A few weeks ago, a reader commented on my column and accused me of not paying attention to men’s health. So, men, this article is for you…
And your health.
It is a sad fact that in modern day society, stigmas are still rife. Varied in nature, subject and conspicuousness they are still very real and very alive.
What is cool, what is not. Don’t wear this, never listen to that and definitely don’t be seen there… But one stigma I am really sick of (no pun intended), is the concept that being healthy - is not manly! Caring about your body, what you eat and how you live makes you less of a man.
If I want to be “manly” it seems I need to ignore my stresses and emotions. I need to take up smoking, drink hard alcohol and eat fried food. Ludicrous, as these are all risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, cancers and - ironically - impotence!
Even seeing your doctor is not ‘blokey’.
To be manly, I have to practically ignore everything my doctor told me and worst of all - I am only really manly if I don’t actually care!
Is the peak of manliness to be 6 feet under!?
Why is eating well and watching my weight “girly”?… Caring about my health, protecting my skin from the sun, avoiding tobacco smoke and sharing my stresses can only be done by women?
Males of all ages are more likely to practice more than 30 behaviours linked to higher mortality, than females, and less likely to take up protective behaviours - a US study showed.
But we have also all seen it ourselves - what is more manly, a burger or a tofu burger? A salad or a snag? A light beer or a full-strength?
Masculinity should not be measured by poor health-behaviours and I should not risk being any less of a man because I choose to enjoy a lighter meal, moisturise each day or don’t feel the need to speed along on a two-wheeled death-trap!
So let’s just take a step back for a moment and reflect on the effect this unhelpful, even harmful rhetoric has on the men in our society.
Not to mention the women who want to enjoy the odd burger.
Let’s lose the absurd associations we make between unhealthy practices and being “a man”. Being healthy, man or woman, should be encouraged, celebrated and congratulated. Particuarly given how hard maintaining health can be in today’s world.
To paraphrase Marie Antoinette, let them eat tofu.
It won’t kill us all to be a little less complacent with our language, but it might improve the health of one in two of us.
This article is dedicated to Dr Jess Nehme - for inspiring these words, but also her inspiring work this past year.