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Ian Dinwiddy considers what International Men’s Day means to him and other men and why it matters
I didn’t always have a coaching business that focuses on helping stressed dads balance work and fatherhood. In fact, I started out balancing work, hockey and ad-hoc binge drinking….
There wasn’t that much work life balance to worry about. For the first 4/5 years of my working life there was no laptop, no email on my phone and no worries once I walked out the office.
And I definitely wasn’t thinking about International Men’s Day (IMD)
So, I appreciate that although it’s an important date to me now, the wider world is in a different place when it comes to awareness and, dare I say, interest.
Nothing illustrates this better than the somewhat predictable howls of anguish from some men every March 8th. For the 8th of March is International Women’s Day. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but we don’t lack our own day, us men have a day – I’m just not sure for that the average man really knows what to do with it. Promoting the idea that “every day is a school day” comedian Richard Herring has made a name for himself on Twitter pointing out when IMD is. In March he schedules replies reminding all those Twitter users (men) who ask ‘when is International Men’s Day eh?’ that it is in fact November 19 – today.
Before we look in more details about what IMD means to me, let’s take a look at what a random self-selecting group of men thought (gleaned from posting in The Modern Man Club Facebook group)
In the name of research, I asked the question: “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of International Men’s Day?”
This is what I learnt
With many IMD events often being driven by the HR departments of large corporates it’s understandable that events may slip below the radar. On the plus side there’s a huge opportunity. Typical responses were,
“I never even knew it existed”
“Is that a thing? That’s my first thought.”
“Didn’t know it was even a thing”
“IMD – a day which if celebrated, would cause a national meltdown.”
“I can see the feminist outrage already.”
“I can’t see how you would celebrate it without being beaten over the head and accused of supporting the patriarchy.”
Now I consider myself lucky that I know that women in general are incredibly supportive of men and the concept of IMD. Outside of the trauma of relationship breakdown most people will have very supportive and positive relationships with members of the opposite sex.
Gender equality isn’t a zero-sum game and in my experience both days shine a light on the challenges that society faces.
“If I think about it should be about – recognising the hard work men do around home and/or employment, recognising our terrible health, mental health, and domestic violence statistics, and recognising the often anti men views of family courts around the developed world. Celebrating the good and acknowledging the need to improve some areas.”
“Super important but in the context of the world we live in, we probably don’t want to discuss how men are ‘hard done by’ but probably focus on things like mental health stats, suicide stats, focus on how society forces men to suppress emotions.”
“What I would like it to mean. I guess seeing all the good things men & traditional masculinity has done for the world as well as it’s pit falls.”
These observations and desire nicely line up with the “official” world view of International Men’s Day as detailed on the https://ukmensday.org.uk/ website
“A good opportunity to discuss being a modern man and what that means but likely to be a bunch of incels moaning about women.”
“Not a good thought I have to admit. Soy boy springs to mind?”
It’s not something I recognise myself – some of the “manliest” men I know are big advocates of IMD. I see a lot of confident men, promoting positive images of masculinity and improving life for everyone. As Fidel Beauhill, the Modern Man Coach said “Personally I use it as a celebration of everything positive about modern men and masculinity”
That’s the crux of what it means to me – celebrating positive masculinity whilst shining a light on the challenges men face and the benefits to all of a focus on addressing them.
We only have to look at stats around boys attainment at school, incarceration and suicide rates to know that many men do face particular difficulties that society needs to address.
My message to men is simple: be proactive; seek out help and don’t be afraid to talk openly about pressures you face; and on International Men’s Day it’s as good a time as any to remember that you define what being a great man looks like.
Ian Dinwiddy is Founder and Director of Inspiring Dads – a coaching business specialising in supporting men with their work life balance.