Why is Samuel L Jackson Calling Men Dumb?

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About Glen Poole

Glen Poole is an international expert on men and boys and author of the book Equality For Men. He is Director of the consultancy Helping Men, UK co-ordinator for International Men Day and host of the National Conference for Men and Boys in Brighton and Hove. You can follow him on twitter @equality4menUK and at www.equality4men.com.


  1. This line of argument is fine, as long as you buy into the underlying social science perspective which is more interested in “the system” rather than individual agency, and plays scant regard to time – if it happened last year, it falls outside the frame of reference.

    15, 20 years ago, much less attention was paid to preventative cancer screening for women than is now the case – in fact, the effort put into any preventative screening was minimal compared to today. That was changed because people chose to take action and move it along – people stopped being dumb and ignoring a problem which could be addressed. Progress in preventative medicine, like any other cultural change – for it is as much a matter of culture as socio-economic change – has been uneven. There certainly need to be improvement, but there is no one right way to move that along. Jackson, is telling me to stop being dumb, is appealing in a different way to a constituency that probably don’t have much time or interest in debates about culture and society, but who will respond better is the issue is presented as a ‘get off your barstool’ problem.

    So rather than investing time, bytes and readers attention span explaining why Jackson’s answer is not yours, it would be more useful to invest time and thought in working out how a variety of different approaches can work to tackle the problem for different angles and mobilise different groups. Respect the diversity of approaches.

  2. Thanks for those observations Mike

    Things have certainly changed in Men’s Health over the past 15 years in the UK. When the Men’s Health Forum launched here in 1999 the government was investing £8 in women’s health for every £1 it invested in men’s health. More that a 100x more funding went into female cancer research than male cancer research —- now the gap has reduce to 3x more funding for women — still three times more though — so the fact remains that we put more time, energy and money into preventing men’s cancer—it’s clearly and inequality that contributes to unequal outcomes for men—and my key point is that locating inside of men is not only unhelpful and ineffective—it’s a form of discrimination — and it’s typical of how we approach the problems that men have

    There is a clear gender difference here in how we approach women’s problems and men’s problems— can you imagine a campaign to end the pay gap that said “women, don’t be dumb, get a job and work hard” — of course not

    When I train professionals on working more effectively with men and boys I provide them with a number of new models of thinking that leave them more empowered to make a difference

    The two models that consistently receive the most positive feedback (and people tell me months and years later that they are still making a difference for them) are:

    First – seeing that we view gender through the “women have problems women are problems” filter and switching that to “women have problems and women have problems too”

    The second part is the integral model, and primarily the “I, we, its” layers of thinking which people reports giving them far broader perspective of the issues they are addressing and how to address them.

    These model of thinking provide a framework for understanding how a diversity of approaches can work and in sharing this article more people will now have an insight into some of those models.

    I do respect and encourage a diversity of approaches — and provide people with a framework for integrating a diversity of approaches in my work with men and boys — as I wrote in the article “Raising money for charity is a noble cause and celebrity endorsement can help raise a campaign’s profile and credibility and attract extra funds to support the good work they do. For that alone, Samuel L Jackson should be commended.”

    I am also an avid collector of good practice from around the world to help me identify and share the common ingredients of effective approaches to working with men and boys (part of that process is also identifying ineffective trends so we can learn to avoid the pitfalls of these approaches in future) — one of the ineffective trends in men’s health is thinking that telling men the are “dumb” is an effective way to change behaviour—in all my experience I assert it is not—others may think differently, I’m saying enough already!!!

    Thanks for your feedback and taking time to comment



  3. Will Best says:

    My biggest problem with the ACA is that it is effectively a transfer of wealth from men to women. Specifically young men to old women.

    There are a number of reasons for why men don’t consume the same amount of healthcare that women do even adjusting for pregnancy related expenses

    1) The average man works longer hours, and as breadwinners are least able to take off work for what amounts to checking out minor discomfort
    2) Men are more likely than women to die suddenly (heart attack, work related death)
    3) A lot of symptoms are masked by a general state of discomfort men are in from their manual labor job

    The problem with your approach is that while it isn’t necessarily a zero-sum game it kind of is. Right now men plow a lot of money into women cancer (NFL has its pink month). The money to increase spending on male related illnesses has to come from somewhere, and the most likely place is other fields of medical research.

    I might also point out that an exceptional amount of money is poured into HIV which is predominantly a male problem (75-80% of all HIV cases are male)

    • Interesting additional note of funding

      In the UK in 1999, research into prostate cancer was receiving just £37,000 a year compared with £4.3m spent on research into breast cancer.

      In 2012/2013 the spend on female cancer research was £60m a year, three times more than is spent on research into male cancers (£19.7m).

  4. Thanks WIll — some good points there

    On zero sum game, couple of points — firstly it’s not just about money for research, I think prevention and culture change is more important and I’m also a believer in doing better with what you’ve already got—take the Samuel L Jackson initiative it wouldn’t take more money to do it better, just a different focus or visions

    Thanks for your comments


  5. OirishM says:

    Trying to insult and shame men into changing has scarcely worked when various feminists have tried it.

    And while Samuel L. Jackson is cooler than all of them, it ain’t going to work coming from him either.

  6. wellokaythen says:

    I agree that calling men dumb is counterproductive and off the mark. There are larger systemic issues that go beyond individual choices.

    However, the individual and systemic can’t really be separated. If a society ignores male health issues, and men are an important part of society, then men are partly responsible for the way that society treats their issues. It’s not all their fault, and it can’t be reduced to stupidity, but men are part of the problem. Women are the other part.

    This sounds a lot like the flip side of what seems to me a common feminist viewpoint: society is oppressive and violent, yet somehow women are not responsible for creating that society. Here, society ignores men’s health problems, yet somehow men are not responsible for creating that society.

    I think a better approach, instead of calling men stupid, is to tell them to wake up. Tell other men to stop helping to create their own death camps.

    • Hey wellokaythen

      You’re right ignoring the individual doesn’t work

      From an integral perspective we look at I, we, its — the personal, the cultural and the systemic

      The limitation of men’s health initiatives that locate the problem inside of individual men is that not only do they ignore both the systemic and the cultural issues they also don’t assess the personal effectively

      There are subjective and objective interpretations of the individual issues—we can objectively measure that fewer men go to the doctor, for example, but then we come up with subjective reasons for why this is and mistake for the truth— men are dumb, men are reluctant, men don’t care about their health, men are embarrassed, men are asleep and need to wake up — all of this is subjective interpretation — we inevitably pick the interpretation that most resonates with our own subjective prejudice and project that prejudice onto men and end up wrestling with our own shadows

      Of course is more men take greater responsibility for being healthier then that will help, that isn’t in dispute. The question is how do we best do that. Well there’s lots of evidence that making systemic and cultural changes results in individual change

      It’s interesting, no private business would say oh men aren’t buying our product—what’s wrong with men? They’d ask do we need to change the product, do we need to change something systemic (distribution, delivery, price point etc) or do we need to change how this product is culturally perceived amongst men?

      Private businesses have known for years how to change men and women’s personal behaviour by making systemic and cultural change. when we apply the same thinking to men’s health we’ll start to see change


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