Evan Witt is starting to look a little fuzzy this month. He’s one of thousands of men around the globe sprouting saucy facial hair each November, in an effort to raise awareness about cancer.
‘I have done Movember for the last two years in Washington, D.C. in the U.S. I am new to Doha and plan to bring the efforts here,’ he says.
Movember has been going on for a lot longer than that—it first started in 2003 in Australia, before spreading around the world. Now, there are around 450,000 moustaches sprouting each year, with more joining the flock each November from around the globe.
‘No money was raised in 2003, but the guys behind the Mo realized the potential a moustache had in generating conversations about men’s health,’ says Bill McIntyre, one of the official Movember Organizers for New Countries. ‘ Inspired by the women around them and all they had done for breast cancer, the Mo Bros set themselves on a course to create a global men’s health movement. In 2010, global participation of Mo Bros and Mo Sistas climbed to 447,808, with over one million donors raising €55m for Movember’s global beneficiary partners.’
But what exactly is Movember? ‘On Movember 1st, guys register at Movember.com with a clean-shaven face and then for the rest of the month, these selfless and generous men, known as Mo Bros, groom, trim and wax their way into the annals of fine moustachery. Supported by the women in their lives, Mo Sistas, Movember Mo Bros raise funds by seeking out sponsorship for their Mo-growing efforts. Mo Bros effectively become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November and through their actions and words raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health,’ says McIntyre. ‘The Mo is a catalyst for change, prompting both public and private conversation, and through the continued growth of a moustache during November, we will continue to increase early detection, diagnosis and effective treatment for men around the world.’
And for Evan, it involves a Fu Manchu. ‘The first year I grew a classic Fu Manchu moustache. I loved it! The second year I went with the standard moustache since I was teaching college courses at the time and needed to keep some credibility. I couldn’t exactly twirl it but it does get quite long after a month! Now that you mention it, I didn’t name it but maybe this year I will!’ he says. ‘I raised USD1,200 in my first year and USD800 last year. In my second year I was able to expand the team I worked with and a group of us raised over USD10,000. My goal this year is to raise USD1,000 and get at least ten people in Doha to join my team!’
The lighthearted fun of moustachery is part of why Movember has become so incredibly popular.
‘Movember’s tag line is ‘changing the face of men’s health’ which articulately describes the challenge – changing your appearance by growing a moustache for 30 days and the outcome – changing the understanding and attitudes men have towards their health. The moustache is Movember’s ribbon,’ says McIntyre. ‘The appearance of a moustache on a usually clean shaven man prompts questions from those around them.
Throughout the month of Movember they are constantly asked the question - why the moustache? Each Mo Bro then needs to justify his new look with an explanation about the unique challenges men face with their health, and key messages about prostate and testicular cancer. The result is a highly effective and authentic word-of-mouth campaign.’
And that’s important: McIntyre estimates more than five men die prematurely each hour from potentially preventable illnesses. He says according to recent research, up to half of all male cancer cases could be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices.
‘The reasons for the current state of men’s health are numerous and complex but it appears that the biggest issue is the way in which men think about their health; preventative health being something many men just don’t compute. It is this issue that Movember’s Awareness and Education program is working hard to change,’ he says.
Evan, and his stache, are helping. One of the goals of Movember is to get people, especially men, talking about their health.
‘I first heard about the organization from a friend. Once I started looking into the organization more I became very invested in the messages that were being shared. I also find moustaches to be hilarious and a great conversation piece. Once I made the decision to participate in Movember a lot of people started talking about cancer as well as donating money!’ he says.
But that wasn’t all they were saying: he’s faced a bit of moustache-related discrimination when he’s sporting the stache.
‘I unfortunately don’t grow the best moustache. My facial hair comes in blonde/brown as opposed to a nice black or dark moustache. It actually looks pretty nasty and because my physical appearance isn’t at its best I am definitely treated differently. Strangers and less likely to talk to you. The service you receive is a lower quality and I even had someone walk up to me and point to my moustache while saying “Ugly”!’
But he says it’s worth it for the cause. ‘Giving up my personal appearance for a month is something I am more than willing to do for the cause though! Any person that you meet has been affected by cancer in one way or another. It is a disease that impacts each of us and needs to be combated. There are some incredible fundraising organizations for cancer, but very few focus on Men’s cancer. Movemeber is a great way to not only fund raise for the cause but to also raise awareness.’
For more information, including how to start your own team, check out movember.com.
How to get involved
Go to movember.com to register or start your team, or join an existing team! Many companies will have workplace teams, or check out Canadians in Qatar on Facebook: they’re putting together an official Qatar team, with everyone welcome to join