“Man Up!” We need to talk about gender roles and men’s suffering

Poor body image, eating disorders, “bigorexia” and suicide. It’s time to talk about men’s suffering – and we’re not talking about man flu. Here’s why saying “man up” is harmful;

 

Men’s Suffering; some facts which might surprise you

Suicide is the biggest killer of men aged 15-34. In the UK 75% of suicide victims are men.

Gender Roles mean men aspire to be big, muscular. Sometimes this can lead to bigorexia

Bigorexia = wanting to be Mr. Muscle.

One in 10 men who train in gyms could be suffering from “bigorexia” AKA muscle dysphoria.

This is an anxiety disorder, where despite being large and muscular, men feel small and weak.

It can lead to steroid abuse, mental health problems and even suicide.

Explain It like I’m Seven: Mental Health

Bigorexia is often described as the opposite of Anorexia. This is an eating disorder characterized by a desire to be thin and a fear of gaining weight.

Yet men also suffer from eating disorders. Since 2000 the number of male sufferers increased by 27%. In fact it was a young man first to be diagnosed with Anorexia in 1649.

 

 

So why aren’t we talking about it?

The facts above suggest these are real, tangible problems. Yet when issues like eating disorders or mental health are covered, it’s often (though not always) with a focus on women. Why?

Doves Real Beauty Campaign focused on "real beauty" with women. There have been campaigns for men, but less often.

Campaigns like Dove’s “real beauty” adverts focus on women’s self-esteem and eating habits, not men’s.

Research suggests that men are less likely to recognise health symptoms themselves. They’re also less likely to come forward for a check-up. The same is true for mental health disorders, where men are less likely to report symptoms than women.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that when exploring these issues we focus on women rather than men. After all, the numbers suggest that women may be more at risk. Eating disorders are 10 times more common in women than men. Women are 40% more likely to develop a mental illness than men.

Yet this isn’t providing the full story. Matt Haig notes that whilst UK women may be more likely to suffer from depression, more men commit suicide. “As suicide is usually a symptom of depression, this suggests men are not getting the help they need.”

Dig deeper and you realise this all comes down to those pesky “traditional” gender roles that men and women are supposed to adhere to.

 

What is gender anyway?

Scene from Mad Men, where Don Draper mocks crying for not fitting within gender roles

Gender Roles: be a man, don’t cry

Psychologist Will Meek defines gender roles as “a set of attitudes, behaviours, and self-presentation methods ascribed to members of a certain biological sex”

(FYI the World health Organisation (WHO) defines “Sex” as “biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women”

and “Gender” as  “the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.”)

So when describing Western traditional gender roles for men, think: don’t cry, stay tough, and work hard. Man up, essentially.

 

 

A teenager describes how being a man doesnt mean conforming to gender roles

Be a man: not about holding back tears.

Working with men-only therapy groups Dr. Martin Seager identified the “three rules of masculinity”. Be a fighter and a winner, be a provider and a protector, retain mastery and control.

“If you break any of those, you don’t feel like a man.

So if you don’t have a job, for a woman that’s awful, but if [a] man doesn’t have a job he doesn’t feel he can provide or protect – so he’s lost his masculinity. That’s why the suicide rate for the unemployed is greater for men.”

Seager believes that “this isn’t genetic: we are biologically evolved as male.” Put simply; our image of a “male” is influenced by society.

 

Is telling someone to “man up” harmful?

Now, it could be argued that our society is slowly becoming more accepting of different ideas of masculinity. Yet the pressure of fitting within the “traditional” gender roles is such that some men find it hard to come forward when perceiving symptoms to be “un-manly”.

A teenage boy describes how gender roles are sexist

Gender roles harm women as well as men

For example, a study of 135 men with eating disorders found that several bulimia victims were ashamed of suffering from a disorder typically associated with females.

It’s important to remember that women also face longstanding destructive cultural practices. The phrase “man up” pressurises men, emphasising that they should aspire to be masculine.

Yet it also belittles women by portraying “feminine” behaviour as inferior.

So, whilst it’s OK to question whether “man up” is “the most destructive phrase in modern culture” we should probably focus on calling out negative stereotypes which affect both men and women.

 

What can we do about this?

