gender roles

Metrosexual, hipster, spornosexual: Why do we keep redefining men?

Over the past 30 years, capitalism has redefined the labour market – and with it, men.

Ten years ago, men were metrosexual, but now I’ve lost track. Currently, the spornosexual, a more body conscious and sexually explicit version of the metrosexual, is vying with the check-shirted, bearded lumbersexual for top spot. Nattily dressed and neatly bearded, the “dandy wildman” and the hipster abound, too.

These are men’s consumer lifestyles. If you want to be a spornosexual, you buy gym membership, protein and some expensive photography equipment to spruce up your Instagram feed. To be a hipster, go to vintage clothes shops, buy the most obscure craft ales, and some beard oil.

Gym with @ellcrabb & @ryanosborne14 tonight 👌🏼

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In the last 30 years, the number of men’s lifestyles on the market has grown exponentially. My ongoing PhD research explores this phenomenon, trying to understand and explain the appearance of new “marketed manhoods”. Having held focus groups with young men around the country, I have found new marketed versions of manhood have taken hold to vastly differing extents in different areas.

Marketing masculinity

One participant from Doncaster described Sheffield as “like a different country” in terms of how men behave, while another from Taunton in Somerset suggested that, in rural Devon, men’s fashion is “10 years” behind that of his hometown. The more urban and metropolitan the area was perceived to be, the more likely that manhood is to have changed.

Unprompted, many participants linked these masculine dividing lines to those that characterised the vote to leave the European Union in June last year, with one participant summarising, in terms of geography, “Brexit’s just blown stuff up”. They’re not wrong. The places that stood out as bastions of Remain were urban areas, notably London plus Bristol and Brighton in the south, but also northern cities, such as Manchester, Liverpool, York and Leeds. Personally, I don’t think this is a coincidence.

Some of the analysis of the Brexit vote argued that people in rural parts of the country felt their employment was under threat from migrant labour from the EU. This was an argument that came up in many of my focus groups, too, with one participant arguing that “if they see immigrants as threatening that employment, then it’s almost, yeah, threatening their manhood, their masculinity”.

This analysis is somewhat misguided, as there is little evidence that migrant labour actually does negatively affect employment prospects. But there is a strong sense in which many men, in this country and the Western world generally, gather their own identity from their worth in the workplace. And the type of work that men do is significantly affected by the function of capitalism.

Jobs changing

The last 30 years hasn’t just moved men in a different direction, it has also altered capitalism. A lot of people refer to this era as neoliberalism, a specific form of capitalism that leaves markets free of regulation. One of neoliberalism’s central achievements has been a significant decline in the type of manual labour once dominated by working class men, from coalmining through to factory work. As a result of this decline, more men are now freelance, in office-based jobs, or working for service companies rather than doing manual labour.

These different types of work involve non-physical investments, such as aesthetic and emotional commitment to your work. If “what it means to be a man” is so dependent on labour, this would suggest that as labour changes, so too does manhood. Now required to do more than physically exert themselves, men need new ideals of manhood that teach them such skills. Fashion-conscious metrosexuality and hipsterism, body-conscious spornosexuality – these are men’s lifestyles that, like the work in the service sector that many men now do, demand daily upkeep of appearance. With the decline of manual labour, the masculine ideal has changed.

But, as my research shows, men’s consumer lifestyles have not had universal geographical acceptance across the UK. In areas that used to be more reliant on manual labour, such as Durham, Yorkshire, and large parts of Wales, men have struggled to deal with its decline. Why? Capitalism has for a long time focused development and renewal in urban and metropolitan areas, an aspect that neoliberal capitalism has magnified. As a result, the resolution of new forms of labour with new manhoods have taken hold to a much greater extent in more urban and metropolitan areas.

So, instead of providing men in less urban areas with the investment and skills to engage in new forms of labour, the market simply forgot them. The American sociologist Michael Kimmel calls this “aggrieved entitlement” – men who thought they were entitled to these jobs feel they have had their futures taken away from them, and, frankly, it’s made a lot of them quite angry.

The point of this is not to “blame men” for Brexit, and nor is it to suggest that what rural Yorkshire really needs is more hipsters. In the short term, it’s certainly a good idea to invest more thoroughly in the harder hit former industrial areas of the UK. But none of this would be a problem if masculinity were able to sever its association with employment. The view that men obtain their worth from their employment exacerbates already existing geographical divides. To fully address those divides, men must begin to question whether they are more than just their employment.

Greg Wolfman, PhD researcher in gender, men and masculinities, University of Huddersfield.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

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What hospitals can do to drive entrepreneurship and enhance patient experience

Hospitals can perform better by partnering with entrepreneurs and encouraging a culture of intrapreneurship focused on customer centricity.

At the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, visitors don’t have to worry about navigating their way across the complex hospital premises. All they need to do is download wayfinding tools from the installed digital signage onto their smartphone and get step by step directions. Other hospitals have digital signage in surgical waiting rooms that share surgery updates with the anxious families waiting outside, or offer general information to visitors in waiting rooms. Many others use digital registration tools to reduce check-in time or have Smart TVs in patient rooms that serve educational and anxiety alleviating content.

