This is a guest post by Eugene Grant. Eugene is a great friend of mine, a freelance writer and social commentator.
We need to talk about men’s health. Not the magazine filled with adverts of pricey protein bars and photo-shopped photographs of male models. I mean we need to talk about the health of men.
It’s not an easy subject. For many males – admittedly, this writer included – our psyches are modelled and moulded by traditional discourses of masculinity, hardiness and gendered provider/protector roles. Forget what you’ve heard about man-flu: we don’t get ill, hurt or tired. Well, much. And when we do, many of us abide by an Omerta-like code of silence that could inspire the envy of even the most conspiratorial Mafia family.
But it’s not true, and it’s not helpful.
Almost 20% of men are likely to be treated for mental health issues. Over the past three decades, three to four times more men have taken their own lives than women. There has been no point during this thirty-year period when the rate of suicide among women was higher than that of men.
One of such man was a close friend of mine. One of the hardest, toughest, most creative and humorous people I’ve known took his own life after years of trouble and turmoil most of us cannot – thankfully – even imagine became just too much. That was a few years ago. I wish his family knew how much I miss him, sometimes.
A year or so later, in 2011, over 10,500 men died from a different health condition: prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death among men in the UK. That year, a further 2,000 men were diagnosed with testicular cancer, according to leading charity, Cancer Research UK.
Us men do get ill. Seriously ill. We do breakdown. We die – often before our time.
It is with all this in mind that this year, for the first time, I signed up to participate in Movember – growing a moustache, on it’s own (no beards allowed), for the whole of November – to raise funds for vital support and research programmes that help men and their families who live with these conditions, day-in-day out.
Movember is great fun – and possibly the best example of global, co-ordinated and (effectively) branded volunteer fundraising there is. Men everywhere are either taking part or know someone who is. Facebook is awash with clean-shaven ‘selfies’; gyms, pubs and canteens buzz with discussion about whether to grow a handlebar, or a walrus; whether to emulate Tom Selleck or copy Salvador Dali.
My girlfriend is utterly horrified and a staunch opponent of me growing a ‘tache’. I can’t say I blame her. I am under no pretences that, by the end of the month, I will look truly terrible: more like a prepubescent Ethan Hawke than a modern day Teddy Roosevelt.
But it is precisely the sacrifice of dignity – something else many men are bad at – that embodies much of the spirit of Movember.
After all, we’re not invincible; we do get ill; we do breakdown.
And that’s okay.
So let’s help each other, and our families, through it the best we can.
We need to talk about men’s health. We need to talk about your mo’.
If you’d like to donate, then please give what you can, if you can. To find out more about Movember or the programmes it supports, click here.
First ever self defense programme for people with Dwarfism launched
A good friend of mine and occasional contributor to Hynd’s Blog, Eugene Grant, has launched the first ever self-defence programme for people with dwarfism. This is a cross-post of his article that explains why he sees the need for such a self-defense course.
I don’t even remember where I was going. All I remember is looking to my left, distracted by a homeless man asking for change as I walked past. When I turned my head back to the front, a tall man – about 6’ 0” – was advancing aggressively in my direction, just a few feet away, his hands outstretched towards me.
I have Achondroplasia – one of the most common types of dwarfism. In 28 years, I’ve had stones thrown at my head; I’ve been chased by youths on mopeds; I’ve been grabbed and assaulted by strangers. I was frequently bullied at school. The list of instances in which I’ve been verbally abused or threatened is too long to include here.
Now, I make no assumption that my experiences are representative of other dwarfs. But I know I’m not alone.
Throughout my life, I’ve studied boxing, self-defense, and martial arts: Karate, Kick-boxing, Ninjitsu, and Tae-kwon-do, to name but a few. Growing up, these provided a valuable outlet for me as a frustrated and isolated young man, who struggled to deal positively with an environment that felt harsh and hostile towards me.
And yet, over time I realised that so many of these forms of self-defence were completely inapplicable for people with dwarfism. Even at 4’6” – hardly small for a dwarf – my hips are at the height of most people’s knees. I’m never going to get my leg up high enough to kick an attacker in the head – as you’re taught in Taekwondo. Nor, at 7 and a half stone, would I try to grab, trip, and throw him to the floor – as you might in Judo. Like most dwarfs, my arms are short – making boxing difficult (but not impossible…).
I realised that what people with dwarfism, people like me, really need is a self-defense system designed for our body types and the sorts of threats and assaults (being grabbed, picked up, bear hugged, and so on) which, sadly, some of face all too often in our daily lives.
And so SPD – Self-Protection for Dwarfs – was born.
Designed and developed by myself, under the expert guidance and instruction of Urban Warriors Krav maga Chief Instructor Kelina Cowell, SPD is a unique, practical, and applicable form of self-defense for people with dwarfism. For us, by us; tailored to the modern day environment (not the battlefields of feudal Japan!).
Of course there’s a desperate need for us as a society to re-evaluate how we treat those who are different; to think critically about how a dearth of real representations of people with dwarfism – and indeed other disabilities too – in the media perpetuate prejudices and spread stereotypes.
But as Kelina herself has said before, the world will never rid itself of violence, abuse, and discrimination. That we also need to address structural problems like poverty and inequality, social immobility and educational disadvantage, shouldn’t stop us from locking our doors at night to prevent burglars and home invaders.
Urban Warriors Self Protection for Dwarfs is a serious step forwards to helping people with dwarfism be better prepared to look after and defend themselves in times of crisis; to learn new skills and grow as individuals and as a community; and to build our self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-confidence.
To me, that’s truly empowering.
All we have to do now is to spread the word, teach and train others, and watch the movement grow.
Interested? Want to know more? For more information about Urban Warriors Self Protection for Dwarfs, Please like the Urban Warriors SPD Facebook page, follow us on the Urban Warriors SPD Twitter page, or contact us urbanwarriorsspd at gmail.com
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Tagged as achondroplasia, attacks on dwarfs, Eugene Grant, London, self-defense for dwarfs