Down with Movember, says Brendan O’Neill

06 Nov

Writing at the Telegraph, he takes a dissident view of the whole ‘Movember’ phenomenon.

Don’t be fooled by the manly moustaches – Movember is all about turning blokes into sad, sober, simpering wrecks

By Brendan O’Neill

It’s Movember! Yes, the month previously known as November, until it was hijacked by health-obsessed hipsters with ‘taches, is upon us. This means that for the next 30 days, your Facebook and Twitter feeds will be clogged up by blokes imploring you to check out Instagram photos of how their pencil ‘tache, handlebar or Fu Manchu is progressing. The aim of Movember – a hilarious mashing together of the words “moustache” and “November”! – is to get guys around the world sprouting facial hair in the name of charity, specifically as a way of raising awareness about male cancer. The idea is that fuzz starts to form atop your gob, someone asks “why are you growing a ‘tache?”, and then you tell them all about Movember and its various prostate and testicular cancer initiatives. So you get to look dashing and be totally socially responsible all at the same time. Win.

God, I hate Movember. And not only because growing a ‘tache for cancer encourages men to make a big, hairy, public display of their caring, charitable side, which overlooks the wise advice of historian William Hutton: “The charity that hastens to proclaim its good deeds ceases to be charity, and is only pride and ostentation.” No, even worse than that is what Movember has done to the moustache. It has completely ruined it. It has single-handedly reversed the entire meaning of the mo’. In the past, men grew ‘taches to demonstrate their masculinity, to let the world know they were strong and virile and maybe a bit mental: think bushy Burt Reynolds or ‘tache-tastic Tom Selleck. Now, courtesy of Movember, we’re invited to grow ‘taches to show that we’re “in touch” with our bodies and feelings, that we’re “health aware”, that we are willing, in the words of the Movember website, to imitate “the efforts of women, who proactively and publicly address their health issues in a way not traditionally seen with men”. In short, where growing a ‘tache was once about saying “I AM MAN”, now it’s about publicly advertising one’s effeminacy.

Don’t be fooled by the seemingly manly ‘taches – the true aim of Movember is to remake men as permanently panicked navel-gazers who never smoke or drink or eat junk food and instead have interminable conversations with their mates about their testicles and prostates. The overseers of Movember complain that young men are “indifferent towards their health”. Apparently blokes have a problematic “‘it’ll be alright’ attitude”, which leads to a “reluctance” to openly discuss “health issues”. Men need to be more like women, says the Movember website; we are currently “trailing the women’s health movement” and thus lots of “established taboos and barriers relating to men’s health [must be] broken down”. Movember aims to do this by encouraging men everywhere to regularly examine their testicles for lumps, get prostate check-ups, go to the doctor whenever they feel remotely unwell, and stop being “embarrassed to discuss health issues”.

Movember has lots of health tips for us dumb, I’m-alright-Jack blokes. First, of course, “Don’t Smoke”, because that’s really bad for you. Also, you must “Know Your Body” – that is, feel yourself (no, not like that!), look for lumps, gawp at yourself in a mirror, and “if something seems out of the norm, alert your doctor”. We must “Eat A Healthy Diet” – “fill up with fruit, vegetables and whole grains!” “Stay At A Healthy Weight”, too, because being overweight “poses a major risk for chronic diseases”. And here’s a biggie: “Drink Alcohol Only In Moderation.” Ideally we should “not drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol each day, the equivalent to a pint-and-a-half of 4% beer”.

Here, we can see the New Labour-like petty authoritarianism and health freakery that lurks behind the super-ironic veneer of the Movember campaign: what presents itself as a jokey, blokey international sporting of hilarious ‘taches is in fact a drive to make men, especially young men, into smoke-free, sober, fruit-chomping, testicle-checking bores who should never drink more than a pint-and-a-half of beer in a day (are they serious?). What this uber-patronising campaign overlooks is that if young men really do have an “‘it’ll be alright’ attitude”, that’s because it probably will be alright: young men, and young women too, are healthier than they have ever been, and are less likely than any generation in history to die in the workplace or contract a serious illness or fail to make it to middle age. It is perverse to encourage young men who have the privilege of living in a safe, medically advanced society to spend more of their time panicking about their health and darting off to the doctor’s at the merest hint of a cough or ache. They surely have better things to do, like eat steaks, get drunk, have casual sex.

If anything is bad for our health, it is the demand that we become ever more health-obsessed. What good can come from making men panicky, insecure, freaked out every time a bit of their body looks a bit different to how it looked last week? Indeed, studies suggest that the constant promotion of the cult of testicular self-examination among young men, which Movember fully supports, is leading to more and more “false positives”, with blokes having chemotherapy and even surgery that they don’t actually need. This is the irony: Movember – or at least the hectoring, health-obsessed thinking behind it – can make you sick. Don’t fall for it, lads. Don’t cave in to the demand that we should be more “aware” and constantly on alert for ailments and troubles. Screw Movember. Shave off the mo’. Be a man.


5 responses to “Down with Movember, says Brendan O’Neill

  1. Numnut

    November 7, 2012 at 12:03 am

    Brendan’s vagina must be hurting him,he’s babbling like a little bitch.
    Not only has he cut off the ‘stash,he cut off his balls too.

  2. Will S.

    November 7, 2012 at 12:12 am

    How do you figure?

  3. Will S.

    November 7, 2012 at 12:13 am

    Frankly, I like his not-following-the-herd mentality.


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