International Men’s Day: we care

Men and women both need to thrive equally if the world is to become a peaceful place

Tasneem HossainTasneem Hossain
Published : 19 Nov 2022, 09:31 PM
Updated : 19 Nov 2022, 09:31 PM

‘The world of humanity has two wings—one is women and the other men, ‘Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible’ - Abdu’l-Bahá

There’s plenty of wisdom in this. Women have been fighting for equality and still struggling. Some men have been fighting and supporting the cause to make the flight possible.

‘A world full of empowered women isn't one where men are marginalised. It's a world where everyone thrives.’

Men and women both need to thrive equally if the world is to become a peaceful place.

Observing Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, International Women’s Day or International Men’s Day is pointless if we do not understand the essence of the meaning of equality. We need to internalise it and act upon it as well.

Women have always struggled for equality; achieved little. They still have a long way to go. At the same time, we need to realise that men also have contributed to the cause of women's equality. Unless or until men come forward with open minds this task would be a Herculean one. For that, men need to be mentally and physically strong, prepared and aware of their contributions to society as a whole and support women. This is where we need to recognise the challenges that men also face.

International Men’s Day (IMD) is celebrated in 80 countries every year on 19th November. This day primarily highlights the positive values and contributions of men to society and their families and helps build positive male role models. It’s also the day when awareness is created on men’s overall well-being: social, emotional, physical, mental and spiritual; raise awareness of men’s issues which are often overlooked like toxic masculinity and prevent male suicide. The day creates awareness of gender relations and promotes gender equality. It focuses on a better and safer world for everyone to thrive to their full potential.

The ultimate aim of this day is to promote basic humanitarian values and awareness of men.

Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘We must become the change we seek. It is only when we all, both men and women, lead by example that we will create a fair and safe society that allows everyone the opportunity to prosper.’

It also allows recognising of men who don’t fall into the traditional definition of masculinity, such as gay and bisexual men, transgender, or masculine non-binary people.

The seeds of the idea for this day were sown in 1968 when American journalist John P. Harris wrote an editorial on how it goes against the basic concepts of communism in the Soviet Union to celebrate International Women's Day and not having an International Men's Day.

Later, on Feb 7, 1992, Thomas Oaster, the director of the Missouri Center for Men’s Studies, and a professor in Kansas City, US, felt it was important to draw attention to the issues of men. The day was originally celebrated successfully for two years, but after two years its popularity declined.

International Men’s Day was revived on Nov 19, 1999 by Jerome Teelucksingh, a lecturer of history at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago. He promoted this day to reflect on issues that concern men and boys.

It received immense support in the Caribbean region and later spread to many other countries including Singapore, India, Australia, the UK and the US.

The issues of the day are designed to help organisations and people consider what action they can take by addressing some of the issues that affect men and boys such as:

The high male suicide rate, challenges faced by boys and men at all stages of education and work, men’s health, challenges faced by the most marginalised men and boys in society (homeless men, boys in care and the high rate of male deaths in custody); challenges faced by men as parents, particularly new fathers and separated fathers, male victims of sexual abuse, domestic abuse, forced marriage; the negative portrayal of men, boys and fathers.

Different countries celebrate IMD in different ways by mainly discussing issues that concern their community the most. For example, in the UK, male suicide is an important topic of discussion on International Men's Day because men are 3 times more likely to commit suicide than women in the country.

Statistics in Australia show that 3 out of 4 suicides are men, and 2 out of 3 violent deaths are men. Around 1 man in 8 men has depression in Australia which results in taking their own lives in the end.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) data, suicide leads to the highest number of death for men under the age of forty-five in many countries worldwide, including the UK, the US, Australia, and Russia. In terms of statistics, women are diagnosed with depression more often than men but men are more likely to commit suicide. This is an alarming situation.

Clearly, there are enough reasons for this. Our cultural perspectives and expectations of gender contribute significantly to the increased suicide rate in men. We have been consciously or subconsciously encouraging unhealthy masculinity for decades.

Boys, in many cultures around the globe, are taught to be strong from a young age. And being strong means boys don’t cry. As they grow up men wear a mask of macho masculinity underneath which there is a soft human need to express their emotions.

This harms the mental health of men and boys. Gender inequality in this perspective takes place from childhood and results in long-lasting impacts.

Studies show that men do not reach out for help at all; possibly this is one of the reasons that the number of suicides is higher in men than women.

We should all work together to break the chain of toxic myths of masculinity and start focusing on the healthy mental health of men.

We can all participate in this day by encouraging men to come out of their cocoon shells; thank the men in our lives who have helped us achieve our goals; help break stereotypes and identify positive role models that are the true qualities of masculinity: kindness, generosity, inner strength, empathy and open communication.

It's important to understand that a man or woman who stands, for one thing, may not necessarily be standing against the other.

This day is not about competing with International Women's Day, but a way for men to encourage boys to live a life of true values, character, and responsibilities.

One of the greatest aims of International Men’s Day is to promote gender equality and improve gender relations. In keeping with the idea that International Men’s Day is not meant to compete with International Women’s Day (in March), the theme of the day in 2021 was ‘Better Relations for Men and Women’ promoting the benefits of healthy gender relationships.

Only when men and women walk together against inequality, will we have a better and safe world to live in.

It’s important to understand the differences between men and women and cater to their particular needs. It’s worth mentioning that IMD and IWD can be celebrated by men and women together to raise awareness and contribute to the collective well-being of both and educate other people on these issues.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “We must become the change we seek.” It is only when we all, both men and women, lead by example that we will create a fair and safe society which allows everyone the opportunity to prosper.

We live in a world where every individual has the right to have their issues addressed.

Happy International Men’s Day!

We care.

[Tasneem Hossain is a multilingual poet, columnist, op-ed and fiction writer, translator and training consultant. She is the Director of Continuing Education Centre, Bangladesh.]

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher