International Men's Day Has Its Uses

What if we celebrated it differently?

By Cliff Leek. Most people probably don’t know it, but November 19th is International Men’s Day. According to the website for International Men’s Day, coordinated by the Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation, the “objectives of International Men's Day include a focus on men's and boy's health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. It is an occasion for men to celebrate their achievements and contributions, in particular their contributions to community, family, marriage, and child care while highlighting the discrimination against them.”

Last year Drs. Michael Kaufman and Gary Barker, leaders in the growing global movement to engage men and boys in issues of gender equality, wrote an opinion piece for the Huffington Post problematizing the idea of an International Men’s Day. Here is a powerful excerpt from their post:

We're concerned about the implicit symmetry of this day with International Women's Day on March 8th which evolved as a way for a disempowered group to express its own power, potential and solidarity. It was a festival of the dispossessed, and a way to focus attention on discriminatory laws and social structures.

But men? Last time we checked, men, as a group, still run the world. Make more money. Run most governments, media, religions, armies. That sort of thing. […]

To put it simply, why do we need an International Men's Day when we've already got the whole year?

But what if we held a different kind of International Men’s Day? What if International Men’s Day was a day for us to talk openly and honestly about how masculinity shapes the lives of all people, including men?

Adherence to traditional notions of masculinity is linked to all sorts of undesirable outcomes for men and the people in their lives. Many of the ways in which we men assert our masculinity are self-destructive as well being harmful to those around us. Indeed, many other MARC bloggers have written personal reflections about how notions of masculinity shape workplaces and families:

The Right Kind of Man's Man - Jason Hamilton

No More 'Boy's Jobs' and 'Girl's Jobs' - Dean Johnson

Taking Equality Home - Graeme Russell

"Daddy, Do You Live Here?" - Michael Welp

Reframing International Men’s Day as a time to talk about masculinity doesn’t undermine the spirit of the day because all of the topics this day claims to address, gender equality, men’s health, family, etc., are deeply rooted in how we define and enact our ideas of what it means to be men.

Cliff Leek is the MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) Research Fellow and Community Manager. He is also a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at Stony Brook University (SUNY). He has worked as Prevention Specialist for the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force and as a consultant for a variety of gender-focused non-profits. Cliff is currently writing his dissertation on the growth patterns and effectiveness of organizations seeking to engage men and boys in gender justice work around the world.  He is also a founding editor of, a blog that connects activist and scholarly work on men and masculinities.

Posted by Cliff Leek on Nov 18, 2014 4:25 PM America/New_York

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Mentoring and sponsorship
Paternity leave and fatherhood
Masculinity and gender
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