Monday, November 19, 2012

Why You Should Care About International Men's Day

Did you know that today is International Men's Day?

I probably wouldn't, despite the fact that I'm raising 4 future men, except for the fact that I handle social media for a nifty organization called The Boys Initiative. And when one writes about boys, one tends to search out news that is boy- (and men-) related.

The fact that I'd never heard of International Men's Day says something, I believe, about the state of the world we live in. Even today -- November 19, 2012 -- there are people who consider the very idea of a day  for men to be a very bad joke. Don't believe me? Check out some of these Tweets:

there's an international men's day? Felt like we had all 365 of them

I think possibly my favourite claim made by international men's dayis that there needs to be more of a focus on men's health.

Happy International Men's Day, or "Monday"

Clearly, some people still feel that there is little need to focus on the needs of men and boys -- so little need that devoting even one day to raise awareness of those needs seems like too much.

But the fact of the matter is this: Men and boys are not doing universally well. True, men still run most countries. True, men still earn more than women, penny for penny, especially when expanded across the lifespan. And in many parts of the world, the simple biological fact of being male confers certain advantages and rights.

But it's also true that not all boys and men are doing well. Male suicide rates are far higher than female suicide rates. Men are less likely than women to seek medical care -- which means that many men don't seek help until their health issues become severe. And men and boys are increasingly falling behind academically: Boys are far more likely than girls to flunk or drop out of school, and far more likely to be found in special education classes. They're also less likely to graduate from college.

To ignore those facts is to ignore the very real needs of half of our population. And to attend to those needs -- to see what can be done to improve male health and education -- does not mean that we must forget girls and women.

I'm the mother of four boys, and while I strongly believe that girls and women should have equal rights and access to the world, I also believe that my boys -- and yours -- deserve a chance to be successful. I don't want my boys growing up in a world where being male is considered a liability; I want my sons to grow up in a world that accepts them as boys and supports them on their journey to become men.

We have a long way to go. The pendulum has shifted so far toward supporting and encouraging girls and women that I'm afraid we've forgotten the boys and men. I see it in school structures and educational styles that naturally dovetail with the learning preferences and styles of female students and teachers, in schools that demonize energy and experimentation and physicality. (For the record, I think girls could benefit from a more active learning environment as well!) I see it in social conversations: It's OK to talk about female health disparities, but not as OK to talk about the unmet health needs of males.

That's why International Men's Day exists. That's why our boys need our help. So this International Men's Day, I ask you: What are you doing to help the boys in your life?

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