A REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL MEN’S DAY IN THE UK (19TH NOVEMBER 2011)
2011 marked the biggest ever celebration of International Men’s Day (IMD) in the UK (Saturday 19th November).
As with previous years, there are no doubt many actions and activities and important conversations that took place on International Men’s Day that we don’t know about yet (and some we never will) – so this review is simply an attempt to give a representative flavour of some of the work that took place this year.
INCREASING THE UK’S INTERNATIONAL ROLE
Firstly, we should highlight the increased role that the UK now plays in the international IMD community which grew to more than 60 countries this year.
Our key contributions this year have been:
- Proposing and crafting the 2011 theme – Giving Every Boy The Best Possible Start In Life – which has inspired IMD actions in every continent around the globe
- Drafting IMD’s Diversity Statement which confirms that the days core objectives apply equally to all men and boys irrespective of their age, ability, social background, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity, religious belief and relationship status
- Helping to grow IMD in Europe with the recruitment of an IMD co-ordinator for Sweden – Pelle Billing
GROWING THE UK IMD COMMUNITY
In the UK we also welcome two new co-ordinators:
- Shane Ryan, CEO of Working With Men, our new London Co-ordinator
- Kenny D’Cruz, who is taking on co-ordinator duties for Essex and Wales
In terms of marking the day we estimate that nearly 100 different organisations got involved in small or large ways this year.
FIRST NATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR MEN AND BOYS
At IMD UK HQ in Brighton & Hove planning for the day started 12 months ago on International Men’s Day 2010 when we held a regional conference – Improving Services For Men and Boys – and committed to go national on 1st November 2011.
That commitment led to the First National Conference for Men and Boys being held in the run up to IMD 2011 – which was a groundbreaking and inspirational event that you can read about by clicking here.
MORE THAN 80 CHARITIES BACKED LETTER TO PARLIAMENT
Following on from the First National Conference for Men and Boys, more than 80 charities and organisations backed our IMD letter to Parliament asking the Government to place a greater focus on issues facing men and boys in the UK. To find out more about this letter and the organisations signing it click here now.
MORE EVENTS THAN EVER BEFORE
There were more events than ever before this year.
In Brighton & Hove we held our 2nd annual Tash Dash fundraising event – where men, women and children (and a couple of small cute dogs this year) stick on, draw on or grow moustaches and take part in a 5km fundraising fun run for The Men’s Network up and down the seafront.
Also in Brighton & Hove, two graduates of The Men’s Network Community Leaders Programme marked the day. One hosted a ‘Men and Spirituality’ event while the second created the inspired Dandelion Stories project.
Dandelion Stories gave men with Learning Disabilities an opportunity to contribute to the day and connect with other men in their local community while helping to promote some excellent national charities working with men and boys. To read more about the Dandelion Stories project click here now.
And London charity Working With Men joined the party with a bang this year using the day to launch a project to inspire 100,000 Londoners to get involved in volunteering in the next year. Working With Men also used the day as a platform for a fundraising Jazz Concert.
Another regular supporter of IMD is LifeBuilders in Birmingham, led by David King, who this year hosted two events – an International Men’s Day breakfast and an International Men’s Day film screening.
INCREASED MEDIA PROFILE
While the public awareness and media recognition of International Men’s Day in the UK is still very low, there are encouraging signs that this is now starting to shift.
The Guardian newspaper ran a feature in its Comment Is Free section entitled- “Mocking International Men’s Day only proves it’s needed” – with the online version generating more than 500 comments at the last count – click here for the article.
In Wales, Newport Council’s equality champion, Cllr Peter Davies, who is the father of Monmouth MP David Davies hit the headlines by highlighting the Welsh Assembly spent £30,000 on International Women’s Day celebrations and nothing on International Men’s Day.
In Preston, Lancashire, the community radio station Preston FM dedicated a whole day of programmes to International Men’s Day and we also pleased to see the Rights Of Man Blog giving the day several mentions including this article here.
IMPROVED RECOGNITION IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR
A notable shift this year is that the public sector is beginning to recognise that marking the day is a way to demonstrate a commitment to promote gender equality for men as well as women. We have noticed that the idea of promoting International Men’s Day gets suggested when public sector bodies review their track record on equalities.
A notable example is Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) which stated in its 2010/2011 Gender Equality Scheme Progress Report that it’s Gender Network has raised awareness of gender issues and promoted gender equality through communications about International Men’s Day, namely an intranet article.
A second example is Thanet College which published a report in July 2011 on its duty as a public sector body to promote equality and diversity and made a commitment to mark International Men’s Day for the first time in 2011.
A fourth example is Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust which for the second year running used International Men’s Day as a vehicle to promote Health Checks for men with three drop-in sessions for staff and volunteers.
There are two clear opportunities for growth here – one is the very simple act of taking action to ensure all public sector bodies highlight the marking of International Men’s Day as evidence of their commitment to gender equality.
Second, once public sectors acknowledge the day, there is an opportunity to identify simple and effective ways to take action to mark the day.
PIONEERING IMD IN UNIVERSITIES
Universities are a very important community for IMD to engage with. In recent years there has been some notable resistance to focussing on men’s issues on UK campuses. For example:
- The formation of two different university men’s groups in Manchester and Oxford in 2009 was opposed by some university women’s groups
- A facebook group called “We oppose men’s groups on our campuses” was set up in response
- A Executive Member of Leeds University’s Student Union blogged in opposition to IMD under the headline “An International Man’s Day – Do Me A Favour”
- A male student at LSE launched a legal battle against the Gender Studies department for being anti-male called Sexism Busters
On a positive note, Staffordshire University listed International Men’s Day in its calendar of events and a special mention must go to the Gender Equality Team at Exeter University who used International Men’s Day this year to raise awareness of male cancers, to raise money for a cancer charity and to encourage the celebration of male role models.
As with the Public Sector bodies, Universities are clearly a community that IMD UK can do more to reach out to in coming years to help us grow awareness and participation in the day.
A new dimension that emerged this year is the role of individual campaigners for IMD. Two examples are Peter Leckie, Founder of a pressure group called Representing Men, who embraced IMD by going to a cheap t-shirt shop, getting International Men’s Day printed on it, wearing the t-shirt and going out to start conversations with people.
International Men’s Day in the UK came of age in 2011 helping to create an excellent foundation for significantly expanding and growing the day in 2012.