The Power of the Mo.

I’m proud to identify as a feminist. Women have got the short end of the stick in most respects throughout history and still do today. They still earn less for the same work, do a bigger share of unpaid labour, are disproportionately victims of sex crimes, and in some countries are still unequal in the eyes of the law. Now, as a lot of self-identified “men’s rights activists” are all too quick to point out, this is not the fault of all men. But it is the fault of the culture that teaches us that a woman changing her name on marriage is unremarkable, while a man who changes his is servile; and that a little boy who bullies his female peers does it because he likes them; and that makes us see a crowd with a 50/50 gender split as “female dominated”, and it takes a ratio of five men to one woman for the average person to perceive it as even. (There have been studies.)

The men’s rights activists are right that men have it tough in some areas, but they’re wrong if they try to lay the blame for that on feminism or gender equality. Men are disproportionally cut out of their children’s lives in divorce cases, not because feminists have convinced judges that teh evil menz cannot be trusted, but because of the patriarchal view that women are more natural nurturers and better with children. Men who are raped are far less likely to be taken seriously than women, who have a hard time of it as it is, not because of some feminist idea that men are always aggressors but because of the patriarchal idea that a man wouldn’t refuse sex and that it’s “unmanly” to be a victim. Men are disproportionately victims of violence in general, but not because women are more violent, rather because outside of domestic cases (where the target pool is kind of small) most violence is between men. In turn, this is in no small part because we are taught to feel we have no other outlet. We can’t talk about our issues as freely as women can without being mocked and dismissed. This is also a reason why men are disproportionately victims of suicide. (The expression victims of suicide might seem wrongheaded, but I stand by it.)

And that brings me to where I’m going with this post. Mental health is a huge issue. According to beyondblue, one in eight men will have depression and one in five men will experience anxiety at some stage of their lives. I’ve been living with low-level anxiety for years, which I generally brushed off as just normal stress — I’m doing Year 12, I’m in a new environment at uni, I’m moving out of home, I’m working two jobs and studying, I’m living in a strange new country — but in the last year I’ve recognised that it isn’t just something I have to grit my teeth and bear. I’ve had anxiety attacks, and while they might be triggered by thinking about my career or our mortgage or whatever, they aren’t rational, and so they can’t be fixed by rational thinking. My most visible symptom was nail-biting, and it had gotten very bad. Interesting thing though, what finally stopped it wasn’t that bad-tasting stuff you can put on your nails, nor was it getting anti-anxiety medication (that came later, and I don’t need it most days) — it was getting a manicure and having my nails painted (a very unmanly) purple.

So this year, I’m going to do what I’ve been meaning to do for a while and never got round to — yet another symptom of both anxiety and depression being procrastination and avoidance, of course — and sign up for the Movember charity drive. This means that for the month of November I’ll be growing out a moustache and raising money for men’s mental health. Movember supports men’s health in other areas too, like prostate cancer, which is great.

As an already beardly-faced fella, of course, this will mean shaving my face for the start of the month. I’ve had the goatee for so long my wife has literally never seen me without it, except in old photographs, so that should be interesting. I just hope people don’t get too freaked out when I end up looking like my Dad, because to be honest, I know that that’s what’s going to happen.

I’ve pledged $100 just to get the ball rolling towards my target of raising $1000. You can follow my progress at my “Mo Space” page here, and I’ll be adding a link on the sidebar and on my other online presences as well. If you can and you’d like to, please click through and donate. It’s a very worthy cause.

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