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.


     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

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)



  • Presentation Tuesday March 26th 8.50 pm (it will be filmed)
  • Form for the survey, due on Friday 8th of February
    • Ideally get it in for Tuesday the 5th 5pm so that Conor can sort his side of it by the deadline
  • Our Idea
    • Exhibition should ideally be done by Week 8 to be able to edit the potential footage from it
  • Uncertainty
    • Social approach to men’s mental health, contemporary ideas of masculinity
    • What are the grounds of gender stereotypes?
    • The grounds are uncertain
    • Illusory nature of stereotype
    • The asymmetry between representation and stereotypes
    • Concrete
  • Nature/culture
    • sex/gender
      • Biological, can’t be changed
      • “How you feel”, cultural, more open
    • Therefore: Sex relates to the way you’re expected to behave
  • Background Questions
    • What is a stereotype?
    • What is the understanding of maleness? What do you mean about men?
    • What evidence suggests a crisis in this regard?
    • What is boys don’t cry other than a slogan?
  • Evidence Ideas For the Empirical Basis
    • Male suicides
    • Mental health services
  • Research Question Ideas
    • To what extent do gender stereotypes inform policy formulation processes?
    • How does the institutionalisation of gender stereotypes through adhering policies impact the mental health of those struggling to find their identity within the spectrum spanning masculinity and femininity?
    • To what extent are the stereotypes surrounding male mental health limiting men from expressing their emotions?
      • Needs the element of Uncertainty in it
      • Mention KCL students
  • The Student Union
    • Public reference for the data?
    • Kings Inclusion Policy
    • Diversity
  • Until next week
    • Narrow down the question
      • Something around the lines of what Mina said, but include Uncertainty, KCL and some literature to follow
    • Need to come up with a hypothesis
    • Do the data form
    • Get ready to design the experience

Yukio Mishima and research question idea

Thanks Aine for the overview of last session ! 

While reflecting on how comparative literature could bring to the table when dealing with gender and mental-health, I started by quickly trying to find a few examples of literature dealing directly or indirectly with the subject (there obviously are many). One example came to mind more cogently than the others: Japanese writer Yukio Mishima. 

He is a truly fascinating character in addition to being a great writer. His life is probably as tragic as can be. All of his work is driven by his relation to his gender and sexuality (in particular a very complex and dramatic relation to his own homosexuality). He can also probably be considered as one of the first modern bodybuilders which obvisouly isn’t merely incidental (he dedicated an essay about it: Sun and Steel, 1968).

This gave me an idea for a possible research question. The body (body self-images, body representations in the media and elsewhere, etc.) seems to be a rather precise way of addressing gender and mental health but also allows for many other issues to which it is interrelated to come into play:

“In what ways and to which extent do body representations in the media affect mental health ?” could be a start for a research question. 

  • Perhaps we would want to make the question about male or female body representations more specifically or perhaps we think these cannot really be dealt with separately. 
  • We also need a space and time frame. The portraits and questionnaires would make it strongly anchored in the present. Considering the emphasis we intend to put on media representation, one general time frame could reach as far back as post-WWII capitalism (with consumerism and mass advertising). We could still remain more focused on present times. The space frame would probably require more discussion during our next meeting as this can greatly change the issues we set out to address. 

Here are some resources about Mishima (and more specifically about his thinking around the body):

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