The Lessons that the Men’s Mental Health Movement can Learn from Feminism

In recent years, many women and men have increasingly rallied behind the feminist movement, which fights for equality in opportunities and rights between men and women. The idea is to eradicate gender stereotypes, the age-old argument that ‘men and women are not the same’, at its rotten core. Being ‘same’ is not the same as being ‘equal’. Proponents of the women’s rights movement have made progress in finding the words to convey this stance and drive the wider public to their cause. This is apparent from the growing attendance at marches and protests across the world that mark important milestones in the movement.

Destigmatisation through dialogue and demonstrations

An intentional yet subtle outcome of the movement has been the growing change in perspective and the consequent destigmatisation of conventionally taboo topics of rape, sexual harassment and domestic violence. The normalization of discussion of these issues in the widespread media through the sharing of stories by influencers and stars (the ‘Me Too’ movement is a prime example) has given strength to the common public to come forth with their own life stories. As the dialogue surrounding these topics grows louder, awareness increases, allowing development of sensitization to these issues.

This outcome is exactly what is expected when it comes to men’s mental health. We need to shatter the stigma surrounding the issue and engage the media, thus reinforcing the fact that it is okay to discuss these issues which are also considered taboo. The measures that were effective in the Feminist movement can help the men’s mental health movement too. November is men’s health month, also called Movember, as men grow mustaches to raise awareness for issues such as prostate and testicular cancer and also mental health of men. While on one hand, men dominate professionally and politically, they’re also more susceptible to suffering from a wide range of mental health issues such as suicide. This article by the American Psychological Association outlines the guidelines for psychological practice with men and boys. Organizing events surrounding this month’s theme and engagement by widespread media can grow the movement by leaps and bounds. 

Enemy Number One

The women’s movement has a clear Enemy Number One – The Patriarchy. So protests and marches were led targeting this common foe. There is no single person who represents this enemy – it is rather the idea that there is something to fight against, which inspires people to rally and come together. It lifts the haze of incoherence and provides a focal point around which the entire ideal can be constructed. In terms of men’s mental health, such an adversary is absent, which is because clarity can be scarcely afforded on a deeper investigation of the subject. This should be a primary goal of the movement as it is stories which instill passion in the public rather than just a bulletin of goals. We need to ask the question, ‘What is stopping men from discussing their mental health?’ and we might find our rallying cry in its answer.

Equity not Equality

Finally, the solution to women’s rights being equity rather than equality to the whole cacophony of ‘men are not the same as women’ has a profound lesson for the men’s mental health sphere. We are all different and unique in our own way. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to destigmatizing men’s mental health issues. We need to approach the problem in a different way, by creating additional opportunity for the severely-disadvantaged in a disproportionate fashion so as to bring them on equal footing. This might mean that we need to research heavily on what bolsters chances of men seeking therapy and what undermines these efforts. We may also come up with innovative and unique therapeutic methodologies to sensitively address the issues so as to build trust in male patients. 

We need innovative solutions to tackling the difficult challenge of destigmatizing men’s mental health and inspiration is abundant for those who look for it. We may need to look no further than to women in their fight and learn from their struggles and victories to build a better tomorrow for men, too.

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