International Men’s Day (IMD) is an annual international event celebrated on 19 November. Inaugurated in 1992 on 7 February by Thomas Oaster. The project of International Men’s Day was conceived one year earlier on 8 February 1991.The project was re-initialised in 1999 in Trinidad and Tobago. The longest running celebration of International Men’s Day is Malta, where events have occurred since 7 February 1994. Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh, who revived the event, chose 19 November to honour his father’s birthday and also to celebrate the efforts of Trinidad and Tobago football team in qualifying for the world cup. November is also occasionally recognized as International Men’s Month. Dr Teelucksingh has promoted International Men’s Day as not just a gendered day but a day where all issues affecting men and boys can be addressed. He has said of IMD and it’s grass roots activists, “They are striving for gender equality and patiently attempt to remove the negative images and the stigma associated with men in our society”
International Men’s Day is supported by a variety of individuals and groups in Oceania, the Caribbean, North America, Asia, Europe and Africa. Speaking on behalf of UNESCO, Director of Women and Culture of Peace Ingeborg Breines said of IMD, “This is an excellent idea and would give some gender balance. She added that UNESCO was looking forward to cooperating with the organizers. The objectives of celebrating an International Men’s Day, set out in “The Six Pillars of International Men’s Day”, include focusing on men’s and boys’ health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting male role model It is an occasion to highlight discrimination against men and boys and to celebrate their achievements and contributions, in particular for their contributions to community, family, marriage, and child care and to promote basic humanitarian values.
International Men’s Day is celebrated in over 70 countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Burundi, Canada, the Cayman Islands, China, Croatia, Cuba, Denmark, France, Ghana, Grenada, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Isle of Man, Jamaica, Malta, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Zimbabwe, on 19 November, and global support for the celebration is broad. International Men’s Day is followed by Universal Children’s Day on 20 November, forming a 48-hour celebration of men and children, respectively.
Calls for an International Men’s Day have been noted since at least the 1960s, when many men were reported to “have been agitating privately to make 23 Feb International Men’s Day, the equivalent of 8 March, which is International Women’s Day” In the Soviet Union this day was The Red Army and Navy Day since 1922, which in 2002 was renamed to Defender of the Fatherland Day. The date was informally viewed a male counterpart of Women’s Day (8 March) in some territories of the Union, however due to the day’s limited focus to historical events some countries of the former union have moved to adopt the more ‘male specific’ 19 November as International Men’s Day, including Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Russia and Georgia.
In 1968 American Journalist John P. Harris wrote an editorial in the Salina Journal highlighting a lack of balance in the Soviet system, which promoted an International Women’s Day for the female workers without promoting a corresponding day for male workers. Harris stated that although he did not begrudge Soviet women their March day of glory, its resulting gender inequality clearly exhibited a serious flaw in the Communist system, which, “makes much of the equal rights it has given the sexes, but as it turns out, the women are much more equal than the men. Harris stated that while the men toiled along in their grooves doing what their government and womenfolk tell them to do, there was no day when males are recognised for their service, leading Harris to conclude that “This strikes me as unwarranted discrimination and rank injustice. Similar questions about the inequality of observing women’s day without a corresponding men’s day occurred in media publications from the 1960s through to the 1990s,at which time the first attempts at inaugurating international Men’s Day are recorded.
In the early 1990s, organizations in the United States, Australia and Malta held small events in February at the invitation of Thomas Oaster who directed the Missouri Center for Men’s Studies at the University of Missouri–Kansas City. Oaster successfully promoted the event in 1993 and 1994, but his following attempt in 1995 was poorly attended and he ceased plans to continue the event in subsequent years. the Maltese Association for Men’s Rights continued as the only country that continued to observe the event each year in February. Until 2009 when the Maltese AMR Committee voted to move the date to 19 November.
Although International Men’s and Women’s Day are considered to be ‘gender focussed’ events, they are not ideological mirror images because they highlight issues that are considered unique to men or to women. The history of IMD primarily concerns celebrating issues that are considered unique to men’s and boys experiences, along with the emphasis on positive role models “is deemed necessary in a social context which is often fascinated with images of males behaving badly… In highlighting positive male role models IMD attempts to show that males of all ages respond much more energetically to positive role models than they do to negative stereotyping.”
The following states and cities have recognized International Men’s Day: Pennsylvania, New York, Iowa (Luther College in Decorah, Iowa), Illinois, Virginia, Hawaii, Florida, California, Arizona, Alabama, and Michigan; Washington, D.C.; Dallas, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia. In 2012 International Men’s Day was celebrated during the weeks before the observance of 2012 International Men’s Day on 12 October 2012. Twala unveiled a ten-year plan for International Men’s Day, known as the “2012–2022: International Men’s Day Ten Year Plan” which will tackle, over a ten-year period, the key challenges of education, physical and mental health, violence, fatherhood, positive male role models, and real-life options which prevent boys and young men from maturing into purpose-driven, productive, and successful adults. Following a review , a general consensus was reached among coordinators in the United States for International Men’s Day to adopt and develop this plan in the United States. The US 2012–2022 International Men’s Day Ten Year Plan Committee has been established and members who are regional coordinators for International Men’s Day in the United States are working on developing and implementing the plan.
