Today on International Men’s Day we recognize and celebrate the men in our lives. Inaugurated in 1992 on February 7th by Thomas Oaster, the project of International Men's Day was conceived one year earlier on 8 February 1991 and re-initialised in 1999 in Trinidad and Tobago by Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh. The reason he chose 19 November was two-fold: to honour his father's birthday, had been an example of an excellent role model and to celebrate Trinidad and Tobago's football team who on that date in 1989 united the country transcending gender, religious and ethnic divisions, with their endeavours to qualify for the World Cup. The theme this year is 'Positive Male Role Models'.
The objectives of celebrating an International Men's Day are set out in "The Six Pillars of International Men's Day", which includes focusing on men's and boys' health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. The day highlights discrimination against men and boys, as well as celebrates their achievements and contributions, especially as it relates to community, family, marriage, and child care. Movember, coincides with the date and involves men growing their facial hair in an effort to promote conversations about men’s mental health, suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer.
I know many women are scoffing right now at the need to have a day highlighting male contributions and men’s issues. I am not disputing that as women we have historically been treated unfairly in terms of equality, and that there are many women who continue to be treated unfairly. I also fully accept that we have been subjected to far more harassment, sexual abuse and domestic violence than men. That being said, the statistics for men are too grim to be overlooked: 76% of suicides are men, 85% of homeless people are men, 70% of homicide victims are men, men serve 64% longer in prison and are 3.4x more likely to be imprisoned than women when both committed the same crime.
The reality is that sexism hurts everyone, including men. It is my firm belief that if we want a better world for our ourselves and our future generations, then we need to create one where both genders are treated equally. Equality does not mean yes to women and no for men, it means that global issues affecting both genders are equally important and dealt with the same reverence. Where is the equality in domestic violence against women being faced with more outrage than that against men?
The fact is that we do not take men’s issues seriously, we rarely tell positive stories about boys and men and if we believe what the media tells us….there are none, which is completely, totally, utterly untrue. I’ve met many wonderful men in my life; men who work hard to provide for their families, who are loving, kind and loyal, who are devoted to their significant other and who are committed to their children. By feeding the stereotypes which fit into toxic masculinity and ascribing them to all men, we are reinforcing a belief in our boys and men that they are less valued and that their needs, thoughts and feelings irrelevant. The damaging definitions of masculinity also result in men being more likely to suffer depression, engage in self-harm and display risky behaviour like binge drinking. These men are also more likely to experience, and engage, in online and physical bullying.
As we celebrate International Men’s Day today, let us use it as an opportunity for us to start talking about the ways the men around us are suffering and how we can work with them to fix it. The more we tear down the systems that suppress and damage men, we also tear down the systems that suppress and damage women as well. By expanding our definitions of manhood and working with men to help them develop healthier ways to express themselves and to practice self-love and self-care, we create a world where both genders can grow and thrive.