A piece in today’s Telegraph by Mark Brooks, who runs The Mankind Initiative. Not a word on the online conference with 120 “speakers” which ended at 1am GMT today. I’ve posted some comments and urge you to do likewise. It will be interesting to see if they are taken down. The paper has sometimes been hostile towards me in the past, and I cannot recall any positive references to J4MB in the paper. I remain a subscriber all the same.
Every year International Men’s Day in the UK is a major success and 2020 is no exception. More than 150 businesses (large and small), charities, universities, schools, football clubs, entertainers, public organisations and community groups are taking part. The House of Commons too, with a general debate scheduled by MPs Philip Davies and Ben Bradley. It is expected that #InternationalMensDay will be the most popular hashtag on Twitter (it was in 2017 and 2018 – the pesky General Election intervened last year!)
Events range from big corporates sponsoring motivational conferences with well-known speakers (Colin Jackson and Nigel Owens), to the Civil Service running mental health events for its staff. Others range from charities like Men’s Sheds Cymru’s Bring a Butty event to fundraisers for Oxfordshire Mind. There is also the launch of the first ever annual Men and Boys Awards for those who have made an outstanding contribution to promoting care, compassion and social change for men and boys in the UK.
I’ve been involved with International Men’s Day for 10 years and I never fail to be impressed by the scope of the activities and the positive reception they get. Yet I’m also very aware that the day is considered a counter-culture event.
There is no official ‘establishment’ endorsement of International Men’s Day, let alone promotion – in many ways, when it comes to the corridors of power, the day is met with indifference. The only centralised organisation of the day is the promotion of three key themes, the maintenance of a website and Twitter account, and the distribution of logos by the Men and Boys Coalition charity, which promotes the platform for anyone to adapt so long as they are inclusive.
The three themes are deliberately broad enough to be applied in a multitude of different ways while remaining true to what the day is fundamentally about: addressing the issues that affect men’s and boys’ wellbeing, supporting charities that help men and boys, and generally having a positive conversation about men and boys (for a change). It is unlikely those themes will change for many years.
Sadly, the harsh truth is that the establishment’s indifference towards International Men’s Day is indicative of a wider attitude towards the wellbeing issues that affect men and boys in general. The statistics continue to be shocking: in the UK men remain three times more likely to take their own lives than women, and in the Republic of Ireland four times more likely, according to Samaritans; boys lag behind girls at every stage of education, and in the UK, men are 1.7 times more likely to die of Covid than women. I see a lack of concerted policy action when it comes to issues that affect men. Surely there must be if we are to live in a fully inclusive society.
The good news is that the culture of indifference has been irrelevant to the success of International Men’s Day. Women and men, whether as individuals, through their employers (most events are set up by HR departments) or via community groups, have not waited or asked permission for an official endorsement or promotion. They have taken action themselves because they have chosen to. Today you will see women take to social media to talk about the positive impact men and boys make; and you will see men given a multitude of opportunities to contact local or national support groups, networks and helplines, who will promote the support they have. Such genuine societal concern and drive to make a change means more than a centralised drive ever could.
This is grassroots Britain in action, going against a culture of shoulder shrugging, turning a blind eye and indifference – all to make International Men’s Day a roaring success.
I hope every man and boy, and woman and girl, has a wonderful International Men’s Day. And if you want to contribute today but aren’t sure how, take a leaf from a tweet that has remained with me ever since I first read it on IMD 2018. To paraphrase a saying, sharing your love is caring for your loved one:
“I am so fortunate to have so many wonderful men in my life. I am so grateful for all the love and happiness my fiancé, dad, papa and brother bring to my life. They all give me so much support and I treasure each moment we have together” Danielle, Scotland (via Twitter)
Mark Brooks is national ambassador for International Men’s Day UK
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