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Fleming et al. Respond


Fleming, Paul J.; Lee, Joseph G. L.; & Dworkin, Shari L. (2014). Fleming et al. Respond. American Journal of Public Health, 104(10), e1-2. PMCID: PMC4167096


We appreciate the letter written by Johnson et al. in reference to our article, and we are pleased that they have highlighted many of the excellent aspects of the Man Up Mondays campaign. We wholeheartedly agree that the Man Up Mondays campaign demonstrates many public health best practices and has many strengths. That it has resulted in couples counseling and connects men with Planned Parenthood’s high-quality services are of course valuable outcomes. It is precisely because of the strengths of this program that we chose it as an example in our article. We sought to point out that even award-winning programs using public health best practices have the potential to inadvertently harm health by using messaging that reinforces gender stereotypes. While we only highlight one program in our article, we would like to point out that many other public health media campaigns use health promotion messaging that reinforces gender norms in ways that are potentially harmful. The argument we make is both theoretical and based on extensive previous research with male populations that we have referenced in our article. Our critique focuses specifically on messaging, like that used within the Man Up Monday campaign, designed to leverage gender norms to elicit positive health-related behavior change in men. We drew upon a framework (Gupta’s classification of messaging in health interventions1) to underscore that messages reinforcing gender stereotypes (e.g., “Man Up”) have the potential to have negative consequences. Our essay is intended to be a critical and theoretical reflection, not an empirical article. Thus, Johnson et al. are correct that we have no empirical evidence from their program to show that the campaign has reified hegemonic masculinity or caused any harms. However, we critically assessed the publicly available media portion of their campaign and supported our argument based on the extensive research that is available on the relationship between media messaging, masculine norms, and behaviors that can be harmful to men’s health. The issue of addressing gender within public health programs is complex and has no simple answers. We believe that a dialogue on the social construction of gender within public health programs is long overdue. We sincerely hope that Johnson et al., and others targeting men with public health interventions, continue their important work improving health promotion for men. We also look forward to continuing this conversation and hearing critical perspectives from Johnson et al. and others on the role of gender and masculinity in media messaging for men. It is only through these dialogues that we can collectively create a body of knowledge that will help improve our long-term approach to men’s health.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

American Journal of Public Health


Fleming, Paul J.
Lee, Joseph G. L.
Dworkin, Shari L.