One unexpected highlight this year was a long debate on The Guardian Comment Is Free site sparked by an article from writer Ally Fogg entitled Mocking International Men’s Day only proves it is needed.
Fogg claims he was ambivalent about IMD before writing the piece, but after canvassing people on Twitter and finding the majority of his followers were dismissive, mocking or actively hostile he decided that this was proof enough for him that IMD is needed.
So his article went live on the eve of IMD and at the last count there were more than 500 comments including an additional post from Fogg revealing that one of the hostile Twitter comments about IMD was “offensive, it’s like having an international white people day”.
In the face of people getting offended, I still very much enjoyed engaging with readers on the comments board and wanted to share one post in particular as it prompted Fogg to respond – “great post, makes me happy that I wrote the article”.
So here is a lightly edited version of the post – and if you have time to read through the other 500 plus comments then click here now for the full debate.
COMMENT FROM GLEN POOLE OF THE MEN’S NETWORK:
I agree in general that movements focussed on one group – such as men or women – can be needlessly divisive. What ultimately defines that is the context within which the movement sits.
So when you hear people say to Ally Fogg that IMD is offensive, it is most probably because their context is something like “men are bad patriarchs who oppress women and cause all women to be unequal and discriminated against” – and looking at the world through that filter will have you find any attempt to focus on the specific needs of men to be offensive.
Similarly with a men’s movement – if your context is “feminism is bad and men are more oppressed than women” OR “men are privileged oppressors and we must work with them to help them acknowledge their evil ways and breakfree of the constraints of their masculinity” – then those approaches could be misconceived and needlessly divisive.
What’s interesting about IMD and the emerging new ‘men’s movement’ in the UK – and what makes it new – is that the context is this – we have a commitment to create a world where all humans can fulfill their greatest potential and want to understand the barriers that they face and how we can help overcome them – and right now we’re focussed on what it takes to help men and boys fulfill their greatest potential – because the high rates of suicide, fatherlessness, homelessness, offending, poor health, worse educational outcomes etc suggests there’s a lot we can do by become masters at working with that one gender.
And most people – in my opinion – who spend any time committed to making a difference while working with men soon come to the conclusion that we need to integrate and work with men AND women.
And what’s missing is the women’s sector is 40 years ahead of the men’s sector and those thinkers who look beyond feminism to ‘gender liberaton’ for men and women believe that it is absolutely crucial that there is a phase of ‘masculism’ first.
I don’t see it exactly like that as it’s not ALL about gender and where I’d like to see us work towards is a world where we are profoundly skilled at making a difference for ourselves and others and addressing whatever barriers come up – be they gender, race, disability, education whatever.
And I DO agree with the gender liberation view that we need to develop men and boys – and I see it not so much as a men’s movement – simply a sector that is brilliant at working with men and boys – and if we can build a sector that is exquisitely skilled at tackling suicide, fatherlessness, poor health etc – in a way that is focussed on men – then where appropriate we will also want to transfer that expertise to working with women.
And we’re not there yet – in our city women’s projects receive 1,300 times more funding than men’s projects – so we need to have organisations like ours advocating for improved service for specific groups of men – helping the public sector to do better, identifying the very best ways of working with men and boys and bringing the best men and boys projects into our city and creating new approaches that make a difference.
So all we’re doing is building our capacity to serve men an boys particularly in areas where they are doing significantly worse – and that’s only divisive if you believe there are just two kinds of human being (men and women) . That’s not my ‘movement’ – my movement is committed to having the world work for everyone – by first becoming much more expert at meeting the specific needs of men and boys.
How could anyone be genuinely offended by that?
Strategic Director, The Men’s Network and UK Co-ordinator for International Men’s Day