THE BLOG

International Men's Day, and Talking About How We Feel About Stuff

19/11/2014 07:59 GMT | Updated 18/01/2015 10:59 GMT

International Men's Day is not International Women's Day.

We won't be celebrating thousands of boys finally being able to be educated in their home country without fear of retribution. We won't be celebrating the end of pandemics of physical and sexual violence against young men. We won't even celebrating something as simple as men finally being able to pursue their dream job without fear of mockery or harassment, or walk down the street without being cooed at. Because, luckily (for want of a better word), we already have all of that stuff going for us.

If anything, International Men's Day is about not celebrating, because that's just not really when we men do.

We live in a time where suicide is the number one killer of young men and where men are three times as likely to take their own life than women. But we don't want to talk about it.

With a stagnant world economy taking a heavy toll on our lives, men will feel more pressure (both societal and internal) to go on unaffected, soldier on, and provide for themselves and their families without weakness. That anxiety is an unspoken problem - we let it sit in our minds and fester.

It's not just a national conversation that we need, it's a personal and social one. I know multiple men who have tried to take their own life, men who have experienced problems with their mental health, and I probably know even more than that who are struggling but either don't recognise it, don't want to acknowledge it, or don't want to talk about it. And you do too.

Two in five victims of domestic abuse are men. According to male domestic abuse charity ManKind, 720,000 men were victims in the past year, with men just about twice as likely (29%) not to tell anyone they are suffering spousal abuse than women (17%).

Four per cent of men are abused domestically, so there's a good chance you know a guy who is in an abusive relationship. Before you dismiss this, these won't simply be cases of 'the missus is giving him a hard time'. There are violent women, sure, but we must also factor in gay and bi relationships. The criminally underexposed work of charities like Broken Rainbow goes to show how little attention we pay to these kinds of causes, and how we see only a caricature of domestic violence.

And yet, despite all the figures, there are 11 refuges for battered men in the UK, providing a total of 58 spaces. Fifty-eight. The 7,000 spaces for women and children are barely enough - how can we expect 58 spaces to accommodate the men who need to leave?

I say all this with, obviously, no intention of diminishing or dismissing the abhorrent, rampant abuse of women in the UK, and indeed around the world. The numbers, and egregiousness of their cases, far outstrip abuse against men at an appalling rate. It's a plague of a far greater magnitude, written into our society and so thoroughly, sickeningly normalised... but this doesn't mean we can't have a conversation about what men go through. It's not a zero-sum game.

Women's issues and the advancement of gender equality is one of the great fights of our time. With the expansion of the internet and social media, the conversation around feminism and social justice has been revolutionised and massively democratised. We can all talk to each other, all chip in to help and support each other. We can also bicker amongst ourselves more than ever before, which is less helpful.

Let's take a page out of that book, and talk about the fact we aren't talking. This International Men's Day, don't take it for a joke, think about the men in our society who face real, life-changing issues every day of their lives and feel they should suffer in silence. They'll be your fathers, brothers, colleagues and best mates, and they need your help.

Need help? In the UK, call The Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90. For more support and advice, visit the website here.