November 19th marks International Men’s Day (IMD). Launched in 1999, IMD is now celebrated in more than 80 countries worldwide.
Why is there a special day dedicated to men? International Men’s Day aims to challenge the rigid stereotypes around masculinity and raise awareness of the harmful effects on the mental and social well-being of men and boys. Studies show that masculine gender role socialization makes it more difficult for men to seek help for depression and other mental health issues.
The cultural and societal biases that restrict men from expressing their emotions begin in childhood. For instance, boys are often taught to “man up” if they cry or feel scared, according to the State of America’s Boys report conducted by Promundo and the Kering Foundation in partnership with Plan International. Among the key findings:
- Two-thirds of parents in the U.S. say boys aren’t comfortable expressing themselves when they’re scared, sad, lonely, or unsure of themselves. Nearly half say boys aren’t comfortable expressing love.
- At least 72% of young men (18-30 years old) in the U.S. say they’ve been told a “real man” behaves in a certain way, which involves being heterosexual, tough, and a risk-taker.
- Young men who embrace harmful masculine norms are 5 times more likely to bully (verbally, online, or physically) or sexually harass someone. They are also twice as likely to experience depression or thoughts of suicide.
The research points to the need to support boys’ emotional skills and their ability to build and maintain a network of strong, caring relationships as keys to raising a more connected, emotionally healthy, gender-equal generation.
Similarly, the objective of International Men’s Day is to promote healthy masculinity in men and boys. How do you observe IMD? Themes to focus on include:
- Promoting positive male role models.
- Celebrating men’s positive contributions to society, community, family, marriage, child care, and the environment.
- Focusing on men’s health and well-being.
- Highlighting discrimination against men in areas of social services, social attitudes and expectations, and law.
- Improving gender relations and promoting gender equality.
- Creating a safer, better world where people can reach their full potential.
“The concept and themes of International Men’s Day are designed to give hope to the depressed, faith to the lonely, comfort to the broken-hearted, transcend barriers, eliminate stereotypes, and create a more caring humanity,” said IMD Founder Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh.
Teelucksingh encourages men to teach the boys in their lives the values, character, and responsibilities of being a man. He notes that leading by example will help create a fair and safe society that provides everybody the opportunity to prosper.