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International Men’s Day: A Damning Disconnect.

Today is International Men’s Day. Were the other 364 days not enough? Did they need to slap a title on November 19th so they could feel special?

Did they get jealous of women having all the fun each year on International Women’s Day that they had to create their own?

No.

International Men’s Day is valid. Or at least it could be.

The day was created in Trinidad & Tobago in 1999 and has been steadily gaining traction all over the world. IMD organizers claim the day is for “focusing on men’s health issues, boys’ development, family activities, and promoting greater gender equality”. Sounds pretty great to me.

Unfortunately, as is the case all too often, there is a damning disconnect between theory and practice.

If IMD was really promoting these issues, the day would look a lot different. You would see classrooms educating boys and girls about the intricacies and importance of gender equality. You would see time reserved for sons to spend time with their male mentors. You would see lectures being held on prostate cancer research and conferences examining mental health issues prevalent in men. You would see fathers teaching their sons domestic duties.

I am not saying that these things never happen, but IMD is far from being the homecoming of awareness, advocacy or action. Today there was no march honouring those males the world has lost to suicide. There was no unveiling of a men’s shelter. There was no special edition commercial to suggest ”Boys can be ballet dancers too!”.

Rather, we saw ‘Beeris The God’ tweeting, “Today is international men's day! @MENlNIST #Meninism #InternationalMensDay”. We saw @LondONtheinside tweet a photo of a burger saying, “For #internationalmensday Make like a man and eat THIS. Scotch Egg Burger @SayYeahBurger”.

Yes, there were indeed certain individuals engaging in productive conversation and posting informative links on social media, but for the most part IMD is filled with resentful men’s rights activists (MRAs) and a lack of action.

But men do deserve a day, or more importantly boys. Young men are struggling.

  • Boys are rapidly falling behind girls in school, inevitably only comprising 43% of college students, 33% of college graduates, and 30% of university valedictorians. (Waldman, Slate)
  • In the UK Alone, 12 men commit suicide each day. (Poole, Telegraph)
  • Boys account for 80% of high school drop outs. (Day, Huffington Post)

So let’s do something about it. As women (and male allies) work towards empowering the disadvantaged gender, men (and female allies) should work on eliminating male-specific obstacles like education, mental health, and hyper masculinization.

In the last 15 years, International Men’s Day has done little to raise awareness and tackle issues plaguing men. There is an absence of clear emphasis from IMD to engage men to further support gender equality. As Michael Kimmel from The Guardian says, the day feels too combative, too spiteful. The day feels more likely in spite of rather than inspired by the women's movement.

The day feels like a MRA gut punch.

But next year on November 19th, men should come together and promote positive change. Men should set an example for boys. Teachers should discuss ‘non-traditional’ career paths with their male students. Fathers should teach their sons to how to cook dinner. University students should launch a campaign to break down gender stereotypes.

IMD needs tangible advocacy; otherwise it is just like the other 364 days.

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