During the Covid-19 pandemic, masculinities have a lot to answer for: macho responses by our leaders have been a disaster

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17/07/2020 12:00 am

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Tim Shand has published and spoken widely on masculinities, including a TEDx talk. His PhD at the UCL Institute for Global Health focuses on masculinities and health. He is an Associate of the Men’s Health Forum UK and fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.  He is co-founder and Director of ShandClarke Consulting Ltd. Views his own. @timjcshand

On his blog Politics, masculinity and health Tim Shand writes:

How many UK deaths could have been prevented? We all now know that while the UK wasted precious weeks at the beginning of the Covid-19 epidemic, other nations – Germany, Denmark, Norway, Finland, New Zealand, to name but a few – acted much faster and are now successfully easing their lockdown restrictions. New Zealand just declared itself virus-free. What is becoming apparent is that many countries that failed to act decisively are led by men whose strong-man approach to health and wellbeing has turned out to inform disastrous policy. Meanwhile, few countries with female leaders have done badly in managing the crisis. Don’t believe that masculinities – how we socialise and teach men to be men – has anything to do with it? Read on.

I have been speaking to men and boys about their health for almost 20 years, in the UK, South Africa, Malawi and the United States.  Across all these countries, rich and poor, young and old, married or unmarried, a common assertion among men has been that paying attention to your physical health is not being a real man. Countless men have expressed concern about what their family, friends or communities will think of them if they are seen to be going to a clinic or hospital. Many men have told me their sense of being a man is to be invincible, and that ill-health is emasculating and represents weakness. A common riposte by health experts is to ask why there are similar rates of men and women in hospital critical care in developed countries.  It is precisely because men often only seek care when we absolutely have to, when we are already sick. But we don’t do health for health’s sake, as reflected by our under-representation in primary care and preventative services. Enter, stage left: a global, invisible killer.


Read Tim Shand’s full post here.

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