Who says health issues have to be deadly serious? November takes a silly turn every year with the advent of Movember, a month-long spotlight on issues in men’s health. In 2003, two friends having a beer in Australia were also having an unlikely conversation about the absence of “mo” (mustaches and accompanying swagger) in men’s fashion.

They decided to change that.

A friend’s mother was participating in a breast cancer fundraiser, and the friends decided to model their men’s health initiative after that. They charged $10 to participate in the month-long challenge and asked their friends, “Are you man enough to be my man?”

The rules were simple, and they remain in place today:

  1. Participants start with a clean-shaven face
  2. They must grow (and groom) a mustache for the entire month
  3. No beards, no goatees, no fake mustaches
  4. Use the mustache as a conversation piece to talk about men’s health and raise money for testicular cancer, prostate cancer, and mental health
  5. Each “Mo Bro” must be a true gentleman throughout the month

Starting with just 30 original Mo Bros in 2003, Movember has grown to include 4,027,688 Mo Bros and Mo Sistas in 2013. This organization has rasied $559 million dollars since 2003 and funded 770 men’s health projects. In 2013, GQ magazine awarded the Movember Foundation the Social Force of the Year Award.

The stated vision of The Movember Foudation is “to have an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health.” One of the main issues in men’s health is the reluctance of men in general to seek help when they feel unwell. The Foundation identifies projects in countries all over the globe, assessing their alignment with the strategic goals. Once programs are identified and funded, the Movember Foundation’s Program Team and Board oversee their progress.

Some of the programs currently being funded are:

  • Canadian Men’s Health & Wellbeing Initiative: From the Movember Foundation’s Materials: “Canadians were challenged to put forward innovative, ‘outside the box’ ideas that utilize positive elements of masculinity to engage men about their health and get them to do things differently.” This project is a two-year project aimed at identifying what works in promoting and increasing men’s health and then implementing it.
  • Truth NTH: This is an initiative funded in many different countries. The goal of this initiative is to improve the mental and physical well-being of men living with prostate cancer, along with the lives of their families.
  • Assisting Fathers in Mourning the Death of an Unborn Child: Men are often ignored when the death of a child occurs in utero. Movember funds this foundation that seeks to support men through the grief process.

The list of projects is nearly endless. The Movember Foundation’s Report Card provides full disclosure of the money that funds each initiative, along with the ways in which success is measured.

But what if you are a woman? Men can parade around in pink for the entire month of October. Do you have to wear a mustache to participate?

If you wish, you may, of course, don a ‘stache and become an honorary Mo. There are other ways to participate, too.

  • Become a Mo Sista: Sign up, pay your ten dollars, and make your commitment official.
  • Spread the word: Spend the month spreading the word about the issues surrounding men’s health, specifically testicular and prostate cancer and mental health. Talk the men in your life into participating.
  • Recruit other folks: Form a team and recruit other Sistas.

So you have signed up as a Mo Bro or rallied around as a Mo Sista. Now it’s time to document your growth over the month. Many people take a series of pictures of themselves. Some put together time-lapse videos. Another idea quickly gaining momentum and raising even more money is commissioning an artist to do your own Mo’trait. The Gallery of Mo is offering original art of the participating Mo Bro, Mo Sista, Mo Dog, Mo Hamster, or Mo Whatever. Original portraits cost £1 a minute, and 100% of the money paid to The Gallery of Mo is passed on to the Movember Foundation.

In between your last shave of the month and getting your hairy upper lip inked on paper for all eternity, work on your own health during the month by running the Moustache Dache. Entry fees go to the Movember Foundation and participants have an opportunity to win prizes for the best costume.

Feel like dressing up to celebrate your debonair new look and your gentlemanly ways? How about a gala to celebrate the bewhiskered lip? These costumed parties offer prizes for best costume in the following categories from the Movember Gala site:

“Ultimate Mo: A Mo Bro judged purely on the intricate grooming and styling of his moustache. A good outfit helps too.
Lame Mo: An encouragement award given to our follically challenged brethren.
Team Mo: The team judged to have the best moustache and outfit combination.
Mo Bro & Mo Sista: The best dressed couple.
Best Mo in Character: A Mo Bro dressed up in character.
Miss Movember: The Mo Sista judged to be the best dressed and full of Movember spirit.
Man of Movember: The ultimate accolade, the man with the best Mo, costume and attitude who embodies Movember.”

Movember is a light-hearted way to look at serious issues in men’s health. Using humor and involving everyone in the party only helps the cause along. Are you participating in Movember this year? Post a picture in the comments below!

Image by Kristina Alexanderson via Flickr

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