I saw a tweet on Saturday 8 March, International Women’s Day, which said “The least men can do on International Women’s Day is not to ask when International Men’s Day is.”
In fact I think the very opposite is true. When I read the tweet I wanted to know exactly when International Men’s Day was, I wanted to be absolutely certain that it existed and was celebrated with precisely the same passion and commitment as I was witnessing that weekend.
After all, feminism is about equality – the same rights, privileges and opportunities given to men and women alike. I don’t want to feel like an endangered baby tiger in need of some charitable giving and a purpose built sanctuary, I want to feel like an equal in society.
Days given over to addressing the difficulties faced by a particular group may be a good way of doing things, if we feel not enough is being done through ongoing public policy. But the idea that International Women’s Day means shaming men into silence and presenting ourselves as victims undermines not only how much has been achieved but the entire feminist ideal.
I think it’s vitally important we celebrate both, equally and positively. On International Women’s Day, we need to be campaigning to close the gender pay gap, challenge the absence of women in top professional positions, the undervaluing of women in sport, the belief that childcare and associated statutory leave are ‘women’s issues.’ Around the world, we need to be fighting to end the brutal mistreatment of women in cultures where suspected adultery carries a death sentence and nine year old girls are married off to older men for a lifetime of rape and subordination.
On International Men’s Day, we need to be campaigning to reduce the rate of male suicide, the lack of legal rights given to fathers when a marriage breaks down, the damaging impact of anti gay sentiment and propaganda, the increased chance of death in men with the same cancer diagnosis as women. Across the globe, we need to tackle the ongoing recruitment of boy soldiers in civilian conflict and support the protection of men of all ages working in physically unsafe environments without proper regulation.
Above all, it comes down to the overarching principle that dignity, respect and equality are basic human rights, for everyone.