MENZ Issues October 1996: Volume 1 Issue 4
Boys Education is ‘equity’ enough? this article was reproduced from ‘Certified Male’ Autumn 1996, and is not included on this page.
Men’s Health Day Afterthoughts.
All this issue written by Martin Lewis unless otherwise noted.
Men’s Health Day – a great success!
Congratulations are due to all those men who worked together to make the Men’s Centre’s first Health Day the great success that it was.
The courtyard of Glenfield Community Centre proved ideal for the static displays on what turned out to be the first sunny Saturday of spring. A series of lectures, workshops and displays on topics such as Stress, Nutrition, Lifestyle, Fitness, Work and Sport Injury, Alcohol and Drugs, Sexual Health, Cancers and Heart Disease kept the 70 men and women who paid the nominal $5 registration engrossed from 9:15 am to 4:00 pm. The atmosphere was one of relaxed camaraderie as workshop participants and presenters sat in the courtyard between programmes and ruminated over the mass of information being disseminated, or shared lunch spiced with debate.
Health is a hot topic at the moment. With the election looming health is an issue being widely debated amongst the competing parties. Men’s health is a recently emerging aspect of that debate.
We learned a few lessons from this, the first in what we intend to be a series of Men’s Health events. Clearly society’s level of awareness of the need to address this subject is still low as was reflected in the low turnout and while pleased with the number of men reached by the day, the thing that the we would like different next time would be to involve an even wider catchment of men.
On the up side, we have received significant positive media coverage and encouraging feedback from those who participated. Between now and our next Men’s Health event we will continue to work on raising social awareness.
MCNS and it’s Men’s Health Focus Group acknowledge the support of a wide variety of organisations and individuals including North Health, ACC, CADS, ALAC, Blackmores, Efamol, Shore Fathers, Mensline, the Heart Foundation, Prostate Awareness Society, North Shore Hospital, and Sexual Health Clinics in making the day work. Once again, congratulations and thanks.
Men’s Health Day
Why don’t men have access to the health resources that women have?
Why is men’s health largely ignored by health authorities?
Men’s health, both physical and emotional (sometimes called mental), are in a state of crisis. The levels of work related high stress, illness and injury are far higher than in women, 94% of work related injuries are men; depression, high suicide rates (4 men to every woman), premature death, (men die on average 6-7 years younger than women and this gap is increasing), heart disease, addictions, accidents, cancers, all show up as more common in men than in women. Yet while there are many targeted women’s health projects there are none for men. Why?
The answer is partly that in the past 30 years women have identified their health issues and asked, often demanded, that they be provided for. Men have not.
So what underlies this male reticence?
An exploratory review of men’s health by the Northern Regional Health Authority this year found that "… the term ‘men’s health’ is one which hardly appears at all "and that "… there is a feeling in some quarters that such a concept is politically incorrect …"
In the literature that does exist male attitudes are often cited as the underlying cause of the status quo. Suggestions that men need to change these attitudes before resources are allocated to illnesses and injuries are mooted. But where do these male attitudes come from? And should their change be made a prerequisite for health services? Do we hold back funding from accident victims because they may have been reckless?
First there seems to be an unconsciousness of the levels of men’s health but more than that there is a matter of priorities. A man’s health often ranks far behind the need to go to work and earn, to avoid taking time out from paid employment; to ‘tough it out’ rather than letting the ‘team’ down or to show any vulnerability.
This chivalry runs deep and wide. Deep in the individual and wide through society. It is not a man’s attitude. It is a social perception of men held as much by women in their unconscious as by men.
Until the levels of this self sacrifice is seen to be counterproductive to not only the man himself but also his family and his employer there will be little incentive to change the status quo.
As first steps toward this Men’s Centre North Shore Inc has run two Public Forums on the subject of Men’s Health and intend to run more in the future. On Saturday September 21 we also ran a Men’s Health Day. A day set aside for men to explore their health from a broad perspective.
We hope to overcome men’s reluctance to seek help; to take care of themselves by providing information and better understanding of the issues facing men. Men are encouraged to value their health and practical ways for men to live more satisfying, energetic and balanced lives were on offer.
