Surprised to find out that Monday, November 19th, is “International Men’s Day.” A worldwide event to promote the movement’s six pillars of masculinity. They are:
- To promote positive male role models; not just movie stars and sports men but every day, working class men who are living decent, honest lives.
- To celebrate men’s positive contributions to society, community, family, marriage, child care, and to the environment.
- To focus on men’s health and well being; social, emotional, physical and spiritual.
- To highlight discrimination against men; in areas of social services, social attitudes and expectations, and law
- To improve gender relations and promote gender equality
- To create a safer, better world; where people can be safe and grow to reach their full potential.
Hard to quibble with any of the six, even for an ardent feminist. However, as usual with broad objectives, the devil is in the details. The first pillar, to promote positive male role models, is fine on the surface. The question that comes to mind is,” do we have a consensus of who and what determines if a man is worthy of being a role model”? Some might find traditional attributes such as providing, protecting and leading as sexist or that these traits also can generally apply to women. The second pillar seems to be fairly straight forward – celebrating men’s contributions to society. We single out women who contribute, especially in the context of the “pink revolution” that brought so many women candidates to the midterm elections, so highlighting a man’s positive contributions is probably unobjectionable. Focusing on men’s health and well being is a no brainer. Men traditionally do not seek mental health services at the same rate as women and male suicide has reached epidemic proportions. The fourth and fifth pillars are probably the most contentious. Are men being discriminated against? Those who see male privilege as a huge barrier to gender equality would argue that discrimination against men is a trivial issue compared to rampant patriarchy. But a more nuanced analysis reveals that there are areas, especially in divorce court, where men often get the short end of the stick. In addition, the “Me To” movement has made many men defensive and wary of potential allegations of sexual abuse and harassment that they feel are unfounded or exaggerated. When it comes to improving gender relations and promoting gender equality the emphasis should be on how we can have a rational fact based discourse on the subject without name calling and labeling. So far this has not happened.
Hopefully, International Men’s Day and a toning down of the extreme rhetoric from both men and women can help us make the gender wars a gender dialogue.