This isn’t a term I hear as often as I would like. We typically don’t pay as much attention to men’s health as we do to women’s health. Men are not paying enough attention to their own health and are too often not taking their health and their lives into their own hands.
Women have had to fight against massive cultural barriers to gain more autonomy and power over their bodies and health; thanks to the women (and men) who came before me I think I have more choice than any of my female predecessors. The so called patriarchal system we’ve been living within has definitely stripped women of their rights to a full unobstructed lives and women are still dealing with the repercussions of that today. North American women with careers are often forced to sacrifice family values, can be made to choose between career and family, struggle with debt during their reproductive years and in many career avenues are still earning less than men despite equal training and skills.
Though we tend to think men have it so much better than women I’m not so sure. The author Robert Bly famous for his book Iron John: A Book About Men explores the issues behind men’s struggles. He is considered the founder of the Men’s Expressive Movement in which he gathered men together to talk about being a man and learn how to navigate the struggles and joys of the experience. In his book what stood out strongly for me was his description of our society as not patriarchal but Industrial. Women (and some men) have been very focussed on the patriarchal (where male values/skills/archetypes dominate and garner much more power than their feminine counterparts) components of our society, fighting against them to gain power and have equal social agency. In this necessary step of our evolution as women (and men), we have failed to realize that the societal system in which we live actually doesn’t account for true male virtues but rather values industry, capitalism, productivity and profit. This has left men in dark too, perhaps in most cases with more money and social agency but still not realizing their potential as male human beings.
In my practice I tend to have more women than men seeking naturopathic care to compliment the care they receive from medical doctors and nurse practitioners. This is tends to be a complaint women have about their male partners; they say of their husbands ‘Oh they’d never come!’ Men on the whole are less likely to seek care for themselves and to be proactive about their health. They are approximately 25% less likely to have visited a health care provider in the last year (Bridget Murray-Law 2011). Why is this? One aspect of it is that the industrial mode of operation has hijacked men’s thinking and has convinced them they are supposed to be strong, not show emotion, perhaps even not have emotions, never have a problem, and never show weakness; somehow men (and perhaps women) have been convinced that those are male qualities. That’s a pretty tall order to be a man without emotion or weakness! It’s actually impossible. Men and women aren’t that much different and human qualities considered feminine like nurturing, tending to self and others, processing emotions, and being connected intimately (but not necessarily sexually) to others, are also a part of being a man. These qualities require action and proactivity. The cultural back ground I am most familiar with is Scottish and I find this plays a role with strong emphasis placed on stoicism or being strong and tough despite hardship. These are great qualities in battle or in crisis but don’t serve us when we are trying to evolve as people and transcend our history, our personal problems, or simply take advantage of the excellent health care that we have available. The emphasis placed on emotional independence in men seems to be common in North America generally prompting the research into the ‘Man Box’ and the somewhat pervasive thinking that men must not show weakness or emotion lest they be considered feminine. (Have a look at http://goodmenproject.com for articles and research on this important topic)
These cultural norms and the difficulties men have recognizing true male virtues like being fully responsible for ourselves including our own health has serious consequences. According to an article published in American Psychology Association in 2011 by Bridget Murray-Law called ‘Why Do Men Die Earlier?’, men in the U.S. are 1.5 times as likely to die from heart disease, respiratory problems and cancer. The psychology of these habits require everyone’s attention so men can realize the full scope of their human experience and seek proactive health care solutions. I will bring you more information about specific male issues in the coming months.
In Whole Masculine and Feminine Health,