If you didn’t already know, International Men’s Day is held on November 19th each year, which came and went just over a week ago.
How did you celebrate it? Did you head to a schmoozy business luncheon? Attend a cracking lecture at your local university?
Probably not, because this is how International Women’s Day (held in May) is feted each year. Events are held, shit gets talked about, journos write a few rants. Probably zero concrete outcomes are achieved, but there’s general awareness of the issues and a whole bunch of sycophantic audience nodding.
By contrast, International Men’s Day (IMD) is generally met with comparative silence, although there were a couple of mentions in the mainstream media this year.
Ally Fogg, writing for the Guardian in the UK, thankfully discussed the emergence of IMD and the general men’s movement as necessary and important. He did an okay job of encapsulating the spectrum of thought on men’s rights – from right to left-wing – while paying the predictable lip service to women and women’s rights. I sense he is situated somewhere toward the left, but the intentions underpinning his work seem to be for men. I’m still uncertain if he’s one of the anti-masculinity warriors or not, though. Worse, the Guardian then went and published this misandrist rubbish on the same day, arguing for quotas for women in Europe’s boardrooms. Coincidence that it was published on IMD? We don’t reckon.
Meanwhile, in Australia, Susie O’Brien wrote a piece entitled “This weekend celebrate the blokes in your life” (published on The Punch, news.com.au’s op-ed subsite) which genuinely called for greater attention for men’s issues and men’s rights. There was, again, the usual lip service paid to women’s rights and feminism, and what I found to be a problematic conclusion, suggesting, albeit humourously, that the end game of men’s rights might be her demanding her husband to cook her dinner. It was redolent of the kind of white-knight male pro-feminism you might find on The Good Men Project: something along the lines of men’s rights meaning destroying masculine roles for men and “freeing” them to be able to do the shitty, subordinated, feminized roles. Masculism: you’re doing it wrong. Nonetheless, nice to see it raised – although it was poor form for News Limited/The Punch team to run the article on Saturday 24th November. Why wasn’t it published on IMD itself – which, besides being more appropriate, was a weekday with much more site traffic?
The “event” of IMD was similarly ignored in academic circles and at universities, where International Women’s Day (IWD) is often welcomed and celebrated with initiatives, morning teas, guest speakers and lectures, etc.
Of course, there is a whole other argument about the necessity for either IMD or IWD. I won’t pretend that both can’t be seen as inherently kind of pointless. The world would function just as well without this self-congratulatory annual event: some would call it an excuse for a whole lot of hot air from academics, and maybe that’s all they are. Certainly, I can see why people – especially men and masculists – would roll their eyes at IMD, because it seems like a waste of time and effort, and most men aren’t interested in patting themselves on the back just for existing: they’d rather prove their worth at work, be it in the boardroom or on the battlefield or on the football pitch or the minesite or elsewhere, and if they really need to be rewarded for something, it should be something they’ve achieved, not just being a man.
My thoughts on this are mixed. I can see why masculists would disengage and ignore IMD and similar hand-wringing activities, but at the same time, there needs to be parity here: if there is a much-heralded IWD earlier in the year, this creates a gaping vacuum for men in the mainstream gender discourse. More crucially, masculism as a broad movement is lacking any form of mainstream exposure.
Using International Men’s Day as a mouthpiece for the masculist movement as a whole might be a shot for us to gain wider exposure/recognition in 2013 and beyond.