Andrew Shanahan, the editor of the Man V Fat a weight loss website for men tells us there three myths about men and health that we need to challenge.
—This is article #60 in our series of #100Voices4Men and boys
Do you know the saying “We shouldn’t make assumptions, because they make an ass out of u and mptions.” Wait. I’ve got that wrong. Maybe it’s presumptions. Whatever it is, the point remains – holding onto pre-conceived notions in the face of reality opens us up to looking foolish. The area of men and health is riddled with such assumptions. I’ve picked out three of the most enduring that we should do our best to expunge, I’d love to hear of any others that you’ve spotted.
1. Everyone knows that men won’t go to the doctors…
Forty percent of men die before they are 75 and men are more likely to be diagnosed for a range of cancers at a later stage – so why won’t the buggers go to the doctors? The accepted wisdom is that men are stoic idiots who hobble along wordlessly until the tumour they’re carrying gets too big for them to put their pants on. Guess what? It’s nonsense. Buying into this myth means that the real issue which keeps men from earlier diagnosis goes unreported. Namely, that men are more likely to work away from home and find that setting up GP appointments around work is very difficult. Additionally, more women are the primary carers for the children and are therefore more likely to be in the doctor’s surgery with them anyway.
2. We all know that men don’t want to diet…
Look at the magazines like Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness and you’d be forgiven for believing the myth that men don’t want to lose weight, they simply want to “get ripped” and build bigger arms, tighter abs and smoother shins (that might just be me). It’s true that men are more likely to access information about fitness, but that’s largely because the range of information on weight loss for men is so sparse. So why won’t men access weight management groups? Because they’re all designed for women and consequently 85% of attendees are women. That presents a confrontational and unappealing place for men to get support and advice about losing weight.
3. Of course men just won’t talk about their feelings
75% of people who take their own lives are men. That’s a horrifying statistic. Part of the myth of male suicide is that it’s based on this idea that men won’t talk about their feelings. This is just based on my experience of contact with millions of men who are losing weight or preparing for weddings, but I really think this is bullshit. With earlier generations the John Wayne stereotype might be more relevant, but we live increasingly in a post-Beckham world, a world where you can wear a sarong on the front cover of a national newspaper and still be a sex symbol. We must seek to destroy this idea that men won’t open up, because if we believe it we stop asking and then it becomes true by default.
If you want to do something useful this International Men’s Day on November 19th then take a moment in your professional and personal lives to look at the Ur Man that is presented by newspapers, sitcoms and adverts and scrub your mind clean of these assumptions and stereotypes. Dare to look stupid by asking the basic questions about men again and you may just find that your -mptions are misguided.
—Picture credit: US Navy
You can find all of the #100Voices4Men articles that will be published in the run up to International Men’s Day 2014 by clicking on this link—#100Voices4Men—and follow the discussion on twitter by searching for #100Voices4Men.
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