State-funded Human Papilloma Virus vaccinations are offered in many countries. Decisions about offering vaccination, vaccination procedures, vaccination promotion and consent processes are steeped in stereotyping of women and awareness of hegemonic masculinities. Using a Foucauldian feminist approach combined with approaches from masculinity studies, this paper will explore how processes for and decisions about vaccinating boys for HPV often reinforce traditional hegemonic and resistant masculinities.
In informational materials and vaccination processes, HPV and HPV vaccination have largely been framed as a women’s issue. In many countries, boys are not eligible for state-funded vaccinations, while girls may access free or subsidised vaccinations. Legal exclusions or limitations on HPV vaccination for boys imply that boys neither transmit HPV nor suffer from HPV-based conditions and cancers. Even where countries like Australia offer HPV vaccination for boys, the HPV vaccination program messaging for boys is often different to that for girls and codes HPV as a disease of women and boys as masculine protectors of women who are not prone to HPV-linked cancers.
In these approaches to HPV vaccinations, boys are encouraged to distance themselves from female coded health behaviours. Masculinity acts of risk-taking, by ignoring prophylactic health care, is state condoned, encouraged or assumed in HPV vaccination approaches to boys. Norms of male autonomy and physical invulnerability are contrasted to women’s putative frailty and susceptibility to disease. These discourses reinforce sexist stereotyping integral to hegemonic masculinities and leave boys and men vulnerable to HPV-caused cancers and conditions.
Joanne is a lecturer in the Griffith Law School at Griffith University, in Queensland. In addition to core law offerings, she teaches in the area of law and gender. Her current research interests include issues around law, gender and medicine.