The Uncommon Man

September 18, 2006

International Men’s Day: An open letter of rejection

Following is an excerpt from on open letter written by Michael Flood in 2004, in response to one or more men's groups in Australia prosing to celebrate November 19 as International Men's Day to promote awareness of men’s issues. It was published along with many other related articles on xyonline.net. (Look under "Men's politics, Activism, The men's movement(s).")

Michael's letter presents some very clear thinking and cogent arguments against the propagation of this day. However, there are other factions within men's movements with valid ideas in support of an International Men's Day. I hope our readers will use this letter to begin conversations about the underlying issues. (Comments anyone?)

International Men’s Day: An open letter of rejection

Michael Flood, 25 October 2004

This is an open letter concerning International Men’s Day. A men’s organisation in Canberra, Australia, is proposing to commemorate this day as part of its efforts to promote awareness of men’s issues. As someone who has been involved in men’s issues and men’s activism since the late 1980s, I am fully supportive of efforts to improve men’s health, encourage fathers’ positive involvement in families, prevent men’s use of and exposure to violence, and so on. However, I do not believe that an International Men’s Day is an appropriate or effective way to help achieve such goals.

There are a number of important problems with International Men’s Day. In summary;
* IMD offers a false parallel to International Women’s Day.
* IMD invites a conservative understanding of gender relations.
* IMD potentially alienates services and organisations that might otherwise support measures aimed at improving men’s wellbeing or service responses to men.
* There are better ways to achieve the same goals.
* IMD may be ineffective at engaging men.

...The most important problem lies in the very notion of an “International Men’s Day”. It offers a false parallel to International Women’s Day, false because the context and the meaning of the two days are fundamentally different.

International Women’s Day began in 1908 in New York as a protest by women against intolerable working conditions and lesser wages. It was taken up in the 1920s in Australia as part of a protest by women again
against unjust and unequal working conditions. International Women’s Day continues to be celebrated each year, on March 8th, as part of protests against the many forms of discrimination and injustice experienced by women.

The notion of an “International Men’s Day” implies that men, like women, are a group systematically disadvantaged or oppressed by gender inequalities. There is no denying that men do suffer limitations and
harms under the current gender order, e.g. poor physical and mental health. But it is simply false to claim that men as a group are disadvantaged by gender relations.

In response to some men’s question, “What about International Men’s Day?”, some women have responded that every other day is International Men’s Day. In other words, on every other day, gender inequalities are
taken for granted, the achievements of (privileged) men in politics and culture are routinely celebrated, and women’s lives and concerns are trivialised and marginalised. While this is simplistic, it does point to the ongoing gender inequalities that characterise our society.

Some advocates of IMD may believe that IMD can embody this recognition, i.e. that IMD can invite men to challenge the gender inequalities that disadvantage women and the gender norms that limit men. But even if the actual agendas of IMD are not based on anti-feminist and conservative understandings, the notion of an
“International Men’s Day” itself invites this reading. ...

[The letter continues to elaborate on the main points outlined above, and concludes with the following statement.]

Conclusion
“International Men’s Day” is at best misguided and political naive, and at worst hostile and anti-feminist. Men’s organisations should not promote nor support an International Men’s Day. Nor should other organisations offer their support to such an event.

Read the full letter here.

Posted by Daniel at September 18, 2006 12:31 PM

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