How we chose the theme for International Men's Day 2023
This year's theme for International Men' Day on Sunday 19 November was chosen by supporters of the day, and is "Healthy Men, Healthy World."
The Australian Men’s Health Forum has hosted the www.internationalmensday.info website for Australia since 2018. We began consulting supporters of IMD about this year’s theme in March and have spoken to around 200 people in the process.
We began with a survey which found strong support for the six objectives of International Men's Day. When we asked people which of the objectives they liked or liked a lot this is what they said:
- Improving male health (94%)
- Acknowledging the contribution of men and boys (84%)
- Valuing male role models (84%)
- Tackling discrimination and disadvantage experienced by men and boys (82%)
- Fostering positive gender relations (78%)
- Making the world a safer place for everyone (79%)
We also found strong support for the aims of the day. We asked people which of the aims they liked or liked a lot and this is what they told us:
- Highlighting some of the social issues that men and boys face (94%)
- Making a difference for the men and boys in your community (89%
- Celebrating men and boys in all their diversity (79%)
Hot topics for IMD 2023
When we looked at some of the different topics we could base this year's theme on, we found the strongest support for health (85%), mental health (89%) and male suicide (85%).
As one respondent said: "Anything that can be done to prevent male suicide should be a priority. Improving men's mental health would be a positive step."
Another agreed: "Suicide prevention needs to be highlighted regularly, given the changing nature of challenges throughout men’s lives”.
Some wanted a broad focus on men's physical and social wellbeing. One health practitioner told us: "Men’s mental health and male suicide feature prominently but men’s wellness which underpin both these themes receives little attention. I’m a physiotherapist. Most men I see have injuries, however, an increasing number are men with relationship related anxiety. As a result, they are not sleeping, not recovering, becoming physically injured etc."
Others saw men's health in terms of masculinity, with one respondent saying "broadening the idea of what healthy masculinity looks like will benefit everyone".
Beyond health, some other popular topics included men's strengths (84%), fatherhood (83%), men's issues (77%) and mateship (74%).
Dad's the word
The topic of fatherhood sparked a rich discussion. Some thought it was a great theme and an opportunity to allow "men the space to describe what fatherhood means to them and how it has changed their perspective", while some wanted to ensure "uncles and other father figures" were included.
One respondent noted that "fatherhood is positively correlated with so many social benefits", while another said "strong families are needed to support fatherhood and strong families grow out of genuinely committed male-female relationships”.
There was concern that fatherhood could be a difficult topic for some men. As one said: “It’s important to reinforce that's it's ok not to be a father and that it does not impact how you are viewed". Another added: "not all men are fathers & many don’t see their kids, this topic certainly needs covering but IMD may not be the right time".
Overall, we felt that this comment summed up why Fatherhood may not be the perfect topic for an International Men’s Day theme: “I think fathers are celebrated on Father's Day, IMD should be bigger than one group”.
Stick with your mates
Last year’s International Men’s Day theme in Australia was “Celebrating Mateship”, with the aim of encouraging more men to “make time for mates”. Despite being covered in 2022, mateship remains a popular theme in Australia.
As one respondent said: “I've found this to be probably a standout in terms of priority, real opportunity here”.
Another backed this up saying: “Social connection is possibly the most important contributor to men’s health, wellbeing and longevity”.
A third told us: “Mateship is extremely important as it has always been in Australian culture. It is important to know there is always another male there to watch your back and give a helping hand and ear when you are in need."
One respondent said: “Having male mates allows you to express yourself in a non-judgmental environment, to be yourself and just have fun.” Another said: “Every man needs other men with whom he can relate as a mate. Strong male friendships help build strong families and provide a good example for both sons and daughters.”
Positive male role models
Ideas around celebrating men and male role models are both very popular, although some were unsure about how a theme on this topic would work.
One man summed this up well telling us: “Boys, men and masculinity need to be seen by all as positive contributors to the fabric of all of society, but the idea of upholding men's role models is one that I hesitate on because role models all too often turn out less that worthy of being looked up to.”
Another saw the need to counter negative male role models: “Focus on creating good male role models, there aren’t many out there and the void is being filled by unhelpful voices.”
Many felt we should celebrate men’s contribution through work, one suggesting we should highlight “the positive roles of men in the workplace, often hazardous, lonely, tough conditions, long hours, men volunteering for Rural Fire Service etc”.
Others took a broader view of men’s role in society. One said: “Being a man is a choice that comes with responsibilities and is far more than just being a male. By the choices we make we enable compassion, learning and life lessons for our children.”
While there was lots of support for topics around celebrating men’s strengths and male role models, the topic didn’t work for everyone. Some felt if could reinforce negative attitudes, beliefs and behaviours and many felt that some of the male role models celebrated in Australia were questionable.
Most commonly, even among strong supporters of the topic, there was concern that this topic “could be taken the wrong way”.
It’s good to talk
There was a lot of support for using International Men’s Day to help reduce stigma around men’s mental health.
This comment was typical of many we heard: “I think there should also be a focus on embracing our vulnerability as a strength, not something to be ashamed of.” Others wanted to highlight men’s role helping other men. One said: “We should be getting men and boys to talk about their issues and mental health with their fathers and male role-models”.
Another said: “It's okay for men to be vulnerable and talk about stress and pressure. Men should not dismiss other men who are feeling down or depressed and instead re-assure them and check up on them.”
We also picked up significant pockets of fatigue around this topic, as one supporter said: I feel like this topic/approach has been done to death. Yes, we need to keep revisiting it, but it needs a holiday for a little while.
Others felt that we need to go deeper than talking saying: “connection is key here. Themes like ‘time to talk’ are good, but ‘time to connect’ feels better, as connection can happen in so many ways."
Making the final decision
Following our first round of consultation we homed in on a shortlist of three popular topics:
- Men’s Health (including mental health and male suicide)
- Celebrating men (and male role models)
- Talking about mental health and men’s issues (and checking in on mates)
We undertook a second round of consultation with IMD supporters and while all three themes and related sub-themes proved popular, we settled on the theme that combined the strongest consistent support and the least negative feedback.
As a result, the theme for International Men’s Day (IMD) in Australia is “Healthy Men, Health World”. The theme will incorporate popular sub-themes like:
- Healthy Men, Healthy World – Take action, stay healthy!
- Healthy Men, Healthy World – Check in on a mate!
- Healthy Men, Healthy World – Improving male health together!
- Healthy Men, Healthy World – Healthy male role models!
International Men’s Day for everyone
On a final note, we received a range of feedback about making sure International Men’s Day is for everyone. Some of the comments we received included:
“Let’s incorporate diversity across the board from income, education, age and more!”
“Focus on learning and respecting cultural diversity about masculinity and give priority to First Nations issues of masculinity and suicide”.
“As transphobia is a big topic at the moment, I think it's key to remind men that transphobia has negative effects on all men, and not only trans men. All men are different, and we need to remind them that that's ok. Masculinity isn't one thing.”
“Unite men and women and celebrating their different strengths and building a world in which we work collaboratively towards the betterment of society as a whole.”
“Make International Men’s Day about celebrating men from different countries and cultures who have made Australia their home.”
International Men’s Day 2023 on Sunday 19 November is about celebrating men and boys in all our diversity. Find out more about how you can take part in the day at www.internationalmensday.com.