Movember is a foundation that was started in 2003 in Australia with the goal of raising awareness for prostate cancer, all while promoting mental health and suicide prevention amongst men. As the years passed and the foundation has spread all across the globe, Movember has become associated with a challenge for men to not shave their facial hair in November so as to spread awareness for men’s health.
Despite the fact that this movement has pushed boundaries, there is still a stigma around men’s health, more specifically, around their mental health. The root of this stigma comes from the pressure men face on the daily to be brave at all times; this is, essentially, the horrible consequences of toxic masculinity.
It being November, as well as a time in which many young people are not only opposed to toxic masculinity, but also to the suffering that is a result of it, it’s important to be aware of its consequences and of solutions in order to be able to help the men in your life who are struggling.
Toxic masculinity is the enforcement of traditional roles and ideologies onto men, such as shaming men when they show emotion or appear “weak.” It is important to note that both women and men face stereotypes and pressure to act a certain way.
When women stray beyond the line of what is “lady-like,” they are ridiculed; however, when men cross the line of what is “manly,” not only are they ridiculed, but they are considered outcasts and are isolated.
Why is it socially acceptable for women to cry and express feelings but not men? This can have horrible effects on men, and even on young boys, who learn this from not only their parents but from society as a whole.
It can make men feel as though they have no one to turn to or make them feel like their emotions are invalid. Boys from such a young age are taught to “man up,” as well as that “boys don’t cry,” and this enforces the need to always appear stronger when they’re actually hurt.
It can also make some men become overconfident and cocky. This can cause certain men to not want to take advice from anyone else, for they feel like they are and everything they do is absolutely perfect since society never held them responsible for previous wrong-doings.
What do these consequences have to do with men’s mental health? For starters, men are actually more likely to commit suicide than women. It is even stated by the Canadian Centre for Suicide Prevention that the rate that men die by suicide is four times higher than that of women.
While women are no stranger to the oppressions of society, they are not shamed for reaching out to their friends. Women tend to have easier coping mechanisms that involve reaching out to loved ones and just allowing themselves to be vulnerable, which creates a path to recovery.
This is why, according to the Gateway Counselling Center, a mental health clinic located in New York, seventy-five percent of women who struggle with mental health will seek help.
Meanwhile, men do not have the luxury of being vulnerable without feeling the pressure of society, and this is also seen in statistics from Gateway Counselling Center. The percentage of men who seek help for their mental health is fifteen percent less than that of women.
Despite the fact that we have all this information about men’s mental health and how toxic masculinity can be a direct cause of mental health issues, why is this notion so hard to abolish?
Well, this is because, to some men, toxic masculinity is a term created by radical feminists as an excuse to call their every move toxic and suppress their “manliness.” Similarly, some women also feel as though it is not right for men to show a feminine side and that they only do so when they’re about to come out of the closet (which isn’t necessarily true, by the way).
This is normally a generational problem, in the sense that Generation Z tends to be more vocal about problems such as toxic masculinity, whereas older people see these problems as simply “kids going through phases” instead of legitimate issues.
Generation Z also tends to idolize men who don’t care for the normative gender roles and who are very open about mental health issues, such as Harry Styles and Yungblood.
As a society that is basically fighting with each other about who can cry and who can wear nail polish, how do we find a compromise? It’s really simple actually.
This November, or Movember, when a man in your life opens up to you about their issues, be quiet and listen because it probably took a lot of courage for them to do so. The only way we can beat the stigma regarding men’s mental health and dismiss the consequences of toxic masculinity is to simply be respectful to one another.
As Harry Styles would say, “Treat people with kindness.”
By Isabella Del Grosso