International Men’s Day team launch Men and Boys Coalition

By Glen Poole, UK Co-ordinator, International Men’s Day

Today, the International Men’s Day team (IMD UK) is proud to be joining forces with more than 50 of the UK’s leading charities, academics, journalists and campaigners to form the UK’s largest ever coalition dedicated to addressing men’s issues.

The Men and Boys Coalition brings together organisations and individuals specialising in fields that range from mental health and suicide prevention to education and parenting. It will be launched in Parliament today, ahead of this year’s International Men’s Day on 19th November 2016.

It is six years since the IMD UK team began our work to establish International Men’s Day as an annual event that helps the UK to talk about men and boys’ issues. The launch of this year-round Coalition, marks an historic step forward for IMD UK and gives structure to our work with others throughout the year.

IMD UK started in humble beginnings, in 2010, when around 70 people squashed into a room in a library in Brighton & Hove, to discuss how we could improve services for men and boys in that city. Mark Brooks, chairman of the domestic abuse charity, the ManKind Initiative, which helps male victims of domestic violence and abuse was one of the speakers on the day. Mark has become one of the driving forces behind International Men’s Day and is one of the founders of The Men and Boys Coalition.

Mark Brooks says:

“Over recent years, we have seen many examples of cooperation from a wide range of voices and charities all concerned that not enough is being done to support men and boys in tackling issues they face in their lives. It is welcome and long overdue that this new coalition has been formed which will represent us all and make all of us stronger – for the good of men and boys, and of course, the women and girls they share their lives with.”

Another founding member of The Men and Boys Coalition is the journalist Ally Fogg, who for several years was a lone voice in the national media, championing International Men’s Day. Ally was quick to notice the collective power of the evolving “men’s sector” in the UK, writing in 2012:

“The men’s sector includes many brilliant organisations. In isolation they have done great things. But in coming together as a sector, for International Men’s Day or for a conference, we may be seeing the seeds of a new unity, a recognition that the problems they face are often the same one.”

Ally hasn’t just written about unity, he was worked hard to create unity. In 2015, for example he brought people together through a joint letter that successfully challenged the CPS’s exclusion of male victims from its reports on intimate violence.

The benefits of taking united action 

Joint letter writing may not seem like the most dynamic action to take, but it is a vital part of the process of developing a unified voice for the men and boys’ sector in the UK. Our coalition is diverse and there are many things we disagree on, but the point of a coalition is that we all benefit individually when we take united action to tell the world what we agree on.

It was the IMD UK team that first brought the UK men’s sector together to begin this ongoing process of defining what unites us, rather than what divides us. In 2011, we held the First National Conference for Men and Boys in Brighton and persuaded nearly 100 organisations to sign a joint letter to the Government, calling for more focus on the specific needs of men and boys and how to address them.

With one voice we said: “There is now a growing network of individuals and organisations in the UK which is concerned with addressing [men’s] issues. We all have our own specific areas of interest and many different ideas about how best we can improve men and boys’ access to and outcomes from public services. What unites us is a commitment to help every boy to reach his full potential as a man and to improve the way the world works for every man, woman, girl and boy in the UK in the process.”

Pioneering conversations about men and boys 

Five years on, these words still resonate and describe the glue that binds our new coalition together. One of the signatories of the 2011 letter was Dan Bell, a journalist and charity worker, who I have had the privilege of working with on insideMAN magazine and the book insideMAN: pioneering stories about men and boys.

As a journalist, Dan has developed the ability to give a fair voice to many different perspectives and those skills have enabled him to be one of the unifying forces, steering the Coalition from its inception through to its launch.

People are quick to dismiss the value of awareness days like International Men’s Day, cynically asking the rhetorical question “what do all these days ever achieve?”

Like all good awareness days, International Men’s Day provides a stage for people to talk about the issues we care about and places a spotlight on that conversation. Through those conversations change can begin to happen, but only if we work together throughout the year and not just once a year.

Getting the media talking about men’s issues 

In 2013, shortly after the Daily Telegraph launched a new men’s section (Telegraph Men), International Men’s Day provided a perfect opportunity for the editors to find out if an article on men’s issues would be of interest to their readers. Thanks to the existence of International Men’s Day, I was able to pen an article listing some of the issues we’d like to see addressed, into the mainstream media, writing:

“We know that men in the UK are still dying four years sooner than women, on average; that 12 men each day take their own lives; that 90% of rough sleepers are men; that 95% of the prison population is male; that seven out of ten murder victims are male; that girls are outperforming boys at every stage of education; that women are a third more likely to go to university than men; that young men account for 70% of long-term youth unemployment; that male graduates are 50% more likely to be unemployed; that men in their twenties are earning less than their female peers; that 96% of people who die at work are male and that men accounted for 84% of suicides linked to the recession.”

In the three year since it launched, Telegraph Man had become the leading publisher of articles on men’s issues in the UK. It is through Telegraph Men, that IMD UK first connected with Martin Daubney, the former lads’ mag editor, who has rapidly become one of the UK’s most passionate and high profile advocates for men and boys.

We’re like a dating agency for people who care about men 

Martin is both a populist men’s writer and a serious journalist, whose documentary “Porn on the Brain” has reached millions around the world. In 2015, Martin joined Ally Fogg as a media ambassador for International Men’s Day and he is now part of the IMD UK team and one of the founding members of The Men and Boys Coalition.

International Men’s Day in the UK is a unifying force that brings people together in a way that creates long-term working relationships—we are like a dating agency for people who care about men and boys!

One of the many great charities that I have met through International Men’s Day is the male suicide prevention charity, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). As one of the charities joining the Coalition, CALM’s CEO, Jane Powell says:

“As a society we need to look at the needs of men and boys across all of our services, as we have done, for girls and women, and rightly so.  We see boys failing significantly more than girls in education, significantly more men in prison than women, and far more men taking their lives than women. Inequality in any guise is unacceptable; this is a coalition which is long overdue.”

Growing our network to help men and boys

It was through the work of CALM that the IMD team met with Martin Seager and John Barry, who have both joined the coalition and run the annual Male Psychology Conference. At their 2015 event in London, we met Dr Ben Hine who is the newest member of the IMD UK team and one of the six founding members of The Men and Boys Coalition.

Ben is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of West London, whose teaching and research is in the area of applied gender psychology, with a focus on the perceptions of male and female victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence

Ben says: “I believe that, along with many issues that disproportionately affect women, there are a number of male-specific issues that cause real harm and damage to men, as well as specific groups of men, that need and deserve a place in political and social discourse in order to improve the lives of those affected.”

Together, the IMD UK team, that’s myself, Mark, Ally, Dan, Martin and Ben, are proud to be launching The Men and Boys Coalition today. As the website says, the Coalition is an informal but cohesive and mutually supportive network of responsible groups, organisations, academics , journalist, commentators and leaders who are committed to taking action on the gender-specific issues that affect men and boys.

I invite you to take a look at the Coalition’s website, follow us on social media and support our work throughout the year because contrary to what some people will tell you, everyday isn’t International Men’s Day!