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We need International Men's Day about as much as white history month, or able body action day

I commend Philip Davies for changing the thrust of the debate to focus on male suicide — but in and of itself this day serves no useful function

Jess Phillips
Thursday 19 November 2015 16:55 GMT
Philip Davies MP at the 2011 phone-hacking hearing
Philip Davies MP at the 2011 phone-hacking hearing (Rex Features)

I'm not in Parliament today to attend the International Men's day debate. There are a number of reasons. I thought it best to let it have its moment, without mine and Conservative MP Philip Davies' fall-out being the leading line. But more importantly I had to look after my kids and I'm not very well either. Before you all rush in, I know men have to look after their kids and get sick too. Even a big, fat, thick feminazi like me knows that.

I want to commend Philip Davies for changing the thrust of the debate from an international men's day event to a debate about the significant and important issue of male suicide. It is a subject that deserves debate all by itself without being hitched to the idea of men's day. He showed me a courtesy in amending the title and I doff my cap (or lady bonnet) to him graciously.

I am, however, still dubious about the need for an international men's day in and of itself. For me it is up there with needing a white history month, or able body action day. Men are celebrated, elevated and awarded every day of the week on every day of the year. Being a man is its own reward. You hit the jackpot when you are born a boy child. Yes within your group things are tough for all sorts of reasons. None of them are because you are a man. You might be a poor man, a sick man, a marginalised minority ethnic man. Brother, I'm with you. I'll carry your banner, sing your song of freedom, I'll even carry your coats and make the sandwiches.

I know society is guilty of pushing a masculine agenda on to men. This must make them feel like they must all act one way. I wish it didn't for all our sakes. Men should be able to cry publicly without shame, show weakness and expect kindness back. I agree with all of that. If that is the society we want, and I want it, let's make it happen. Men, you have the power to change it. You are the bosses of advertising companies, media agencies, film companies. Make the change. Instead of a man masterfully wielding a bat and ball on the Gillette advert, let's see a man doing normal everyday men stuff, like loading the dishwasher. Instead of the powerful protagonist in every action film, let's see Ironman and Thor grabbing a coffee and talking about how it's been really tough because Mrs Ironman is struggling to conceive.

I want an equal society and if having a special day makes men feel like they have equality then I am fine with that. Just as long as when I come with my demands for equality you don't roll your eyes and say, “playing the gender card again.” Deal? Wonderful, well have a great International men's day from me.

Jess Phillips is Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley

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