It’s funny to see WorldToiletDay trending in Twitter where people showing no comparative support to InternationalMensDay. Ya, it’s November 19, the day which is marked as International Men’s Day (IMD) wedged alongside International TV day and International Toilet Day.

International Women’s Day is on 8 March: 24 hours (of the 8,760 annually available) set aside to celebrate women and all of their achievements. And people get furious about it. Surely, you might think, you could only be cross about it because that definitely isn’t enough time to celebrate the achievements of over than 50% of the population. But no.

On Twitter, at least, every 8 March thousands of men (and the occasional woman) tweet something along the lines of: “International Women’s Day? So where are they at International Men’s Day?”

It is believed that we men comprise the more privileged lot in our society, but if we look closely, then reality lies far away from these pre-conceived notions. We often deal with internal pressures and societal expectations to conform to the universally accepted principles of being a ‘Man’ in the modern society.

 

That aside, IMD needs a bit of help on the public relations front, as it does seem to be widely misunderstood. Events to mark it have been met with outcry that seems to miss the point of the message they’re trying to spread.

According to their official site, the people behind IMD want to focus “on men’s and boy’s health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models”. That can take the form of men looking at whether or not they get enough exercise, should they look at their diet and how much they drink, or, importantly, address issues of mental health that they might be struggling with.

Worldwide, one in four adults are not active enough and 3.2 million deaths every year can be attributing to not exercising regularly enough. For young men (15-34) testicular cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer, while one in eight men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, with over 3,000 men given the diagnosis in Ireland every year. When it comes to frequency of cancer in general, Ireland is in the top 10 in the world, which means that any opportunity to raise awareness of the benefits of checking yourself for signs of the disease is one that should be taken.

The statistics on mental health are even starker; three out of every four deaths by suicide are male, with one man dying every minute.

Stereotypical ideas of what it is to be a man, particularly remaining “strong and silent” in the face of troubles, are part of the problem, and IMD encourage men to share their problems and communicate with friends and family about whatever issues might be troubling them.

Highlighting the existence of male domestic abuse, both physical and mental, is also a key concern for IMD. In 2014, the Amen support service had 6,660 contacts with people who were seeking their services, up a staggering 36.8% from the previous year. Again, the stigma of being a male victim of domestic abuse is a huge issue, and raising awareness or helping to break the perceived sense of silence around it is a vital part of helping victims get access to the help that they need.

Ribbing and joking on social media are all seen as acceptable ways to celebrate IMD, as people talk about how easy men have it, that there’s no need to celebrate the day at all, and that men are being too sensitive when they point out that treating it in a lighthearted way is doing more harm than good.

That impulse to not treat it seriously is something that crops up again and again across the issues that IMD is looking to promote awareness of, from mental health to male domestic abuse. When men jokingly ask on International Women’s Day when there’s an International Men’s Day they also contribute to the problem.

 

The (predictable) fury on social media from men who think that there is no day to mark their achievements only serves to create a hostile reaction when the day itself does come around, but that isn’t really the point of the day at all.

Feeding the Twitter trolls is always a terrible idea, but joking about IMD is more fuel to the fire of those men who already fail to recognize the inherent sexism of the system in which they live.

Mental health, domestic abuse and cancer are issues that affect both men and women, but in different ways, every day of the year, so save the 140 characters you were going to use to joke, complain or protest the day and may be use them to help raise awareness around those topics on Twitter, and reach out to someone who might need it.

Inspired by Newstalk.
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