Saturday, December 8, 2012

Gender Issues of Pinktober and Movember

With pinktober and Movember behind us, I've been reflecting on some interesting similarities, correlations and themes between them. Most of these revolve around gender.

While researching both of these, I noticed many argue that Movember was the time to focus on men's health, as October was all about women: "You have pinktober; we have Movember." When women complained that Movember was exclusionary because women can't grow moustaches, male defenders of Movember argued: "We didn't protest against pinktober."

There's this idea that if you are against either campaign, you are against the gender it purports to serve and all for the other campaign. Kind of ironic when you consider that many people against Movember are socially conscious and hate pinktober for similar reasons they hate Movember.

Each campaign is very exclusionary to the opposite sex, perhaps intended to create a collective experience for each of the sexes. I don't necessarily object to that, though I think this animosity between the sexes bred by these campaigns is counter productive to the causes participants claim to support. I object to the gender roles perpetuated by each of the causes.

Pinktober attempts to create solidarity for women by objectifying them, encouraging them to shop, to maintain a socially acceptable appearance and to only look at the positive side of breast cancer. Classic sexism. I summarized these issues in an October post.

This article from The Scavenger explains why Movember is heteronormative and sexist. A sample:
"Mo Fact Cards (from the Movember organization) promote heteronormativity with statements such as ‘Women are more attracted to men with Mo’s,’ and use ableist language in jokes such as ‘Beards are for the weak and lame.’"  - Bastian Fox Phelan, The Scavenger, November 14, 2010
That's a common message in pinktober and Movember from official related organizations and participants. Strong men and women participate; weak ones don't. It's a guilt trip. Peer pressure. Neither  of these tactics foster true awareness and genuine care for a cause. They do the opposite.

Movember also oversimplifies awareness, much like pinktober does. Discourses in both campaigns not only include very little information, but the information that is included is misleading, redundant and unfounded. This Health Beat article explains how Movember contradicts evidence and oversimplifies the facts.
"Nary a mention is made of the debate surrounding the value of the yearly physical exam. Nor is there discussion about the risks vs. the benefits of prostate cancer screening, an issue that’s of considerable controversy amongst the medical and scientific community, or how men can weigh the evidence to make appropriate, informed decisions."
Here is another great post noting the lack of evidence behind much of the awareness Movember promotes. Of course, as I've written before, most Movember discourse from participants includes zero discourse about prostate cancer. Not sure which is worse.

Going back to the gender turf war I referred to early in this post, in Movember, many men and women Tweeted rude, gender normative jokes about facial hair. And still do.
What's with all the hate? The put downs? What does this have to do with awareness? What do you hope to accomplish by putting down a woman for not conforming to your narrow perception of  femininity? Any objective surely has nothing to do with the cause of prostate cancer. I would hope that Lyle wouldn't claim otherwise. He and all the others like him use Movember as a tool to hurt people, to reinforce socialized rules for gender appearances.

Pinktober does something similar, only I haven't noticed any hate discourse. Pinktober is all about preserving and restoring women's socially acceptable appearances and behaviour.

Another big problem with Movember is that many prostate cancer patients are physically unable to participate because they can't grow facial, among other reasons.

Check out my other posts on Movember and Pinktober.

1 comment :

  1. Wish you a very Happy New Year 2013!
    May God bless you with all the happiness in the world!