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Must We Movember?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Ottawa chapter.

It’s that time of year again. With fall leafs already rapidly peeling from trees as quickly as they turned to bright, vibrant colors only weeks ago, the arrival of November leaves us ladies feeling scared and haunted of memories past (and not because of last week’s Zombie Walk or recent visits to haunted houses). Since 2004, the 1st of November has marked the beginning of an annual month-long campaign called Movember. Run by the Movember Foundation, the Movember campaign aims to raise funds for treatment, prevention and awareness/ public education campaigns about prostate cancer and other male health initiatives. This year alone, Canadian donations towards Movember have already surpassed 750,000$.

While the Movember Foundation’s intentions and objectives are sincere and truly admirable, one can’t help but wonder just how much awareness this campaign is raising. Yes, its true that Movember raised a grand total of over 125 million dollars in 2011 alone; clearly their fundraising strategy is working. That being said, aside from steering the general public towards their website (which most people only visit to make a one-time donation), how much awareness is Movember actually raising for prostate cancer? Few of its participants, and even fewer of its donors know anything about treatment, prevention or testing of prostate cancer. The campaign claims that the men growing mustaches throughout the month of November become “walking, talking billboards for 30 days. Through their actions and words, they raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health.” (Movember Foundation, 2012).

While its true that men’s health and cancers have been increasingly overshadowed by fast-growing Breast and Ovarian Cancer Awareness campaigns alongside other initiatives to discuss female health issues in recent years, very little education and awareness is being raised regarding prostate cancer through this campaign. Even if the campaign has millions of people saying the offered unheard words “prostate cancer” throughout the month, what is being done to change peoples habits and lifestyles? According to polls conducted by the Movember Foundation, only 48% of Movember participants “carried out personal research on men’s health issues during Movember”, meaning that less than half of the people who spent a month growing a mustache emerged from November more aware and educated about their health. If the program’s own participants aren’t taking the initiative to educate themselves and those around them, what does that say about what donors are learning? Suddenly Movember’s walking, talking billboards are nothing but a bunch of hairy-faced men who know little to nothing about what they’re fundraising for and how maintain healthy lifestyles. Furthermore, the moment the month of December begins and they shave their faces, most “Mo Bros”, as the Movember Foundation refers to its participant, won’t think or talk about prostate cancer for another 335 days.

At the end of the day, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, at least when it comes to raising awareness about a commonly silenced cancer. As such, its fair to say that the Movember campaign isn’t causing any harm or increasing health risks. Regardless, the campaign’s primary objective, that is to raise awareness and to educate men about their health, is often misread as being extremely successful, judging by the number of mustaches that suddenly emerge in the first few weeks of November. How do we change this? Mo Bros: Do your research. Growing a well-designed mustache can be hilarious and make for 105 likes on your recent Facebook profile picture, but it’s worth nothing if you’re not distributing accurate and important information about why you’re doing it. As the Movember Foundation said, you’re walking, talking billboards for a month…do it effectively.

Mo Sistas (a term that the foundation uses to refer to females who can’t participate in the program by growing a mustache but are encouraged to donate and support their Mo Bros by telling them how lovely their staches’ look): do your own research. When visiting the Movember site to make a donation, take a look around. Discover for yourself that Movember is not only about prostate cancer awareness, but also about men’s mental health. Learn that men have suicide rates that outnumber women 4 to 1. Be a part of the awareness and education component of the campaign by sharing invaluable information with your brothers, fathers and friends. And most importantly, call the Mo Bros out by asking them to educate you about the cause they’re fundraising for. If they have little or nothing to tell you about The Movember Foundation, prostate cancer or men’s mental health, ask them to kindly do their research properly or to please shave off their horrible mustache to spare our eyes and upper lips for the remainder of the month.

***All research has been taken directly from the Movember website: http://ca.movember.com/about/
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