In the United Kingdom International Men’s Day is coordinated by Glen Poole (editor of insideMAN magazine) with support from Mark Brooks (Chair of the ManKind Initiative) domestic abuse charity and Tony Stott (Healing-Men). In 2014, over 25 organisations held events across the UK – including two in the House of Commons. This was continued in 2015 where Philip Davies MP introduced a debate in the Palace of Westminster about men’s issues on 19 November. and the Day has been endorsed by the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP. In 2016, over 60 events were held. University of Kent students celebrated International Men’s Day the university campus on 19 November 2008. Activities for IMD night included 7 a side football tournament, comedy acts and a live music festival, fronted by the student band “Jad”. There was a raffle, a guitar hero competition and an Xbox 360 tournament to raise money. All proceeds raised went to ORCHID a charity for all male cancers, including prostate, penile or testicular cancer.
Planned events to mark IMD at the University of York in 2015 were cancelled at the last minute by the University, after pressure from some 200 staff, students, and alumni, who signed an open letter on 13 November. Using strong radical feministic viewpoints of a perceived “patriarchy” and dismissing terms used such as ‘gender equality is for everyone’ as simply echoing “misogynistic rhetoric”, the letter also vocalized a view that “men’s issues cannot be approached in the same way as unfairness and discrimination towards women” Subsequently, the University made no plans to mark the event in 2016,despite a counter-petition
In November 2010 the Brighton Men’s Network organised an IMD conference event in Brighton for professionals, experts and people interested in helping the city in improving services for men and boys. Chair of the Men’s Network Glen Poole stated that public sector bosses, the voluntary sector, business leaders and concerned individuals will come together and explore how to help all men and boys live more fulfilled lives and make a bigger contribution to the city, and concluded, “This event will be an important step towards getting people to agree on the actions we need to take and help us develop the world’s first citywide strategy for men and boys that we aim to launch next year.” At Hartlepool, Rossmere Youth Centre hosted an IMD evening for boys and girls between the ages of 13 and 19 focused on health, gender equality and promoting male role models. Activities included rides on a rodeo bull, a Gladiators-style event, an Indian head massage, and dressing up in sumo suits. Organisations Springboard, Nacro and Jobsmart attended to give information and advice on training opportunities. In 2010 Tiemo Entertainment sponsored a ‘Celebration of Men Dinner’ in London’s Hotel Ibis in Euston, with Keynote Speaker Mr Damion Queva – Publisher of Fathers Quarterly magazine. Discussions were conducted on the topic, “What is the purpose of International Men’s Day?” and attendees were treated to a wide-ranging discussion of some of the key issues facing men today. The mixed panel of professionals (including women) included Investment Analyst Michael Young, HR Manager Beverley Green, Builder and Reach Role Model Hylton Forrester, Wendy Forrester, Michael Peters, Polish Publisher Anna Prochon and the Keynote speaker Damion Queva, Publisher of Fathers Quarterly magazine in the UK.
A website (ukmensday.org.uk) was created in 2013 listing the events and supporting organisations in the UK. In Northern Ireland 2010 Deputy Mayor of Newry and Mourne Council, Cllr Karen Mc Kevitt launched the Magnet Young Men’s Health Event,’ on Friday 19 November. The event was attended by men from across the district and representatives from local statutory, voluntary and community organisations were organised to celebrate 19 November as International Men’s Day. Deputy Mayor, Cllr Mc Kevitt said, ‘It is a great idea to give an issue that has an international perspective a local focus. All men need to look after their health and take advantage of the services and help that is out there, as we all do. But it is particularly good to see an event that looks at the barriers that young men may be facing and brings together people from all organisations across the district to look at what can be done to work together to make things better. The event offered opportunities for men to have health checks with experienced staff from Action Cancer, and speakers such as Ken Harland (University of Ulster’s Centre of Young Men’s studies), Peter Mc Donald, a senior child care worker from Giggles Daycare nursery, and local athlete Ronan Murtagh shared their own insight into the choices young men make and the opportunities that are out there for young men today. Also in attendance was Jerome Burns, Assistant Director, Department for Social Development. Jerome stated, ‘The department for Social Development is delighted to support local initiatives that work with young men to highlight inequalities in health.
IMD was inaugurated in Scotland in 2010. The event was endorsed by the Government of Scotland and by the Men’s Health Forum of Scotland (MHFS). The MHFS celebrated the day with a roundtable event to promote the health and wellbeing of men and boys by bringing together key people and organisations. The focus of the event was to discuss the rationale for developing a national men’s health policy in Scotland. The event took place at Elliot House, the office of NHS Quality Improvement Scotland (QIS) in Edinburgh, where there were representations from Scottish Government, NHS Leads and Directors in the Voluntary Health Sector who discussed the issues and set up a short term task group to take this work forward. Jim Leishman, Men’s Health Coordinator, NHS Forth Valley said: “This event was a huge opportunity to drive through improvements in men’s health in Scotland. In 2011 The Welsh Government was accused by Tory councillor Peter Davies (father of MP Philip Davies) of sex discrimination for supporting International Women’s Day with grants totalling £30,000 while ignoring International Men’s Day.
As well as the six Core Objectives, a secondary theme for IMD is usually suggested by world coordinators such as peace in 2002, men’s health in 2003, healing and forgiveness in 2007, positive male role models in 2009 and ‘our children’s future’ in 2010. It is not compulsory to adopt these secondary themes and participants are welcome to establish individual themes to suit local needs and concerns. Past themes have included Giving Boys The Best Possible Start In Life, Helping Men and Boys Live longer, Happier and Healthier Lives, Keeping Men and Boys safe, Working Together For Men and Boys, Working To Expand Reproductive Options for Men, preventing male suicide and Celebrating Men And Boys In All Their Diversity.