Beyond the caveman: Rethinking masculinity in relation to men’s help-seeking


This study aims to explore the concept of masculinity, specifically in terms of issues related to dominant masculinity, with its emphasis on control, self-reliance and the suppression of emotional or physical distress.


Statistically, men make less use of health-care services than women. This has been interpreted as the result of the 'hegemonic' masculine code in which 'real' men are understood to be physically fit, uninterested in their health and self-reliant. However, less attention has been paid to understanding how hegemonic masculinity intersects with the wider western socio-cultural contexts of men's help-seeking, particularly the valorization of health as a form of social achievement. This article presents the results of interviews with 14 higher socio-economic status (SES) men to uncover their 'interpretive repertoires' in relation to health and illness, help-seeking and masculinity. Although many interviewees drew on the stereotype of the 'Neanderthal Man', who avoids the doctors, to explain help-seeking by men 'in general', they constructed their own experiences of help-seeking in terms of being responsible, problem-solving and remaining in control. It is argued that the framing of help-seeking in terms of 'taking action' chimes with an increasingly pro-active 'expert patient' approach within western health-care. This conceptual reconstruction of the dominant masculine code in relation to helpseeking, from 'Neanderthal Man' to 'Action Man', may lead to greater gender equality in terms of accessing health-care. However, it has the potential to exacerbate social inequalities between men from different SES groups.

Full Reference

Beyond the caveman: rethinking masculinity in relation to men's help-seeking. Farrimond H. Health (London). 2012 Mar; 16(2): 208-25.