International Men’s Day is for everyone

This month it’s International Men’s Day. Some people will tell you that everyday is International Men’s Day, but it isn’t, writes Glen Poole.

International Men’s Day happens on 19th November and it’s a day for everyone to get involved and take part in a national conversation about men, masculinity and manhood.

The International Men’s Day (IMD) celebrations in the UK are probably the most inclusive and diverse in the world. We have a growing team of co-ordinators that is committed to getting every community in the country talking about men’s issues.

As the UK co-ordinator for IMD since 2010, my intention has always been to grow the day’s potential to be a catalyst for constructive conversations about men and boys, by ensuring no-one is left out. Whatever your gender, your gender identity or your gender politics, IMD gives you an annual platform to share your experiences and take time to listen to and learn from others.

Creating a conversation about men that involves everyone isn’t easy. Sometimes it means taking a stand against those who seek to prevent events going ahead, as happened at the University of York last year.

Feelings of sadness and gratitude 

While such incidents can provoke feelings of great sadness for the organizers and the men and boys they were hoping to help, I also feel immense gratitude that the controversy around such actions inevitably draws many more people into the conversation than would have happened if the event went ahead.

Sometimes trying to create a conversation that involves everyone, means taking a stand for people who want to be involved. One former supporter who took the view that International Men’s Day should be biased in favour of his particular brand of gender politics, withdrew his support because a university’s feminist society was “allowed” to hold an event.

It’s no fun taking sides in such disputes and fortunately I didn’t have to. When you make a commitment to creating a conversation that is for everyone, you effectively take sides with no-one and throw everything at consistently holding a fair and firm line, that International Men’s Day is for everyone, whatever your worldview.

Again, the sadness at losing a supporter for now, was balanced by my gratitude at the quality of conversation that the University of Surrey Feminist Society generated about men’s issues last year, which you can read about here:

There’s one thing you can guarantee, if you set out to create a conversation that involves everyone, it isn’t going to happen over night. Sometimes people take years to get involved. One example is the writer on men and masculinities, Joseph Gelfer, who supported an open letter calling on people to “reject” IMD, written by an Australian academic in 2004.

Imagine my delight then, when Joseph approached me earlier this year to say he had changed his position and was joining the IMD conversation and encouraging others to do the same, for reasons outlined in this excellent article:

Year upon year, the IMD conversation in the UK grows and evolves and our consistent message of inclusion keeps spreading. IMD is for everyone. It doesn’t matter what your gender, gender identity or gender politics, we want everyone to get involved and join the conversation about men, masculinity and men’s issues.

This year I was delighted to hear that the premiership football team, A.F.C Bournemouth and the former boxing promoting, Kellie Maloney, have joined forces with the Safer Poole Partnership to challenge gender stereotypes and raise awareness of male victims.

For those who don’t know, Kellie was formerly the boxing manager and promoter Frank Maloney, and took the brave decision to reveal that she is now living as a woman, to help raise awareness and understanding of transgender issues.

How we can reach men in their millions 

Last year, we were also delighted that the male suicide prevention charity, CALM UK, joined forces with the men’s grooming brand, Lynx, to reach over 20 million with its #BiggerIssues social media campaign.

Creating a conversation about men that involves everyone may seem impossible, but when big brands get on board and media outlets join the conversation, we can reach people in their millions and tens of millions.

For years, The Guardian commentator, Ally Fogg, was a lone voice championing IMD in the national media. I’m delighted to say thay Ally has now joined the core team at IMD UK, as has Martin Daubney, the former editor of Loaded magazine, who has become a regular commentator and writer on men’s issue at The Telegraph, The Times and Sky News (to name but a few).

Martin’s most recent article revealed that a controversial documentary by a feminist film-maker exploring Men’s Rights activism in the USA, will receive its UK premier on IMD this year.

I’m not a Men’s Rights Activist (MRA), but I’m delighted that MRAs in the UK have found a way to get involved in the conversation and ask that everyone who supports or opposes this event, respects and honours the fact that IMD is for everyone, whatever your gender politics.

I’m also not a Conservative, but I was delighted when Philip Davies MP secured the first every debate on men’s issues in parliament last year. This brought politicians across the political spectrum into the national conservation about men’s issues.

First PM to back International Men’s Day

This year, political interest is growing and 20 MPs, 10 from the Government benches and 10 from the Opposition benches, 70% of them women, are calling for a second debate and Theresa May has become the first UK Prime Minister to acknowledge IMD saying:

“I recognise the important issues that this event seeks to highlight, including men’s health, male suicide rates and the underperformance of boys in schools, these are serious issues that must be addressed in a considered way.”

These are small and significant steps towards our goal of creating a national conversation about men that involves everyone, including women. So I was also delighted when Jude Kelly, who founded the Women of the World (WOW) festival at the South Bank Centre to coincide with International Women’s Day; moved it’s brother festival, called Being A Man (BAM), from January to November to coincide with International Men’s Day.

Last year she explained her thinking saying:

“Men are often under pressure to demonstrate heroism, be daring and ‘man up’. Events like International Men’s Day and Southbank Centre’s Being a Man festival are helping men to investigate what conflicts the modern man faces in a world where everything is changing: work, family, image and gender balance. This year BAM will provide a unique opportunity, amidst all the debate about men, for men themselves to come together to share stories, discuss the pleasures and challenges of being men, and look at what kind of world they want for themselves and others.”

This year’s Being A Man festival features Sir Roger Moore, reflecting candidly on stepping into the shoes of the ultimate screen hero (that’s Bond, James Bond) and the rapper Professor Green who has reached millions with his documentary about male suicide, demonstrating the role that popular celebrities can play in helping us to creating conversations about men that involve everyone.

So in case you haven’t got the message yet, let me say it again—and not for the last time.

International Men’s Day is for everyone. It doesn’t matter what your gender, gender identity or gender politics, everyone is welcome to get involved and join the conversation about men, masculinity and men’s issues this International Men’s Day.

Glen Poole is UK Co-ordinator for International Men’s Day