Today, Nov. 19, is International Men’s Day! Celebrated in approximately 80 countries worldwide, the day is meant as an opportunity to take part in a global conversation regarding manhood, masculinity and men’s issues by highlighting the societal issues men and boys face and celebrating them in all their diversity. This year specifically, the theme is focusing on better relations between men and women.
Being completely transparent here, the only time I had ever heard about International Men’s Day before doing research for this column would be last year, on International Women’s Day. I was on Twitter, celebrating the accomplishments of women worldwide, and came across some discourse fuelled by men asking, “Why do women get a day all to themselves?” and “Where’s International Men’s day?” In all honesty, this was infuriating to me in the moment. However, I didn’t want to let the debate disrupt my life, so I stuck a pin in it until International Men’s Day this year. And here we are!
Upon first seeing those tweets asking when International Men’s Day was, I thought to myself only semi-sarcastically, “Isn’t that every day?” And I promise this isn’t just me being a cynical misandrist; it may be 2021, but we still live in a man’s world.
Nevertheless, there are issues that men deal with differently that deserve awareness. For example, more than four times as many men compared to women die by suicide in the United States. In 2010, a total of 38,364 Americans died by suicide, with about 79% of these suicides being men. Moreover, the World Health Organization noted in their 2018 report that the cultural stigma surrounding mental health is one of the main reasons people are hesitant to admit they are struggling and seek help, with this stigmatization being especially prevalent among men. Furthermore, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that while approximately 95,000 people in the United States die from alcohol-related causes annually, about 68,000 of these deaths are men and only 27,000 are women. Clearly, there are underlying issues in our society that lead men to be more likely to struggle with their mental health without receiving help, and International Men’s Day is a great reason to discuss and break down these trends.
Nonetheless, I still believe it is inappropriate to respond to International Women’s Day by asking about International Men’s Day. These are separate days to honor the accolades of women and men respectively. Thus, interrupting the celebration of one by angrily demanding for the other misses the point of both. Simply put, not every day can personally be about you. Let women have one day where they can look past patriarchal oppression, and let men have a day to openly discuss the problems they uniquely face regarding toxic masculinity and rigid cultural standards.
In essence, I wanted to highlight the clear hypocrisy I found in my interactions on Twitter last year. International Men’s Day is no doubt important, but why have I only seen people asking about it on International Women’s Day? If you care about men’s issues in February, specifically on a day meant for celebrating women, why do you seem to forget about them come November?
I know that these “holidays” can seem insignificant, especially considering International Men’s Day is sandwiched between less serious days like National Princess Day on Nov. 18 and National Peanut Butter Fudge Day on Nov. 20, but there are important conversations waiting to happen here. We (unfortunately) still live in a highly gendered world, so we should take the time to investigate the phenomena such an existence causes. Additionally, we should take the time to investigate our obsession with gender as a society, and ways we could move away from it. However, in the meantime there’s no need to invalidate the experiences of others in our awareness.