Some thoughts on International Men’s Day

Happy International Men’s Day! I’m pretty sure they couldn’t have found a more controversial event this year if they’d invented “Kicking Puppies into Puddles Day”. You know how every International Women’s Day there are cries of “When’s International Men’s Day”? It’s today! Here you go!

I’m still seeing a lot of complaining about IWD today, but you do you, guys.

Snark aside, I think it’s marvellous that we’re encouraging men to talk about some of the issues they face. IMD is (in an ideal world, anyway) not about point scoring and helicoptering your willy and getting together in the pub to talk about how much women are ruining your lives. While the official IMD website lays out exactly what they hope to achieve, I’m going to focus on the two of the biggest issues I see currently.

I’m sure everyone will have noticed by now that I think that mental health is A Big Deal. If not, hi! I have this drum and I bang it a lot. Anyway, I like to highlight men’s mental health whenever the topics some up, because the statistics are frightening .

Men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women are.

In the UK, a man attempts suicide every two seconds.

That means that the number of men who will have tried to kill themselves by the time you finish reading this blog post will be in double digits.

Phrases like “man up”, “grow a pair”, “don’t be a little bitch” etc are so ingrained in our vernacular that they slip out without any second thought. But when you’re saying “man up” to someone, what you’re really saying is, you’re acting weak. You’re acting like a woman. Man up.

Statistically, nearly half of men who contemplate suicide feel like they cannot talk about their feelings. I wonder why?

This ties into my second point, the idea that “boys will be boys”, the idea of being A Man™. The idea that if you show any sort of traits that can be linked to being in any way effeminate, you have to “man up”.

We’re in an era now where we’re redefining everything. Which is good! It’s 2017, and while some things that are “traditional” are harmless (every Christmas Eve my family watch White Christmas and eat more cheese than is normal for any human being) traditional gender things aren’t always…particularly positive. I’d have been burned for witchcraft years ago if your worth as a woman was defined by how well you could cook and keep house. The idea that men should be these massive, hard-centered golems that never cry and projectile vomit the moment anything pink is placed near them is so outdated they’re showing reruns of it on Dave.

The problem starts much, much earlier than that.

If you’ve looked at Kinder Eggs recently you’ll see that there’s often two different wrappers, pink and blue. Girls and boys. Girls toys and boys toys.

01-kinder

It’s generally accepted for a girl to play with cars and Meccano, but watch the reaction if a little boy wants to play with Barbies or Disney Princesses, or anything else that’s “girly”. There’s an excellent thread on Twitter by the “Let Toys Be Toys” campaign that dives into the reasons why this segregation has such a negative impact on men. It’s an excellent read.

It’s permeates everything. Cocktails? Girl’s drink. Fiat 500? Girl’s car. Housework? Girl’s job. These are all actual things I’ve heard people say, as a throwaway remark. I’ve worked in shops that sell toys. I heard parents – mothers and fathers – saying this regularly to their sons. Imagine reacting that quickly in telling your child they can’t have a toy because it’s for girls. Imagine the message that’s sending out – not just about girls and women, but about themselves.

You can’t do that. That’s for girls. You don’t want to be a girl do you?

Man up.

There’s a lot of blacklash against this way of thinking, some of which I read not ten minutes ago. Rather than opening minds, we’re subverting our boys, perverting them. We’re confusing them. We’re making them think that they have to grow up and want to be a different gender. We’re forcing them to be something their not.

I’ve never heard anyone saying this about a girl who likes to play football. I’m just saying.

*

International Men’s Day shouldn’t be a chance to “one-up” women, in the same way that International Women’s Day shouldn’t be about relentlessly trashing men. Contrary to popular belief, most women don’t want to conquer the world and force everyone who identifies as a man to submit to our womanly overlord tendencies. I just don’t want to have to worry that whenever I post something about Magic or games I’m going to get a negative response.

If we put energy into building each other up, or working to change perceptions, or just opening up understanding that there are things to work on, think how much better the world would be.

Think how much better we’d all be.

So happy International Men’s Day. Love your fellow man. Lift each other up and realise that being a man might be broader than what you think it is.

Love the women in your lives. Love your kids. Love yourselves. Love each other.

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