Masculinity Gone Wrong

Men In The Media

On a number of occasions I have blogged about how man are portrayed in TV commercials. The latest that got my attention was a Verizon commercial where a rather odd looking guy is examining his cell phone bill and is almost in tears over the cost.  The camera then turns to his wife and two children holding bags apparently from grocery shopping.  His wife then, while still holding her bag, reveals how they can save by switching to Verizon. This idea is reinforced by his teenage daughter and he becomes ecstatic with the idea.  Another example of a man needing his wife to figure out what to do.

I believe that showing men as inept and needing rescue from their female partners might be somewhat amusing to older adult men who are secure in their masculinity but what about how boys and young adult men who are struggling with the issue of what being a man looks like.  They are witness to inept men being rescued by their female companions or by stories of predatory masculinity by Hollywood moguls and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

As a society we must take this issue more seriously.  There is a plethora of data about how men and boys are not thriving.  We can and should do more and it starts in school.  As previously discussed we can teach positive masculinity in schools, starting in the elementary grades.  In addition, there are classroom practices that the predominantly female teaching profession can modify to increase a boy’s academic achievement.  An example would be how a teacher organizes small work groups. Keeping in mind that boy’s tend to be a bit more hierarchical than girls it is important to assign children to work groups that will not lead to having two dominant boys in the same work group which inhibit participation by girls and lower status boys.

Men’s Health

Lloyd Austin is in jeopardy of losing his job for an issue that has little  to do with his performance as Secretary of Defense.  His embarrassment over his treatment for prostate cancer kept his from properly notifying his boss, the President, about his treatment and hospitalization.  I find it revealing that an accomplished man who is a West Point graduate, holder of two Master’s Degrees and rose through the Army ranks from second lieutenant to four star general while winning  a silver star and other awards for his command leadership was so reluctant to reveal his medical issues.  The American Cancer Society estimates that about 288,500 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2023 and about 34,300 died from it.  This compares with 300,600 women diagnosed with breast cancer and about 43,190 women dying from the disease.  The differences between  prostate cancer rates and breast cancer rates is not that great but considering how well women are dealing with breast cancer in their public discussions and fund raising efforts compared to how men are dealing with prostate cancer one would think that prostate cancer is a minor issue.  Lloyd’s attempt to put his cancer as a back burner issue not only failed but underscores how men go to great lengths – often self destructive – in not admitting to medical vulnerability.  It is not the best of masculinity nor the right message to send to younger men that open discussion about serious issues regarding men’s health is not what real men do.