1. Every day isn’t International Men’s Day
So let’s get two things clear from the start. Firstly, anyone who tells you that “every day is International Men’s Day” is not a comic genius, we’ve heard it a million times before. Secondly, when 13 men a day commit suicide in the UK; when boys underperform girls at every stage of education; when one in five men die before the age of 65; when men are the main victims of both men’s violence and women’s violence; when dads of all backgrounds face a range of challenges from juggling work and family, to staying in their children’s lives if they are separated; and when the majority of the homeless, imprisoned and long-term unemployed are men, every day is not International Men’s Day.
2. We Need To Talk About Men
One of the great ironies about men’s issues, is that while it is common for well-meaning people to tell men to talk when we try and talk about men’s issues, people are quick to close us down. Whether it’s Jess Philips MP trying to block a debate about men’s issues or The University of York withdrawing its plans to mark IMD, we can find it deeply uncomfortable to talk about the problems men and boys can face. International Men’s Day has been helping the UK to talk about men’s issues since 2010. So what are we waiting for? Let’s talk about men!
3. Politicians Have Embraced The Day
Last month, Theresa May became the first British Prime Minister to acknowledge International Men’s Day saying: “I recognise the important issues that this event seeks to highlight, including men’s health, male suicide rates and the underperformance of boys in schools, these are serious issues that must be addressed in a considered way.”
But men’s issues aren’t just a one party issues, yesterday politicians across the political spectrum took part in the first ever IMD debate in the main chamber of the House of Commons. So whatever your viewpoint, IMD is a great day to make the personal, political for men and boys.
4. It’s Inclusive Of All Men And Boys
Over the years, some people have equated International Men’s Day to holding a “White History Month” or a “Heterosexual Pride Day”, forgetting then men and boys of all races, sexualities and gender identities, hold up half the sky. Many of the issues that affect men and boys of all backgrounds, have a greater impact on Black and Asian males and men who identify as gay, bisexual and transgender. This year the boxing promoter Kellie (formerly Frank) Maloney, spoke out about transgender issues at an International Men’s Day conference in Poole, reminding us that IMD celebrates men in all their diversity.
5. There’s something for everyone
IMD UK in its current format began life in 2010, with a conference aimed at improving public services for men and boys in Brighton & Hove. Now you’ll find similar conversations taking place all over the country in places like Belfast , Manchester, Abergavenny and Northampton. There are lots of universities showing their peers in York how to celebrate IMD, in places like Glasgow, Aberystwyth and UCL. And if you tune into your local radio station, you may well hear people talking about men’s stuff, particularly if you live in Cambridge where presenter Matt Webb has dedicated his show to IMD every year for as long as we can remember.
6. Big Brands Are Getting On Board
The commercial sector has been slow to see men and boys as worthy beneficiary of Corporate Social Responsibility, with the notable exception of those brands and business that partner with Movember. The annual mo-growing festival gets men raising money for serious issues like prostate cancer, by not taking themselves too seriously. Some brands, however, are thinking more deeply about men’s issues and Lynx’s #BiggerIssues campaign on male suicide for IMD last year, reached 24 million people and won the charity sector’s Corporate Partnership of the Year award. According to Stephen Hull, writing in Campaign magazine, more brands should be using IMD as an opportunity “to create a more multifaceted, and real, portrayal of men.”
7. It Keeps Angry Men’s Activists Off The Streets
Well, that’s not entirely true. In fact, while the angriest of men’s rights activists defiantly refuse to support International Men’s Day in the UK because it is inclusive of everyone including feminists, you may encounter some men’s rights protestors on the street. The Men Do Complain campaign regularly uses the day to hit the streets and raise awareness of the rarely discussed issue of unnecessary male circumcision. And this year, there is a March for Family Law Reform and Father’s Equal Rights in London.
8. You Can Be A Feminist And Support IMD
Feminism has not had the happiest of relationships with IMD. It was supporters of International Women’s Day who first coined the bitchy riposte “every day is International Men’s Day” and for over a decade leading male feminists like the three Michaels (Flood, Kaufman and Kimmel) have opposed the day and called on people to boycott it.
Yet in recent years, free-thinking feminists have broken ranks, like the University of Surrey’s Feminist Society, who ran an excellent event last year and the writer on men and masculinity, Joseph Gelfer, who called on fellow feminists to embrace IMD. Most significantly of all, when 200 old-school feminists successfully lobbied the University of York to cancel its celebrations last year, one of their students, Ruth Morris, gathered over 4,000 signatures agreeing with her that “true feminists should be fighting for gender equality of both men and women”.