Chivalry, an ingrained attitude.
Conditioned chivalry, the gallant protection of, and provision for women at men’s expense is deeply ingrained and defended by men and women alike.
The principles of chivalry deliver to one gender rights over, and responsibilities for, the other gender.
As women claim their rights men must also pass on the interrelated responsibilities.
As men and women take up new responsibilities they must be accorded the associated rights.
When the relationship between right and responsibility is ignored or denied then either priviledge or the illusion of priviledge is created.
Men did not create our society in isolation from women as some would have us believe. The insult of denying women’s importance in our culture and its evolution is a two edged sword which works against both sexes. It is also one which politically motivated women have not hesitated to use selectively against men.
Women, especially mothers and wives, have (and always have had) a major influence on the male psyche, man’s motivations, attitudes and behaviours. Man’s chivalrous protector / provider conditioning underlies the issue. In order to create a man who is willing to persevere through pain and humiliation to fulfil this role without succumbing to emotional distress, boys are subjected to a ‘be a man’ programme from an early age. Society now asks for men to be willing to be vulnerable but we have not addressed why they are unwilling. We, the Men’s Centre, advocate caution too in changing men’s attitudes. Many beneficial elements in society come from the same roots.
What we seek is two things:
1. recognition that women’s attitudes as well as men’s need to change.
2. immediate resources to raise awareness and initiate the changes to improve men’s health.
Men did not demand that women change their attitudes before funds were allocated to women’s health and yet we are still being told that many women are still locked into culturally imposed behavioural patterns and low self esteem.
We are not suggesting that women give up anything or that they were not deserving of the attention or resources. We are advocating an attitude of equality that the women’s movement set out to attain before the pendulum swung into political power mongering and greed or, at very least, myopia. We ask, … demand not that men get special treatment but that men are valued sufficiently in society to get equal treatment and that deliberate barriers not be created.
The changes in men’s health, in men and women’s attitudes advocated will ultimately serve not only men but women, children, family and society.
Women of Goodwill
In last month’s newsletter we suggested the possibility that women who support our principles might start a group and affiliate with us. The following is a letter we received as a result. The writer, Ginny Williams has offered to work with any other women who are interested in launching such a group.
A letter from Ginny:
My warmest congratulations to your committee and membership for their enlightened attitude regarding female affiliation to Men’s Centre North Shore as outlined in MENZ Issues, Sept 1996.
As we move toward the 21st century I’m heartened to find an organisation which recognises the need for full spectrum appreciation of New Zealand in the 90’s while remaining true to its principal focus.
It is easy for women to picture men as a lumpy bunch categorised by laconic attitude and Crumpesque machismo. Just as it is easy for men to paint women as bra burning Germaine Greer clones. Frankly, the days of that sort of nonsense must be relegated to the only place it belongs, the dead and gone past. What I believe we must all cherish are not the differences inherent in each gender but the strengths offered by such diversity.
Now is the time for us to build a healthy New Zealand, one which does not abandon all consideration for part of the population courtesy of gender, but instead draws strength from within while accepting the impetus generated by like-minded people co-operating in a purposeful endeavour.
Let us admit in the late stages of the 20th century that there are few gender specific issues but address the fact that there are human issues. Each one weighty in its own right, each worthy of our earnest effort. The question is however: Can all the prejudices of the last millennia be put aside in favour of both individual and mutual recognition; support; growth?
I believe we can. Hence my openhanded support for the organisation’s efforts toward a happier, healthier future for everyone.
Ginny can be contacted at Ph.483-8764 after 5:00pm each day.
Shortly after distributing last month’s newsletter we received COSA’s newsletter. To my delight it contained a reference to books of the genre described under the heading Women of Goodwill. I plagiarise those references below.
The Princess at the Window: A new gender morality. Donna Lamframboise,
The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism. Katie Roiphe
The New Victorians: A young woman’s response to the old feminist order. Rene Denefield
Sexual Personae: Sex, Art and American Culture. Camille Paglia.
Although I have not read these books I quote the item … All these ‘dissident feminist’ writers express their concerns about the wrong direction modern feminism has taken, and all have been labelled as part of the backlash in an attempt to dismiss their message.