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International Men's Day? You Cannot Be Serious...

17/11/2016 16:42
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When I read the founding principle of International Men's Day (Saturday 19 November) I thought it was some kind of ridiculous joke. After all, highlighting 'the achievements of men' doesn't just happen just once a year - it happens every single day.

Let's be clear, we need International Women's Day because women are still largely unrecognised. Consider the facts. In the UK workplace, there are only seven female CEOs on boards of the FTSE 100. On average, women working full-time are still paid 81p to every £1 earned by a man - 46 years after the introduction of the Equal Pay Act. At this rate, recent estimates say that it till take almost a century from the date the act was enacted to finally achieve equal pay. According to KPMG, the main reason for this pay gap is still sex discrimination. In the creative world, 80% of women's art is not on display. If Parliament were to be stripped of men, it would leave only leave 30% of people sitting. These are big issues, and I could go on.

Some people have had enough. For the last 11 years, women in Iceland have been walking out of work on 24th October at 14.38, the time they should leave every day if they were to be paid the same hourly-rate as their male counterparts. We've seen a recent wave of action from our other European neighbours with French women walking out of work on 7th November, the day they effectively stop getting paid. But we saw something quite encouraging at the Musee d'Orsay, men and women standing together to highlight the disparity in pay between their sexes. Vive la revolution.

You get the point. It's blindingly obvious that more work needs to be done for women, rather than their male counterparts. The balance of power is overwhelmingly held by men.

Of course, the men's health issues International Men's Day seeks to draw attention to are highly worthwhile, such as male suicide for this year. But there seems to be some duplication and confusion here. We have certain days focused on specific health issues, or dates to remember key moments in history - so why dilute them? World Suicide Prevention Day exists and it's crucially important for us to shine a light on this topic alone. At present, it seems that International Men's Day is simply trying to shoe-horn itself into other significant issues in an attempt to justify its existence.

There is a darker side to this too as I've seen little evidence to suggest that the day isn't just a form of modern sexism. Has the day been simply designed by people who consciously or unconsciously object to women achieving equality? What exactly it is that we are striving for here? Admittedly, there are a few male gender stereotypes that still need work, such as better acceptance of parental leave, or homophobic bullying found in lad culture. Would it not be better to be tackling specific issues like these?

One of the stated intentions of International Men's Day is to improve gender relations and equality between men and women. If that is the case, surely the best way to do this is to get involved in International Women's Day, as the staff from the Musee d'Orsay have done. And that means all of us. Just because men probably have not directly felt the effects of gender imbalance, it doesn't mean they shouldn't stand up for their wives, daughters, mothers and the other significant women in their lives.

But maybe this is the issue. How can a section of society apparently strive for self-promotion when they themselves have probably been lucky enough not to be familiar with the effects of gender inequality? The solution is pretty simple; let's look at the facts and open our eyes. There is very little to be gained from International Men's Day that cannot be found elsewhere. With energy wasted on a day such as this, we drive attention away from the long-term gender disparity still overwhelmingly suffered by women. It is they who still acutely feel the effects of a largely imbalanced world.

International Women's Day is on 8th March, and it's a date for all our diaries.

Professor Binna Kandola is co-founder of business psychologists Pearn Kandola and author of The Invention of Difference and The Value of Difference.

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