There are good reasons to celebrate Women’s Day, but do we really need its male counterpart?
Today, November 19, is International Men’s Day.
If you’re wondering why we need to dedicate a day to the “better off” half of humanity, you’re not alone. After all, the more famous International Women’s Day was set up to fight for the very real cause of discrimination against women – but what cause are men fighting for?
Plenty, according to the official IMD site:
Objectives of International Men’s 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 an occasion for men to celebrate their achievements and contributions, in particular their contributions to community, family, marriage, and child care while highlighting the discrimination against them.
Whew, that’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it? Sadly, the videos on the website aren’t exactly inspirational, especially the one with a dude sermonizing about men being more prone to heart disease and lung cancer while taking a leak (Strangely, this was filed under “Not all men are bad”. And does anyone have data on why the urinal is the preferred spot for “bro bonding”?). All of which makes this look like a Hallmark Fathers/Mothers/Children’s Day celebration at best, and a tit-for-tat for Women’s Day at worst.
And yet, we can think of a few good reasons to dedicate a day to Men. This excellent feature about boyhood is a timely reminder that the sexual abuse of boys, though rampant across all strata of society, is barely acknowledged as a problem. Instead, it is cloaked under the convenient trope of “rites of passage into manhood”.
… boys pay a heavy cost when we choose to perpetuate ideas of masculinity that refuse to recognize these children’s vulnerability to violence and exploitation….. Despite the fact that sexual abuse among boys is so rampant, we have failed to give them the vocabulary to identify and talk about it. This lack of acknowledgment has dreadful implications…. There is an odd and dangerous inability to see boys as children first.
Another good cause would be to remind boys and men that shedding tears doesn’t make them a sissy or a “wimpy girl”, just like taking charge doesn’t make a girl an “aggressive b***ch”. Boys suffer from stereotyping just as much as girls do, and International Men’s Day is a fantastic platform to celebrate all the stay-at-home-dads and other wonderful men who have dared to defy tradtional notions of masculinity.
Meanwhile, Michael Kimmel has an excellent suggestion on how to celebrate the day:
On one Sunday, every year, fathers can invite their sons into their own homes, so that they can learn how to clean, cook, vacuum, do laundry and childcare – skills that these boys will inevitably need. Just as we demystify the workplace for girls, let’s demystify the home for boys, so that they can grow up into the men that they say they want to be: autonomous and capable of living on their own, and also involved family men, in egalitarian marriages and relationships, active and energetically engaged fathers, who use their domestic skills.
So if the founders of International Men’s Day are serious about health and equality, we suggest they start campaigning for boys and men to speak up against abuse within their ranks, and to take pride in doing the dishes.