Talk about it! Raising awareness will help us get past gender stereotypes and allow men AND women to come forward and get the help they need.

 

There are lots of resources and helplines if you, or someone you know, are experiencing mental or physical problems.

READ: The Men’s Health Forum provides information and raises awareness on issues surrounding men.

SPEAK: Mental health charities like Mind run helplines so you can get help even if you don’t want to speak to someone you know.

Samaritans run a free 24-hour helpline; you don’t have to give any personal details if you don’t want to. If something is troubling you, then get in touch.

Think we missed something? Let us know sor@scenesofreason.com

 

Is Cyberbullying harmless banter or serious crime?

If you post a negative comment about someone online is that just harmless banter, or cyberbullying? What about freedom of speech?

 

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbulling = a wave of fire hits a computer user

Cyberbulling; a barrage of online insults

Cyberbullying (AKA Trolling) is bombarding someone online with insults and threats.

The rise of social media and online chatrooms has made it a lot easier for people to engage in cyberbullying. It’s a lot easier to say something nasty online, rather than to someone’s face. Victims of trolling can be celebrities but can also be ordinary people.

Cyberbullying can be as simple as leaving a hateful comment on someone’s profile, all the way up to posting naked pictures of someone online, or threatening them.

Though trolling is now part of  popular culture, referenced in films like Chatroom and Unfriended, this issue is more serious than it first seems.

 

Why are we talking about trolling?

Apps like Tripadvisor, where you can rate restaurants and hotels, are often hijacked by trolls. In some cases the trolls haven’t even visited the restaurant they are slamming.

As soon as a high-profile news story breaks, you can bet that people online will be expressing their views pretty vocally. There’s nothing wrong with expressing an opinion, but often people go a step too far. Charlotte Proudman, the barrister who called out sexism online received a barrage of death threats and menacing messages.

Twitter response to the Peeple app, people make comments comparing it to cyberbullying and trolling

Is #peeple just a new app for cyberbullying?

As with regular bullying, what can seem to the bully as harmless banter can be experienced by the victim as cyberbullying.

Defining cyberbullying is a question of proportion. Posting a single joke, or negative comment could be seen as harmless, but if this happens regularly then it could be seen as trolling.

However, even a single comment can be damaging, especially if you haven’t asked for feedback. That’s why everyone is getting vocal about a new app called Peeple. This app allows you to rate and review people you know, just like Tripadvisor.

People are irked because there is no way to opt out from being rated. The Telegraph describes how you can rate other people even if they don’t have the app, by simply entering their mobile number. To remove the review they have to sign up to the app themselves.

Positive responses to the Peeple app, accused of being a cyberbullying app

Divisive; Peeple has some supporters

Peeple CEO Julia Cordray said “You’re going to rate people in the three categories that you can possibly know somebody — professionally, personally or romantically”.

Ratings and reviews are not anonymous, something which the developers hope will prevent trolling and increase the amount of positive reviews. If someone calls you out with a negative review you get a 48 hour window to sort things with them before the comment is posted online.

It could be argued that Peeple users should be allowed to air their views. You know, freedom of speech and all that. Despite this people are still worried this is basically a trolling app; whereas some others are going to give Peeple a chance.

Cordray acknowledges that “there seems to be some fear and I have a lot of empathy for that… But I’m going to lead by example and show that this app is actually more positive than it ever could be negative.”

Which is fair enough, but as Cordray also says that we “deserve to see where you could improve” perhaps the negative comments about aspects of the Peeple app should be used to improve it?

Some are calling for Peeple to be banned by the app store –  others think governments can do much more to stop trolling ruining lives.

Have your say:

Is Peeple a good or bad thing? Let us know;

 

Should we take a tougher stance on trolling?

The number of cyberbullying victims in the UK is on the rise. A man called Sean Duffy was jailed in 2011 for posting insulting and insensitive messages about people who had died. In 2013 a teenage girl committed suicide after being bullied online.

A victim of cyberbullying with her head in her hands

Cyberbullying is on the rise in the UK

Yet for now there is no specific law against cyberbullying.

We have three different laws; the Malicious Communications Act, the Communications Act and the Protection from Harassment Act. Overkill much?

