Author: Sarah Saunders
Today is International Men’s Day 2021
Revived in 1999 from previous attempts to create a ‘men’s day’ by Dr Jerome Teelucksingh in Trinidad and Tobago.
It’s aim is “to become the global medium to heal our world”. The concept and themes of the day “are designed to give hope to the depressed, faith to the lonely, comfort to the broken hearted, transcend barriers, eliminate stereotypes and create a more caring humanity”
Today we acknowledge the positive value men bring to their families and communities and take the opportunity to celebrate those who have used their privilege to advocate for the oppressed, who have led change in the face of adversity and to give thanks and respect to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Men are fathers. Men are brothers. Men are sons. Men are friends. Men are husbands. Men are boyfriends. Men are leaders and supporters. Men are strong in their vulnerability. Men are single. Men are married. Men are gay. Men are straight. Men are bi. Men are trans. Men love. Men cry. Men feel. In fact, Men can be anything. So, in a patriarchal system, why do we need an International Men’s Day?
Whilst Men may not be a historically oppressed group, there are male-specific issues that are often overlooked and require more conversation. Men are not monolithic. Men are diverse. Men and masculinities are ranked in a hierarchy and it is important to acknowledge the complexities of difference and power relations between men.
Some of the UK themes for the Day are:
1. Making a positive difference to the lives of cis and transgender males and raising awareness and/or funds for charities supporting male wellbeing
2. Promoting positive conversations about manhood and masculinity
3. Helping individuals and organisations consider what action they can take by addressing some of the issues that affect men and boys such as:
- Men’s mental health and the high male suicide rate
- The challenges faced by boys and men at all stages of education and work including attainment, re-training, redundancy and unemployment
- Men’s health, shorter life expectancy and workplace deaths
- Challenges faced by the most marginalised men and boys in society (gay, bisexual, trans, disabled, homeless men, those in care)
- Male survivors of violence, including sexual violence. Survivors of sexual abuse, rape, sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, forced marriage, honour-based crime, stalking and slavery
- Societal challenges faced by men as parents, particularly new fathers and separated fathers
We encourage ALL men to engage with International Men’s Day and to explore the identity of maleness. To explore what it means to be their authentic selves without the trappings of social gender constructs. To be vulnerable and to ask why it is that:
- Men make up three in every four suicides – 13 men in the UK every single day.
- Boys have more than three times the number of permanent school exclusions than girls
- 40% more women go to university
- Boys have had worse exam results than girls for 30 years.
- Men make up 85% of rough sleepers.
- 76% of murder victims are men.
- 96% of people in prison are male
- 85% of children who received a caution or sentence in the latest year are boys.
- More than 50% of those in Youth Prisons are from BAME* backgrounds.
- One in three victims of domestic abuse are male
- Race and LGBTQIA+ hate crime is increasing and men are most likely to be victims of violent crime
We need to ask ourselves why it is that boys are struggling academically, prisons are full of men and the most common cause of death for men under 50 is suicide.
Men are under huge pressure to fulfil society’s expectations, or the perceived expectations others have. Sadly, these expectations can make it harder for men to embrace their emotions and vulnerability because this is regarded as outside their prescribed gender role. The glorification of violence and machismo combined with poverty, racism, ableism, and homophobia creates toxic outcomes for both men and women alike.
It is important to celebrate male diversity and to remind ourselves and each other that men don’t have to be imprisoned by stereotypes. Today we hope to highlight the need for intersectionality and for those conversations that are needed to bring all these issues together.
In recent months, the media has reported growing evidence of sexual harassment, abuse, bullying and assault, committed mostly by White heterosexual cis-gender men, usually against women, girls and other gender and sexual minorities which has led to the emergence of the #MeToo. Those courageously speaking up have given the world a sense of the magnitude and scope of the violence perpetrated by men.
Today more than ever there is an unprecedented level of attention to explore the role of men and what it means to be male in society. There is an effort to make visible the connections between power, patriarchy, violence against women and race.
It is impossible to separate a serious conversation about gender and masculinity from race and class and is the key to opening to the door to these conversations taking place.
There is an emergence of voices defying outdated gender roles, male identified people who are using their voices to demand an intersectional understanding of masculinity and seeking to create a space for marginalised and excluded experiences.
However, at the same time, as a society we are still not able to connect masculinity, gender and feminism to make sense of the realities #MeToo is exposing, instead we keep using patriarchal binaries and ‘culture’ as a frame, reinforcing the invisibilities of those who don’t fit into ‘the box’ of man/woman or good men vs bad men. Rather than the constant reference to toxic masculinity, we need to talk about the harmful expressions, attitudes and behaviours men engage in and find opportunities to explore and develop positive discussion about whether the existing constructs work for everyone, or a small few.
For those who engage intentionally in what writer bell hooks calls the “hard work of love”, the #MeToo movements brings a unique opportunity to create space for critical reflection and action to change some of the harmful and damaging narratives associated with masculinity.
When we talk about ‘male issues’ we don’t talk only about White, heterosexual cis-gender men but we make space for the whole human experience. We must set a high bar for each other and exercise accountability.
Men are not always privileged by gender either, privilege and agency in your own outcomes is far more nuanced than that.
Everyone inhabits an intersectional identity which is racialised, gendered, and classed, and some identities, such as White women, sit at the intersection of a privileged category and a subordinated category.
Since the 1960s, Black nationalists have argued that Black men were more of a threat to White supremacy that Black women and, as such, were targeted and received harsher treatment. This is an implicit gender claim, however also assumes that Black men receive the same patriarchal privileges as White men.
Although men live, participate, and are often complicit in, as well as benefit from the country’s patriarchal gender structure, masculinities studies demonstrated that men had varied access to power, and were themselves subject to a hierarchal system of privilege and subordination (e.g. race, sexual orientation, gender, class, physical stature)
- Masculinity is a social construction, not a biological given.
- Men are not monolithic or undifferentiated.
- The two most common factors which define masculinity are – not be like a woman and not be gay.
- The patriarchal dividend is the benefit that all men have from the dominance of men in the overall gender order.
- Men pay a price for privilege.
- Intersections of manhood particularly with race, class and sexual orientation are critical to the interplay of privilege and disadvantage, to hierarchies among men
- Masculinities study exposes how structures and cultures are gendered male.
- Hegemonic masculinity recognises that one masculinity norm dominates multiple masculinities.
- Masculinity is as much about relations among men as it is about relations to women.
- Men, although powerful as a group, often feel powerless (as individuals)
- The spaces and places that men and women daily inhabit and work within are remarkably different.
- The role of men in achieving feminist goals is uncertain and unclear.
In order to create a fair society, one where everyone is treated equitably and has the freedom to live and express themselves without fear, a society where discrimination does not negatively impact some and advantage others, a truly equitable society that works for everyone, it is important to acknowledge that men also need empathy and support.
We ask that you explore what maleness means to you today, what responsibilities you may have as result, what questions you want to ask and what help you might need.
We wish you a Happy International Men’s Day. Society values and needs you, and you are the key to making society a better place for all humans.
#internationalmensday2021 #imd2021 #internationalmensday #internationalmensdayuk