Monday, May 24, 2010

How about, "Because we aren't women?" Revisited

A few days ago I did a post about a prostate cancer awareness ad. The ad basically plays on how men are not as open about their feelings and up to date on getting checked out for illnesses. Well the idea was nice but the execution was terrible. The makers of the ad try to raise awareness by asking men why can't they be more like women and push the point by having the men in the ad engage in activity that is normally associated with women, knitting. In that post from a few days ago I spoke about how that ad is trying raise awareness by playing on the stereotypes men keeping their emotions bottled up and not visiting the doctor regularly and how it was not necessary. Now I'm going to take a moment to explain why.

As anyone who grew/is growing up as a boy knows that we are socialized so that the only emotional range that we allowed to have is pretty much limited to lust and rage and the demand to keep them bottled up most of the time.

We are allowed to express our sexual desires (as long as said desire is about women but that's another story) because men are supposedly sexual creatures and according to The System we are all about the pussy, tits, and ass right?

Along with lust The System also says that we as men are aggressive and prone to fits of anger and rage (well its only okay when we are angry about certain things). And mind you this goes beyond simply being given a pass on being angry and giving in to rage but actually goes into the requirement that men be aggressive in order to prove themselves. Men being aggressive for other men to establish dominance. Men being aggressive for women in order showcase for them.

Now along with the limited range of emotions we are offered we are expected to bottle up anything that is not in those two categories. This would explain why men are "allowed" to do things for women as long as we trying to get some sex out of the deal but are called whimps when we try to do simply do something nice for a woman with no expectation of sex in return. This is why men are "allowed" to throw chairs, punch walls, and curse loudly over finding out that we have an ailment that may be a death sentence but are too afraid to simply cry about it.

It will be a better day for all when society gets used to the fact that we have more of an emotional range than anger and lust.

As for not visiting the doctor that comes from being raised to think that having to go to the doctor is a sign of weakness and real men are never weak. In addition to that we as men are often socialized to put aside our physical and mental safety in order to provide for our families. This is how you end up with guys who will ignore possible signs of poor health to keep on working. We think that if we stop for even the smallest moment to take care of ourselves we are being selfish and weak. Quite the bind to be in.

Now that that's out of the way I'll go back to saying that it is certainly possible to raise awareness and get men to start getting screened without framing in the manner of "men need to be more like women". In fact chances are if you are about to say something to the effect of "X need to be more like Y" then stop. When you say something like that ask yourself if you are really breaking any restrictions on X by telling them they should be more like Y? As I said a long time pick your words a little better and you'll be fine. Here is an example of what I'm talking about from the Feministing post I linked to (and found out about this ad from) in my first post on this a few days ago.

A commenter by the handle Hawk or Handsaw said:
as someone who has a 75% chance of being diagnosed with prostate cancer in my lifetime, i think that holding up the breast cancer awareness campaign as the #1 gold standard for both developing personal responsibility and growing social awareness of how men should handle it is a good thing.

breast cancer has been effectively targeted culturally through personal awareness and by word of mouth between women. men, however, do not talk about prostate cancer. both of my grandfathers were diagnosed (one died) and yet my father still fights against having to go to the doctor about it (and he has some of the early warning signs). men need to start treating prostate cancer the way women treat breast cancer.

this is the whole point of the ad (along with using "macho" men (sports stars) to combat the uncomfortableness some men have) is that men need to get over themselves and treat this disease (the second leading cause of cancer death for men) the way women treat breast cancer. it isn't mocking women, it isn't making a joke of women, its saying that we need to be more like women. we need to take personal responsibility, we need to convince our friends and family to get screened. we need to talk about it. women aren't being belittled here, the women are what the men should be looking up to. we should be emulating them.
I have to say that the first two paragraphs of that comment really hit. The way that breast cancer has been approached over the last several decades is great and I would love to see prostate cancer handled in a similar way. However this commenter falls right into what the ad was doing in their third paragraph.

this is the whole point of the ad (along with using "macho" men (sports stars) to combat the uncomfortableness some men have) is that men need to get over themselves and treat this disease (the second leading cause of cancer death for men) the way women treat breast cancer.(Emphasis by me)

Okay while I'm not a fan of playing victim for attention I have to say that attributing the way men are about going to see the doctor is much more than use needing to "get over ourselves". We aren't talking about the local football hero that has a big ego and needs to check himself. We are talking about behavior that has been ingrained in us for ages. Its not a matter of us getting over ourselves its a matter of us realizing that its okay to stop and take care of ourselves.

it isn't mocking women, it isn't making a joke of women, its saying that we need to be more like women.

This person nearly has a contradiction going on here. In one breath they say its not mocking women but then treats women like they have some inherent quality that men need to emulate. Seeking medical attention is no more inherent to women than being a nurturing parent is inherent to women. In both cases the The System is benefiting from us thinking that they are inherent. Think about it like this. Would you say that in men need to be more like women in order to be nurturing parents or would you simply say that men can be nurturing parents? I know the wording sounds a lot a like but after listening to feminists talk about how acting like certain behaviors are inherent to certain genders I think I'm starting to see the difference.

we should be emulating them.

Again this comes off sounding like, from my example above, that Y is the norm and that X is some deviation than needs to copy Y in order to be okay.

In closing I have to say that the makers of the ad seem like they weren't trying to mock anyone or offend anyone (aka "their hearts were in the right place") but I think they could have done things differently and come out a lot better.

1. If they wanted to appeal to the "macho men" that don't get checked out on the regular they should have had those guys doing something such "macho men" (because admittedly while in the real world there is nothing wrong with men knitting a lot of macho men, the ones that are supposed to be the target audience, think there is) would be doing. Something they can actually relate to. Fishing, chess, football, etc...

2. From there that conversation could have gone down almost verbatim.

3. Instead of asking, "Why can't men express themselves more like women?" why not ask "Is your manliness really worth the risk of not finding out?"

My point is this ad is supposed to be about getting men to get checked out regularly and that can very easily be done without even mentioning women much less playing on the stereotypes of "womanly" activities.