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    Leaving out any reference to the detrimental consequences of masculine ideals on men’s health was deliberate on the part of those people who devised the new men’s health policy. Many of those people belong or are sympathetic to the men’s rights movement in Australia. They are bitterly opposed to even considering that hegemonic masculinity creates cultural practices that are harmful to men, their significant others, and the wider community. By denying the central role that hegemonic masculinity plays in terms of men’s poor attachment behaviours, their restricted emotionality, and their propensity for violence to self and to others, the new men’s health policy will in fact lead to diminished health outcomes for men.

    I think here of male suicide, where men in Australia outnumber women 4:1 in terms of completed acts. That is despite the fact that women attempt suicide more often than men do. I have worked therapeutically with many suicidal men. It is my considered opinion, and one which is reinforced by the accumulated empirical evidence, that the pressures brought to bear on men to uphold masculine ideals, including the prohibitions those ideals enforce against displaying any emotion that might be considered ‘feminine’ or ‘weak’, account for the massive gendered split in the suicide rate. The new men’s health policy completely ignores those stark realities, sidestepping the immense shame that compels more than 1,600 Australian men to kill themselves every year.

    Pollack (1998) made the insightful observation that boys are born with just as much capacity for emotional expressivity as girls. However, by the time that boys have made it into kindergarten, they have already had that expressivity beaten out of them, emotionally if not physically as well. Big boys would rather die than cry. That ‘shame hardening process’, as Pollack (1998) refers to it, stays with boys and men across the lifespan. It explains, in large measure, the reluctance of men to seek help for their physical and mental health problems and, symbiotically, the reluctance of others to acknowledge those health problems. Any men’s health policy that ignores the impact of hegemonic masculinity is like a lung cancer reduction strategy that ignores the impact of smoking.

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    Thank you for making that crucial point — I obviously agree (see M Saunders and A Peerson, ‘Australia’s National Men’s Health Policy: Masculinity Matters’, Australian Journal of Health Promotion, August 2009). I wonder, though, whether the policy documents try to avoid the argument by talking about the impacts of hegemonic masculinity without referring to it by name. I agree, however, that the influence of hegemonic masculinity needs to be understood and addressed rather than treated as an unconscionable victim-blaming taboo. There is truth in the claim that, ‘It is men’s and boys’ practical relationships to collective images or models of masculinity, rather than simple reflections of them, that is central to understanding gendered consequences in violence, health, and education. The concept of hegemonic masculinity… is a means of grasping a certain dynamic within the social process’ (RW Connell and JW Messerschmidt, Hegemonic Masculinity – Rethinking the Concept Gender & Society, 2005, Vol. 19, No. 6, 829-859).

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    Leo Braun

    “What difference will the new national male health policy make on the ground”? Given that Rudd cooks-up men’s health policy within the federal election setting, this provides some context for the mounting criticism of prime ministerial spinelessness. Particularly that Rudd omitted prostate cancer elementary PSA testing from “the national male health policy”!

    Failing also to inform the forsaken citizens whose working-life-taxes nurtured the system (in the zionist era of universal deceit), that since the mid 2009 major changes curtailed the bulk-billing for targeted pathology tests and ultrasound screening, we know nothing about. In contrast to the longstanding, previous widespread practice of the bulk-billing 87% outpatient services.

    Perhaps justifiable in accordance with the Rudd govt set priorities in the taxpayers revenue distribution? Yet it’s just a commonsense notion: To be well informed by the govt in the authentic democracy!

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    chris hobson

    At the risk of being shot down in flames, I think as a male patient, one of the issues that is not discussed is the gender imbalance that applies particularily in nursing staff. This is I believe this will be further compounded by the increasing role for nurses in GP clinics etc, the overwhelming majority of whom are female. It is just not true that men are not modest, many are, and this needs to be recognised by the “medical establishment”; in the same way that woment have been encouraged to study for doctors (a policy I support).

    Look at the way that men are encouraged to get check ups as distinct from womens campaigns. For males lets treat it as a joke “be a man” or similar, rather that look at how those services are delivered and by who. Look at the culture of clinics, look at even such things as the reading material and you will see what I mean.


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