Advocating for Men's Health as a Part of the Wider Pursuit of Equality

21/06/2016 12:12 | Updated 21 June 2016

As a Researcher, indeed as a human being, I would like my work to be judged on the basis of its content rather than any judgements made regarding my place of birth, who my parents were or were not, my sex, my gender, my race etc. However, in my career I have been encouraged to be reflexive and to consider how the ways in which I can be categorised can influence the opinions that I hold and how I see the social world. So, I will reluctantly state that I am a man, male and white British. The reluctance comes because I feel that there are stereotypes that we as human beings are all influenced by. When we gain insight about a person we mentally look for matches to our previous experiences which may or may not be positive.

As I grew up I heard a lot of criticisms about men and what men were and should be. However, this did not influence me to hold hostility towards women as the main protagonists of this criticism. I wanted, and still want, there to be, what I identified as being, equality. The problem with words like 'equality' is that they are nominalisations. As a term, we all have an idea of what equality means to us. We also have assumptions about what that word does and does not mean to others depending on our assumptions about that individual or group. Many of us may recognise that some may consider themselves more equal than others, hence Orwell's: "two legs good, four legs bad."

To shed some light on what is meant by equality it makes sense to explore it and to have some shared meaning of what it means to people. To me equality is actually unachievable. It appears like an ethereal state which seems like it can never be reached under my own definition or anyone else's. However, striving in the direction of equally is something that I feel it is fundamentally important to do. Like riding a bike we must keep correcting imbalance to progress.

I believe that examples of equality are all human beings being treated equally. That does not happen due to; who our parents are, our sex and gender, our ethnicity and the value that is placed on these, and one of the most intangible categories of all, the class we are born into and inhabit. The only way that we can go about bringing equilibrium to these categories is through wider social agreements. So that, for example, when I show interest in an opportunity I am neither held back by the ways that I can be classified nor exalted for 'qualities' beyond my control. I should not be paid any more or any less for carrying out the same role as someone else. What's more, I don't want to profit from being older than a young person who has not been given the opportunities in terms of employment or education that I have had. The notion is fundamentally unfair; unequal.

Throughout my career I have been interested in reducing inequalities. I have been interested in data and evidence that men are more likely to suffer morbidity and mortality when there is a perception that white men are not affected by inequalities and are recipients of fortune. (His)torically, there will, no doubt, be cases where a man and men have been profiteers of advantage. This has been wrong. The question is what does that have to do with the majority of human beings who are men now? I want to strive towards a day when all humans, defined as men or women or intersex or male or female or trans are just viewed as human beings: fellow animals on a planet, renewing ourselves as we all do to stay alive.

However, whilst researching the value of a community project supporting men to come together to reduce social isolation, I have been asked if it is actually a good idea. Should we be supporting men to come together and to be encouraged to do the things that men like to do (be in the company of other men, talk to other men, feel it is OK to be themselves, engage in activities such as makes things)? The very questions suggest that there is an assumption that human beings who are men should be treated with suspicion and should not be encouraged to be... themselves.

The main things that define what people do not like about some men are power, vast financial wealth and abuses of either; ultimately, inequality. However, these inequalities or any other are not about being a man. They can be seen in many walks of life: people with established careers who would no longer be qualified to apply for their own jobs if they needed to. People who have the basic physical needs of life covered like shelter paid for and access to enough, nutritious food. Baby-boomers who profited from funded education and a time when their qualifications maintained value and social mobility existed.

It is fair to say that inequality is less likely to be experienced by some groups of people, definable by categories, than by other groups of people. But to vilify mankind as the cause or profiteers in the twenty-first century is at best naïve and ignorant and at worst prejudice and bigoted; the very actions that create inequality. But as stated, some people believe they are more equal than others.

The one's now most likely to leave school with the lowest levels of educational attainment, the ones most likely to be unemployed, the ones who experience more morbidity, the ones more likely to be social isolated (at all ages), the ones who die younger, are all male. That is why I support (amongst many other campaigns against inequality) men's health. This is in no way against other's rights or the health and wellbeing of women or trans-people. It is just a rightful acknowledgement that men's health matters.