Most of these tech enabled solutions have emerged as hospitals look for better ways to enhance patient experience – one of the top criteria in evaluating hospital performance. Patient experience accounts for 25% of a hospital’s Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) score as per the US government’s Centres for Medicare and Mediaid Services (CMS) programme. As a Mckinsey report says, hospitals need to break down a patient’s journey into various aspects, clinical and non-clinical, and seek ways of improving every touch point in the journey. As hospitals also need to focus on delivering quality healthcare, they are increasingly collaborating with entrepreneurs who offer such patient centric solutions or encouraging innovative intrapreneurship within the organization.

At the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott, some of the speakers from diverse industry backgrounds brought up the role of entrepreneurship in order to deliver on patient experience.

Getting the best from collaborations

Speakers such as Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director - Medanta Hospitals, and Meena Ganesh, CEO and MD - Portea Medical, who spoke at the panel discussion on “Are we fit for the world of new consumers?”, highlighted the importance of collaborating with entrepreneurs to fill the gaps in the patient experience eco system. As Dr Trehan says, “As healthcare service providers we are too steeped in our own work. So even though we may realize there are gaps in customer experience delivery, we don’t want to get distracted from our core job, which is healthcare delivery. We would rather leave the job of filling those gaps to an outsider who can do it well.”

Meena Ganesh shares a similar view when she says that entrepreneurs offer an outsider’s fresh perspective on the existing gaps in healthcare. They are therefore better equipped to offer disruptive technology solutions that put the customer right at the center. Her own venture, Portea Medical, was born out of a need in the hitherto unaddressed area of patient experience – quality home care.

There are enough examples of hospitals that have gained significantly by partnering with or investing in such ventures. For example, the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas actively invests in tech startups to offer better care to its patients. One such startup produces sensors smaller than a grain of sand, that can be embedded in pills to alert caregivers if a medication has been taken or not. Another app delivers care givers at customers’ door step for check-ups. Providence St Joseph’s Health, that has medical centres across the U.S., has invested in a range of startups that address different patient needs – from patient feedback and wearable monitoring devices to remote video interpretation and surgical blood loss monitoring. UNC Hospital in North Carolina uses a change management platform developed by a startup in order to improve patient experience at its Emergency and Dermatology departments. The platform essentially comes with a friendly and non-intrusive way to gather patient feedback.

When intrapreneurship can lead to patient centric innovation

Hospitals can also encourage a culture of intrapreneurship within the organization. According to Meena Ganesh, this would mean building a ‘listening organization’ because as she says, listening and being open to new ideas leads to innovation. Santosh Desai, MD& CEO - Future Brands Ltd, who was also part of the panel discussion, feels that most innovations are a result of looking at “large cultural shifts, outside the frame of narrow business”. So hospitals will need to encourage enterprising professionals in the organization to observe behavior trends as part of the ideation process. Also, as Dr Ram Narain, Executive Director, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, points out, they will need to tell the employees who have the potential to drive innovative initiatives, “Do not fail, but if you fail, we still back you.” Innovative companies such as Google actively follow this practice, allowing employees to pick projects they are passionate about and work on them to deliver fresh solutions.

Realizing the need to encourage new ideas among employees to enhance patient experience, many healthcare enterprises are instituting innovative strategies. Henry Ford System, for example, began a system of rewarding great employee ideas. One internal contest was around clinical applications for wearable technology. The incentive was particularly attractive – a cash prize of $ 10,000 to the winners. Not surprisingly, the employees came up with some very innovative ideas that included: a system to record mobility of acute care patients through wearable trackers, health reminder system for elderly patients and mobile game interface with activity trackers to encourage children towards exercising. The employees admitted later that the exercise was so interesting that they would have participated in it even without a cash prize incentive.

Another example is Penn Medicine in Philadelphia which launched an ‘innovation tournament’ across the organization as part of its efforts to improve patient care. Participants worked with professors from Wharton Business School to prepare for the ideas challenge. More than 1,750 ideas were submitted by 1,400 participants, out of which 10 were selected. The focus was on getting ideas around the front end and some of the submitted ideas included:

  • Check-out management: Exclusive waiting rooms with TV, Internet and other facilities for patients waiting to be discharged so as to reduce space congestion and make their waiting time more comfortable.
  • Space for emotional privacy: An exclusive and friendly space for individuals and families to mourn the loss of dear ones in private.
  • Online patient organizer: A web based app that helps first time patients prepare better for their appointment by providing check lists for documents, medicines, etc to be carried and giving information regarding the hospital navigation, the consulting doctor etc.
  • Help for non-English speakers: Iconography cards to help non-English speaking patients express themselves and seek help in case of emergencies or other situations.

As Arlen Meyers, MD, President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, says in a report, although many good ideas come from the front line, physicians must also be encouraged to think innovatively about patient experience. An academic study also builds a strong case to encourage intrapreneurship among nurses. Given they comprise a large part of the front-line staff for healthcare delivery, nurses should also be given the freedom to create and design innovative systems for improving patient experience.

According to a Harvard Business Review article quoted in a university study, employees who have the potential to be intrapreneurs, show some marked characteristics. These include a sense of ownership, perseverance, emotional intelligence and the ability to look at the big picture along with the desire, and ideas, to improve it. But trust and support of the management is essential to bringing out and taking the ideas forward.

Creating an environment conducive to innovation is the first step to bringing about innovation-driven outcomes. These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott, which is among the top 100 global innovator companies, is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the marketing team and not by the editorial staff.