In case you somehow skipped beyond the title and into this paragraph, I actually participated in the Movember Movement, which centers on men growing out their facial hair for the entire month of November to raise awareness of the medical issues unique to males, most notably prostate and testicular cancer, but has now grown to issues such as the disproportionate and meteoritic rise of suicide, poorer mental health, and a shorter than average life along with worse long term health for those that don’t off themselves.
If you know me, you know I generally keep fairly clean shaven, the difference between my skin tone and my hair color is fairly contrasted, and that my facial hair grows pretty quickly. As such, once I stopped shaving and let things grow ‘au naturel’, it got pretty noticeable pretty quickly; I had at least an 8 O’clock shadow by day 5. Furthermore, I interact with a lot of people during my day, many of which know me personally. If I had to guess, I’d say about 100 people minimum I see weekly that at least recognize me. Care to take a guess on how many people guessed why I was suddenly growing out my facial hair, on November, after keeping it cut for so long?
One person. One.
That person was one of the people I work with. None of my family (save for those I told ahead of time), none of my work people, none of the other people I interact with on an almost daily basis, none of them even asked about it. Even today, when I finally shaved, there was no question of it. Now I’m sure part of it has to do with living in a city where beards are prevalent, and people know me for doing things that don’t exactly go along with social norms, so surely at least some of them wouldn’t bat an eye to this. But for almost nobody save one person to even ask, that says a lot.
Now maybe that’s not a shock to you, or even that important. What does it matter if people can’t figure out what my facial hair pattern mean, right? Try using that argument on me wearing any amount of pink in October. I could’ve worn a pink shirt with a picture of a live vagina on it with the caption “this is what my dick was in last night”, and the most common comment I would get is “oh, that’s for breast cancer? Great!”, as long as I wear it within a few weeks of Halloween. The reality is that when it comes to women’s health, in particular breast cancer, it is given the utmost exposure. Every year you see the merchandise roll out, the various wrist bands, ribbons and T-shirts with bad puns. You’ll see your favorite football player and race car wearing pink paint. You’ll see the hipster douche(ette) that cut you off in traffic has a pink ribbon bumper sticker. It’s funny that it’s even called an “Awareness” campaign anymore, given that even outside of October, anytime you see the color pink, you think of breasts, and maybe cancer.
Compare that with the Movember Movement. Maybe I was an anomaly, as per usual. Maybe I would let this go as a fluke. But this is far from the first time I’ve seen an issue that negatively affects men be ignored, swept under the rug, attacked for not being a real issue, or even be accused of getting in the way of issues that affect women. Every time I’ve brought up child support and alimony, I’m told that it’s the guy’s fault and women need the money. When I talk about how men die earlier it’s explained away as “guys being guys.” Talk about how men are portrayed in commercials and T.V. shows as buffoons, and you get the immediate comparisons on how women are objectified. Talk about any issue that affects men, and it is ignored, shut down, or switched to the topic of issues that affect women instead. In other words, if it matters to men, but doesn’t directly affect women, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even get talked about. That’s what the Movember Movement is trying to promote.
The two most common cancers men get are testicular and prostate cancer, in that order. 90 men a day commit suicide; over 3,000 men a year die for no good reason. There are ways to mitigate these losses of precious human life, and the information is out there, yet it isn’t talked about. These lives are being lost in part because it, frankly, isn’t deemed that important. And in my opinion,. It’s because none of these affect women. Women of course don’t have prostates or testicles (well, most don’t), so they have no worry about them. Women aren’t the ones killing themselves at a rate of one every 16 seconds. But women do have large breasts in comparison to men, along with ovaries and cervixes that men don’t have, and those getting cancer get a lot more attention to put it mildly. This lack of attention needs to stop. Not just because of how it affects half the population, but because it affects the entire population.
You may be a woman reading this. You likely don’t have a prostate or balls, so you can’t get that kind of cancer. But your father can. Your brother, your cousins, your uncle, your boss, your lover or husband or partner, your sons, all of them can be affected by this. All of them can be taken by these ailments. All of them can fall victim to the many circumstances that cause many men to believe life is no longer worth living anymore despite how much YOU may depend on them. And of course, whatever your beliefs on gender roles and politics are, understand that many of what all of us enjoy and take for granted today was won through the blood, sweat, tears, time and energy of the men that worked and died for them. They, we, work hard to make life better not just for ourselves, but you as well. Yet men are treated as disposable. I understand the genetics behind it, that guys are meant to be the risk takers and women are traditionally the protected ones that make the house. I get that. But understand, that does not make men disposable; by being the protectors and providers, men are just as, if not more so, as important as women are in society.
I understand the need to combat things like breast and ovarian cancer. That’s a horrible way to go, and it deserves all the attention and resources needed to stop it. What affects women is worthy of awareness. What affects men is just as deserving. I wouldn’t want my mom, my sister, my aunts and cousins, my friends, my partner, to get sick, suffer and die, just because no one spared a thought about what they could suffer through. Please don’t make my father, my brothers, my uncles and cousins, your partner, and your own sons suffer that fate.
We’re all supposed to be equal these days. Don’t we all deserve the same care?