It’s no secret that I am absolutely nuts about men’s health. One way I spend my time is reading and summarizing different research studies about the topic. A lot of these studies look at disparities in men’s health, but I am interested in why they exist in the first place.
A few weeks back, I decided to poll my social media followers with a simple question—“Why don’t men discuss their health?” I was amazed by all the different responses. So far, we’ve explored Response 1 (“Men aren’t told to check themselves at doctor’s appointments”) and Response 2 (“It’s awkward to talk to my mom about it”).
Over my next several columns, I will continue to share the collected responses and how we can fix them.
Response #3: Talking about your health isn’t “masculine/manly/macho.”
For starters, I was amused by the gratuitous use of the word “macho.” One of the most well-known uses of the word is in conjunction with Randy Savage’s professional wrestling alter-ego, the Macho Man. Back in the 80s and 90s, he was the epitome of what a “man’s man” looks and acts like.
Regrettably, Savage passed away from heart disease in 2011. I would say his modern-day equivalent would have to be Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. With his cool-guy attitude, his jacked body, and larger-than-life spirit, he is the walking embodiment of a 21st century Macho Man.
However, it’s not his 2016 People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive title, his wrestling titles, or his acting career that impresses me most—though I do love his extremely sweaty appearance in Fast Five. What truly makes him a true manly man is his open admission in April 2018 that he suffered through years of depression.
While he could have kept it hidden, he chose to let the world know about it in hopes of breaking down stigma around men’s mental health. He said: “Took me a long time to realize it, but the key is to not be afraid to open up. Especially us dudes have a tendency to keep it in. You’re not alone.”
While not as widely known, a bodybuilding champion, a fast jet aviator in the Royal Air Force, and a former prison guard also have much in common with The Rock.
Not only do they all have prototypical masculine occupations, they have also been incredibly open about their experiences with stigmatized male conditions.
After winning the New York State Natural Bodybuilding Title in 2001, Dave Fuehrer was diagnosed with testicular cancer, forcing the removal of one his nuts. Five years later, it struck again, leaving him with no testicles. Today, as CEO of Gryt Health, he openly shares this fact in addition to his mental health challenges. He even says, “Losing my balls helped me become more of a man.”
The aforementioned prison guard, John Falk, was diagnosed with cancer twice as well. However, it wasn’t in his testicles—he had breast cancer. While this condition is often thought of as a “female cancer,” Falk made it a crusade to share his experiences, even insisting that his sergeant announce it to all of his co-workers at the jail.
Alun Pepper goes by the moniker “Britain’s Manliest Man” after winning that title in a competition in 2014. However, this honor has nothing to do with his profession as a British Air Force pilot. He earned it by sharing his experiences with testicular cancer openly and publicly.
The bottom line is this.
If The Rock, Dave, John, and Alun can have these oft-thought male-dominated careers and personas and choose to speak up about their mental and physical health conditions, it’s hard to really think Response #3 is valid. One of them is literally called The Manliest Man!
In fact, I think it’s fair to say that openly talking about your health is indeed very masculine, manly, and/or macho. There’s no reason not to speak up about your health if these guys can do it in very public and incredible ways.
Talking about your health could save a life down the road, and it certainly takes balls to do so—
Especially in Dave and Alun’s cases.
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