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Mens Health Essay

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Aaran Walker

This essay with reference to literature on the social construction of masculinity and men’s health sets out to briefly describe the stereotypical images that have emerged of the New Zealand man; secondly, the social and historical factors will be outlined how this stereotype with respect to both Maori and Pakeha men has developed. Thirdly this essay will attempt to analyze critically, the relationship between the stereotype and the health of New Zealand men. Finally, this essay will include a discussion of the implications for the nursing profession. Also attached, as an appendix to this assignment will be the author’s discussion with three other participants in the course and the course coordinator about how accurate and relevant this stereotype is in the context of contemporary New Zealand.

“As soon as one talks in and of stereotypes one looses sight of the actual people and the real and perplexing lives they lead” (King, 1988).

According to Law, Campbell & Dolan (1999), masculinities are those ideals, traits and practices that shape what members of a social group construe as appropriately “male”. So, what stereotypes of masculinity have emerged in New Zealand men? This question unavoidably involves a confrontation with (the mythology of) the stereotypical “Kiwi bloke” . Behind the trite image of the Kiwi bloke with all its connotations of muddy gumboots, black singlets and number 8 fencing wire, there are many different kinds of men and many different types of masculinity in New Zealand. Such characteristics are commonly accessible from the iconography of the likes of Colin Meads , Barry Crump , Fred Dagg and Billy T James . The typical Kiwi bloke is apparently passionate about Rugby and while feet are not firmly planted in rugby boots they are suspected gumboot wearers. He drinks large quantities of beer and has the ability to fix almost anything with number 8 fencing wire; such versatility bore the label “Jack of all trades”. He is a good keen man who does not easily display his emotions, but will look out for his mates when the need arises. His forbearers were colonial pioneers and Maori warriors (Laws, 1998; Phillips, 1996). Nevertheless, to its detriment this mythology of the Kiwi bloke is also recognised widely as pretence. Such stereotypical representations of the typical Kiwi bloke appear widely in many different forms of media ranging from television advertisements to serious literature, and it has now become, that practices of “blokish” masculinity in New Zealand now carries the weight of certain self-consciousness. (Laws, 1998).

Given these ideas, Law et al., (1999) suggest however, it is also important noting that as social constructions, masculinities change and is displaced over time in relation to historical events and ever changing social and economic relations. Laws (1998) claims that men’s health and behaviour, is not predominantly predetermined by biogenetic factors – and that lifestyle and socialisation are some of the most important contributing factors to the behaviour and wellbeing of men. Men’s health is very much influenced by construct issues such as male socialisation and the models of masculinity that predominate in the New Zealand culture. According to Fairburn (1990) traditional New Zealand masculinity differs from other cultures in its focus and emphasis on certain male behaviours. This is seen to be due to the unique nature of New Zealand history.

As Phillips (1996) describes the men who came to New Zealand in the nineteenth-century were predominately British men, settling the country primarily as gum diggers and goldminers on the land. Contrary to the Maori settlements there were few women in the European settlements. Living conditions and the environment were harsh. To survive as a society men suffered further hardships to explore the surrounding densely forested countryside in order to find arable grazing land to farm. Such men adapted amazingly well to the roughing it lifestyle, simply because for most colonial males roughing it was a matter of necessity and increasingly, Phillips (1996) describes the roughing it by such men as being “A source of pride, not simply an aristocrat’s affection” (p. 24). This, strong mostly male exclusive, pioneering environment lead to the development of a specific underlying ‘hard’ culture that greatly accentuated the male stereotypes and values seen today (Fairburn, 1990).

Similarly, Luck, Bamford, & Williamson (2000) suggest that there is a need to examine ‘conventional’ masculinity from a historical perspective, indicating that the institutionalisation of warfare in the late nineteenth century has legitimised and rationalised violence for men against other men in the countries that were seen to be the enemy, and for protecting ‘the women and children at home’ and although fascism has been ident...

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