Summary of International Men’s Day in the UK 2015
While I know the other team members will soon be posting their reflections on International Men’s Day, it is useful to capture the main events, activities, articles and happenings in one place.
Certainly, this is the year after many years of campaigning where International Men’s Day broke through at two levels.
Firstly, it reached a level of positive attention and awareness at a national and local level that it had never reached before. And while there is more to do until it reaches parity with International Women’s day (albeit there is not a competition), there was more media coverage, more serious discussions of the issues, more social media and more events.
There were also a number of firsts – the first ever International Men’s Day and male suicide debate in Parliament, #internationalmensday was the most popular Twitter Trend in the UK for eight hours and CALM working with Lynx held a Twitter Thunderclap at 8am on the Day. It was also the first time a major brand associated itself with International Men’s Day in a serious way.
Secondly, while at times it looked as though the event was going to fall into ridicule and satire – campaigners, advocates and conscientious members of the public turned it around. Many of them bravely stood up to those who don’t think men and boys have problems and even when they do, wish to sweep them deliberately under the carpet. Ruth Morris’ petition against her own university’s cancellation of an International Men’s Day event stands out. Others astutely turned the focus of the Day onto undeniable issues that no sensible person could ever campaign against – suicide, health and sexual violence.
This mean that the Day was used a sensible and mature platform to discuss the barriers that men and boys face that prevent them from living rewarding and fulfilling lives, and, contributing fully to their families, communities and our country. And of course, as well as having barriers, men also like to be men so there was much fun to be had as well.
This sets things up for 2016 where many new friends and networks have been created, a better focus and awareness of men’s issues is now out in the open and in many respects, the most important aspect being women and men as individuals, campaign groups and organisations are no longer scared of raising those issues. A constant theme for those who want to talk about men’s issues has been the attempt to silence them, smear them, cast them as misogynists who want to relegate legitimate issues affecting women. This year, that strategy no longer succeeded. There is now a recognition that all is not well with all British men, and women and men, want to do something about it. And that men are to be celebrated and recognised. The debate on Mumsnet is quite telling. Men’s issues are now on the agenda, and men and boys in need are not there to be ridiculed any longer or forgotten. However, the time has come for more than words – we need action.
The focus and attention on International Men’s Day this year really started with Conservative Philip Davies MP’s request to the Parliamentary Backbench Committee (scroll from 14.53 to watch) on 28 October 2015 which was laughed at Labour MP Jess Phillips. He had requested a debate to talk about men’s issues and the barriers they face. Ms Phillips laughed a scoffed at the idea. This was met with a powerful response by Glen Poole and others who decried her reaction and she came in for a large amount of criticism (plus some idiot trolls making rape threats which threatened to blow the Day off course as the underlying message that was leapt upon by opponent s was that all IMD supporters were like the trolls).
A key line from Philip Davies was that while there “are more men in Parliament talking about issues, those men are not talking about men’s issues”. This was followed up by two brilliant articles by Martin Daubney and Dan Bell asking why policymakers did not want to support men’s issues and also about why there was no voice for men’s issues in politics.
A number of charities such as Samaritans, CALM and Rethink Mental Illness collaborated to call for a debate to take place and Philip Davies MP having gained cross party support managed to persuade Parliament to have the debate. A brilliant piece of campaigning.
The debate itself took place on 19 November in Westminster Hall led by Philip Davies MP who covered a wider range of issues affecting men and boys and this was probably the first time these issues had been touched upon as part an overall narrative, and for some issues, they had never been discussed at all in any detail. In particular domestic abuse and sexual violence. Conservative MP, Lucy Allan’s contribution was widely supported for its balance, perceptiveness and honesty. The Hansard record of the debate can be found here.
Letter to Equality Ministers, their Shadows and Spokespeople
In the a similar fashion to the 2013 campaign request to put the Man in their Party Manifestos, over 20 charity leaders, professionals and academics wrote to the political parties asking them to support International Men’s Day in 2015 and every year going forward. Only one party, Plaid Cymru has supported recognition of the Day. It is significant that the Minister for equalities and Women, Nicky Morgan MP, has not yet replied. Her reply will be published when it is received.
University of York
While that landmark victory had been secured, York University decided that the International Men’s Day event they were to hold was to be cancelled. This was due to 191 academics and students sending a protest letter demanding for the event to be cancelled because “We believe that men’s issues cannot be approached in the same way as unfairness and discrimination towards women, because women are structurally unequal to men”. Other universities were holding events.
This achieved national media attention with again the emphasis on York University to defend why they believe talking about male suicide and sexual violence is wrong. Ruth Morris, a student at the university put forward a counter petition asking for the event to be reinstated and received thousands of supporters
This also brought not only International Men’s Day to the fore but also the serious issues behind it. It also seriously challenged those who felt talking about male suicide was a bad thing.
Events and Happenings
Over 40 events were held across the UK in November marking the Day or in recognition of its themes – the most ever. This ranged from the month long Movember campaign to conferences like the ManKind Initiative domestic abuse conference and the Being a Man Festival. It also included a number of films and play launches, photography exhibitions and health events right through to free fitness classes, steak nights and beer hamper competitions.
Between 8am and 4pm #internationalmensday was the top Twitter Trend in the world and by the end of the day over 200,000 people had used the #.
The UK Men’s Day website received 13,000 hits up from 4,000 in 2014.
Twitter has 479 followers
Facebook Likes stand at 381
There was a board range of media throughout November mainly from the start of Davies v Phillips debate at the end of October. Significant coverage appeared around this debate, the Parliamentary debate, the York University decision and the Day itself. The BBC for the first time had an article on its website and even its One Show interviewed people about it. There was also an Official Parliamentary Briefing. Marttin Dabubney was interviewed on LBC on Sunday 1 November in a very moving piece about suicide which attracted callers from all over the UK – followed by a great interview on Channel 5 on the Day itself. The team also appeared on a number of other TV and radio channels on the Day including a chat show on the UK’s Islam Channel.
Overall, Google News reports there were 168 online articles in the media about the Day or issues surrounding it. A selection of the best can be found by these writers here:
What’s so funny about a men’s right debate (Telegraph Men)
Is machismo the cause of the male suicide emergency (Telegraph Men)
Why I am saddened by York Uni’s stance (Independent)
Ten Reasons why we should talk about male suicide (Telegraph Men)
How can we talk about men’s issues, if we won’t allow men talk (Telegraph Men?)
Political Correctness is damaging men – interview with Philip Davies (Telegraph Men)
International Men’s Day interview – Channel 5
Who’s Really Being Silenced in the Gender Debate? (Huffington Post)
Ruth Sullivan (CEO of Samaritans)
Why the masculine ‘gold standard’ is harming men (Telegraph Men)
Why I’m supporting International Men’s Day (BBC Newsbeat)
Guardian: Professor Green photo exhibition
Telegraph: Male suicide now a national emergency
House of Commons: Briefing
My final thought is really juts to say thank you to all those people – women and men, all those organisations spanning the whole country, all those campaigners who stood up to be counted – for everything that you did to make International Men’s Day 2015 a really special day. Any you know what, with the focus on the barriers men and boys face being brought to the fore – some lives I am sure many lives will have been saved.
Written by Mark Brooks, member of the International Men’s Day UK Team