Messages which show intent to cause physical harm or violence, harassment or stalking will get you into trouble. But the Crown Prosecution Service (the guys who take you to court) is quite strict about who gets served.

Children who are unlikely to know the damage their comments may cause are unlikely to be prosecuted.

The UK government has just released a new anti-trolling website to help victims of cyberbullying. Should we go further, following New Zealand in making cyberbullying illegal?

New Zealand’s anti-trolling law was voted this year. It focuses on hate speech – so racism, sexism, homophobia are all no-goes. Trolls using offensive language or bullying people could end up with a fine or even jail time.

Despite most New Zealand MPs voting in favour of the new law many people worry it will limit freedom of speech. They say people offended by jokes, satirical articles or opinion pieces could use the law to attempt to get them removed.

Trolling is becoming a real problem, but is restricting people’s comments online prohibiting freedom of speech?

 

Cyberbullying Decoded: If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online.

Should the UK create a specific cyberbullying law? Are apps like Peeple just a harmless bit of tech, or something more sinister?

If you or someone you know is the victim of cyberbullying, Childline offers support and has guidance pages about what to do.

 

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The truth about Sexting.

What is Sexting?

Sexting; scene from TV comedy "New Girl" where the characters mock Shakespeare sonnets

Shakespeare’s Sonnets; early forms of sexting?

Sexting; sending someone explicit photographs or messages by phone. Basically, nude-y pictures and sex chat.

The term “sexting” was coined in 2004 in a Globe and Mail article “Textual Gratification”. Picture texts were invented in 2002, so it didn’t take long for people to work out that camera + text = good times.

Some people argue that humans have always used the latest advances to talk dirty and that sexting is just the latest technological advance. In the 1900s, where the fountain pen was the equivalent of the iPhone the letters of writer James Joyce to his wife were infamously graphic. Looking even further back in time could some of Shakespeare’s sonnets (love poems claimed to have been written for a secret lover) be early versions of the sext?

 

The argument; Sexting is harmless

Sexting - the argument is that it is just harmless fun

Sexting; harmless fun?

Let’s face it; sexting is fun! Apps like Tinder are now becoming the norm where strangers meet online and flirt.

For many sexting is seen as harmless; flirting without serious consequences or the risk of embarrassment if you’re rejected.

Another argument is that sexting is an act of empowerment; it’s your body and if you wish to send pictures then that’s your call.
In this regard perhaps Sexting could be categorised as “freedom of expression”?!
Within a relationship sexting can also be a good thing. If you’re long-distance or away from your partner it can be a good way of keeping things fresh and exciting. Steady now.

 

The argument; Sexting is harmful

Is Sexting dangerous?

Sexting; is it dangerous?

However, there are some cases where sexting can lead to bad situations. The amount of cases of sexting in schools is on the rise. The National Crime Agency says it receives one case a day of a child being involved in Sexting.

Children who don’t know the risks are vulnerable to exploitation. They are often pressured into sharing pictures by friends; and even by people they don’t know. Doesn’t sound like it’s just harmless fun?

And if the picture gets into the wrong hands and is shared around; it’s very difficult to either delete the image or even find out who’s been sharing it. Images can often spread very quickly.

 

Is Sexting dangerous? A man taking a selfie by a train, gets his head kicked

Selfies are dangerous? Nahhhhhh.

Search “Sexting suicide” and you’ll find loads of stories about people who have taken their own lives. The reports say these suicides were due to embarrassment, shame and bullying due to pictures and texts being shared around their schools.

Most recently Ronan Hughes, a 17-year-old from Ireland, committed suicide last week. It’s being reported that he may have been tricked into posting images online and was being blackmailed. Of course, we will never know the many and complex reasons why these people chose to end their lives but these stories have added to concerns over Sexting.

 

Why are we talking about Sexting?

A new campaign has been launched by the National Crime Agency to raise awareness of the dangers of Sexting. A series of videos aimed to help parents are being released. There are also versions of the website for all age groups giving them the information they need to stay safe. Get the knowledge at www.thinkuknow.co.uk

 

 

What we learned; if you want to keep something private say it in person

Sexting allows us to say and do things we maybe wouldn’t in real life; is this a good or bad thing? Answers below, no pictures please 😉

 

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