This morning I woke up and realised that today, November 19th, is International Men’s Day – a day for the world to do something it doesn’t do very often: talk about men.
Now I don’t mean to be glib – I know men suffer and are in pain and struggle. I know there are issues that affect men that we don’t talk about often enough. Male rape survivors, male domestic abuse victims, and male sufferers of mental health are all shamed into silence. There are real and terrible problems that affect men, and we as society need to be better at helping these men.
I also know that not all men are white, straight, and cis. There are men of colour, and LGBT+ men, and poor men, and disabled men – all of who need our help and support and whose voices we desperately need to amplify.
I know all of this; but I don’t think International Men’s Day is the answer.
For a start, a lot of the issues facing men aren’t facing them because they’re men. LGBT+ men are often oppressed and shut down because they are LGBT+. Black men are demonised because they are men. Disabled men are mocked because they are disabled. Their maleness isn’t really the issue at hand. No one’s trying to electrocute the maleness out of them; or lynch them because they’re audacious enough to exist as men. So labelling these issues as ‘male’ issues is somewhat missing the point, I feel.
Male rape, abuse, and mental health, on the other hand, could be considered male issues. In fact, they are distinctly male issues. I am not denying that; nor am I denying that we need to do more to support these men. But is dedicating a day to men the way forward? Probably not.
See, all those issues affecting men? Those were all created by the patriarchy. Do you know who’s fighting to dismantle the patriarchy? Feminists. Do you know what happens every year on International Men’s Day? Feminists are attacked left, right, and centre by MRAs and Meninists, and even good-hearted men.
Last year, my former university was in the press because they decided to cancel plans to mark International Men’s Day, supposedly because of pressure from women, feminists, and lecturers at the university who penned a letter expressing concerns over the celebrations (although it later came out that the decision to cancel the celebrations came before the letter was written).
And do you know what happened?
Social media went mad – mad, and bad. The university’s women’s officers received a slue of rape and death threats; the university’s Feminist Society was branded as radical, tyrannical, and dictatorial – and was even compared to the terrorist organisation ISIS. Anyone who had openly criticised the university’s decision to mark International Men’s Day was subjected to the most vile level of abuse and misogyny – both on social media and in the traditional media.
See, if the men who care so much about International Men’s Day put as much time and energy into campaigning about male mental health, and rape, and abuse, or into supporting trans men and gay men and disabled men, as they into shouting at women who are sceptical about International Men’s Day, then maybe we wouldn’t need International Men’s Day at all.
If these men spent as much time working with feminists, amplifying their voices as they strive to destroy the patriarchy, and with it the society that tells men they are weak for suffering, as they do trying to one-up feminists on International Men’s Day, then maybe we wouldn’t need International Men’s Day all.
So this International Men’s Day, I’m not telling you to stay silent. I’m not telling you to stop doing the vital work that needs to be done to help suffering men. I’m simply telling you to consider this: how much do you care about men’s issues every other day of the year?