You don’t hear a lot of men talking about health and wellbeing. Maybe it’s because they rely on the women in their lives to handle health matters, or maybe they don’t want to seem vulnerable. Even men with a “take charge” personality can neglect to take charge of their own health.
It all boils down to how men view their role in life. In general, men have been socialized with an exaggerated emphasis on competition and independence and a disrespect of openness and vulnerability. Randy Flood calls this overreliance on masculine energy “mascupathy.” The author of “Mascupathy: Understanding and Healing the Malaise of American Manhood,” suggests that this mindset comes at the expense of full humanity.
We all want to live longer and stronger, but it takes some effort. You can do a lot for the man in your life, but when it comes right down to it, it’s his life and his health. June is National Men’s Health Month, so designated to encourage men to think about and address their own health issues, but before you approach him on the topic, it’s worth considering the male point of view.
Men need to join the conversation, not just for themselves, but for their families, too. A healthy lifestyle is easier to manage when the whole family plays a role. For some men, that’s anything but easy.
UNDERSTANDING THE MALE “GENDER BOX” AND THE “MAN PACT”
To gain insight into what women can do, we turned to Mr. Flood, MA, LLP, co-founder and director of The Institute for Prevention and Treatment of Mascupathy. He tells Natural Choice Networkthat men are responsible for healing themselves and becoming full human beings…but it’s helpful for women to understand the male “gender box.” “For some men, to call the doctor or get help for a problem is a sign of weakness. They’re supposed to suck it up, to be a winner.” It’s a deeply engrained attitude.
So, what should you do if the man in your life won’t acknowledge health issues?
“The bad news,” Flood says, “is that when women try to tell men that it’s okay to act outside their gender box, men get suspicious. They don’t trust that message. They don’t believe women understand the rules of the ‘man pact’ – the guidelines that men live by. They don’t want to be seen as weak.”
According to Flood, in the male gender box, information is power. No one can take advantage of your insecurities if you don’t reveal them. That’s what makes sharing such a challenge for some men.
How you approach a man matters. Women may have a hard time understanding a man’s resistance to something that seems logical, healthy, and normal to them.
“If a woman approaches a man when she’s angry or disgusted, she might end up shaming him and sending the message that he’s not good enough,” Flood says. “That will just push him away. Men are much more likely to respond to encouragement if you show empathy and understanding for the pressures men feel about these things. You can also appeal to their sense of being a role model to their children and the impact a father’s modeling has on his sons.”
INVITE HIM TO JOIN THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE “MAN PACK”
The bigger picture has to do with other men – the “man pack,” as Flood calls it – and evolving gender roles. He believes that men need to give each other approval for acting outside the gender box and working toward being healthier.
“Guys don't talk about their health issues, unless they've got a sprained ankle. We'll talk about our injuries but we won't talk about our illnesses, so I think it's time we do that.” – Samuel L. Jackson, Mail Online, June 2013
Today’s young men are less resistant to showing emotions, Flood says. “A lot of walls are being broken down. Young men are experiencing greater liberation and better health because we’re moving toward a new definition of masculinity that is healthier. Look at the evolution taking place around us. Women have successfully altered the female gender box. So, talk to him about our changing culture and encourage him to join the transformation. Men are developing self-care skills and asking for help. There’s no need to go it alone.”
The bottom line is that women can’t change men, even out of love. But if you approach him with compassion, Flood says, “the hope is he will feel your love and concern and will reach out and ask for help.”
Ann Pietrangelo is the author of "No More Secs!" and “Catch That Look,” a freelance writer, and a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.