Today is International Men’s Day (19 November). I will wager, however, that you didn’t know such an event even existed.
I always think it’s rather sad that International Men’s Day doesn’t get the same attention as International Women’s Day (IWD). Whenever IWD comes around, social and traditional media light up. It’s opposite number, meanwhile, attracts virtually no attention in comparison.
That said, I’m only a recent convert to both events. I’m probably going to get myself in huge trouble for saying this, but before I became a stay at home dad I thought IWD was incredibly patronising to women. If IWD was incredibly patronising, then what was the point in International Men’s Day?
When I became a stay at home father, I found myself immersed in a very female-orientated world. As a man, I was suddenly dealing head-on with sexist comments and attitudes. I was “babysitting” my children, I was treated poorly by health workers and other mums frequently didn’t know what to make of me (often still don’t).
“But this is what women have to deal with,” I thought, “I have every sympathy with women, but I’m a man, it’s not meant to happen to me!”
Well, it did happen to me and it continues to happen to me. I face my own battles, but being in this position also gives me a great insight into the significant challenges women face. I’ll just give the one example. If I had a pound for every time I’d had a discussion with a woman treated poorly by an employer for getting pregnant, then I’d be quite a wealthy individual.
Okay, I exaggerate. I’d probably be able to buy a decent round of drinks, but no one would be celebrating, trust me.
Being in this world made me considerably more conscious about gender equality. It is something that affects both genders and I believe, slowly but surely, society is beginning to recognise that men face some significant gender issues just as women do.
To mark this International Men’s Day, Conservative MP Philip Davies has, after a considerable fight, succeeded in his campaign to get a debate held in Parliament to mark the day. The subjects that will be discussed later today include; men’s suicide rate and why it is so much high than women’s, why boys are increasingly failing academically, the reasons for men’s lower life expectancy and what can be done to assist male victims of domestic violence.
The fact such a debate is taking place is a success and this should be acknowledged as such. Even so, the debate is not taking place in either of the main debating chambers, but in the cavernous Westminster Hall.
Back in March, when it was International Women’s Day, a debate about women’s contribution to the economy took place in the House of Lords. The difference in stature of the two venues is interesting to note.
Through experience, I have come to appreciate the importance of both IMD and IWD, though a little miffed that one trumps the other so significantly. Men and women have different battles and different struggles, but they’re often interlinked and frequently painfully so.
Wouldn’t it be great if both days were used as a cause for celebration? Better still, if both days were given equal weight and recognition.
This International Men’s Day, I thoroughly recommend having a read of the brilliant InsideMAN website. The Inside Man team has been publishing a range of articles about men’s mental health on the run up to today. You may also wish to invest in InsideMAN’s superb book Positive Stories About Men and Boys. Yes, I admit I was one of the contributors. Even so, it’s twelve quid you won’t regret spending. It’s funny and heart breaking in equal measures.