“When is International Mens’ Day?”
This is the refrain which echoes across social media on the 7thMarch – which is International Womens’ Day IWD (which you probably knew) – but when is International Mens’ Day? (IMD).IMD is the 19thNovember, Every Year. Yes, Every Year.
Many trolls and – unsurprisingly – other disgruntled male commentators are at pains to try and belittle IWD by trying to suggest that there are double-standards at play and that we take a day to celebrate women but that men get the short-straw and have no day of celebration. Well, sorry trolls, but there is an International Mens’ Day and it’s the 19thNovember.
The excellent comedian Richard Herring does something for Refuge (the Domestic Abuse Charity) on IWD by doing a Twitter ‘reply-a-thon’ and replies to every tweet which asks the question at the top of this blog – with the reply ‘19thNovember every year’ and is sponsored for the time and thereby raises money for this unfortunately essential charity that helps women and children fleeing domestic abuse.
Again, unsurprisingly, the ‘when is IMD’ gang don’t seem to often take up Richard’s challenge to support men and do something themselves for IMD rather than just doing their best ‘whataboutery’ on IWD.
OK, you get the idea. Richard’s annual challenge is done with good humour and with tongue firmly in cheek but the fact that there are so many people that don’t know when IMD is shows that maybe we – as men – aren’t taking up the baton and doing something to help other men and boys on IMD:
- we could be starting chat-a-thons where men are helped to discuss mental health;
- We could open role-model workshops and start to help men to see how to be better role models to other younger men and children;
- We could run ‘challenge with kindness’ sessions which would allow us to support friends and guide them to healthier relationships through helping them to uncover their unhelpful, sexist, violent and other negative responses or language.
Do we do this?
Are there men queuing up to do things for others?
Well, in pockets, yes but en masse, with support and resources, through local pubs and health centres, through sports clubs and social spaces – not really.
Is this a case of ‘not really my problem’ or ‘turn a blind eye, it’s not my fault’ or ‘that should be sorted by “society”’?
Possibly a bit of all of these.
So what’s the solution? We need to meet men where they are – as my friend Graham Goulden says – let’s not talk about Toxic Masculinity because that’s going to put everyone off. Maybe we could talk about Unhelpful Masculinity – the strong, silent, Mr-Fixit, never sad, always ready-to-go man – basically the notion of men and boys that shows no fear or weakness, which is often seen as acting hard and uncaring, very proud and unable to take a joke. We could also call it Non-Tender Masculinity as Matt Pinkett and Mark Roberts call it in Boys Don’t Try?, a book about discussing masculinity in schools.
What we mean by any of these definitions is that in essence this brand of masculinity means that someone takes themselves and their manhood too seriously. This approach can appear to be strong, but may often have a reckless and quick-to-temper interpretation which can cause conflict, violence and damage in many ways. Ways that are difficult to disentangle once set.
We need a new approach that engages boys and young men at many places in their lives and where they are allowed to discuss their feelings without fear of being belittled or called ‘soft’.
Where men and boys are allowed to care about other people and it’s not seen as a weakness.
Where boys and men are allowed to show love and affection for one another, for their mothers, sisters and other women and girls in their lives without ridicule.
We need to normalise empathy and kindness in boys and men as a way of navigating the world and sharing these values and qualities freely – we can and should create an empathy and kindness club where everyone is invited, a club which should help to make the Everyone’s Invited campaign obsolete.
So starting today, what shall we do as a legacy of International Mens’ Day that will make a positive difference to all of us in society and creates a generation of young people who can stand as role models for themselves and their peers?
I’m developing Empathy Lightbulbs, will you join me?
Richard Herring’s excellent and funny book “The Problem With Men: When is International Men’s Day? (and Why It Matters)” is available here:
Boys Don’t Try? Is available from here: https://www.routledge.com/Boys-Dont-Try-Rethinking-Masculinity-in-Schools/Pinkett-Roberts/p/book/9780815350255?gclid=Cj0KCQiAkNiMBhCxARIsAIDDKNUxUfZfYeCjRP-iXTK3-qvOca-7EQeJEO3cXZfvdfse0XMuMLCI9CgaAuCQEALw_wcB
The official website for IMD is here: https://www.internationalmensday.info/