Every year, I write about International Women’s Day as I believe that women do not have the voice they should have in this world and so this is my small effort in spreading the word about women’s voices and the need to be heard and to hear. And so when I realised that I had never written about men’s day, I knew that this year, there had to be a blog post about this day.
International Men’s Day is celebrated annually in November to recognise and celebrate the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of men. It is an occasion to celebrate boys’ and men’s lives, achievements and contributions, in particular for their contributions to the nation, union, society, community, family, marriage, and childcare. The broader and ultimate aim of the event is to promote basic awareness towards men’s issues. The objectives of celebrating an International Men’s Day are set out in All The Six Pillars of International Men’s Day. The day celebrates worldwide the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities and highlights positive role models and raise awareness of men’s well-being.
Calls for an International Men’s Day have been going on since at least the 1960s. Since this time there have been persistent international calls for the creation of an IMD, calls in the form of rhetorical questions about gender equality. The proposed objectives of International Men’s Day included a focus on men’s and boys’ health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. Early pioneers of IMD reminded us that the day is not intended to compete against International Woman’s Day, but to highlight men’s experiences.
There were various attempts to start an International Men’s Day that received little response. An event was conceptualised on 7 February 1992 by Thomas Oaster, with International Men’s Day conceived one year earlier on 8 February 1991. The project was re-initialised in 1999 on November in Trinidad and Tobago by Dr Jerome Teelucksingh in 1999 that the International Men’s Day began to get international traction. The new event received overwhelming support in the Caribbean and soon took root on the international scene. Jerome Teelucksingh chose November 19 to honour his father’s birthday and also to celebrate how on that date in 1989 Trinidad and Tobago’s football team had united the country with their endeavours to qualify for the World Cup. Unlike International Women’s Day, observed on March 8, International Men’s Day is not officially recognised by the United Nations, which observes World Toilet Day on November 19. The theme for the 2022 International Men’s Day is Helping Men and Boys.
Although International Men’s and Women’s Day are considered to be gender-focused events, they are not ideological mirror images because they highlight issues that are considered unique to men or women. The history of IMD primarily concerns celebrating issues that are considered unique to the experiences of men and boys, along with an emphasis on positive role models, which is especially deemed necessary in a social context which is often fascinated with images of males behaving badly. In highlighting positive male role models IMD attempts to show that males of all ages respond much more energetically to positive role models than they do to negative stereotyping.
- The objectives of International Men’s Day are set as six pillars which include:
- To promote positive male role models – not just movie stars and sportsmen but everyday, working-class men who are living decent, honest lives.
- To celebrate men’s positive contributions to society, community, family, marriage, child care, and the environment.
- To focus on men’s health and well-being: social, emotional, physical, and spiritual.
- To highlight discrimination against men in areas of social services, social attitudes and expectations, and law.
- To improve gender relations and promote gender equality.
- To create a safer, better world, where people can be safe and grow to reach their full potential.
Like many others, I also wondered why we needed a day to celebrate men when they are celebrated and feted the whole year. For many, celebrating the notion of man which has dominated the socio-economic-political narrative for hundreds of years, leaves a sour taste. International Women’s Day or IWD, which has been marked since 1911, is a global day to celebrate women’s emancipation and draw attention to the barriers still faced by women all over the world. However, International Men’s Day is not intended to compete with International Women’s Day and there are some major objectives behind having a day dedicated to men’s issues.
Many men are still trapped by stereotype threat, conforming to society’s idea of what a man should be. It’s part of the reason that according to the World Health Organization, WHO, suicide is the top cause of death among men under the age of 45, boys are struggling academically and prisons are full of men. Men die 6 years younger than women on average, single fathers who want to be more involved in their children’s lives face a range of barriers and men are less likely to go and see a medical practitioner as compared to women.
Arguably it’s harder for men to be vulnerable because that is acting outside their prescribed gender role. If International Women’s Day is to celebrate women’s success in the face of sexism, IMD can celebrate men challenging stereotype threat. Men have parenting rights, do suffer domestic abuse and do have unmet mental health needs. They are just as lonely, just as vulnerable, but far less likely to admit it and seek help. IMD aims to open the conversation, break down toxic forms of masculinity and remind us all that men don’t have to be imprisoned by stereotypes.
International Men’s Day celebrates positive male role models and raises awareness of men’s issues which are often overlooked including mental health, toxic masculinity and the prevalence of male suicide. International Men’s Day coincides with Movember, when men grow their facial hair to promote conversations about men’s mental health, suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer.
To all the men reading this post, Happy Men’s Day and to all the women reading this, please celebrate the men in your life tomorrow.