Thursday, 26 November 2015

Every day is men's day

This blog is a week later than I wanted. I had hoped to put something out to coincide with International Men’s Day. Unfortunately we were overtaken by the terrible events across the world due to atrocities caused by people calling themselves followers of Islam. I am grateful I had time to wait, as it allowed International Men’s Day (IMD) to play out in the UK in all it’s technicolour ridiculousness. It’s an interesting idea, and unfortunately seems to have been hijacked by other agendas. Which is a real shame, because if we want real gender equality, then issues which affect either sex disproportionately need to be addressed.
                For a lot of people the basis of International Men’s Day may still be a mystery. It receives far less airtime and support than the day of the child or the UN Women’s Day. You can find the basic idea at and I am going to reproduce some of the material here.
“Objectives of International Men's Day include a focus on men's and boy's health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. It is an occasion for men to celebrate their achievements and contributions, in particular their contributions to community, family, marriage, and child care while highlighting the discrimination against them.”
There is a lot in there, so for now I am only going to pick up on a single point. “Focus on men’s and boys’ health” – there are some really startling statistics on this, and in particular in the area of mental health in the UK.  If you are a man living in the UK you are 3 times more likely to kill yourself than a woman living there. 3 times. Clearly, anyone with compassion can see that this is a major issue that requires consideration and action. Depression, suicide and mental health issues affect 1 in 4 of us. The Labour Party has rightly stated that from now on in their consideration Mental Health will be seen as every bit as important as physical health services.
Which is why it surprised me that Jess Phillips (a Labour MP) chose to so snidely attack it in a free run in the Independent. To hear such openly crass and antagonistic language used by somebody who is recognised as a campaigner for sexual equality really surprised me. For example, the quote “Even a big, fat, thick feminazi like me” seems to suggest this is how she is seen. By whom – Philip Davies MP? By the organisers of IMD? Perhaps she should call out who called her this. If it is either of those two she is right to point it out and we should barrack them for it and demand an apology. Or is it, for want of a better word, arseholes? Those idiots who think Meninism is an excuse to issue rape threats in the name of meninism? We can’t possibly conclude that they are a true reflection of all meninists. After all, claiming they speak for meninism is akin to saying Daesh speaks for Islam. Both are positions nobody with sense can take.
In fairness to Jess Phillips, she recognises this is a problem and one that requires attention. What she doesn’t agree is that we need an International Men’s Day to tie it to. In fact, in her own words, “{Men}..Yes within your group things are tough for all sorts of reasons. None of them are because you are a man”. I understand the challenge – there might be a correlation between suicide rates and gender – but is there a causal link? Yes, there is. It has been quite clearly shown in research by CALM ( ) and the Samaritans that gender IS the big factor in this. Put simply, cultural pressures on men mean that they are less likely to recognise they are depressed until it is too late. So the basic crux of the argument put forward by Jess Phillips is fundamentally wrong. The reason that men commit suicide is because they are men.
So how can we challenge this? Well, the available evidence shows incredibly strongly that where we have a service directly focussed at reaching men to stop them committing suicide these services work. The problem is that this issue does not get the attention it requires. It is almost as if we need some form of action, some focal point, a single point in time to raise these issues to get more done about this. In short, we need an International Men’s Day to bring out these issues. Before the public spat between the two politicians and the host of events which were cancelled because of complaints by some feminist groups, how many people even knew this was an issue?
I really think there is a danger when women who are rightly recognised as equality campaigners turn their back on attempts to raise issues like this through support for a real meninist cause. Yes, it brought out the usual nutjobs who took to social media to threaten rape and over disgusting acts. But failing to engage with men who really believe there is work to be done on gender equality because of these idiots is as short-sighted as the thugs on the street who abuse Muslims because of the terror attacks on Paris. I feel passionately about gender equality. I want my two daughters to grow up in a world where we truly have that. Whilst progress has been made it has now become painfully slow – and that is just taking a UK-centric view. But my view on equality is “to each according to their needs” (see I managed to sneak in a bit of socialism). And I know a little something about depression – I have 3 failed suicide bids behind me (see, I can’t even live up to the male ideal of just bloody getting on with it) and enough therapy sessions to surely have earned something on my rewards card by now. So I would challenge feminists out there to help the real meninists by joining our cause – and taking it out of the hands of the few who are sneering idiots. We really need you. After all, surely for gender equality to truly exist the other half of the saying needs to be true “from each according to their ability”.

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