November 19 is internationally acknowledged as the International Men’s Day. It’s a day to celebrate men and recognise them and their efforts.  Looking at it objectively as a day to acknowledge a group of individuals, there should not be any problem with this idea. But because of the way our society has shaped into what it is today over the millennia of human existence, there are some deeper level elements of this celebration that have often led it to be criticised by some individuals in the same society. 

Let’s begin with, when and how did this day come to be?

November 19 as the International Men’s Day came into existence in 1999 in Trinidad and Tobago. It was started by Dr JeromeTeelucksingh (a lecturer at the University of the West Indies) in memory of his father, as it was his birth date. He wished to promote the event as a day to acknowledge issues affecting boys and men around the world. This could be considered as an attempt to look at perspectives and situations that are often ignored by society because of the prevalence of the patriarchal and patrilineal setup. We assume that all is merry and good for all men, especially their social positions as compared to their female and trans counterparts. 

It is interesting to note that the demands of such a day began as early as the 1960s and different countries had their own separate days acknowledged as Men’s Day over the years. But it was ultimately the 1999 date that became internationally accepted.

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Objectives of celebrating the International Men’s Day?

The six pillars of International Men’s Day as according to the event’s Official Website are as follows:

1. To promote positive role models

2. To celebrate men’s positive contributions to society 

3. To focus on men’s health and wellbeing

4. To highlight discrimination against men

5. To improve gender relations and promote gender equality 

6. To create a safer, better world

The idea of promoting positive role models is representing men from all walks of life and their contributions to the society with their decent and honest lives; and how younger individuals, or even older ones, can look up to them and widen their horizons and make their life purposeful. 

Celebrating men’s contributions includes men’s positive roles in their families, communities and environment. These not only include celebrities, sportsmen or politicians, but also common men who work at the ground level and their personal spheres, and allow for the positive progress of humankind.

Moreover, this day is celebrated to also bring to light the issues faced by men and boys. These include issue related to their health and wellbeing and also highlight the discrimination faced by men. 

It is true according to global statistics that the percentage of women who face the aforementioned issues are much larger than the percentage of men, but this does not mean that the number of men is small enough to be ignored. We are not asking to take the attention away from women’s issues, but asking to acknowledge that these issues are faced by men too. 

For example, due to gender-defined roles, it is mostly men who are part of the workforce which is involved in the hazardous industries, thus their health issues must be brought into the light. Another example could be that in most cultures of the world it is men who are the sole breadwinners of their families, and hence face the pressure of supporting them at all times, subsequently facing great mental stress (note: this is not to justify any ill actions that they take due to this). 

To add to this, the discrimination faced by men includes the notion of always suspecting the intention of boys and men when they are interacting with girls and women; landlords being more open to renting their houses to a group of women as compared to a group of men (maybe this is a thing just in India, we’re not sure about other parts of the world); violence against men not taken seriously and rather made fun of, especially if the perpetrators are women; and the toxic masculinity that is forced upon boys and men from very early ages which seriously affects the mental health.

Thirdly, this event is to acknowledge that ultimately we all want a better and safer world with better gender relations and gender equality. This aims to bring gender sensitisation among all members of the society so that all of us can live in harmony and feel secure being a part of humankind. No gender should feel threatened or targetted concerningwho they are, and that gender parity must become the societal norm. 

How is it celebrated?

Public seminars, fundraisers, award ceremonies, peaceful awareness marches and special retail promotions are some of the ways that International Men’s Day is celebrated around the more than eighty countries of the world. In addition to these, every year the International Men’s Day organisation comes up with a theme that becomes the focus of that year’s events, along with six core objectives. 

The theme for International Men’s Day 2020

The theme for International Men’s Day 2020 is Better Health for Men and Boys. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, the threat of the virus is much severe when the individual leaves the house and goes out in public spaces. And since most of the workforce around the world are men, a larger number of patients affected by coronavirus are men. Besides, the economic crisis due to the lockdowns imposed around the world has slowed down global economies and affected people’s incomes and standards of living, which subsequently has resulted in mental stress on the breadwinners of the households who in most cases are men. Hence, this year’s theme.

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Criticism faced?

We aren’t entirely sure who these people are that criticise this event, but there is this one point they keep putting across. They say that our society has shaped into a setup where men are always at an advantageous position as compared to women and transgenders.

This is something that we do agree with that at most social situations, it is the men that have certain invisible privileges that we fail to acknowledge or sometimes even realise. But this does not mean that we do not have the right to celebrate men, especially through a day like this which highlights the need for gender equality, and a better and safer world for all.