So yesterday was International Mens Day though you can be forgiven for not knowing that. For International Womens Day, my Twitter and Facebook feeds were awash with articles about women from history who have been forgotten, statistics on domestic abuse and why the patriarchy system is killing women. Women and men were both posting about it, standing side by side for this day.
So when it came to International Mens Day, I was wary about what some Men’s Rights Activists (MRA’s) would post but it got off to a good start as many men were posting about mens health issues; in particular the astronomically high suicide rates among young men (it’s the most common cause of death for men under 45). Then Rebecca Collins from The Great Initiative wrote in her blog
So, happy International Men’s Day everyone. Go and tell a man you love that he is valued, that his feelings matter, that he doesn’t have to live with fear of being himself. It could very well save a life.
It was pleasing to read a woman endorse International Mens Day and see the issues that men face; issues that are caused by the same patriarchy system that kill women, which teach men that expressing feelings is a sign of weakness and weakness is bad. We’re fighting the same enemy. If I was hoping for more of the same though, it became obvious as the day went on that it wasn’t going to come. Indeed, many statements by feminists were along the lines of:
- Why do we need an International Mens Day? Isn’t every day that?
- It’s nothing more than a celebration of patriarchy
- Just another example of patriarchy
I kind of get it. Patriarchy is killing women and men are the weapons and a day dedicated to men can be seen as celebrating that. But this was a chance for men who are fighting patriarchy and encouraging men to change to be recognized, and for the damage patriarchy is doing to men to be recognized and to let men know that they’re not alone and there is another way. But the comments and general silence of many feminists sent out some very powerful messages;
- Men are nothing more than the patriarchy system
- There are no men worthy of celebrating
- There is nothing about being a man that’s good
- Mens health issues don’t concern them
- Men dying at the hands of patriarchy does not concern them
These are incredibly damaging, both in the way it demeans men and in the way it seems some feminists are spreading the very messages they’re seeking to change. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about how feminists are silent when it comes to mens issues so it’s really hard not to be cynical right now. I still maintain the belief that the only way to defeat patriarchy and make the world better for all is for men and women to be working together, but events such as yesterday just reinforce that there are those on both sides who don’t want to work together and I’m tempted to just wash my hands of it all and go “fine, have it your way”. I have had to remind myself why I got involved in fighting this in the first place.
It should be pointed out though that not every feminist was silent. As well as Rebecca Collins, this tweet popped up
#InternationalMensDay isn’t about demeaning feminism. It’s about dealing with struggles men face. Not the patriarchy. But actual men.
— Milly Vanilli (@whoismilly) November 19, 2015
It’s sad that it needed to be pointed out that men are actual and real, not a system because isn’t this what many feminists accuse men of doing to women? The lack of interest in International Mens Day from many shows precisely why it’s needed along with International Womens Day. This isn’t an either/or situation. It’s possible to be committed to defeating patriarchy and see the effects it has on both men and women, to raise awareness of both and celebrate both. After all, isn’t this supposed to be the aim of feminism in defeating patriarchy?