[By Prasanna Nara]
Firstly, I’d like to apologize for that ridiculous pun. I must warn you I have more, but I’m just shaving them for later.
Okay, no more, I promise.
November is finally here and some men are just itching to have an excuse to let their manliness show through their thick, luscious moustaches. However, what most Malaysian men (and women) are unaware of is that Movember is so much more than just a fad or fashion statement.
How did Movember come about?
You may (or may not) be surprised to know that the idea of Movember was born at a bar in Melbourne. A couple of friends were talking about men’s style comebacks and they dared each other to bring back one of the most old-fashioned trends- the moustache. For that entire month, they and thirty other friends of theirs took up the challenge of growing a “mo” – as the Australians say it – and leaving their upper lips untamed just so they could see who grew the nicest one.
The following year, some of the friends, including Adam Garone (Movember co-founder) decided to use their moustache-growing venture to raise money and awareness for prostate cancer. While partnering with the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, they learnt that one in six men were likely to contract prostate cancer in his lifetime. Prostate cancer is also the second leading cause of cancer death in men, but is not talked about as much as other cancers.
How successful was it?
In 2004, the event grew and 450 participants managed to raise $43,000 (RM1.4 mil). Two years later, the four co-founders established an official Australian charity, the Movember Foundation. They also began hiring employees whom they call “Mo Bros” and “Mo Sistas” as the company was getting too big to manage. Today, Movember has become a full-fledged awareness campaign for men’s health issues and is run in 21 countries. Last year alone, the foundation raised a massive $125 mil (RM 418 mil) and is fulfilling its vision: To have an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health.
What else is in the stache?
Despite the Movember Foundation’s smashing success, Adam Garone and the other co-founders have no intention of slowing down. He told The Guardian during an interview that their first priority would be to fund prostate cancer and then move to testicular cancer. Once they reach a certain scale, they plan to tackle mental health. “12 men a day commit suicide in the UK. We want to use our movement to get men involved in discussing their health,” said Garone.
ETC. Magazine interviewed a few men to see what they had to say about Movember and awareness of men’s health issues.
What do you think Movember is all about?
“Well from what I know, it’s about growing one’s facial hair without shaving throughout the month of November for charity.” – Kyle Iman, 19
“I originally thought it was an exclusive Canadian Pre-University event where everyone grew their facial hair out but after some research I found out that it’s done to raise awareness of male issues like prostate cancer.” – Justin Goh, 20
“I always thought it was just done as a fashion statement for men and had something to do with men’s style.” – Ali Asgar, 21
While Movember is a popular campaign around the world, many Malaysians do not know what it is for. How do you think this can be improved?
“I think if anything were to help spark interest, it would be social media such as Facebook and Twitter. As you say, Movember is a major campaign overseas, but social media destroys international barriers. I don’t doubt that this will become a more visible aspect of Malaysian culture over the coming years with the growth of social media’s influence.” – Girish Narayanan, 23
“I would say the best place to start is in colleges and universities as a fun contest or challenge for the guys but it should also be made abundantly clear what it is about.” – Justin Goh, 20
Why do you think men are less likely to pay attention to their health issues? Is it a “macho” thing or are they just unaware?
“It could be that these men may be in denial more than anything else. As you suggested, it could be due to a ‘macho’ masculine tendency to appear strong and dominant. There are of course some who are simply unaware, or just do not think it is important enough as compared to their day-to-day occupations.” – Kyle Iman, 19
“I don’t think the male macho syndrome extends to self-survival. I would say it’s more an extension of general slob-by attitude. Also, it could simply be that women comparatively have a lot more to worry about from a young age, from hormones to menstrual cycles. Thus the culture of keeping track of their health is instilled as a natural development whereas very little of that is prompted naturally in the development of males.” – Girish Narayanan, 23
The moustache has now become a ribbon for men’s health. Would you grow a “mo” for Movember to raise money and awareness?
“If I could grow facial hair then I would more than likely participate in helping such a campaign.” – Justin Goh, 20
“Honestly, I am trying! It’s always been difficult for me to grow any facial hair at all, so we’ll see.” – Kyle Iman, 19
“Yes, now that you’ve informed me about it I really wouldn’t mind doing that.” – Zaahir Ebrahim, 24