International Men’s Day: What If It’s A Good Idea?

Today is International Men’s Day, and to mark the occasion, our own Rebecca and Nico Lang have each written a piece explaining their position on the day’s validity, or lack thereof. Rebecca’s piece is below, while Nico’s piece is here.

The main point I want to get across, here, is that even if you don’t agree with the idea that an International Men’s Day is necessary, it’s not worth getting offended or upset about. Personally, I’m siding on indifference – I’m not observing it, but I’m also not willing to discredit it right off the bat.

International Men’s Day certainly doesn’t have the sort of history that International Women’s Day does: the latter was created during the fight for women’s suffrage specifically as a day to fight for the rights of women (rights that, of course, men already had). International Men’s Day was created a few years ago by the Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation, an Australian organization that propagates fathers’ rights. If you read through their website, it’s clear that they’re invested in entrenching dated gender roles. It doesn’t exactly hold up to the revolutionary snuff of a women’s movement that was intimately tied to socialism and war efforts in the early twentieth century. No one’s going to be making movies about the people who founded International Men’s Day, is what I’m saying.

That being said, the main argument against International Men’s Day is that every day of the year other than March 8 is International Men’s Day. At The Guardian, Richard Herring compares the people who ask, on International Women’s Day, “Well, when is there going to be an International Men’s Day?” to the kids who, on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, ask, “When is there going to be a Kids Day?” –both in the sense that the question seems at first glance to be incredibly self-centered and in the sense that IMD exists, the same way that there’s a Universal Children’s Day, which is tomorrow, in fact.

International Women’s Day and Universal Children’s Day were both created to fight for the rights and welfare of a group of people. So my proposal is that, instead of poo-pooing International Men’s Day, we take a good hard look at whether or not there are any issues that disproportionately affect men, and whether or not there are men who are, in fact, worth setting aside one specific day to celebrate.

So:

  • Men are overwhelmingly the victims of crimes like homicide, physical assault, and overall are more likely to be the victims of violent crime.
  • Men are overwhelmingly more likely to commit suicide than women.
  • Men comprise 62 percent of the U.S. homeless population.
  • Men are overwhelmingly the population of the U.S. prison system.
  • And yes, men are more likely to commit crimes, too, but take for example the fact that about 905,000 men were arrested for drug use to about 227,000 women. Compare that to actual drug use statistics: 11.5 percent of men use drugs to 7.3 percent of women. That means that men are only 1.5 times as likely as women to use drugs but four times as likely to be arrested for it. And that’s just drug use, a nonviolent and victimless crime.
  • There’s a raggedy piece of information in the CDC’s sexual violence survey, released last year, that has bugged me for a while. In Table 1, you can see that 1.6 percent of women reported being raped in the last 12 months, but there weren’t enough men who reported being raped for it to be statistically significant. However, 1.7 percent of men report being “forced to penetrate” someone in the last 12 months, which, under a definition of rape as any instance in which someone was coerced into a sexual act or didn’t consent to it, is rape. Meaning that approximately as many men were raped in a 12-month period as women.
  • The National Education Association reports that boys account for 71 percent of school suspensions, with black and Hispanic boys being disproportionately affected; boys make up 67 percent of special education students, with black and Hispanic boys being again disproportionately affected; boys are 5 times as likely as girls to be identified as hyperactive; boys are 30 percent more likely than girls to drop out of school; and girls outperform boys in homework at all levels.
  • Putting aside for a second the fact that women have been trying change military policy about gender for a very long time with not very much success as of yet, the fact is that the majority of United States veterans are male, and the veteran poverty rate is rising, and spending on veteran’s health is spotty and dependent on where veterans live.

It doesn’t stop there, of course, but that seems like plenty of information to justify the idea that maybe men do need a capital-d Day. None of this invalidates or negates the concerns of women – because suffering and justice both are not finite resources – but if we’re going to talk about gender equality, it seems fair to say that these issues should be brought to the table, too.

And given the above, I’m not sure that it’s fair to say that “every day is Men’s Day.” It feels like a way of ignoring issues that we don’t care about or don’t have the energy to address. And hey, I get it, there are plenty of causes I support in theory but don’t advocate for in practice because I only have so much time and emotional capacity. But I’m not going to deride anyone else for supporting and advocating for those things.

I think that maybe the real problem with International Men’s Day isn’t that it exists, but that its agenda as set forth by the Fatherhood Foundation isn’t all that compelling, mainly because it doesn’t really seem to have much of an agenda for the holiday. If the point of International Women’s Day and Universal Children’s Day is to have clear discussions about what solutions can be put forth for the rights and welfare of women and children, it seems like whoever wants to participate in or organize International Men’s Day could do a better job of making it an opportunity to advocate for crime victims, the population of an unjust prison system, the homeless, veterans, and school-aged boys.

And if you don’t want to participate, don’t. But don’t get upset about a group of people advocating for themselves over real issues, either.

[International Women’s Day]
[International Men’s Day]
[Fatherhood Foundation]
[The Guardian]
[United Nations]
[Bureau of Justice Statistics (1), (2), (3)]
[National Institutes of Health]
[American Foundation for Suicide Prevention]
[Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (1), (2)]
[Federal Bureau of Investigation]
[Centers for Disease Control, h/t TIME]
[National Education Association]
[Department of Veterans Affairs]
[NPR]

[Image via Shutterstock]

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