Tomorrow, November 19th, is International Men’s Day.
True to form, an army of highly-unoriginal “wits” – including some of our elected MPs – will predictably tweet, scoff and sneer: “Hang on, isn’t every day International Men’s Day?!!!”
As I reassemble my freshly split sides, I’ll chew over their unassailable logic: “But men rule the world! You were born with a penis, too! So you were born lucky! Boo hoo for the boys!”
As a UK ambassador for IMD, I’m used to this tiresome dismissal of men’s issues.
I usually reply with something like: “Not every day is International Men’s Day. But today – and every other day of the year – 12 British men will commit suicide, 31 men will die of prostate cancer and 3,000 men will sleep rough. Hilarious, isn’t it?”
— Martin Daubney (@MartinDaubney) November 15, 2016
I’ll also point out that British boys are now behind at every educational level, that men in their 20s now earn less than women – a new gender pay gap that can only widen, as boys born in 2016 are 75% less likely to go to university than girls.
It’s sad, but inevitable, that making the point that men don’t enjoy a privileged life from cradle to grave (incidentally, men also die four or five years younger than women) we have to indulge in a spot of what has become known as Oppression Olympics.
You have to prove men and boys suffer, because most people simply don’t believe it. Why is this? Is it a basic ignorance of men’s issues? Or is it something more sinister?
Certainly, the prevailing attitude among liberal, Left-leaning, academics, feminists and most people educated in universities this side of the millennium, is that men in general cannot have problems, because a minority of high-profile men enjoy immense privilege or power.
It’s sometimes called the apex fallacy: you focus on the top 1% of the world – such as MPs and CEOs, many of whom happen to be male – then dismiss problems that blight the rest of the males, especially those at the bottom. These include the men who make up at least 71% of the homeless, 95% of our prison population and 97% of workplace fatalities.
— MenandBoysCoalition (@MBCoalition) November 15, 2016
But men’s issues are gaining the recognition they deserve, grimly catapulted into the mainstream by the epidemic that has made suicide the number one cause of death for British men aged under 45, taking some 6,000 lives last year.
Magnificently, on Thursday, for the first time, International Men’s Day was debated in the main chamber of the House Of Commons (despite a notably lower turnout than the matching women’s day event).
This year, International Men’s Day even received endorsement from Prime Minister Theresa May, who publicly recognised “the important and serious issues” it raises.
Theresa May – some mention of productivity and jobs, likely to be strong on access in particular 'poor white boys' https://t.co/EV0CcFQE0G
— Ruth Arnold (@RuthArnold) July 11, 2016
The PM cares especially about the fact white working class boys are now the least likely of all demographics to make it to university in the UK. Thirty-five years ago, one of them would have been me.
So, as a coal miner’s son, it gave me immense pride also this week to appear in Parliament, where I co-founded the Men & Boys Coalition, the UK’s biggest-ever collective of 50 charities, academics, campaigners and journalists dedicated to tackling the issues that disproportionately affect men and boys.
Let’s be absolutely clear: International Men’s Day is not anti-women and it is not anti-feminist.
On the contrary, it is an inclusive day with many female and feminist advocates, such as the Prime Minister, or Jane Powell, CEO of the UK’s biggest anti-suicide charity, CALM.
2 more committed MEN. #'s are scary 90% of homeless & runaway n 85% of incarcerated r from fatherless homes pic.twitter.com/I9vRwfbtKJ
— Michael Irvin (@michaelirvin88) November 24, 2013
You don’t have to be a man to care about men’s issues, just an egalitarian who cares about addressing inequality, irrespective of gender.
This year’s IMD will be the biggest-ever in the UK, with over 60 events to mark it. On Monday, I spoke at the Safer Poole Conference that was brilliantly sponsored by Bournemouth AFC, throwing Premier League muscle and credibility behind that of the Prime Minister.
Yet, with crushing predictability, we can still expect the day to attract scorn tomorrow, because, well, “the menz”.
Granted, it doesn’t help that November 19th is also World Toilet Day, but let’s celebrate that a man invented toilets, too. Which is ironic, as ever since Thomas Crapper was flushed with pride at his first Thunderbox, both men and toilets have both been taken for granted and routinely shat on.
It helps to keep a good sense of humour about you on International Men’s Day.
Because most of the issues that disproportionately affect men and boys simply aren’t laughing matters.