Challenge masculinity for men’s health

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Written by Megan Bugden, Health Promotion Coordinator, WHISE

There is often an assumption that as a women’s health service our work focuses only on women. However, at Women’s Health in the South East (WHISE), we acknowledge the important role of the men in our lives and how the health of men impacts positively and/or negatively on health of women and children. 

For Men’s Health Week we encourage everyone to challenge unhealthy, unrealistic and toxic norms, practices and structures around masculinity. We do this for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, if men grow up hearing statements like “Man up!” and “Real men don’t cry,” this tells young children that men shouldn’t express their emotions.  This is unhealthy – Australian data shows that men are less likely to seek help when they’re experiencing poor mental health, specifically, only 27 per cent of men seek professional help, compared to 40 per cent of women (ABS 2011). In addition, data from the ABS (2014) demonstrates that men are almost three times more likely to die from suicide than women. 

Secondly, we also know and acknowledge that while women and girls experience a disproportionate amount of gender-based violence, violence is also experienced by young boys and men in our communities. 

WHISE works in place-based settings such as workplaces, schools and sports/leisure centres to challenge all forms of gender inequality, which remains the underlying cause of all forms of gender-based violence perpetrated against women, men, boy and girls.

Our society needs to actively challenge unhealthy masculinity and promote the message that it’s OK for men to reveal their emotions and vulnerabilities. It’s OK for men to be seen as nurturing and caring. It’s OK for men to express who they are. 

At WHISE, we know that women and men’s experiences of poor health do not occur in isolation from one another. Therefore, we need to focus on the community as a whole. Promoting and normalising gender equality is the way forward for our society to be free of all violence and harmful gender stereotypes of masculinity and femininity.