Macho, Macho Man
Baby Boomer men grew up primarily in the 1950-70s. Many of our fathers and grandfathers had lived through the depression and fought in world wars. They were farmers, industrial laborers, engineers, doctors, and professors. The general idea was that the man of the house was the provider for the family. He worked hard. His domain was out in the labor force, complete with a lunch pail and ID badge. This was the world of Leave it to Beaver.
The invincible man portrayal
The media portrayed “the man” as leading men like Charleton Heston, John Wayne, the Lone Ranger and later, Sylvester Stallone. These men won nearly every battle, unflinchingly and without hesitation. Other men were portrayed as buffoons or bunglers: Ralph Kramden, Archie Bunker, Gilligan, and when we were much older, Al Bundy. There were a few sensitive, thoughtful men, such as John Boy Walton (set in the 1930’s), but they just seemed like the exception.
Stronger, yet weaker?
My understanding was in order to be “a man” a boy had to learn to hide his feelings, not show any sign of weakness, and unfortunately, only ask for help when things were dire. As a group, we were the leaders of the free world, engaging in a Cold War that required bravado. So, what does all of this backstory have to do with men’s health? Here is my point: I think we were sold a bill of goods. For many of us, seeing a health care professional was viewed as a sign of weakness. I think it is still a reason that we resist. It’s not the only reason, but an important one. We were taught to be strong for everyone else, but ourselves.
In 2014, an article in the AMA Journal of Ethics noted, “The literature of medical sociology has portrayed older adults as reluctant to speak up to their doctors and passive in communicating about their health care.”1 This is a dangerous trend when combined with this understanding, “As large numbers of baby boomers cross into old age, there will be greater demands for chronic health care and for meeting the special needs posed by the “graying of disability” -- people with disabilities living longer than they did in centuries past.”1
The article does present hope and this is where I will land.1
- Baby boomer men are becoming more tech-savvy and are able to get better information and make more informed decisions about their health (I am an example of this).
- Advances in technology and communication allow for greater privacy and independence for baby boomer men who value keeping things on the down low.
- While the “macho” ideal is still prevalent in media portrayals of men, more sensitive (and strong) men are also held up on screen.
- Health care advertising directed at baby boomer men present the idea of “taking control” of one’s life rather than running from the doctor.
- Men’s health issues (think virility) are openly discussed in commercials during sporting events and during prime time programming.
- Better access to healthier foods, exercise programs, and physicians help (although many of our impoverished communities have a long way to go in this regard. I will highlight this in another article).
- Health care professionals are better trained at “bringing out” older patients leading to better diagnoses and treatments.
Finding our voice
Many say that 70 is the new 60 or even 50. I am good with that. I think senior adults are a tremendous asset to our society. There is hope! Baby boomer men are some of the best educated and most accomplished people that I know. They led in some very hard times and I owe a lot to them. Most of all, I want to advocate for them and help them discover how to best fight for themselves. I know that they spent much of their lives fighting for others. Seeing a health care professional is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of battling for a better future.
How much do you worry about prostate cancer coming back after treatment?