Whenever women are asked why there’s an International Women’s Day and not an International Men’s Day, many respond with, "because men have the other 364 days of the year". In fact, though, there is an International Men’s Day, and there has been for over two decades. But do we actually need an International Men’s Day and If so, why?
The purpose of IMD
International Men’s Day (IMD) takes place every year on the 19th November and is marked in over 60 countries around the world. It aims to shine a spotlight on men making a positive difference in the world and raising awareness of issues and challenges facing men today. Issues like men’s health, toxic masculinity and the prevalence of male suicide. As we previously highlighted, men in the UK are three times as likely to commit suicide as women – and a big part of that is the disconnect between what we expect of men and what they really want from life today.
Movember and IMD
IMD takes place in November, the month designated to highlight men’s mental health issues by sprouting a ‘tache and raising funds for charities and causes that support men’s battle with common health-related issues.
Why join the movement?
I continue to believe that the gender balance conversation cannot take place in a vacuum. We don’t want to create echo-chambers and support bubbles that result in unaccomplished plans and unachievable objectives because we have not involved the other half of the gender population.
So, we need to involve men in the conversation – and by doing so we also need to listen to them. We need to understand their challenges and concerns, their lack of understanding of our challenges and concerns and their confusion about how and what to do when trying to do right by women.
International Men’s Day creates an opportunity to do so. It gives men a platform to voice their anxieties and learn from each other. It also provides them with an opportunity to find a support network that helps eradicate toxic masculinity and outdated notions of what it means to be a man.
Great examples of IMD celebrations
In the past few years, I was fortunate to be invited to a handful of high-profile IMD celebrations and a few stuck in my mind. The one I particularly enjoyed was an event put on by a gender balance network of an international bank in the City. It consisted of a panel of men of various seniority – from the UK CEO to an intern – plus a few client guest speakers.
The issues discussed ranged from flexible working to sexuality and the freedom to be yourself, to supporting gender balance as a force of good for society, work and men.
The discussion surfaced parts of the gender conversation that we don’t tend to hear in women’s events, and in this way provided a forum to listen to experiences from another perspective – and isn’t that what diversity and inclusion is all about?
I was also positively struck by the audience, which was nicely gender-balanced and very enthusiastic.
So, if women are looking for support from men, isn’t International Men’s Day a fantastic platform we can develop in order to move forward together?