As October draws to a close, November brings with it the wonderful tradition of Movember. However, despite the popularity of the campaign, its history and purpose are somewhat pervasive.
cw: some discussion of suicide
A Brief History
Movember began in 2003 with two friends from Australia, Travis Garone and Luke Slattery, jokingly trying to bring the moustache back into fashion. During this time, a friend of theirs who was fundraising for breast cancer inspired them to use their light-hearted mission as a fundraising platform for men’s health issues. In its early years, participating in Movember meant showing solidarity for those suffering with prostate and testicular cancer. The idea was to encourage those who were hesitant to seek potentially life-saving medical attention, as prostate cancer was (and still is) in the top five killers of men under the age of fifty. However, in the years that followed, the movement has grown beyond just medicine.
Supporting the campaign does still mean showing solidarity for prostate and testicular cancer, but as our social understanding of masculinity has changed, so has the Movember mission. Since 2003, so many books have been written (some of which will be recommended later) around the harmful ways that men have been socialised to dismiss their emotions and conflate strength with repression. At this time, the biggest killer of men under fifty is suicide. Discussing men’s mental health and encouraging men to open up about their struggles is more crucial than it has ever been.
How to Show Support
Whilst the traditional way to support the cause is to undertake a sponsored moustache growth, it certainly isn’t the only thing that contributes to a successful Movember- far from it.
There is a myriad of entry points into this campaign so that every human being is able to show their support. Here are some of the most popular ones:
- Grow for the sake of it- If you want to show solidarity but don’t have the time or facilities to fundraise, grow your facial hair as a visual reminder that what this campaign supports should be on your mind. The traditional rule is to grow just a moustache, but many who participate take to growing a whole beard. More importantly, share your growth journey with those around you and encourage them to learn more about the campaign and what it supports.
- Donate- This is perhaps the most popular way of showing solidarity. Chances are, someone in your family or social circle is raising money for charity this Movember. If you have the ability to, and if the charity in question is one which piques your interest, donating is a wonderful way to support the ongoing quest to understand the issues faced by men in our society.
- Make yourself emotionally available to those around you (when you can, of course)- The mental health aspect of this campaign has really taken the forefront of what the movement is about in recent years. Perhaps the best way to show support for any mental health campaign is to support the people in your life. Although this campaign has its roots in the support of men, the lessons it teaches can be applied to everyone. Ask your friends if they’re okay, then ask them again. Ensure that the space you create with those you love is a space where showing vulnerability is safe and respected.
- Share information and resources on social media– The easiest and cheapest way for most people of the modern day to help those raising funds, struggling with their own health, and those who aim to educate, is as simple as sharing social media content. If you aren’t in a position to donate then others on your friends list may be. Spread the word.
- Read, read, read- As is the same with any major social movement, one of the best ways to rally around this cause is to search libraries and the internet for what many fantastic authors have written about the subject. Ignorance is not a crime, but the refusal to learn and understand is the cause of so much injustice in this world. In the next section of this article, I will list some of my personal favourite books around masculinity and mental health.
Some Reading Recommendations
- Man Down: A Guide for Men on Mental Health by Charlie Hoare – A book about how essential it is for men to connect through their vulnerability.
- Are You Really Okay? by Roman Kemp – Self-described as a collection of honest feelings and life-changing experiences, collected to illuminate the issues faced by young men.
- Man Enough: Undefining my Masculinity by Justin Baldoni – This truly fearless exploration of the harmful nature of traditional masculinity has provided so many of its readers with validation and agency within their identity as a man.
- The Man They Wanted Me To Be: Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis of Our Own Making by Jared Yates Sexton – If you want to learn more about the way that young boys are socialised, this book is a spectacular choice.
To Those Struggling…
If all of the information surrounding the Movember campaign has provided you with anything, I would hope that it is the validation and empathy extended to you by the millions of people who participate. There is always a place in this world for your vulnerability, for your tears, for your stories of heartbreak and loss. Your strength is not defined by a lack of emotion, nor is your weakness defined by the tears you shed. It takes the highest magnitude of strength to allow yourself to be vulnerable, to feel the emotions you may be fighting off every day. This, of course, applies to everyone but applies to the men of our world more so than ever.
Finally, to the men who don’t feel “man enough”- the only criteria for being a man is that you identify as such. Define your own masculinity and live it authentically.