So, for those who had absolutely no idea (like myself), today is International Men’s Day. Inaugurated in 1999 in Trinidad & Tobago, the international event focuses on men’s and boys’ issues such as health and gender issues, and recognizing their positive contributions to gender and society.
On one hand, the entire idea of an International Men’s Day can sound ridiculously sexist. After all, what are you going to do on a day that prides men’s positive contributions and highlights their gender concerns that you can’t do every other day? T&T, and most of the world, is still patriarchal to a fault. Giving the patriarchs a day doesn’t solve the sexist problem, nor does it truly encourage men to consider the problem in their own right and provide solutions (not that any UN day provides people with any of that, to be honest). It’s just one of those cosmetic calendar events that make people feel more special than they really are.
But maybe that’s exactly the problem – it’s just one of those cosmetic calendar events that make people feel more important than they really are. Which means, for the most part, that men and their issues are not as important as they need to be.
When I was very young and only slightly foolish, some friends and I started a small movement of a handful of young men called ‘Erectile Empowerment’ (yes, we were young and struggling for a serious name). The idea behind it kind of justifies the name…or at least I hope so – it was about empowering young boys to be able to stand up as true men, with a greater understanding of what that should really and truly mean. It was the closest that high school kids could get to a masculinist group, and it was also extremely short-lived.
Why? Because young men don’t think that they truly have issues. Even though men face peer pressure around issues like sex and sexuality, and are criticized for emotional and physical behavior in a heterosexist way, they are not viewed as having issues. Even though their gender image affects them emotionally and psychologically, especially for men that do not fit the gender construct, they are not viewed as having issues. Even though those men are at risk of alienation, harm, or sometimes even suicide, because of how ideas of sex and gender affect them, they are not viewed as having issues…
Now that’s screwed up…
And it is days like this that, ever so slightly, remind us that men’s issues are just as important as women’s issues. They may not get talked about or dealt with in the same ways. If we are focused on ideas of gender equality in the truest sense, though, then we need to start righting the wrongs that men suffer as well, and recognizing them as allies in the fight for equality. Not just some men, but almost every single man. For we all fight the same struggle, essentially. So we should be focused on how we all fight that struggle together.