This November 19, it’s time for the yearly celebration of men and boys. It’s time to recognize their contributions and raise awareness of their challenges. This International Men’s Day, let’s step up our game and show men around the world that they’re valued and appreciated too.
What Is International Men’s Day?
International Men’s Day is a day set aside each year to honor the accomplishments and contributions of men to our society. Originally conceived by Thomas Oaster, the director for the Missouri Center for Men’s Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, in 1992, there were various observations around the world on different days until the current celebration on November 19 began in Trinidad and Tobago in 1999.
Calls for an International Men’s Day began in the 60s around the same time that International Women’s Day became internationally recognized by the UN. Prior to that, International Women’s Day was a primarily communist holiday only celebrated in the Soviet bloc. Many activists began to note that despite the communists’ stated goal of gender equality, they didn’t seem to place equal emphasis on male achievement as well.
Malta was the first country to officially recognize an International Men’s Day, though this was originally on February 7. Since 2009, they’ve celebrated on the current date, which started in Trinidad and Tobago as a way to recognize the importance of men in the country and how their examples could help ease racial tensions in the nation.
International Men’s Day has six core pillars or objectives, areas where it aims to raise awareness:
- The promotion of positive male role models
- The celebration of men’s positive contributions to society
- A focus on men’s health and wellbeing
- The highlighting of discrimination against men
- The improvement of gender relations and the promotion of gender equality
- The creation of a safer, better world
Additionally, International Men’s Day has a different annual theme. These have included things like “Stop Male Suicide” and “Better Health for Men and Boys.” This year, the theme is “Better Relations Between Men and Women.”
Why We Need International Men’s Day
The need for an International Men’s Day is two pronged.
First, men make considerable contributions to society, from strong leaders and innovators that are improving life for everyone, to working-class fathers and members of the community who sacrifice their own well-being for those around them.
Second, there are many challenges that men face in society. Through awareness, these can be better addressed.
Issues to Focus on This International Men’s Day
Men’s Health and Well-Being
In almost every country, women live longer than men. Globally, women have a life expectancy of 74.2 years while men have a life expectancy of 69.8 years. Many serious health problems like cancer and heart disease affect men at much higher rates, while men’s health receives less gender-specific research funding.
Similarly, men commit suicide at much higher rates than women in every country except China, often 3-4 times as often. They also suffer from higher rates of substance abuse and addiction.
Around the world, men and boys face many abuses to their human rights like forced conscription and disenfranchisement. One of the most blatant abuses, is male genital mutilation, also known as circumcision.
MGM is legal in every country in the world and practiced to varying degrees. The most severe abuses occur in Africa, where the UN has promoted mass circumcision based on pseudo-science, using coercive and corrupt financial methods that have resulted in the forced and violent circumcision of men and boys under 14.
Mass Incarceration and Legal Discrimination
Globally, around 94% of people in prison are men. A significant reason for this is legal discrimination where men receive longer and harsher sentences than women for the same crimes.
Additionally, men face challenges in other aspects of the legal system. For example, family courts in Western nations discriminate considerably against men, awarding child custody to women in over 90% of cases.
Violence Against Men and Boys
Recent research has discovered that in 2019, some two-thirds of people who died young—between the ages of 10 and 24—were male. A big part of this is men and boys’ much greater exposure to violence. Most victims of violent crime and conflict are male.
In support of this year’s theme, we can focus this International Men’s Day on the relationships between men and women, something that has been tense in recent years. Men and women should be working each to address the issues and challenges of the other and support resolutions, not competing.
For instance, women can help recognize and solve the fact that men are frequently the victims of violent conflict, usually with the expectation to protect women, yet there are no campaigns to end violence against men. Conversely, men can help recognize and solve the problem of sexual assault against women.
As of currently, International Men’s Day has not been adopted by the United Nations, even though International Women’s Day has been. Instead, the organization celebrates International Toilet Day on November 19.
Regardless of whether the UN finally takes a step towards true gender equality, we can all help raise awareness of men’s issues by celebrating International Men’s Day on our own and showing appreciation for the outstanding men in our community. Happy International Men’s Day to men and boys around the world!