No Mo Movember? – Liberal Article
Before everyone comes at me, I am not against Movember.
The money and support it raises for men’s mental and physical health is hugely important. I would never deny this.
What I’d like to question is the way we go about supporting Movember. I want to make the case that the medium used to fundraise sends an important message. And Movember is not as problem-free as we think.
It is undeniable that they have tapped into a brilliant marketing scheme. Encouraging men to grow their facial hair is fun and simultaneously advertises the charity with millions of moustaches. They are often hard to miss.
Movember aims to ‘change the face of men’s health’. When it comes to physical health this involves early cancer detection, diagnosis and effective treatments. In relation to mental health, they focus on prevention, early intervention and health promotion. In practice, this encompasses clinical registries, gene research projects and an initiative called Movember conversations. And these are only a handful of programmes that Movember fund. All the initiatives they back are inclusive and proactive in fulfilling these aims.
However, in order to make a lasting impact on men’s health, their fundraising methods need to align with their goals.
Let’s think about the display of growing hair as a primary marketing and fundraising tool. Is the beloved mo as good as we think?
The moustache has connotations of stereotypical masculinity but the authenticity of being a man shouldn’t hinge on ‘masculine’ attributes. The moustache excludes people who identify as men but don’t have the ability to grow a moustache. It could lead to low self-esteem if a man couldn’t grow a moustache as he might feel ‘lacking’.
This doesn’t mean the moustache has to go because it has obviously helped to raise millions of pounds. The charity rightfully wants to help all men but in order to do this, it must promote more inclusive images. If the ‘face of men’s health’ has to have a moustache on it, has anything really changed?
We should also ensure that the fundraising methods do not perpetuate the same constructs that Movember is trying to overhaul.
This November, I have seen people committed to running a marathon every day for a week or completing the ‘Murph’ work out every day for a month. Although not everyone takes it to these extremes, Movember does promote choosing a challenge ‘epic in scope and scale’ on their website. But, if Movember is trying to stop men from feeling like they must ‘tough it out’, then why do they encourage people to commit to such intense and potentially dangerous forms of exercise without prior training?
Exercise is good for mental health and the communal aspect of sport is also incredibly positive. But the push to be the strongest, run the fastest or complete the most intense challenge maintains damaging constructions of ‘masculinity’. In order to promote men’s mental health, we need to move away from this push to physically be the strongest, the biggest, and the best.
And what about the promotion of creativity? Why are there not more people painting or baking for Movember? Part of deconstructing limiting forms of masculinity involves promoting characteristics that are seen as stereotypically ‘unmasculine’. A group of six students in Durham hosted a 24-hour cook-a-thon to donate to homeless shelters for vulnerable people in the area. This is a brilliant example of fundraising that fulfils Movember’s aims.
This month, too many fundraisers have reinforced the damaging idea that Movember is trying to fight. If we are to actually improve men’s health we must make the fundraisers more inclusive and creative. Movember is doing such important work, but this small step would make a world of difference to men’s health.
Written by Guest Liberal Writer, Hannah Rashbass
Point of Information
No need to bash the tache – A Labour Response
I couldn’t agree more that Movember is an incredible charity. They have raised over 1.16 billion UAD since their conception in 2003, and have built a global community who come together (at least) once a year to talk and tackle men’s health.
The work being done at the moment deserves all the praise it is receiving. The moustache-centric branding has clearly yielded results, and the inclusion of physical fitness challenges is also commendable. As the link between physical and mental health is well documented, I struggle to believe that it is reinforcing masculine stereotypes in a harmful way.
This year we have also witnessed an increase in the number of women getting involved – usually not the sex who sport moustaches. This has been mostly via running to raise money for their fathers, brothers and friends. Clearly, one of Movember’s biggest successes is raising awareness and getting male health on the agenda.
Moreover, exercise-based fundraising gives people a free and beneficial way of raising money for charity. It is easily incorporated into daily life. Although the website uses hyperbolic language, I think everyone knows in this instance it is the taking part that really counts. Not forgetting, group exercise can be a great way to combat loneliness, something that 45% of men said was an issue during this pandemic.
I think Hannah’s article is interesting and I would certainly not have any issues with wanting to diversify the fundraising methods used for Movember. However, I don’t think we should be levying too much criticism against the Movember brand or against their promotion of exercise.
Written by Senior Labour Writer, Henry Mckeever
It’s Movember. Lighten up – A Conservative Response
I do feel that Hannah’s article was written in a spirit of ‘spielverderber’, but that the main founding principle of Movember has alluded her: fun.
The Labour response does a very good job of explaining why the physical exercise aspect is beneficial. It not regressive and understands the underpinning importance of fun within the charity.
Movember is not about promoting “damaging constructions of ‘masculinity’”, as Hannah says. It is about fun that anyone can take part in. Those who participate in Movember are not solely men. The first ‘Mo sisters’ to fundraise for Movember were in 2004, only a year after Movember itself began. You only need to go on Instagram and search for “#MOSISTER” to see the grand scale of women who take part and help fundraise for this great cause.
The inability to grow a moustache really has little significance with regards to fundraising overall. It is an effective symbol to draw attention to the issues that Movember is raising money for. For the many women that participate in Movember who are unable to grow big bushy moustaches, I feel that they do not feel “lacking” because of their femininity. The moustache is only a fun symbol. Both genders have been growing them, wearing comical fake ones, and have even drawn them on with a Sharpie.
When taking part in a netball competition last year to raise money for breast cancer, I did not feel any insecurity because my female teammates had much bigger breasts than myself. This is even despite the netballs being designed to look like giant breasts themselves. Breasts are simply the key symbol of the event.
Moreover, I doubt that any of the female participants felt upset or ashamed over their respective differences either. I do not understand how Movember “excludes people who identify as men but don’t have the ability to grow a moustache”. So many people willingly participate in innovative ways, without sporting a tache.
With regards to the promotion of creativity, I think people could, perhaps, try to be more creative with how they fundraise. However, I do not feel that this is due to Movember’s lack of creativity. If you go on the website you can find some creative examples and ways to fundraise. You can also see what creative events that they are hosting which differ from simply growing a moustache or running long distances.
It is not a case of taking part in activities which are “stereotypically ‘unmasculine’”; it is a case of doing activities which bring people together, raise money for a good cause, and involve having fun. For example, in 2019 Movember hosted a “Bottomless Brunch” where people came together to eat naked 100ft above the O2 to raise money. A rather creative way to fundraise and one of many examples on Movember’s website.
Movember’s fundraising methods do not “perpetuate the same constructs that [they] are trying to overhaul”. I find it mystifying anyone could try and argue such. Fundraising for Movember is meant to be fun. You are meant to partake in fun activities to raise money, such as the awkwardness of growing a moustache.
If you are not having fun fundraising for Movember or believe it is a dangerous construct, I think you are either doing Movember wrong. You’re looking too deep into the whole idea. Challenges, such as the long runs, are fun for some and not for others. If one method of fundraising is not fun for you then there are many others to take part in. No one is being forced into anything “dangerous” or “extreme”.
Overall, I do not understand how Movember fundraisers can be more inclusive. They currently invite everyone and anyone to participate in fundraising. Movember appeals to all demographics. Whilst its website may predominantly include photos of men with moustaches, it only takes a couple of clicks to read the history of the charity and see that people from all walks of life have been a part of this great charity.
Nowhere (explicitly or implicitly) does Movember promote toxic masculinity or a need to “be the strongest, biggest and best” as described in the article. If anything Movember is a clear advocate of diversity, just look at photos on the home page. I do not know if the author of the article has done fundraising for Movember this year or in the past, but I feel the core ideology of joy and fun has alluded her. The moustache is only a small part of a much bigger cause. The scrawny moustache I myself am sporting makes no difference to me. I am happy in the knowledge that the money I have raised is going to a great cause to help those who really need it. I congratulate those who can grow bushier moustaches than myself in the hope they can raise lots of money for Movember.
Perhaps Hannah is upset at her own “lacking” ability to grow a moustache?
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Peter Pearce