“Man Up”: A Case for Positive Masculinity

The American Psychological Association’s guidelines delineate that traditional masculinity has been proven to limit males’ psychological development and negatively impact their mental health. The guidelines identify that the traits most closely linked to mental health problems were ‘playboy behaviour’ or ‘sexual promiscuity’. The guidelines support encouraging positive aspects of ‘traditional masculinity’, such as courage and leadership, and discarding traits such as violence and sexism, while noting that the vast majority of men are not violent. Elements of hegemonic (traditional) masculinity are negatively associated with helpseeking: these are primarily those that relate to the ability to be emotionally expressive or to show vulnerability and they have been suggested as having a particularly negative impact on formal mental health help-seeking. These elements are also related to greater mental health stigma and a desire to mask mental health concerns to peers for fear of losing social status, especially within groups of younger men and in communities of men where masculinity is observed  at close quarters. Traits of so-called ‘traditional masculinity’, like suppressing emotions and masking distress, often start early in life and have been linked to less willingness by boys and men to seek help, more risk-taking and aggression — possibly harming themselves and those with whom they interact. However, at present, a lot of mental health promoters have been attempting to manipulate the use of masculinity in a way by which men are encouraged to seek help.  Aspects of hegemonic masculinity such as autonomy and control have been used to deal with emotional as well as psychological health concerns and has been harnessed well by practitioners to make help-seeking part of assertive and positive decision making. ‘Fatherly’ lists the 11 aspects of masculinity, of the 79 generally identified,  that can be employed in order to promote male mental health care and shirk the phenomenon of ‘toxic masculinity’; some of these are –  male self-reliance, the worker-provider tradition of men, men’s respect for women, male courage, daring, risk-taking, the group orientation of men and boys, male forms of service, men’s use of humor, and male heroism. Furthermore, APAs study finds that using male-oriented, action-focused linguistics are more effective in promoting mental health among men in comparison to the employment of traditional communicative tactics.

Since our topic is essentially investigating the impact of traditional, toxic masculinity on the male mental health, I think it might be interesting to look at instances where masculinity has been positively drawn on to promote mental wellbeing within men.

MINUTES: WEEK 7

After deciding to base our project on secondary research, in the light of being denied ethical clearance, this week each of us shared some of the resources we found to be useful while browsing information over the week. 

Following are some of the ideas we thought would be interesting to study

  • Play Boy and its impact on male mental health (MMH)
  • The “male gaze” in mainstream Hollywood, perpetuated through films such as Goodfellas 
  • Hysterical representation of women in Indian and Turkish cinema in contrast with the hyper-masculinity characterising male characters, the impact of this on the identity psyche of viewers 
  • The idea of “soft boys” vs “f*** boys” 
  • Positive masculinity for the destigmatisation of MMH
  • Mythological archetype in the characterisation of “superheroes”
    • Separation from the parents
    • Saving the woman as the prize

The discussion of these ideas led to us deciding to develop our research on the back of the feedback loop connecting the cultural representation of men (depiction of masculinity in film and literature) with empirical research done in the field of MMH 

We will be looking at the following texts that have been recommended to us in tandem with the existing information we possess:

  1. DELIVERING MALE MENTAL HEALTH (empirical research)
  2. EARLY AND EFFECTIVE INTERVENTION IN MALE MENTAL HEALTH – Jim Pollard 
  3. ADOLESCENT AND YOUNG ADULT MENTAL HEALTH – Simon Rice and Psych (conditions for ill mental health)
  4. A META-STUDY OF BLACK MALE MENTAL HEALTH AND WELL BEING – Watkins, Walker and Griffith 
  5. THE MOST DREADFUL VISITATION:Male Madness is Victorian Fiction – V Pedlar 

Our discussion ended with the re-iteration of making the sub theme of ‘uncertainty’ more visible in our topic, be it with regard to the uncertainties maligning the concept of ‘masculinity’ or the feedback loop between cultural representations and audience psyche.

Over this week we will all look at the recommended texts while continuing individual research and thinking about how to make ‘uncertainty’ more explicit in our project 

MOVEMBER: Changing the ‘Face’ of Men’s Health

The Movember Foundation and its namesake movement encourage men to grow moustaches in the month of November, every year, to raise funds for and awareness regarding issues of male mental health as well as prostate/testicular cancer. By creating a popular and obvious way to participate in the awareness movement, they are sparking important conversation internationally about men’s health and lifestyle. The Movember website displays statistics such as ‘four times as many men as women commit suicide every year’ – drawing attention to the latent issue of male mental health. The movement draws on the fact that we have national and international conversations about the specific language we use around girls as well as how we raise them, while there is a significant gap in discussions surrounding the impact telling young boys to “man-up” or “tough it out” may have on them. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (2012), men are 24% less likely to seek medical advice as compared to their female counterparts – stressing the significance of organisations such as Movember that address and attempt to rectify the issue of neglect in men’s health.

Since our group is looking to address stereotypical masculinity and issues in male mental health, referring at Movember as not only a quantitative data source but also a resource for transnational action may be helpful. From a political perspective it may be interesting to see how the organisation is accommodated within governmental medical policy while from a digital perspective it may be exciting to examine some of the foundation’s social media campaigns and reach while looking at how the act of simply growing a moustache in November signifies solidarity for the cause. 

The following link is for the Movember Foundation’s YouTube channel, information regarding the foundation as well as men’s health can be accessed through this channel. 

https://www.youtube.com/user/movembertv/videos

MINUTES WEEK 4

     1. Completed the Minimal Ethical Risk form and submitted this for supervision and              approval.

  • Realised that our project would entail very low risk research

 2. Modified Research Question: “To what extent are the uncertainties surrounding                 social conduct expectations limiting men from expressing their emotions?”

   3. Data:

  • Anonymous online surveys to be filled out by male students at KCL
    • These will be circulated via email threads and posters around campus
  • Interviews and portraits of consenting KCL students
  • Qualitative and quantitative data regarding the issue of male mental health from psychological, political and media discourses
    • comparison of how different kinds of sources present, interpret and resolve issues pertaining to male mental health and gender stereotypes

 4. Preparation for Next Meeting: 

  • Look up and read material regarding male mental health and gender stereotypes from the perspectives of different academic disciplines
  • Read about how different countries approach the topics of male mental health and gender stereotypes
  • Think of prospective hypotheses for the RQ