Monday, 19 November 2012

Why International Men's Day needs a rethink

Every year on International Women's Day, some idiot feels the need to pipe up with: "But what about International Men's Day?" And the inevitable response is: "Every day is International Men's Day. Bugger off." Or words to that effect. It has become a tired refrain every time March 8 rolls around.

Then International Men's Day really did happen. It's today, in case you were wondering. And the inevitable response to this was: "But every day is International Men's Day. It must be so hard to have all that power and privilege. Boo hoo!"

And yes, it is superficially churlish of men to complain about power when they are still the majority in governments across the world, when they still comprise most of the CEO positions in companies globally, when they are making wars happen but don't seem to be doing a whole lot to make wars stop, and so on.

But across the world, men are more likely to be incarcerated, more likely to be victims of violent crime, with the exception of rape, and they are more likely to develop cancer and die of it. Add to the mix the extra disadvantages faced by many men from ethnic minorities and from impoverished backgrounds in developed and developing countries, and it is clear that there are issues on which men should be raising awareness without fear of being disparaged.

For example, this month is Movember, the annual fundraiser for prostate cancer research via the medium of men growing sponsored moustaches. It's a fun way to raise money and awareness about a disease that kills around 10,000 men in Britain annually. Anything that can be done to encourage men to go to the doctor, even if it involves the less-than-pleasant task that is a prostate examination, is a good thing. 

Equally, it is important to ensure boys and girls are all encouraged to embrace education in places such as Britain where it is easily accessible and to ensure access to education for all children is improved globally. Education is one of the best ways to stop the cycle of poverty for men and women and, as such, we need to strive for a world where everybody can go to school.

Then there is the importance of looking at the causes of crime - many of which can be related back to the lack of opportunities that occur as a result of poor education - and find practical ways to reduce crime and keep men out of prison. If men are more likely to be violent, we need to examine why this is so as well. This is not about pandering to men. This is about creating a good and safe society.

And I haven't even scratched the surface in the last few paragraphs as to why issues that impact heavily on men are important. But to call the day International Men's Day is a marketing failure. Instead of looking seriously at the issues that affect society as a whole, there is too much noise as to what the day should be called and whether the day has the right to exist. 

It's not as simple as declaring an International Men's Day. The issues are too many and too big for just one day, just as International Women's Day alone cannot hope to address the issues that are holding women back across the world. And when you look at the issues that both these international days are trying to deal with, it becomes abundantly clear that they are all human issues. And human issues require cooperation, intelligence, open dialogue and sanity from everyone.

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  1. The idea that women can't do feminism alone and need the attention and approval of the poor oppressed menz has been used by the subtler antifeminists to co-opt and neutralize, so forgive us when we give it the stink eye.

    Yes, patriarchy oppresses everyone, but the menz have enough power and privilege to help themselves through their masculinity issues. Women have enough problems without carrying even more of the man's burden than women already do.

  2. Come ON! Women don't have it so tough at all these days, especially not in the Western world. There are powerful women in government, there are female soldiers, female fighter pilots, female police, more girls graduating from uni than boys, and when it comes to government, you've got Maggie Thatcher, Benazir Bhutto, Condoleeza Rice, Hilary Clinton (who could still potentially be a president, if the Democrats do a good enough job this time round), to name just a few. Politics and the corporate world are aggressive, dog-eat-dog worlds, and it takes aggressive, dog-eat-dog women to succeed in them, and women are naturally less aggressive than men.
    In the meantime, men are told that they have to be more in tune with their emotions, and be willing to watch rom-coms with their partners, they're told they have to be well presented and groomed, with no unsightly hairs etc. They're told that their masculinity is directly linked to their ability to perform in the sack, and know that it will be intimately discussed following said performance. They're told that they have to be fashionable these days, and that it's fashionable to be more metrosexual. They're told that fighting is utterly yobbish behaviour, and should be avoided at all costs, even when someone's being an utter twat and deserves a lamp.
    Then they have to put up with women whinging "Where have all the REAL men gone?"
    We deserve a bloody day as much as women do, and I, for one, am going home to play XBox, watch Top Gear, drink beer, and belch and fart whenever I want to.

  3. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the second commentator is better at irony than the first. That said, do not even get me started on Thatcher (who does rather well, to be fair, at flying in the face of the "women are naturally less aggressive than men" claim...)

    exilestardust, however, has taken point-missing to new heights. I am a white, middle-class woman. I am the daughter of a teacher and a librarian. I had the advantage of a free school education in Australia and my university education was paid for by my grandmother. As such, there are plenty of men out there who are far less privileged and far more oppressed than I am.

    For example, I spent five years living in the UAE where the male construction workers, largely from India and Pakistan, often in debt to their employers, earning about £100 a month, not being able to see their families for years at a time, not having any real workers' rights and living in squalid conditions at facilities known as non-ironically as "labour camps". Those men are way more oppressed than I am and I don't think I am being an anti-feminist turncoat when I say I am proud that I was involved with efforts to improve their lives while I lived there.

    If anyone fails to see how programmes to improve access to healthcare and education and to relieve poverty for everybody will benefit both genders and improve the world, your worldview is way too narrow.

  4. I am wondering if International Mens day is just another Hallmark Holiday to add to the multitude we already have.

    As you say Georgia there are many and varied wrongs in this world, but an international Mens day will do absolutely sod all to address any of them.