This week witnessed International Women’s Day, the March 8 holiday first observed by the Socialist Party of America more than a century ago and sustained ever since as a global call for gender parity. Historically, we’ve observed the occasion by spotlighting those who lead (or led) women’s rights movements and identifying the many areas in which we’ve yet to achieve meaningful social equality.
Meanwhile, it’s traditional for men to cry on Twitter about how it’s not “International Men’s Day.”
This happens every year, with #InternationalMensDay trending alongside #InternationalWomensDay, and while some of the whiners are just trolls looking for attention, others appear genuinely unaware of Google. There is, of course, an International Men’s Day, as women tirelessly point out — though it hasn’t been around quite as long. First proclaimed in the early 1990s, it falls on November 19 and has the stated focus of “men’s and boy’s health [sic]” as well as “improving gender relations.” For 2018, the theme is “Positive Male Role Models.” So, you know, try to think of one.
Now, if the upset lads of Twitter were genuinely interested in an International Men’s Day, they’d know all about where they can donate to man-related causes and buy posters with slogans like “STOP MALE SUICIDE” and find links to the apparently IMD-endorsed bullshit artist Jordan Peterson, who has cultivated an angry alt-right fan base with some pretty toxic views on women. Right? Maybe they’d even have some pitches for how to highlight the cause eight months from now, yes? Yet when I followed up to brainstorm a few ways of making this year’s International Men’s Day extra-special: silence.
As you might imagine, I was pretty disappointed. People talked about recognizing men, but none of them seemed willing to think through what that recognition would look like. Where were the leaders of this movement? Was it a movement at all? Why is activism so hard? I did find suggestions that dudes ought to mark International Men’s Day by “high fiving each other and saying how fucking unbelievable we are” or going to the pub to “get shitfaced like men do!” but I’m doubtful of the positive impact these actions might have. If anything, they seem more like starting points for your average rowdy Friday night than the proposals of a serious grassroots campaign to revolutionize gender roles.
And the guys who directly replied to me appeared overwhelmed by the task at hand.
Is this who International Men’s Day is for? Semi-literate goobers whose idea of a good time is correcting a woman’s parking and watching her clean cookware? Say it ain’t so! There has to be another way. I took some cheer from people who pointed me toward the Movember Foundation, which raises awareness of prostate and testicular cancer as well as men’s mental health each November with a month-long mustache-growing pact. On the other hand, I was shocked when one IMD proponent revealed he didn’t expect to do anything out of the ordinary that day: “I’ll be in work,” he stiffly informed me. Somewhere in between was the bro who recommended we do “lots of masculine stuff, like moisturising and exfoliating” — sure, he was being sarcastic, but he’s not wrong. On balance, I’m just glad nobody brought up the execrable “Steak and a Blowjob Day.”
After all my inquiries, having hot sex with other men was probably the smartest take on turning IMD into a fun, wholesome, progressive event. Still, my coworker John’s desire “to be able to fart openly and without consequence in all professional and social settings” is worthy of consideration, as are the extremely manly options of “dying in a war, getting dysentery while fighting a war, or penting it all up.” Finally, I do endorse any attempt to rectify post-breakup garment imbalance — especially the hoodie variety.
But the general confusion over best practices when the time does come to “tell the men in your life that you love and accept them” goes to show that men have a long, bumpy road ahead. I believe we’ll get our due one day, yet that respect begins with us realizing what we’d want out of it. Because anybody saying “What about me?” really better have an answer to the reply, “What about you?” Otherwise, you may not deserve an entire day in the first place. Though “International Men’s Afternoon” doesn’t sound half-bad.