When I first heard of International Men's Day (IMD), I do have to admit I was like, 'Is someone having a laugh?'. I am aware of International Women's Day (8 March) which is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. So I thought, do us men really need a day to celebrate our 'economic, political and social achievements of men past, present and future' ? As it turns out International Men's Day focuses 'on men's and boy's health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models.' Which is fine. Count me in. What becomes alarming is what 'promoting gender equality' actually means in this context.
The UK representative for IMD is a gentleman by the name of Glen Poole. Glen is founding editor of InsideMan and the author of Equality for Men whose 'key concern is to explore, understand and address the many ways the world doesn't work for men and boys'. His site lists early deaths, high rate of suicide, lower education and the limited role of some men in fathering. Out of the UK, reports identify that there is a 40 per cent increase in the suicide rate of men between the ages of 45 and 49.
What's interesting about this is that according to psychologist Professor Rory O'Connor, from the University of Glasgow, is that 20 years ago, during the 1990's, it was men in aged their 20's that were those at the highest risk of suicide (taken from Professor Green: Suicide and Me).
Now, the 90's in the UK was very much about 'Lad Culture'. A culture that marked a 'return to hegemonic masculine values of sexism [&] male homosociality' and was embodied in 'men's magazines, such as Maxim, FHM and Loaded'.
I don't think its too much of a stretch to see the link between the absence of sound relationship advice and role modelling for 20-something men from the 90's. Many of whom, now in their 40's, finding themselves without 'the provider and protector role, with a wife and kids' which seems to be the Achilles heal in their (straight men's ? The heteronormativity is prevalent in this discourse too) survival.
Ironically, a previous editor of Loaded magazine, Martin Daubney, is now championing men's rights and opining 'Why does no one care when boys fail at school and middle-aged men kill themselves?' and 'Mansults: the put-downs that are always levelled at straight white males'. Mansults? Janice Turner provides background into Mr Daubney here and some insight into perhaps why he is mansulted (?). But also, I don't recall Loaded ever giving positive relationship advice, positive male role modelling and dad tips. Do you?
A report from good folks at CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) last year showed that that suicide had become the biggest cause of death for men (aged 20-49). These high levels of suicide for men across the lifespan worldwide, is both distressing and emotionally charging, and the thing is the suicide of anyone is tragic. However, responding to these suicide needs to be sensible and reflective, and not a conflation of the all issues of the world that men face as being attributable to these deaths. There are no doubt challenges and failings in the systems of family law. But being a man is more than of 'provider and protector role, with a wife and kids'. This kind of mentality and gross sense entitlement to power and control is what I believe has landed men to place they find themselves now. Want to change the system so that it is fair and equitable? Start by being better men, improve gender relations, promote gender equality, and become positive male role models this world so desperately needs. This International Men's Day, walk the talk. Not just shout off at the mouth and shoot from the hip.