Editorial: Remember, remember, the 19th of Movember

by Silja Slepnjov


BeardlongNovember is upon us and I, for one, am extremely glad. Not because by the end of the month there will be hoards of men (some more, others less) boasting impressive facial hair. It’s because, finally, the spotlight is on men.

For those of you that have, deities only know how, missed the entire no-shave dingus, November is a month during which men grow moustaches to raise awareness of prostate cancer and men’s health issues, which, as a portmanteau of ‘moustache’ and ‘November’ is commonly referred to as Movember.

The initiative started in 2003, in Melbourne, Australia, when two simple chaps sat down with a pint and started talking about fashion trends. Inevitably, the discussion came down to: whatever happened to the good old moustache? Inspired by a mate’s mother, who was fundraising for breast cancer, they decided to talk 30 of their fellow moustache-enthusiasts into not shaving for a month to raise funds for prostate cancer.

After the massive success and enthusiasm of the first group, Movember was officially established in 2004, a logo was designed and the first website built. Since then, the movement has grown global, and the funds raised have gone from next to nothing to £27 million in the UK alone. The current leader on the board, two days into November, is Canada with over 100,000 registrations and over £2 million in donations already.

Of course, having grown into a global event, there are independents whose fundraising efforts will go under the radar of the official Movember movement. And, naturally, some will just jump aboard to have an excuse to grow a beard (well, the independent activists at least – there are actually strict rules in place on linkage and styles). All the enlivened moustache-progress posts on Facebook and the ponderous stubble-strokes can’t fail to make one smile. Not to take the spotlight off men again, but especially as a woman (write what you know, right?).

Just the fact that millions of pounds are raised towards health awareness, and with such enthusiasm and gusto, is enough to make the moustache-marvel an agreeable campaign. But another side-effect which I genuinely appreciate is that, for a good month, men get to be the focus of a national campaign, while women, who seem to be constantly portrayed as being under threat or bullied, or as victims of some societal ‘issue’, get to take a break for a while.

Now, what you need to know at this point is that I stand on fairly neutral ground in terms of the feminist movement. I do firmly believe in gender equality, and I agree with the general idea that we live in a patriarchal society, and much needs to be done to change this. What exactly needs to be done, however, is still a vague concept in need of much development – I don’t particularly believe in enforcing ‘gender quotas’ in the workplace or introducing gender-proportional representation in legislative or governmental bodies. I think the entire approach to the ‘issue’ is slightly flawed – if the message is supposed that yes, women are as strong, capable and intelligent, and it is not currently best recognised in society, I don’t see how telling women that the only way equality can be achieved is by ‘giving discounts’ to make something more accessible to our gender group. It seems like a fundamental contradiction.

Hence, I can’t help but cringe a bit every time I see a pink and glittery call for ‘All women to unite against – insert some great evil here – because we’re fabulous and can do it’, or an over-simplified declaration of how ‘lad culture is despicable’ – ONLY because of the way it affects women. I think it’s more effective to ‘break down the barriers’ by recognising, as Movember does, that both sexes face gender-specific issues. It is not always, and exclusively women.

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So yes, I love Movember, because, as a woman, it makes me feel, for an entire month, like I’m not the one in constant need of rescuing, and it empowers me to know that I don’t always have to be the one seeking support because of my gender – it works both ways, and is fundamental to gender equality. And I will show all my appreciation towards the opposite sex on the 19th of November (International Men’s Day) with just as much enthusiasm as men do on the 8th of March.

I’m not sure about calling myself a Mo Sista though. I don’t mind it, but I can see how that label can be counter-productive to my argument.

So let’s leave that for now. This is not what Movember is about. Who’s excited for the Moscars?

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