19th November marks International Men’s Day. This is to be celebrated not only as it makes those keyboard warriors who whine, ‘but what about men’s day’ every time Women’s Day rolls around look like fools, but also because it has genuine and good motivations and raises important issues.
Whilst some women who have suffered countless experiences of sexism in their lifetime may initially find the concept of the day frustrating, it is important to understand its meaning. The objectives of the day include a focus on men’s and boy’s health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. It is such a positive example of men pushing for equal rights and should be rightfully celebrated – by encouraging and supporting examples of positive male role models we can create future generations (of any gender) that are open minded, considerate and willing to work together.
This year the theme of International Men’s Day is ‘Stop Male Suicide’. Suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the United Kingdom, with 76% of all suicides in 2014 being men. Feminism should not only be about smashing social and patriarchal norms for women, but for men too. The stereotypes of masculinity can be equally as damaging for men as femininity is for women – pushing men to feel as though they must conform to notions of strength and being ‘macho’ is just as demeaning and destructive as telling a woman they are emotional and incapable. Encouraging open debate and supporting each other is far more important than bothering to contemplate whether a cause is more worthy because of a gender. In fact, belittling a problem because of gender is not only insensitive, but completely contradicts the causes of gender equality. In the same light that we encourage young girls to fight the stereotypes to play with dolls and participate in ‘non-traditional’ female activities if they so wish, we must support young boys in their capacity to be more typically ‘feminine’ (for lack of a better word) and feel comfortable avoiding what are considered to be ‘traditional’ male activities.
There have been some fantastic recent campaigns promoting mental health and encouraging men to take pride in their emotions and to seek help for mental health issues. The Huffington Post’s ‘Building Modern Men’ campaign features a #BoysDoCry video asking men to share the last time they cried, to highlight the pressures they face and raise awareness of male suicide. Equally, The Movember Foundation does wonderful work to tackle men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health and suicide prevention.
Whilst men will never experience institutional sexism or be the victims of a patriarchal society, that does not mean their problems and struggles are not important. To strive for true gender equality it is important to work collectively to build a better world for both genders. It is pointless and detrimental to turn our backs on 50% of the population – by helping each other, we help ourselves. So, let us celebrate International Men’s Day and raise a toast to supporting and educating each other, and having a good old cry.
By Lizzie Scourfield