A new book in Danish by Simon Simonsen looks at men’s perceptions of their body, health and illness. Based on stories from men, the book is for professionels and others who work with men in relation to health.
The book, which develop’s the author’s qualitative PhD dissertation, compromises models of interpreting men’s reactions that include diverse patterns such as holding symptoms of a major illness at arms length, yet at the same time reacting to a cold as if it were fatal.
An alternative gender scheme is posited and men’s role within western societies is explained in relation to health and illness. The men in the book should not, the author says, be seen as particulary Danish. The book argues that their reactions to illness and health originate in a gender scheme that is mainstream in Europe and throughout the western world.
Dr Simon Simonsen is a lecturer in the sociology of medicine at University College øresund, The National University Hospital, Copenhagen and founder and vice-president of the Men's health Society Denmark.
Some quotes from the text
One of these men says about his reaction to illness:
This so called: "elephant syndrome" is a fine metaphor for mens relation to health and illness and becomes the books core. In relation to health and illness men can easily be viewed as old stubborn elephants – and male elephant are in fact living in apparent isolation from any herd.
These reactions to illness is about, in the interviewees’ words, that, "one looks after one self" and "one would rather be alone" and "one wishes only to be treated as a healthy strong man", keeping illness, signals of illness and risks of illness at arms length.
Another man talks of that to be a man you have to be tough, alone and hard in your actions. He talks about his back problems and why he didn't tell about them before they turned in to a depression:
- I had to survive. I was forced to it. I was. I felt so. As a worker within healthcare you are not mental ill, you are not. You are on the top taking care of ill people.
Simon Simonsen: Mænd, sundhed og sygdom – Ronkedorfænomenet (2006, 190 pages, Klim Publishing, Denmark, price: €31 ISBN: 87-7955-451-2)