I came across a couple of items this week related to men and being a man that handily challenge the concept and turn your attention to some important and seldom talked about issues related to the concept.
First is a video challening the idea of the phrase “man up”. Some excellent beat poetry:
Next is an article written by a muslim man (Riaz Sayani-Mulji) about Movember. I really appreciated the perspective he gives, rightfully pointing out how Movember is really a “white bro” centric thing, and sadly/shamefully, said white bros have taken something that is supposed to be positive, and turned it into yet another thing they can discriminate and be king sh** about.
I highly recommend reading the whole thing, but here are some excerpts:
Yet my moustache wasn’t looked upon too kindly by my predominantly white classmates — I remember being laughed at for what some had deemed my “Paki stache.”
Living in a post-9/11 Canada rampant with Islamophobia, I was hesitant to grow facial hair. I had already been called a “terrorist” enough as a clean-shaven, brown-skinned young man — the idea of growing more facial hair, and giving strangers even more of a reason to do things like shout “Go back to Afghanistan” from their cars while I crossed the street, was out of the question.
We live in a society that likes to separate gender into two categories — or binaries — which stipulate specific roles and characteristics to each of them. So if women have even small amounts of facial hair, like moustaches, sideburns or goatees, they endure ridicule and shaming as a result.
When we consider that women of colour are more likely to have this facial hair be visible, or are coming from cultural contexts where facial hair on women is the norm and thus don’t take steps to remove it the way Western women might, it highlights how facial hair can be such a triggering subject along the lines of race.
And this shaming is exacerbated during Movember, with some “Mo Bros” openly jeering at women with facial hair and demanding that Movember be for men only [emphasis added].
Not to mention that the realities of “man” and “woman” aren’t reducible to gender binaries. For cis-people, where gendered experience easily maps onto their sexed body, Movember might not seem so threatening. But for trans people, what if they decide to grow a moustache — how are they included in Movember? Or how about a trans woman with testicles — are they allowed to participate?
Another reason why I don’t participate in Movember is because growing a moustache is such a strong symbol of masculinity in our society. Masculinity, or what it means to be a “real man,” is directly connected to the idea of dominance over women.
Just look at how Movember is promoted — it’s common to hear, “sluts should do anything for a Mo Bro,” or something along those lines, giving me the impression that some of the men participating in Movember tend to be the same ones at house parties, nightclubs and in dorm rooms ignoring consent and committing acts of sexual assault and rape.
So if growing a moustache is a part of masculinity, and if this masculinity includes things like not caring about consent, what does that imply for Movember? Is Movember contributing to rape culture, by re-enforcing this idea of what it means to be a “real man?”
Even though it’s nearly the end of Movember, and we’ll be seeing a lot fewer moustaches around, please start to think about some of the issues I’ve raised, especially if they’re true for your “Mo community.” It’s time to seriously consider why you grow the moustache, and the impact you’re having by participating in Movember.
I hate to be a downer, but I think he has some very valid and legitimate points and much like how clicking “like” on a charity facebook page doesn’t do anything to actually help the targets of that charity, growing a moustache doesn’t really do a whole lot to actually fight cancer. While raising awareness IS good and important (certainly!), we have a problem in our society where that’s largely ALL we do – raise awareness, talk about things in passing, but never actually directly act or contribute. I’m guilty of this too, for the record. Even just throwing 10 bucks at a charity and thinking we’ve “done our part” isn’t really right. Statistics suggest that in many cases, only a small fraction of donations actually go to helping the cause. Here is more info on why donating to charities isn’t such a great thing.
I think everyone needs to step up a bit more. We all grow moustaches but we still hold up the macho facade of being tough guys who don’t need to go see a doctor and get checked out.
We can do better, folks. We can and we must. And we shall.