“Real Men Don't”: Constructions of Masculinity and Inadvertent Harm in Public Health Interventions

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Abstract

ABSTRACT

Research shows that constraining aspects of male gender norms negatively influence both women’s and men’s health. Messaging that draws on norms of masculinity in health programming has been shown to improve both women’s and men’s health, but some types of public health messaging (e.g., Man Up Monday, a media campaign to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections) can reify harmful aspects of hegemonic masculinity that programs are working to change. We critically assess the deployment of hegemonic male norms in the Man Up Monday campaign. We draw on ethical paradigms in public health to challenge programs that reinforce harmful aspects of gender norms and suggest the use of gender-transformative interventions that challenge constraining masculine norms and have been shown to have a positive effect on health behaviors.

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