men have been classed as workhorses and if you’re a sick workhorse the last thing you want to do is complain about it. (Dorset Mind)
  • Women are a bit more understanding, they speak to each other about these things. The guy won’t sit down and talk about how they’re feeling. (Nottingham group)
  • Men are brought up completely differently from girls. If you fall over and you’re a boy you’re told to get up, “it’s only a scratch, get on with it”…that’s gone all the way through my life, there can’t be anything wrong with me because I’m a bloke, I’m being a big baby. It’s very difficult. I get so angry because I was taught not to show any emotion and so I direct the anger at myself’. (Carrick Mind)

Further it included useful quotes from young participants from African-Caribbean backgrounds

  • It’s a survival of the fittest thing because the environment has certain standards and certain ways of living up to that. Everyone wants to get to a certain place. (African-Caribbean 18-25)
  • Keep it locked up – if you tell one guy and you think you can trust him, he’ll probably go and tell another mate and he’ll tell everyone. (Pakistani 18-25)

The report discusses findings from Untold who that “there are often significant tensions between conventional masculine behaviour and the idea of nurturing good mental health…some of the accepted cultural markers of masculinity – for example (and among others): the willingness to “soldier on” when under emotional stress; the consumption of large amounts of alcohol; the greater propensity to physical aggression; the greater tendency of boys to misbehave in school – are also potential symptoms of, or predisposing factors for, poor mental health. Many of these behaviours are so familiar that they seem indisputably “normal” even though it is easy to see that they are sometimes simultaneously damaging.”

The report provided a number of  useful case studies of projects which are using a gendered approach to dealing with  male mental health. These case studies demonstrate that certain aspects of masculinity may be used in productive manners to help men express their emotions and get help from health services.

MAC- Music and change- works with young men in their own environment and gives them a strong stake in the development and implementation of projects. Giving them a sense of pride in their projects whilst giving them access to one to one therapy sessions

Boxercise in cryodn –Targeting men’s desire to involve themselves in exercise to give them a sense of self-worth, to bond with other men, and have a space to talk about their emotions

The report stressed the importance of physical health activity schemes particularly getting men involved in group exercise and and in order to increase socialising amongst men

This research and these case studies will be vital for our argument.

Minutes week 6

  • Due to being unable to get ethical clearance, we are unable to interview and hand out questionnaires in order to collect the data we hoped to collect
  • Instead, we are going to focus on using existing data and finding research that may help our conclusions along with looking at literature and films and political case studies in order to do our research
  • Interested at looking at international cinema and Mina mentioned doing some close analysis into a couple of films and the reception of men’s mental health and gender stereotypes in those films – for example, Split.
  • Also particularly how mainstream films i.e. Hollywood are approaching these topics
  • Also shall look these topics in literature and proceed with the same method, and do a comparison between how the two mediums present male mental health and the male gender stereotypes more broadly
  • We are attempting to get ethical clearance so that we can still present our information on the backdrop of portraits of men. Thinking about editing these in a manner which brings in the literary/ film references which we have been closely analysing
  • Talked about how we are going to talk about the limitations of our project- two key limitations at present have been the issue in getting ethical clearance and a lack of international data on these issues

Steps ahead:

  • Close analysis of films
  • Close analysis of literature
  • Comparison of these two, and what conclusions can we draw from these
  • Finding examples either in policy particular case studies that may illuminate this area
  • finding empirical research that may illuminate how the uncertainties around social conduct for men have contributed to the lack of expression of emotion from men.

Sociology of mental health and illness

In response to Caroline’s suggestion I have been reading The Sociology Of Mental Health And Illness by Anne Rogers and David Pilgrim. Chapter 3 is particularly useful as it addresses Gender, sexuality and mental health.

I have gathered some very useful statistics and facts and arguments from this paper which may guide how we formulate our questionnaire and may help us to reach an end conclusion for this project. Some of which I will list below

