Monday 19th November has been designated as International Men's Day
This has sparked some controversy as some questions whether the statistically more privileged group on the planet really need a day to highlight their plight, but Martin Dormley, current men's rights campaigner, explained why this day is still important.
He started by underlining that no one cause awareness day unermines the legitimacy of another and that International Men's Day in no way seeks to belittle the aims and good work achieved by International Women's Day. Neither is the move a tit for tat attempt just to have what the other gender has. He admits that many men are still a highly privileged group, as illustrated that there are more men named David on the top 100 FTSE company boards that women, but men named David in that group also outnumber men from working class backgrounds. Therefore there are still men for which International Men's Day still plays an important part in striving for equality. There are still large groups of men for whom such power and success is just as unattainable as for some women. Girls are now outperforming boys in school tests, particularly in certain socio-economic groups and men are stitistically less likely to seek professional help with both physical and mental health problems.
Martin's involvement with International Men's Day was sparked by the poor mental health and subsequent attempted suicide of close friends and it was then that he realised that a problem exists that needs to be highlighted and combatted. He quoted surveys that show that 59% want to talk to someone about their mental health problems but either don't know where to turn or afraid to ask for help. This is an interesting statistic, given that suicide is currently the largest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. Clearly this is something that needs to be addressed.
Why do men feel unable to ask for help?
Ignoring the old jokes about men not wanting to ask for directions for a moment, perhaps there is something about the traditional gender roles we designate for men and how some men feel unable to fulifil them in today's modern world. Men have historically been expected to be strong, mentally and physically, provide for and protect their families. Perhaps as women increasingly take on some of those roles and the threats to family life become more emotional and less overt, some men fell confused about where they fit in and how they are expected to be. Radical feminism has undoubted caused some discussion about chivalry and whether women still want ment to carry out certain tasks on their behalf. The truth is all women are different and want different things from men, and all men are different and want to be different and do things differently. The rules are less clear than many years ago. This gives much more freedom but more confusion about who people are and how they should behave. Fewer people fit into traditional gender and sexual templates and as society becomes more sensitive to personal rights and aims not to cause offence, men need to find new ways of expressing frustration and anger as lashing out physically against other people or their property in no longer acceptable as just boys being boys. They need to be able to understand, process and manage their feelings (sometimes surpressing their initial urge) - something which society has encouraged women to do for centuries.
So what can we do?
Men and women need to coexist and thrive together as humans but some men undoubtedly need support to understand their place in society and their immediate environment and there is no doubt that talking, both to their friends and family, but also during talking therapy, can assist with this process. We need to encourage boys from a very early age to be comfortable with speaking about their feelings and learn to manage their emotions in a healthy way. There is no dounbt that the overwhelming majority of reported domestic violence is perpetrated by men against women, but men are also the victims, both of male and female perpetrators, and they need to be encouraged to speak out without fear of judgement or ridicule. Boys need to be encouraged to question new and traditional gender roles and find a fit that works for them, without building up stress, anxiety, frustration and anger, and we need to ensure that those who do not fit any particular stereotype and not made to feel like failures or that they must fit in. As long as there is respect for themselves and for others, there are many models which can work for men in the modern world. Boys need positive male role models and encouragement to take their own wellbeing seriously.
The role of men discussion groups