My role


Warning: Masculinity can damage your health 

Masculinity can make you sick. Do not take to excess. That's the view expressed by sociology Professor Michael Kimmel of the New York State University at the first ever Gender and Health summit in London. Perhaps we should all be walking around with health warnings tattooed on our foreheads.

'Men access health care less often than women and therefore get early diagnoses less frequently,' Kimmel said. 'There is a stereotype out there that real men don't get sick. But, in fact, the reasons we see ourselves as strong are the very reasons we are getting sick.

'To men, safe is the opposite of what they are supposed to be so, when you're talking about safe sex, it's not really sexy for them. We have to look at how to eroticise safety for men.

'Boys have also learned that violence is okay. When you look at violence, which has obvious impacts on health, men are responsible for 95 per cent of all violent crime. In the US, 18 boys die each day from violence — 10 times the number of girls — and 12 commit suicide each day, seven times the number of girls.' This notion of masculinity is unhealthy for women too, he said. 'Consider the amount of domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse that goes on.'

The problem is that while men's health has become more visible in recent times, masculine ideologies are still largely invisible. Kimmel said they just could not be ignored amy longer. 'Some of the biggest killers are associated with gender. For example, HIV/Aids is the most gendered disease in the history of western Europe and north America — 85 per cent of infections are in males.'

The Men's Health Forum agreed and called on the UK government to recognise this. The Forum's Director Peter Baker told the summit: 'We need to understand gender if we are to tackle health inequalities effectively. The Department of Health's inequalities strategy must be re-viewed through a gender lens. If this does not happen, the targets are highly uthnlikely to be met and the country will continue to be riven by persistent and stubborn health inequalities that unnecessarily reduce the quality and length of life for both men and women.'

What do you think? Does less macho mean more healthy?

Page created on December 1st, 2003

Page updated on December 1st, 2009