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Joe is a writer, bad musician, broadcasting type guy, and all around human. He writes things for The Hudsucker, and anywhere else that will publish him. And twitter @slothraps

Movember, Manvember

Credit: Movember USA

This month, our male writers took part in Movember—the annual event involving the growing of moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer and other male cancers, and associated charities. By challenging our writers to grow their moustaches in support of raising awareness for men’s health issues, we want to get the conversation going and spread the news on the global organization’s commitment to changing the face of men’s health.

Once during an argument about gender theory on Facebook, one of the people arguing against me said that I didn’t think that men were people. Well I now have a sad moustache that proves him wrong! Honestly, I can almost see how he might have been able to make that claim—almost. People who know me know that I’m a big time feminist, or I do my best. I don’t often talk about men’s issues because I don’t often believe that men face issues that are unique to men only. Being of the genetic make up that I am, life has come pretty easy to me in terms of first impressions and snap judgments.

But over the past month as I have grown this sad excuse for a moustache, I have thought about what it means to be masculine, or a man, or manly, more frequently than I normally do. Normally, I am very comfortable in how I identify and broadcast my gender identity into the world. At school I hang out with and talk to mostly women. I have a girlfriend with whom we are very cute and silly, and most if not all of my male friends are arty and/or not traditionally masculine. We don’t watch ‘The Game’ together, we’d rather play video games, or just sit around a table and talk about how we feel and make jokes. Really.

My hairy lip

My hairy lip

So while I actually didn’t get talked to about my moustache at all, I still thought about the spirit of Movember. The website says it’s about men’s health. It’s about prostate and testicular cancer. I’m down with that. I know a person who has had testicular cancer and a person who has had issues with their prostate. I like the idea that we are able to talk at least semi-openly about parts of the male body that are not considered attractive or appealing. It’s a step in a direction of openness that I value. I honestly find it hard to believe that we still have a hard time talking about our bodies to each other. However, I actually find the act of growing facial hair a little exclusive when it comes to these particular cancers. I find it very important to note that just because you have testicles and a prostate does not necessarily mean you are a man, and just because you don’t, does not mean that you are not a man. And the facial hair growing capabilities that generally come with those body parts. People should not be boiled down to their body parts. I don’t think Movember is actively doing that, but I find that in my article at least I want my potentially transgender readers to know that I have them in mind.

So, about the month. No one noticed. Really. Well, my girlfriend noticed. She stopped letting me kiss her about halfway into the month, as each upper lip hair decided that they wanted to be in her nose instead of under mine during each peck. So, I plan to shave as soon as I finish writing this. Let me try to explain why no one would talk to me about my moustache. One important reason is that I am always scruffy. Always. I don’t actually even own a proper razor. I have a trimmer. I couldn’t get the rest of my face baby soft if I wanted to (full disclosure I really didn’t). So for the duration of the month I did have some stubble, but the moustache was the most prominent piece of hair on my face. Another reason could just be the people I associate with. The group of people (women) I talk to before my writing class at school don’t really talk about looks at all. One girl has a really great fashion sense and often gets complimented on her outfit, but for the most part we talk almost entirely about writing and reading, and more writing, and more reading and we complain about work-shopping writing (because it’s the worst). As far as my male friends, I’m almost always the most conservative in terms of personal style. A moustache on a ginger is nothing compared to how they dress and wear their hair, so it really wouldn’t warrant discussion. The university that I attend is pretty big, so we all just sort of drift among each other without interacting as much as possible. So, this strikes me as a cool thing about being a man: I can have a dumb looking moustache or whatever, but as long as I can contribute to the conversation and be a decent person to be around (although who knows), then I can look pretty much however I want. I’ve always worried about how I look, but I almost never receive comments about my looks from people who aren’t hitting on me (this has happened, I think, four times in my life but these interactions have been very similar and have included comments on how I look).

I remember in high school, when only one or two people could actually grow a beard, I got asked ALL THE TIME about No Shave November, which is basically the same thing just without the charity. So after high school, I think my primary peer group was burnt out on November themed facial hair challenges. My Facebook and Twitter feeds were devoid of any discussion. This is interesting from a men’s health perspective. I think that the lack of traction that Movember has is due to two things: It’s rather new compared to all the breast cancer efforts, and, the idea of how men “should” behave.

The idea of being a man means being strong, providing, being stoic, sucking it up etc, etc, etc, etc. So what happens is that when we (men) get a chance to actually help ourselves, we don’t. What this means for Movember is that we live in a society that doesn’t value testicles as much as it values breasts, so a month about breast health is more successful than a month about testicles. Men don’t often take the necessary steps

When it’s all said and done, I like the idea and the conversation that is caused by Movember. I like the idea of a bunch of guys getting together and helping each other to be healthier and better people. Not just better men, but better people. I like the opportunity to talk openly about body parts that are often the butt of jokes. I hate any kind of cancer, and so any awareness and fight against it is wonderful. I think Movember has room to grow. I think it has forks in its road that will make me like it more or less depending on what it does. I think that we should care about men and teach ourselves that it’s okay to be vulnerable and actually go to the doctor when something feels wrong right away. I would hate if any of my friends were to die because he was too stubborn or embarrassed to get help.

So men, grow out that beard, or don’t. Be muscle bound, or don’t. Be sensitive, or don’t. You do you my dude. The better we can treat ourselves, the better we can treat each other, and the better we can treat each other the better the world will be.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find my razor.

As always, you can donate to the Movember foundation here. And I encourage you to do so if you have the means.

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  1. Movember Round-Up! | The Hudsucker - November 28, 2014

    […] Joe Bielecki: Movember, Manvember Once during an argument about gender theory on Facebook, one of the people arguing against me said that I didn’t think that men were people. Well I now have a sad moustache that proves him wrong! CONTINUE READING… […]

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