Fun and levity are the best way to get people talking about the hidden men’s health crisis, say Brandon University researchers who are bringing Movember back to campus this year.
The moustache celebration, held annually each November, has been curtailed the past couple of years during the pandemic but is returning this year with an emphasis on promoting responsible masculinity.
“Society sometimes does a very poor job of reaching men with important messages about health, wellness, and behaviour,” said BU Professor Dr. Jonathan Allan, who is a Canada Research Chair in Men and Masculinities. “Movember is an annual opportunity to break through the lethargy — to get right in men’s faces — and highlight things that men need to know.”
The highlight of Movember will be the traditional month-long growth of facial hair. Everyone is encouraged to ‘Grow Their Mo’ however they choose (including using makeup, marker, or props), and at the end of the month will be invited to submit a selfie. Several prizes are available.
However, throughout Movember, the university is highlighting men’s issues like testicular cancer, mental health, and sexual consent.
“Testicular cancer is a killer, but it’s also one of the most curable cancers when caught early,” said Allan, who recently released a book on men’s infertility. “Testicular cancer is the most common cancer among men aged 15-35, which is the demographic we can most easily reach on university campuses. If you have testicles, you should be regularly checking them.”
Dr. Christopher Schneider, who recently co-authored a book on sexual misconduct and media that discusses the #MeToo movement and who has researched the positive and supportive online culture around beard-growing, says men’s issues like ensuring consent in sex need to be talked about more.
“Unfortunately, men don’t always feel supported in asking questions or revealing fears, and some men try to cover that up with bluster and braggadocio,” Schneider said. “As I’ve seen in researching online beard-growing communities, when other men respond with kindness and encouragement, men’s spaces can forge healthy and caring relationships.”
Both are quick to point out that BU’s Movember celebration is for everyone.
“Movember at BU is for people who can grow facial hair or who can’t; it’s even for people who could grow facial hair but choose not to. And let’s be clear: Trans men are men. But whatever your gender identity, it’s important for everyone to be talking about responsible masculinity,” Schneider said. “Our beard- and moustache-growing competition is open to all, and we hope people have some fun with it. Put a temporary moustache tattoo on your shoulder, take a Sharpie to your cheeks, have a Major Moustache T-shirt screenprinted — let your imagination run wild.”
With multiple categories including Most Creative, Most Hilarious, Vintage, and Regional, as well as a “Best In Mo,” the contest is not about raw whisker growth as much as it is about building fellowship and community.
“We have learned from research in Westman that men want to talk about mental health. What is often missing is a safe place to talk,” said Dr. Rachel Herron, director of the BU Centre for Critical Studies of Rural Mental Health and a Canada Research Chair in Rural and Remote Mental Health. “This speaks to the continued stigma associated with mental distress and mental illness. It also highlights the need to develop a range of supportive environments in the community.”
Allan and Schneider will be giving a talk near the end of the month to address men’s issues in a fun, casual, and supportive way. Tentatively scheduled for Nov. 24, the talk will pull from both researchers’ recent and upcoming books to answer common questions about men’s health issues and to explore examples of responsible masculinity.
“While serious, we’re also having fun with it — men’s health is a big hairy deal,” Allan said.
Movember at BU is being supported by Nickel City Beard Blends, which previously worked with Schneider to create a special “The Professor” scent, and which is providing prize packs for the beard and moustache contest. Movember at BU is also supported by Testicular Cancer Canada.
Further details on the contests will be posted at BrandonU.ca/Movember.
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