This week, former Liberal Party Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop told the Sunday Telegraph that she did not believe there should be an International Men's Day.
Australian Men's Health Forum CEO Glen Poole responded to Bishop's suggestion in an article printed in the Daily Telegraph today, 5 March. This is what he said:
This Friday, March 8, is International Women’s Day, a day that rightly celebrates women’s achievements and highlights some of the gender issues that women and girls face.
The day also marks the annual debate about International Men’s Day, when mindless anti-feminists yell “What about the men?” and the angry man-bashers shout back “Every day is International Men’s Day!”
This year Julie Bishop, the most senior female politician in Liberal Party history, fired the first shot in an article declaring that we don’t need an international day for men.
“I’ve heard this argument before. It’s hard not to respond with, ‘So the remaining 364 days of the year aren’t enough to celebrate men’s achievements?’” The slogan “every day is International Men’s Day”, may a clever put down to the petty-minded few who oppose International Women’s Day, but it is a slap in the face for the open-minded men and women who mark International Men’s Day around the world every year.
In reality, every day isn’t International Men’s Day, it’s actually held on just one day (19th November) and celebrated in more than 60 countries worldwide.
The facts about men's health
One of the reasons we mark the day in Australia, is to highlight some of the social issues that men and boys face. Research by the Australian Men’s Health Forum has found that men die six years younger than women; 3 in 4 suicides are men; boys are 60 per cent more likely to drop out of school by Year 12; men account for 92 per cent of workplace deaths and 72 per cent of work-related disease; only 5 per cent of primary parental leave is taken by dads; around two million Australian men are experiencing economic insecurity; one in four men are socially isolated and most government initiatives to tackle gender issues focus on women and girls.
According to researchers at the University of Canberra, the majority of Australians support equality between men and women, but are concerned that men and boys are increasingly excluded from measures to improve gender equality.
When supporters of International Women’s Day argue against there being a day for men, they risk losing public support for the important gender issues they want to address like tackling violence against women, empowering women in public life and improving women’s health.
Julie Bishop is using this year’s event to promote the work of the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation. Ovarian cancer kills over 1000 women a year in Australia. Her advice “to men and women” alike, is to see International Women’s Day as an opportunity to “support a cause that supports women”.
It’s a simple and convincing message that most fair-minded people would support. So why is it so hard for Bishop and others, to also call on men and women around the world to see International Men’s Day in November as an opportunity to support a cause that supports men?
Is it really so hard to support both women and men?
Some countries are beginning to give women’s issues and men’s issues a more equal footing. In the UK for example, Theresa May, became the first British Prime Minister to openly acknowledge International Men’s Day for addressing serious issues like men’s health, male suicide rates and the underperformance of boys in schools.
At a time when just 1 in 3 Canberra politicians are women, I can understand why Bishop’s knee-jerk reaction to the boofheads shouting “what about the men?” is to ridicule International Men’s Day, but wouldn’t a better response be to say: “Actually, there already is an International Men’s Day and I’ll be marking that day in November by supporting a cause that supports men. How about you?”
TAKE ACTION FOR MEN'S HEALTH
Read: Research confirms 5 uncomfortable facts about men's suicides (AMHF)
Read: Julie Bishop is wrong. We need International Men's Day (dailytelegraph.com.au)
View: International Men's Day website (AMHF)
Read: 10 ways men can take part in International Women's Day (International Men's Day)