  • Overall, women receive psychiatric diagnosis more often than men
  • certain diagnostics are gendered
  • ‘over-representation of women’ in psychiatric diagnosis cannot be generalised across the world
  • women’s social roles play a part in this over- representation
  • single status makes men more vulnerable to mental health problems than it does women
  • hyper-masculinity is culturally evident, it has been linked to raised levels of male suicidal action
  • hegemonic masculinity has a massive impact on rural areas such as farming communities and mental
  • there isn’t necessarily a direct relationship between experiencing symptoms and decisions to seek help
  • ‘help-seeking action may reflect not only the cultural values and expectations associated with a specific gender but also those associated with specific social roles adopted by women and men’
  • ‘sex differences in the seeking of help correspond to attitudinal differences; women are more likely to admit distress.. to define their problems in mental-health terms…and to have favourable attitudes towards psychiatric treatment’
  • many studies have chosen to study only women due to gender assumptions
  • women have greater contact with the health services for a greater variety of reasons such as health care for children
  • Patriarchal authority, which seeks out and labels women as mad, is responsible for the over-representation.
  • the stereotype of men being angry has a massive impact on how they are received and treated
  • ‘men are dealt with more harshly than women, this is especially the case to the interface between psychiatry and the criminal justice system
  • women take sick leave for minor psychiatric problems more often than men
  • the construct of depression is inconsistent with a notion of hypermasculinity
  • Gender and sexuality – Both gay men and lesbians present with more mental health problems than do heterosexuals and are more likely to abuse substances (King et al. 2003).

Finally, I have some questions that we might carry forward into our research.

  • To what extent are the societal structures such as mental health services, contributing to the reinforcement of stereotypes, or alternatively, are affecting men from limiting their emotions for different reasons, such as the assumptions of what can be provided from going to these services and expressing their emotions.
  • Have health check ups such as pregnancy, or other compulsary check-ups affected statistics which mean women are forced to express their emotions to professionals more reguarly than men.
  • How has the historical diagnosis of women’s mental health potentially limited men from expressing their own emotions or reinforced gender stereotypes?
  • how does sexuality affect the statistics?
  • to what extent is the research the outcome of gender assumptions in the first place? e.g. women only focus group

Article to help our research

‘Trapped by Gender: The Paradoxical Portrayal Of Gender And Mental Illness In Anglophone North American Magazines:1983-2012’

I found an article that may be of interest in guiding our hypothesis, as it discusses research done using magazine articles on how gender affects discourse on mental health. It ultimately concludes that ‘Mental illness is portrayed as gendered in such a way as to confirm and maintain the gender status quo’ (page 6). The stereotypes are reinforced as mental health is portrayed as a gendered problem.

I have picked out some useful quotes that may aid our research.

  • ‘it is contradictory to such idealized
    masculinities for men to admit to problems such as depression,
    volatile moods, psychosis or other disorders because of these
    experiences exist outside of the acceptable boundaries of
    socially desirable masculinities’ (page 2)
  • ‘there were appreciably more articles on mental
    health/illness in women than in men, 50 as compared to 35.
    This may reflect the fact that health is more often portrayed as
    women’s work and concern in magazines’ (page 3)
  • the magazine articles showed ‘the specific symptoms that
    were listed reflected too much “emphasized femininity” or too
    much “hegemonic masculinity”’
  • ‘The symptoms of mental health issues amongst men are
    reflected directly in the exhibition of too much (hegemonic)
    masculinity including risk- taking behaviours such as aggression, violence, anger, irritability, workaholism, alcoholism,
    gambling and drug abuse and refusal to pay attention to or
    talk about feelings. Notice the link between acknowledging
    emotional suffering and the violent image of a ‘gun to the head’.’ (page 4)
  • A number of articles ostensibly attempt to argue against the
    acceptance of hegemonic masculinity (while also ironically
    reinforcing it) by reiterating the idea that men should
    recognize the reality of feelings of suffering and of depression.’ (page 4)
  • The coping advice is different for men. It reflects and
    fortifies hegemonic masculinities. To relieve depression men
    are told to, “Sit on a lawn chair and drink a beer. You are now
    in touch with your primal self. Soon, you will find it easier to
    smile” (Men’s Health, January 2001)1.’ (page 5)

Minutes Week 2

Preliminary discussions

  • Discussed our disciplines and interest areas within these disciplines
  • Thinking about art and literature as our basis for exploring an area
  • Thinking about the evolution of masculinity and femininity
  • settled on talking about gender and mental health, including media and male mental health, and assumptions about gender stereotypes
  • Differing treatment on the basis of gender stereotypes
  • Interested in international receptions of mental health and gender stereotypes

Methods for presenting

  • interested in presenting portraits which will reflect upon gender stereotypes and mental health,
  • creating a report alongside this

Methods for research

  • Anonymous questionnaires
  • interviewing individuals and their experiences
  • statistical research concerning international receptions of gender and mental health, potentially also for researching academic institutions and gender
  • Receiving responses from people who view the portraits and their response to these and the gender stereotypes

Next steps:

  • Refine our research question- all present a more refined question by next meeting
  • Assess whether we need to fill out the ethical clearance document and if so fill this out before beginning research and questionnaires