Mo-ving towards men’s health

It’s been called No-Shave November, a month dedicated to the natural growth of facial hair on men; but in 2003, a humble movement began to change the face of the month. Thirty men in Australia came together to grow mustaches for the month of November. The first showing of the Mustache Brothers (Mos Bros, the name given to all participants of Movember) began as a joke about the outdated fashion. After two years, the Mustache November (Movember) operation expanded into New Zealand and yielded $9.3 million in charitable donations to the Prostate Cancer Foundations of New Zealand and Australia.

Today, the Movember movement has spread to 14 countries with around 900,000 members. In 2011, the charity raised $126.3 million to give to prostate and testicular cancer foundations around the world. In the U.S., $15 million was allocated to men’s health programs like the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the Livestrong Foundation, among others (movember.com).

Since its humble beginnings, movember.com has since been turned into a central website, helping to control donations and Mo Spaces – member pages where you can follow the progress of any of the 900,000 members. Currently on the website, there is a small, eight-member team called “Williams Mos.” The group is comprised of men at the College who are pledging to grow their mustaches for the entire month to raise money and awareness for men’s health issues.

Women can also sign up as Mo Sistas, pledging to raise awareness for men’s health through conversation and vowing to support the local mustached community in its endeavors. Certainly, women play a pivotal role in facilitating discussion and understanding health issues. Many men feel uncomfortable talking about their health because of social pressures to be strong and healthy. Beyond monetary funding of men’s health programs, Movember also heightens knowledge and awareness of health issues among participants. In the U.S., 69 percent of registered Mos Bros and Sistas decided to have their own check-up with a doctor and 79 percent had conversations with family members regarding the importance of check-ups, a healthy diet and exercise (movember.com).

The movement continues to grow each year. I often find myself in discussions with others about the significance of the mustache or facial hair growth to the month. There are rules set in place by movember.com that, although they are more specific to the actual movement, are often used in all “no-shave November” practices. For such practices, typically a beard is the target goal, but for Movember, a mustache not connected to any other aspect of facial hair is the intended look, although other styles are adaptable in normal context. As for me, I will begin with a Civil War-era mustache.

The question remains, what kind of sacrifice does it take to grow a mustache? I can recall the single day I had a mustache at the end of Movember last year. For the entire month, I grew an entire beard, afraid of how others would perceive my mustache. In the mere 40 hours of donning a ’stache, I was called the Pringles guy, Mario, a maintenance guy, a 40-year-old uncle and a pedophile, among other names. The attention to the mustache, although well appreciated, can also be offensive to the movement.

Certainly, responding to inquiry about a mustache is what Movember aims to achieve. It is in moments of inquiry that Mos Bros can begin conversations of men’s health concerns, but when the inquiry is actually just an expression of how much of a pedophile a mustache makes you, it not only deters members from joining in the movement, but also makes them less enthusiastic to take part. It is also unfortunate to place a negative stereotype upon facial hair, although the actual movement is aimed at making a significant difference for men’s health. Perhaps famous figures like Albert Einstein, Mark Twain or Theodore Roosevelt would disagree with the recent popular views against mustaches. Hopefully more marketing this year will allow the mustaches grown on campus to be considered vessels of change rather than targets for insults.

Across the world this month, men will be growing mustaches to benefit men’s health initiatives. The College, likewise, will see students growing mustaches, aiming to help raise awareness and money to combat these issues. There may be some insults, but the sacrifices of growing a mustache is much less significant than the impact that various male figures have played in our lives. Although the Mo community at large is spread all over the world, we are all united in our desire to improve the lives of men around the globe.

Christopher Sheahan ’13 is an Asian studies major from Wolcott, Conn. He lives on Thomas Street.