Male feminist Michael Kimmel has a Guardian column up today (correction: it’s from 2014) addressing International Men’s Day. Let’s take a look at what he has to say.
Today is International Men’s Day. Are you celebrating? And if so, how?
Well, what exactly are we celebrating? Is it “men”, just as they are? “Men” in opposition to women, who already have their International Women’s Day on 8 March? “Men” embracing new ways to be men?
Well, Mr. Kimmel, I can tell why you’re confused. IMD is not a day to celebrate anything. It’s a day to acknowledge that the patriarchy is a myth, male privilege is a story rich white women concocted to explain why they don’t take STEM and prefer to stay home with their children, and that men and boys can, do and are suffering. It’s a call for compassion. Odd that a male feminist would be lacking compassion for men and boys. Very strange indeed. Can’t figure out how that escaped you.
It’s hard to tell because the politics of International Men’s Day (IMD) are somewhat murkier than those of International Women’s Day. That day’s origins are decidedly political, linking women’s struggles with the labour movement and a larger socialist movement. Globally, it’s a day to celebrate women’s achievement and renew the struggle for equal rights around the world (except in the US where its political roots have been obscured and the day is barely noticed at all).
Women’s achievements amount to very little indeed (because of sexy cartoon ladies, amirite?), and women in the West not only have equal rights to men, they have more rights than men. It’s almost as if that might spark some sort of conversation and discussion about the rights of men.
But what about International Men’s Day? Is this some form of political tit-for-tat: since they have their day, we men need ours? Really? After all, International Women’s Day acknowledges women’s exclusion and asks for a greater commitment to gender equality. From that perspective, we actually have International Men’s Day the other 364 days of the year. Here in the US, February is Black History Month. Do we need a separate White History Month – or don’t the other 11 months suffice?
International Men’s Day acknowledges men’s exclusion and asks for a greater commitment to gender equality, too. Exclusion from what? How about exclusion from laws that protect infant girls from genital mutilation? How about exclusion from the lives of their children when marriages and relationships break down? How about exclusion from primary school classrooms, where men are routinely treated as child sex predators, rather than important, irreplaceable role models? How about exclusion from healthcare funding?
And yet there is one strain of IMD celebrants who claim just that. Men’s rights activists assert that IMD should be a day devoted to recognising the various ways men are oppressed.
Yes. Correct. It’s not just laws, it’s widespread discrimination against men that is costing men their lives.
The origins of IMD are better-intentioned, but confused – and confusing. Begun originally in Trinidad and Tobago in 1999, today more than 60 countries proclaim its objectives of improving men’s lives, which, organisers tell us, is about focusing on men’s health issues, boys’ development, family activities, and promoting greater gender equality. (Interestingly, this last commitment to promoting gender equality has increased over the past few years, perhaps as an official response to the efforts of the men’s rights groups to hijack the day.)
Because gender equality when it comes to men is ‘hijacking’? Guess it only matters when it benefits women? This is why the MHRM exists, Kimmel.
I think the title of International Men’s Day is so laden with the possibility for such confusion – is it for or against gender equality? Inspired by feminism or opposed to it? – that it is a too much of a political minefield to be navigated easily. Maybe it needs to be rethought.
I have a proposal for an annual event that might accomplish the same things more clearly. Want to improve men’s lives and health, engage boys, and promote equality? Here’s how: For decades, the Ms Foundation in the United States has sponsored what was called Take Our Daughters to Work Day. The idea was to demystify the workplace for girls, so that they could envision their lives as workers. Parents (both mothers and fathers) would bring their daughters to their workplaces, where activities were often organised. And corporations would line up to sponsor and support these efforts.
Brainwashing campaigns? How delightfully progressive! Over 80% of working women surveyed by Forbes hate that they have to work, and the happiest women in the world are women who work part time or not at all. Convincing women to consider their most deeply held desires wrong, bad and traitorous has led to the unhappiest, most depressed cohort of women the world has ever seen!
Complaints followed that this was unnecessarily excluding boys, who felt left out of the day’s events. So the day is now Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.
Yes, dear, that’s called ‘gender equality’. Do you need a dictionary?
OK, but does the workplace have to be “demystified” for boys? Do they really need encouragement and support to envision their future lives in careers?
Not really, because we as a society still expect men to support women and children. What was that about no oppression again? No man can reasonably make a choice to acquire dubious skills and become economically dependent on a woman. Almost all women can, and certainly, white middle class women can. And they do.
Perhaps we can replace International Men’s Day with something slightly different – and tailored especially for men and boys. A friend proposed calling it International Son Day. On one Sunday, every year, fathers can invite their sons into their own homes, so that they can learn how to clean, cook, vacuum, do laundry and childcare – skills that these boys will inevitably need. Just as we demystify the workplace for girls, let’s demystify the home for boys, so that they can grow up into the men that they say they want to be: autonomous and capable of living on their own, and also involved family men, in egalitarian marriages and relationships, active and energetically engaged fathers, who use their domestic skills.
The vast majority of men under the age of 30 are not married, Kimmel. Who the fuck do you think is cleaning their apartments? Cooking their food? Doing their laundry? Did someone drop you on your head as a child? What century do you live in?
I know what you’re thinking: “Who is going to teach the fathers how to do those things?” Point taken. I’m certain that there are shelves of books and thousands of websites for the DIY kind of guy to learn such skills. What a potential father-son bonding moment – both learning how to do the basic household tasks that grown-ups need to know how to do. All hail Ironing John!
Again, what imaginary safe space do you live in? You think laundry fairies wash clothes for single men? Do you seriously think men can’t possibly take care of themselves without the help of women? This, Kimmel, is precisely the discrimination we are talking about. The idea that men cannot survive, are hopeless and helpless without the civilizing, nurturing influence of women is sexism. Do you get that? You are claiming that women are in fact nurturing and civilizing and that men are some kind of wild animals who must be caged and tamed. You, sir, are the problem we are trying to solve.
I realise that International Son Day, thus conceived, might exclude the fatherless or the son-less among us. But I’m sure we can find some community activities that men can engage in to promote greater equality at home and at work. Organise a toy drive for children whose mothers are in shelters for battered women. Cook and serve food for the homeless.
Organize a tuition drive for the sons wrongly accused of sexual assault and expelled from university campuses. Go ahead and cook food and serve it to the homeless. They’re mostly men. Homeless women have access to far more services than homeless men, who are left on the street to suffer and die, sometimes at the hands of wicked teenage girls. But who cares about them, right? They’re just men, after all. No need to have a day to acknowledge their existence.
Perhaps not. Perhaps too ambitious. Still, without the explicit focus of IMD to engage men to further support gender equality, at home and at work, the day feels too reactive, too amorphous, too ripe for innocent misinterpretation or deliberate manipulation. I think I’ll sit it out.
Your misinterpretation is not innocent. It is a deliberate ploy to foment continued hatred of men, so you can keep appeasing the feminist overlords who pay your salary. Hope that works out for you. I don’t think it will. Sooner or later, you will reap what you have sown.
On second thoughts, I’ll wait for my 15-year-old son to come home from school. I have a great lasagne recipe we can cook together.
Awesome! It’s hilarious you think this is some sort of transgressive statement to end on. Anyone can cook. It’s not hard. Just remind your son, that according to feminists, family cooked meals are just one more way he will eventually end up oppressing women.
Lots of love,