November 19 was marked as International Men’s Day in several countries across the world. This annually celebrated day is seen not just as a gendered one but also as a way to honour men and boys.
According to the International Men’s Day global website, the day is acknowledged in 70 countries and has the following objectives:
Focusing on men’s and boys’ health; improving gender relations; promoting gender equality; highlighting male role models; showing discrimination against men and boys and celebrating the achievement of males of all ages especially as it relates to community, family, marriage and child care.
The website also states that the “broader and ultimate aim of the day is to promote basic humanitarian values.”
These goals are all lofty and well-intentioned but what struck me most about International Men’s Day was how polarizing it was among people who knew of its existence.
Personally, this year was the first time I was aware that such a day existed but my interest was certainly peaked.
On one side, there were social media posts such as this one, “Hearing lots of crickets chirping as I look for the deluge of International Men’s Day profile templates” which reeked of sarcasm about the lack of attention to a day celebrating men.
Opposite to this was the glaring contempt from my daughter when I jokingly told her I was celebrating International Men’s Day. She scoffed while asking, “Isn’t that every day of the year? Ridiculous that Men’s Day is actually a thing”.
These two positions reflect the dichotomy of views displayed on November 19, 2018 across social media platforms.
To be honest, I personally do not see the need to celebrate Men’s Day in a world where men are already honoured, celebrated, lauded and almost worshipped for simply being born with certain biological organs.
The patriarchy is alive and well though under pressure from the #MeToo movement and a global thrust for greater gender parity. With the status quo as it is an International Men’s Day almost smacks of an attitude of, if women have a special day then so should we.
This is not to say that worthy men are not to be celebrated. Absolutely not. The males in our society who are trying to overcome their male privilege and who honour their wives, sisters, daughters and aunts with the respect of being equals must, without doubt, be given the respect and acknowledgement they are due.
can all agree though that these men are in the minority while we also acknowledge that many if us women actively maintain and promote the male privilege.
There are many women who uphold the patriarchy every hour of every day with the very core of their being. It is always cringe worthy to see an otherwise seemingly self-assured woman belittle herself through body-language or other means in the presence of certain men.
A few months ago my husband asked why he was getting alerts from the bank whenever I used one of our ATM cards.
I did not have an answer but I was horrified because not only was I the primary holder for this particular bank account but why in 2018 is any bank alerting the male on one its accounts when the female spends?
Of course, I went into the bank and queried firstly who authorized the bank to set up alerts and why was my husband the one to receive alerts when I was the primary holder of the account.
Not only was the bank employee annoyed at my insistence that this had to change but she noted that my husband as “the head of the household” held the right to be notified of spending on the account.
After much argument I left the bank feeling pity for this woman who wasn’t just defending a policy from her employer but who obviously believed in the patriarchy to her very soul.
Gender parity issues and all others around women’s empowerment have come a far way but until the movement grows beyond just issues relating to the most vulnerable women in the society we are primarily at a standstill.
Similarly, until middle and upper class women stop pretending that we do not also have important issues to be addressed, the movement will not grow to be much more than it currently is.
Until women in the upper echelons of our societies feel as though they can speak about the gender-based violence they experience at home from men who feel insecure having a successful wife, the movement cannot move forward.
That is, until men stop being the primary gatekeepers for the success, failure, freedom and honour of women I cannot see the need for an International Men’s Day.
That day should be reserved for the moment when the patriarchy becomes an archaic word unknown to many.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.