Gender equality: Engaging men in change

Flood, Gender equality - Engaging men in change Lancet May 2019 Clipping

I have been working on issues of men, masculinities, and gender for 32 years, and it looks to me like men’s roles in building gender equality are now part of the public agenda to an unprecedented extent. Almost every day, there are new stories and initiatives on how men can support women’s participation in medicine and science, end domestic and sexual violence, share the load of fathering and housework, and more. This focus has a compelling rationale. Above all, we will not make much progress towards gender equality without change among men—and men themselves will benefit from this progress.

There is a particularly energetic focus on men and masculinities as the subject of popular debate, media commentary, and policy and programming. Recent examples include men and the #MeToo movement and media talk of “toxic masculinity” and its harms. There have been other times in history when men have been seen to be in so-called crisis, and I am sceptical of simplistic claims about such a crisis, but this attention to men is new.

This turn to men is visible too in public health. There is growing recognition that gender should not be code for women, men’s lives too are structured by gender, and the social organisation of masculinities is an important determinant of health and wellbeing. There is intensified attention to how the norms and relations of gender and manhood are implicated in violence against women and violence between men, sexual and reproductive health, suicide, alcohol and drug use, mental health, occupational deaths and injuries, and a host of other issues. A wealth of studies over the past three decades have documented that conformity to traditional masculine norms is an influential risk factor across a range of domains. Men who conform more strongly to the beliefs that men should be tough, stoic, dominant, daring, and in control are typically more likely than other men to assault and rape women, assault other men, consider suicide, take risks with sexual partners or at the wheel of a car, avoid help-seeking, and refrain from active fathering. Gender is not the whole story here, but there is no doubt that it is a key part of the story.

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Citation: Flood, M. (2019). Gender equality: Engaging men in change. The Lancet, “The art of medicine” section, May 31, 2019,