"If there is a women's day, why can't there be a men's day as well?"
It is not uncommon to come across posts and comments along these lines on Facebook every year on International Women's Day. To the people asking this question, addressing the challenges and obstacles faced by women in the patriarchal world we live in is clearly not important. According to them, the idea that a men's day doesn't exist simply diminishes the importance of International's Women's Day.
This might come as a big surprise to those people but, in fact, there is an International Men's Day and today -- November 19 -- is that day. So, Happy International Men's Day, everyone.
International Men's Day is celebrated every year in more than 70 countries. Instead of shedding light on its history, I will focus on what we should discuss and address on this day.
First, International Men's Day is not an excuse to demean and mock International Women's Day. It is sad to note that most of the people wondering why a men's day does not exist, do not really want such a day for the purpose of addressing the myriad of issues faced by men. In this age, very few things are more than just a Google search away and if they really cared, they would just look it up.
Instead of playing the "Why isn't there a men's day?" card every Women's Day, it is important that we mark the actual International Men's Day by discussing the issues faced by men all over the world and one of the things that needs to be focused on is patriarchy.
This may raise eyebrows. I mean, we already challenge the patriarchy on March 8. Why should we talk about putting an end to it on a day dedicated to men?
We often fail to understand that "men" and "patriarchy" are not synonymous, and just a lack of understanding of what patriarchy means and what it can result in, has led many people to misunderstand feminism and the fight to end patriarchy. In fact, patriarchy does not favour anyone other than those men who are okay with abiding by all of the gender roles it imposes on them.
It is because of patriarchy that gender roles are imposed on people. Thanks to these gender roles, men who express emotions are looked down upon and shamed. Anger, on the other hand, is thought of as a masculine trait. Breaking things and getting into fights are considered absolutely normal and nobody bats an eye when these things happen because, according to them, boys will be boys. They will be aggressive and assertive and they won't cry. If something saddens them, they will just ignore it.
When people encourage boys to "man up", rarely do they give a thought about the long-term impacts this will have. Do they think about the traumas the boys who were bullied for not being masculine enough will have to carry for the rest of their lives? Do they think about the effects that repression of emotions has?
I have been asking myself these questions for a long time.
Globally, more men than women chose to end their own lives. Research shows that the differences in the methods used by the different genders is one of the reasons behind this, but another cause has its roots in the aforementioned toxic gender roles. Because they have been conditioned into staying silent about their emotions, many men do not share their pain and worries with well-wishers. They bottle up their feelings and refuse to seek professional help. Not seeking help translates to no diagnosis and no treatment and things eventually get from bad to worse.
The venom of patriarchy affects anyone who doesn't comply with it and can, as we have already seen, even lead to violence and death. This is exactly why on November 19, discussions should take place on the ways in which we can raise awareness about how toxic gender roles imposed on men harm not just them, but also the people they surround themselves with. We should also keep in mind that these issues should not just be kept reserved for this date only. Even after this day ends, we will have to keep enlightening those around us on the need to tell their sons that it is okay to be emotional, it is okay to cry and it is necessary to be compassionate and understanding.
Let us start today. Let us talk about the terrible effects that toxic gender roles can have on people. Let us have discussions on the harms of repressing emotions and the necessity of seeking professional help for mental health problems. Let us delve deeper into the need to liberate not only women, but also men, from the clutches of patriarchy.
Happy International Men's Day, once again!
Shounak Reza is passionate about history, reading, and writing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org