Beyond the caveman: Rethinking masculinity in relation to men’s help-seeking
Health: an interdisciplinary journal for the social study of health, illness and medicine
Statistically, men make less use of health-care services than women. This has been interpreted as the result of the ‘hegemonic’ masculine code in which ‘real’ men are understood to be physically fit, uninterested in their health and self-reliant. However, less attention has been paid to understanding how hegemonic masculinity intersects with the wider western socio-cultural contexts of men’s help-seeking, particularly the valorization of health as a form of social achievement. This article presents the results of interviews with 14 higher socio-economic status (SES) men to uncover their ‘interpretive repertoires’ in relation to health and illness, help-seeking and masculinity. Although many interviewees drew on the stereotype of the ‘Neanderthal Man’ who avoids the doctors to explain help-seeking by men ‘in general’, they constructed their own experiences of help-seeking in terms of being responsible, problem-solving and in control. It is argued that the framing of help-seeking in terms of ‘taking action’ chimes with an increasingly pro-active ‘expert patient’ approach within western health-care. This conceptual reconstruction of the dominant masculine code in relation to helpseeking, from ‘Neanderthal Man’ to ‘Action Man’, may lead to greater gender equality in terms of accessing health-care. However, it has the potential to exacerbate social inequalities between men from different SES groups.
Vol. 16, Issue 2, pp. 208 - 225