On the Meaning of Masculinities and Its Implication to Advancing Men’s Health

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Abstract

Men’s health research is dominated by biomedical research, and those working within biomedicine are often unaware of discourses on the topic of men’s health within the field of masculinities studies. We argue that incorporating social sciences in biomedical research would greatly benefit men’s health, but these fields have differing worldviews that isolate them from one another. There are many factors that contribute to this separation of the disciplines, including the use of language. Here, we focus specifically on the term masculinities, which emerged in the sociological literature in 1992. Classic scientific disciplines are based upon identifiable and diagnosable entities, and agreed upon criteria for distinguishing one entity from another. We argue, however, that there are no established criteria for distinguishing one masculinity from another and that, in turn, parks masculinities studies outside the sciences as viewed from the perspective of biomedicine. We argue that research in masculinities does not incorporate the realities of the body, such as hormones, in ways that would be relevant for health research. Lastly, we argue that substantive advances in men’s health will require a multidisciplinary approach, which first and foremost requires commonly agreed upon language. We use the example of andropause, to demonstrate the need for the disciples of biomedicine and masculinities studies to understand each other’s language, methodologies, and goals as a step toward advancing men’s health.

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