I’ve been trying not to write something about Movember because everything that I might write seems obvious and has already been said better by someone else. To rehearse a few of these critiques in brief: the project holds up working class white masculinity as a object of ridicule and brackets it to the past; it’s a reactionary men’s movement (a response to the “exclusions” created by the success of “women’s” health movements) and should be contextualized in a larger, anti-feminist genealogy; the way it’s practiced in workplaces perpetuates gendered exclusions that have lasting implications for women’s and people of colour’s labour chances.
These gendered, racialized and classed dynamics of Movember are what make this kind of men’s movement seem harmless: “We’re educated, white, creative or managerial types who share the child rearing and domestic responsibilities with our wives: WE LOVE WOMEN!”
It’s hard to be critical about any well-intentioned project that raises money for charity, especially one that gives men a language with which to talk about their bodies, albeit in opaque ways. But it’s important to talk about how and why these projects are gendered, a conversation that has taken place quite brilliantly around breast cancer fundraising (see Samantha King or Barbara Ehrenreich). Growing a moustache with your bros is way more fun than wearing a pink ribbon; asking questions about Movember’s racialized, gendered and classed tactics becomes an exercise in ruining someone else’s bromance. I feel fine writing about my problems with Movember on this blog, but I freeze up when the otherwise lovely, pro-feminist men in my graduate program want to talk to me about their moustache-growing clubs. In these moments I see myself as Sara Ahmed’s, shaving–cream wielding feminist killjoy, and I don’t say anything at all. As Ahmed writes, there’s an economy of affective labour, and a real courage that comes with a feminist act of killing someone else’s joy.
For folks who haven’t seen the Movember ad campaign wheat-pasted around their city, I’ve included some images below. When I first saw these posters in the street they straight up blew my mind: “Working class professions and styles of dress are beneath me, but not this month!”