CHARACTERS in action films are creating images of toxic images of masculinity, an MP told the House of Commons.
Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage spoke out about the risk that ‘self-contained, aggressive and disconnected’ portrayals of action heroes such as James Bond and Steven Seagal may have on vulnerable men, prior to tomorrow’s celebration of International Men’s Day.
Ms Dinenage, who addressed the debate on International Men’s Day as minister for equalities, also used fictional Wall Street player Gordon Gekko as an example of the ‘lone wolves going through life without sharing his feelings with anybody’.
She said: ‘Every time a little boy is told to zip up his man suit, to be brave in circumstances where a girl would be cuddled or comforted we’re contributing to an ideal that a real man is fearless and emotionless.
‘I think there are risks, particularly for those who are vulnerable or isolated and these messages can be particularly toxic for men suffering mental health issues.’
Ms Dinenage raised concerns during the debate over the lack of reportage and support for male victims of domestic violence compared to women.
Crime surveys for England and Wales estimate that there were 610,000 male victims of domestic violence last year.
Ms Dineage said: ‘We live in a culture where men are expected to be strong, tough and macho, which is why men sometimes bottle up their feelings, and possibly why there is such a high suicide risk with men.’
The male suicide rate is at its highest since 2001. In 2013, 6,233 suicides were registered in the UK, with a rate of 19 per 100,000 for men.
Ms Dinenage told MPs of an encounter with one man in her constituency, who said that the Gosport Shed project saved his life.
She added: ‘I’m very encouraged by the work of the Department of Health with the National Suicide Prevention Alliance to identify innovative projects and target mental wellbeing and suicide prevention at men - projects such as the Men’s Sheds movement.
‘There are a lot of organisation which have been set up with former servicemen in mind, which build around those shared previous experiences.
‘The Gosport Shed is fabulous because it was set up to tackle things like isolation and loneliness. These kind of opportunities for people to socialise are so good for health and wellbeing.’