The Valentimes: Movember

 
 

As Movember finally comes to a close, Aoife Valentine ponders what the point of it all really is

Volunteering, particularly when it comes to charitable causes, is something that is very important to me. Though I don’t have as much time as I used to anymore, I still endeavour to give as much of the time I have to volunteering in some capacity. While I used to be heavily involved in numerous organisations, recently I’ve found myself with barely enough time to devote to sitting on the See Change Youth Panel, which isn’t heavy on the hard graft; never mind keeping up with any of my other previous commitments.

Perhaps I would be better off just throwing money into the collection buckets each time another faculty day or Students’ Union campaign week comes around, rather than trying to keep up with and get involved in the numerous campaigns that catch my attention outside of campus, but I don’t think that would satisfy my need to at least try and actually help in some capacity. Perhaps this is why the Movember initiative annoys me so much every year.

So many of the men around me get involved, grow a big pile of hair on their face, and claim it’s for a good cause. This is despite the fact that the vast majority, at least of the men I know, have no intention of raising even a cent for the cause, nor do they have the first inkling where their prostate even is, never mind having plans to take part in any sort of awareness-raising campaign.

Once November is over, they won’t think about moustaches or their prostates for another 335 days, but still, for the duration of the month, they will bombard you with photos on Facebook of their moustache’s progress, no matter how weak their attempt, and get terribly outraged when you even think for a second of questioning the whole initiative and whether or not it’s actually achieving any of its goals.

Then again, the Movember movement themselves don’t seem to have the cause at the forefront of their efforts either. On their website, their foremost campaign strategic goal is: “We will get men to grow moustaches by creating an innovative, fun and engaging annual Movember campaign that raises funds and awareness globally.” Raising funds and awareness of what? Moustaches? Information is available about cancer and men’s health on the site, but surely the first step in raising awareness for something is to actually mention it?

Men’s health, especially in Ireland, is something that could do with a proper information campaign, and it has to be something that engages men, rather than just throwing facts around, but this isn’t it. Ignoring the fact that moustaches have literally nothing to do with prostate cancer, Movember as it is run at the moment screams of slactivism. Bragging about how great you are at not being able to keep up with basic facial maintenance is about the equivalent of sharing one of those statuses on Facebook that claims you’ll prevent child abuse by doing so. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t stop child abuse, and I’m pretty sure having a handlebar moustache on your face doesn’t inspire people to inform themselves about their cancer risks.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month turns pretty much the entire country pink. What has pink got to do with breast cancer? Not a lot, but at least they thought to mention the condition in the title of the campaign. Over 2,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in Ireland, and about 650 women die because of it annually. An Irish woman has a one in 11 chance of developing the cancer. Compare this with over 3,000 diagnoses of prostate cancer and over 500 deaths because of it. An Irish man has a one in eight chance of developing it, which is the highest rate in Europe. However, Prostate cancer is cured in over 90% of cases when it’s detected in its early stages, and that is why a large chunk of the information online simply asks men to go to a doctor and get checked out.

Movember: Moustache RingThere’s no need for a campaign centred on men’s health to be morose, and in fact, the opposite clearly engages more people, but what’s the point if none of the participants are aware, or even care about the cause? A superficial contest of apparent manliness doesn’t get people thinking, and it definitely isn’t getting people talking. Making the campaign solely about the silliest sort of ridiculous moustache you can grow trivialises the issues at hand. Team this with the fact that one of the main issues involved is that men feel awkward talking about their health issues, and this campaign is doing nothing to encourage them and you’ve got a wasted marketing budget. You know why it’s trivial? Because cancer, particularly when it comes to cancer of hidden organs like the prostate, is scary and talking about how your moustache makes you look like Freddie Mercury is very much not scary, so people choose to do the latter.

Even that wasted budget doesn’t bring in the fact that many men are taking part in Movember but aren’t aware there’s a campaign or just aren’t arsed raising money. It’s engaging people with the fun, silly side, which is exactly what they hoped for, but it’s not doing as much money-raising as it could if it sounded like a charity campaign, and it’s raising even less awareness.

This is all an aside from the fact that I don’t like facial hair on men, and for a month every year, you can’t tell if men you don’t know are socially responsible or really creepy, but I wouldn’t mind putting up with the beard burn and mustachioed men looking too much like pedophiles, if I thought the campaign didn’t entirely seem like a gimmick.

However, now that Movember is finally coming to a close, perhaps you’ll find yourself not willing to put up with the stress of having to shave again every day again now, and should that be the case, at least no one will accuse you of just being lazy. Sure, aren’t you running a one-man yearlong cancer awareness campaign? Good man, keep up the good work.

Read: The Valentimes: Media Musings

 

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