I’m no self-loathing misandrist (I once kissed a man on the lips, and I have at least three male friends), but I have to admit: I don’t see the point in today’s International Men’s Day (IMD).
Testicular cancer, self-doubt, the pressures of masculinity, custody battles - no-one can deny that men have problems. But does this mean they should have their own day? The objectives of today, according to the International Men’s Day UK website, include celebrating “the contribution that men make”, focusing “on men’s health and wellbeing”, highlighting “discrimination against men the inequalities that men and boys face”, and improving “gender relations” and “gender equality”.
Specifically the site lists the problems facing men as being “shorter life expectancy, the high male suicide rate, our collective tolerance of violence against men, and the struggles that boys can face in getting an education and the unique challenges of father-child relationships.”
These are all real problems. But most of them already have their own days, weeks or months. For life expectancy there are countless health awareness days, including the gender-specific Movember. For men who are feeling suicidal, there’s Mental Health Awareness Week. There’s no specific campaign for father-child relationships I’m aware of, except of course the aptly titled “Father’s Day”, which is crying out to be co-opted by a campaign group if it hasn’t already.
For some, this might suggest there’s no point in having International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8 either. After all, we already have Breast Cancer Awareness Week, Domestic Violence Week, Equal Pay Day, as well as countless other days, weeks and months targeted at women. But as The Mirror’s Ampp3d has already discovered, International Women’s Day is actually far more popular than its male equivalent, whereas there's little demand for IMD. Using Google Trends, they found that the time of the year most people search for International Men’s Day is nowhere even close to November 19.
The biggest spikes in interest for IMD come on March 8, when it’s IWD. This is almost entirely because of all the men who angrily tweet “WHAT ABOUT INTERNATIONAL MEN'S DAY??” to mark the occassion, to which people reply “Would you like me to Google that for you?”. According to Google, when it isn’t International Women’s Day, no-one really cares about IMD.
But if we are going to keep IMD, we could at least update it, and make it a bit more compatible with IWD. If the organisers really want to “improve gender equality”, why haven’t they listed one of their objectives as “encouraging men not to assault or rape women”? Of course, you might say this a little extreme, and that “not all men are rapists”. That’s fine, but as the majority of rapists are men, it’s still a good one to have. There could also be some other broader objectives to raise awareness and understanding around actions a lot of men are more often guilty of, such as catcalling or physically harassing women. One objective I know a lot of my female friends would appreciate would be about not patronising women, or “mansplaining”.
Although do we really need an IMD to do this? It should be taught to men from age zero. So I don’t see the point in a day which celebrates men in general. In the same way we wouldn’t have a White History Month, there’s just no overarching need, or demand, for International Men's Day.
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