If you're against International Men's Day, you're not a true feminist

Feminists cannot insist that society listen to the problems women face and take them seriously if they are then going to go out of their way to sneer at a day that is discussing how to combat male suicide. It is contradictory, and just downright unfair on those who have lost someone to suicide

Today is International Men's Day, which is this year concentrating on suicide
Today is International Men's Day, which is this year concentrating on suicide

This time every year, people ask if we really need International Men's Day. The answer is always yes, but this year in particular, it’s a categorical, resounding, definite, resolute yes.

Men don’t feel as much of a need as women to be on a constant diet, or spend half of their life shaving their legs. But to deny today is to deny that men don’t face different, equally insidious pressures.

The theme for International Men’s Day 2016 is “Stop Male Suicide”. Suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 50 in the UK. Of the total number of suicides in 2012, 4,590 were men and 1,391 were women. Men are more than three times likely to end their own lives, and this is a consistent trend over decades.

And this isn’t just the UK. The International Men's Day campaign says this is a problem worldwide, apart from in China where suicide rates are about equal between men and women.

To question today is to go completely against the values of feminism. Emmeline Pankhurst once said “You must make women count as much as men; you must have an equal standard of morals”. To be a feminist is to believe that women have the same rights as men – no more, no less.

MP's cutting putdown over International Men's Day

The question shouldn’t be whether we need an International Men's Day but how we can respect the issues and challenges faced by men, so that they in turn show the same respect for their female counterparts. How we can lead and fight by example, not alienate a whole sex.

International Men’s Day doesn’t take away from the issues facing women; we don’t have a monopoly on suffering.

Feminists cannot insist that society listen to the problems women face and take them seriously if they are then going to go out of their way to sneer at a day that is discussing how to combat male suicide. It is contradictory, and just downright unfair on the relatives and friends of those who have lost a son, father, husband or a brother to suicide.

I haven’t experienced much discrimination due to the gender I was unwittingly born into; not from the “everyday” nor the extreme end of the scale. I haven’t entered a forced marriage, I haven’t been threatened with rape, or faced lower pay than male colleagues. I’ve barely had a wolf-whistle. But I can empathise with women who have experienced sexism as much as I can without having shared their experiences. And the same should go for today.

Women can’t completely know what it feels like to be a man suffering with mental health problems and not feel able to tell someone or go for help. But we can empathise, because we also face societal expectations, and because we’re hardly immune to mental health problems.

Men think they have to be stoic; they are not encouraged to talk about their feelings. Time with friends is reserved for banter and jokes at each other's expense. Fathers bottle their emotions up, sons do as they see. As a consequence, many men suffer in silence until it’s too late.

They act in accordance with what they think it means to be a man. And this contributes to the thousands of men taking their own lives every year in the UK.

If someone disparaged, say, the pressures on women to conform to expectations about their appearance, and the body image problems and eating disorders these pressures contribute to, we’d be rightly outraged.

If just one man sees someone belittle the cause to show some love and compassion towards men’s issues – as today is all about – this could further reiterate the wrong message; the message that could be keeping them from telling their doctor they’re depressed.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in