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Connecting masculinities to men's illness vulnerabilities and resilience

Oliffe, John L.


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Men’s illness vulnerabilities and resilience are two predominant and regularly linked constructs in the masculinities and men’s health literature. There has been a steady stream of men’s strength-based vulnerabilities in the form of illness testimonials amid critiques that such disclosures are mere props for bolstering patriarchal power. The current article presents secondary analyses of case studies with four participants who took part in wide-ranging qualitative health studies to detail diverse connections between masculinities and men’s illness vulnerabilities and resilience. Prostate cancer–related vulnerabilities feature in the first case study where Arthur’s resilience for reclaiming his erectile function post-prostatectomy mobilizes an objection masculinity contesting his marginality. In the second case study, Chuck’s vulnerabilities are conceded as permanent flowing from his severe mental illness, a positionality situating resilience as obligatory for his survival. Here, Chuck embodies a resignate masculinity that accepts but works to manage the harms of his subordinate status. In the aftermath of his young son’s suicide, Jack laments that he did not model vulnerabilities. Resilience for understanding his loss influences a reimagined masculinity where Jack contemplates changes to gender norms for his and other men’s lives. Lastly, Sami replaces maladaptive actions for dousing vulnerabilities incurred through a partner-initiated separation with resilience for self-growth. Aspiring progress masculinity, Sami deconstructs his emotions and behaviors to positively change how he shows up as a man, father, and partner. The case studies reveal connections between objection, resignate, reimagined, and progress masculinities and men’s illness vulnerabilities and resilience to advance empirical, gender theory and methodological insights.