You probably didn’t know that today is International Men’s Day. After all, it doesn’t receive much publicity, despite having been celebrated on this day since 1991. International Women’s Day is a different matter. That you will have heard of, and may well have taken part in. We all agree that we need to celebrate and promote women.
But, by the same token, we need to celebrate men. Even just a little. And, today is the best time to question our reluctance. I invite you, for example, to ask yourself the last time you read an article praising men. No, not an article praising one man (like an explorer, carer, sportsman or teacher), nor an article about a group of men, such as a team of rescuers or medics.
I’m talking about men as a whole. Cast your mind back. You can’t remember, can you? Indeed, have you ever read such an article?
And yet you’ll be familiar with articles praising women. According to recent media reports, women are better than men at working under pressure, taking financial responsibility, teaching, managing people, caring, driving, showing stamina, raising money, being surgeons, being doctors and being engineers. And those are just the ones I found through a quick Internet search.
In summary, women are better at lots of things. But men, it appears, are better at, well, nothing. No wonder there’s a crisis of masculinity.
Some might say that there darn well should be a crisis of masculinity, given the horrendous revelations of sexual harassment and assault over the last year. Why should we give men any credit at all, given what we’ve learned?
It’s an understandable view. Sexual harassment is horrible and unforgiveable. If anyone harassed or assaulted a woman or girl in my family, the red mist would descend more quickly than you could say ‘metoo’. But how many men are guilty? One in five? One in ten? A small minority, certainly. Yet, we seem to be blaming men in general.
According to the narrative, men can only be the baddies. Last month there was even a debate about whether hate crimes against men should be recognised. Just think about that: we accept, because it is obviously right to do so, that misogyny is disgusting. Yet we are ready to pontificate about whether hate crimes against men are even worthy of our attention.
And while we are right, of course, to strive for equality between men and women at the top, where men still dominate, we should also cast an eye lower down, where there are twice as many homeless men as women, ten times more male than female prisoners, and three times more men than women who commit suicide. Oh, and a million children are growing up without their fathers.
In her speech in Downing Street upon becoming Prime Minister, Theresa May said her priority would be to help the disadvantaged, pointing out that “If you’re a white, working-class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university”. Two years on, nothing has changed.
Yet, we still think the male gender is always the nasty gender.
Consider the men you know – family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Most of them, like most women, have great qualities. Up and down the Britain, millions of them care for their families, are loyal to their friends, work hard and behave as decent citizens. They are not an abusive, privileged elite. They are good people with noteworthy qualities.
So, let’s recognise them. Today’s their day.