Do you know what would have been the perfect feminist response to a request for a debate on International Men’s Day? “Yeah, sure” If that had been the response, there’s a good chance we wouldn’t even be writing this article today. We probably wouldn’t even know International Men’s Day was today.
But instead, toys have been thrown out of the pram. Jess Phillips MP went on TV to decry the audacity of a Tory MP who requested a debate in parliament on International Men’s Day (as is done for International Women’s Day). Then a group of academics wrote an open letter to The University of York because they had the cheek to put a notice about International Men’s Day on their home page.
Here’s the thing about International Men’s Day. It’s harmless. Holding a debate in parliament about issues that affect men will not damage anything. In fact, it may bring about some good. The truth is, there are issues that only affect men. Young men kill themselves at an alarming rate, domestic violence against men goes largely unreported, men work longer hours, are forced to retire later (even though they don’t live as long), make up 88% of the rough sleepers in London, and recent cases in America have shown just how damaging false rape accusations can be. Is it such a crime to wish to have these issues brought to light?
Women face more oppression overall than men do, we don’t dispute that. However gender equality is not a competition. The fact that women are massively under-represented in engineering does not diminish the fact that men are under-represented in nursing or human resources. And vice versa. The overall goal should be that men and women are treated equally, and are greeted with the same opportunities in life. And seeking out issues that affect both genders is the only way to work towards this goal.
But certain feminists haven’t accepted that. And they have fallen squarely into a trap that no one was setting for them. This has betrayed something of their position. By making a fuss over something as harmless as International Men’s Day, they have made it seem that they don’t actually care about gender equality. They have conformed to the anti-feminist stereotype of being ‘man haters’. This is not to imply that this is what they are, but it would be a reasonable conclusion to draw from the reaction over the last week.
And this does nothing but harm their cause. As Emma Watson so brilliantly highlighted, the feminism movement cannot thrive without men being bought in. And that will never happen when ridiculous reactions like this occur. So let’s have an International Women’s Day. And let’s have an International Men’s day.