Glen Poole wants to help men talk about masculinity, men’s issues and the experience of being a man. All of which we obviously find incredibly important here at The Good Men Project.
Today is International Men’s Day a day that will be marked in many different countries in many different ways. In the UK where I am co-ordinating the event for the sixth year running, our aim is to provide a national platform to help men talk about masculinity, men’s issues and the experience of being a man.
Broadly speaking the annual day aims to improve gender relations; focus on men’s health and wellbeing; promote male role models; celebrate the contributions men make to their communities; highlight the challenges men face and create a safer world for everyone. Each year we create a unifying theme for the day which in 2015 is “Making a Difference for Men and Boys”.
In the UK we’re aiming to make a difference by placing a particular focus on the male suicide crisis that is killing nearly 5,000 men a year across the country. One way we’re doing this is by making this deeply personal issue, a political issue.
We’ve secured an historic three-hour cross party Parliamentary debate focused “Male Suicide and International Men’s Day” which will see issues that adversely affect men, debated as a standalone topic in the House of Commons for the first time.
We’re also helping to take the conversation to the public with a new social media campaign designed to help men talk about male suicide, launched by the excellent charity CALM on International Men’s Day in partnership with the men’s grooming brand Lynx.
The #BiggerIssues campaign aims to provoke conversations about men’s issues by juxtaposing comparatively trivial topics that are getting a huge amount of public attention with the issue of male suicide. For example, more people are talking about vegan meatballs, recently tweeted about by CALM advocate Professor Green, than are talking about male suicide.
There’s a serious point behind the campaign, with 13 men now dying by suicide every day in the UK, there is an urgent need to find new ways to help men talk about the issues they face.
According to Jane Powell, CEO of the suicide prevention charity, CALM:
“There is a crisis in masculinity, where men feel unable or unwilling to get help even when they are hit by catastrophic life events, bereavement, divorce, job loss or similar. And until we can break down those barriers that prevent men accessing the help and support they need, we will struggle to cut the number of deaths.”
From a personal perspective, celebrating International Men’s Day is just one way to encourage more people to find creative ways to help men talk about the issues that are important to them. Research into men’s help-seeking behaviour shows that men are more likely to get help when it is socially acceptable for people to talk about the issue they are dealing with. This is why it is essential that people in positions of power, influence and trust use events like International Men’s Day to talk about men’s issues.
An event that’s taking a different approach to helping men talk about gender issues is Being A Man (BAM), the Southbank Centre’s annual festival that explores the challenges of masculine identity in the 21st Century.
This year’s festival features over 150 speakers and performers including transgender boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, comedians David Baddiel, Jeremy Hardy and Frankie Boyle, rapper Akala, 2015 Man Booker Prize winning author Marlon James, DJ Gemma Cairney and actors Jason Isaacs and Charlie Condou. The festival has been scheduled to take place the week after International Men’s Day on 27-29 November .
The event is the brainchild of Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre, who also runs an event around International Women’s Day called Women Of The World (WOW). She says:
“Men are often under pressure to demonstrate heroism, be daring and ‘man up’. Events like International Men’s Day and Southbank Centre’s Being a Man festival are helping men to investigate what conflicts the modern man faces in a world where everything is changing: work, family, image and gender balance. This year BAM will provide a unique opportunity, amidst all the debate about men, for men themselves to come together to share stories, discuss the pleasures and challenges of being men, and look at what kind of world they want for themselves and others.”
We’re also seeing a new type of men’s media growing in the UK which, unlike traditional men’s magazines, thrives on more meaningful conversations about men. These include Huffington Post Men, Telegraph Men and insideMAN, all of which are publishing a range of relevant articles on International Men’s Day.
Dan Bell, features editor of the online magazine insideMAN which is publishing a series of men’s personal stories in the run up to International Men’s Day says:
“As a journalist who regularly interviews ordinary men, my experience is that all men have personal stories that they want to share. But being heard is a two-way process. It involves speaking and listening. For too long now men have either not spoken about their experiences of being male, or have not been listened to when they have spoken out. International Men’s Day is an important platform for helping men taken about their everyday experiences of being a man.”
It’s an exciting time to be taking part in these new conversations about men, manhood and masculinity in the UK. My hope is we find ways to extend the level of interest is this conversation throughout the year because, despite what some people tell you, everyday isn’t International Men’s Day!