Everyone should say NO to rape threats and YES to an International Men’s Day debate

This week International Men’s Day has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons, writes Glen Poole.

It seems that some people drawn to the very important discussion about the need for a political debate on men’s issues made rape threats directed at Jess Phillips MP.

As one of the co-ordinators of International Men’s Day, let me be clear, we find rape threats repugnant and think the men and women who make these threats—like Isabella Sorley and John Nimmo—should be held to account for their actions.

It saddens me that these threats were made after Jess Phillips opposed a proposal to debate men’s issues in parliament on International Men’s Day (IMD).

It also saddens me that Jess Phillips has taken the position that because there are not an equal number of female MPs in parliament, that a debate on International Men’s Day shouldn’t happen.

Men may still dominate politics, but men’s issues never have. As Philip Davies MP said when proposing a parliamentary debate on International Men’s Day, there’s a very big difference between men raising issues and the raising of men’s issues.

The sad irony of this whole episode is that the media has given more air time and coverage to the obnoxious rape threats received by Jess Phillips in the run up to this year’s International Men’s Day, than they have given to male victims of rape in the six year’s I’ve been promoting the day.

Male victims of rape and sexual abuse are just one group of men that International Men’s Day provides a platform to.

One of Jess Phillips’ fellow Labour MPs, Gavin Shuker, who sits on the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, has also declared his opposition to the proposed debate tweeting:

“Hey, chaps. When we can, as a gender, stop threatening to mame (sic) @jessphillips for disagreeing with ‘Mens’ (sic) Day’ perhaps we’ll have earned one.”

The idea that because one man makes an online rape threat, then another man who has been a victim of rape should not be given a voice in parliament on International Men’s Day is not just absurd, it demonstrates a deep lack of empathy for men and boys.

In the past week, I have been at times saddened to bottom of my heart by the lack of compassion shown by MPs who appear to put their personal gender politics above the needs of male victims and survivors.

One such survivor is Duncan Craig, the founder of Survivors Manchester and a supporter of International Men’s Day.

As Duncan commented on twitter: “Sad @JessPhillips doesn’t see importance of talking about male needs & disgusted she’s subject to rape threats!”

To her credit, Jess Phillips did respond to by saying: “thanks and I will prove you wrong on the first bit”, though she is yet to declare her support for International Men’s Day.

Time will tell whether she proves Duncan wrong or not, though her comments on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that International Men’s Day doesn’t help address the issues men and boys face, doesn’t give me much hope.

In the meantime, in the run up to International Men’s Day (19th November 2015), we’ll be inviting all MPs and everyone in the UK to join is in saying NO to rape threats and YES to an annual debate on men’s issues in parliament, on International Men’s Day.

It is the least we can do, as a civil society, to try and find ways to address the many issues that men and boys in the UK and around the world face.