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International Men’s Day shouldn’t be brushed off

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Acting as if it’s an ‘anti-feminist’ celebration hurts us all.

Observing International Men’s Day in 2018 might seem a little out of place. Amid the one-year mark of the Me Too movement against sexual harassment and assault, and the snail’s pace at which salaries of women of color are tracking to meet up with those of white men, “celebrating” men and masculinity feels “unnecessary.”

“Isn’t every day International Men’s Day?” I can recall myself snidely commenting years ago.

But this day of acknowledgment isn’t so much about celebrating masculinity as it is about questioning it. About checking in with men in your life to make sure they know that, contrary to how they may feel their own issues are being regarded publicly, people care about their health and wellbeing.

We care if men struggle with meeting the unspoken criteria of masculinity, or if they find themselves to be a survivor of sexual assault, or if they live with depression or suicidal ideation. We care that gay, bisexual, and transgender men are unfairly harassed and discriminated against, and that men of color are unfairly policed by people in their communities.

International Men’s Day gives us an opportunity to signal the acceptance of healthy masculinities, and remind ourselves to check in with the people in our lives who may have problems embracing those ideas for themselves.

Across Twitter, people are sharing their hopes and reminders for International Men’s Day, using the day as a hashtag. Some are discussing the health risks that men often have to deal with at a higher rate—that men are more likely to commit suicide and hide mental health issues. Many are placing an emphasis on mental health, reminding men to take time for themselves to address mental health problems.

Others are taking it to the next level and imploring men to embrace feminism—the equality of all genders—as a means of acknowledging how they themselves hold each other up to unrealistic and harmful standards of masculinity. And some are outright naming the patriarchy and toxic masculinity, the restrictive valuation of traditionally masculine traits.

However, such invitations still seem to irk some who think that the exploration of mental health is a signal that masculinity is under siege, implying the end of men themselves.

And some are at least trying to embrace the sentiment, but are still enforcing negative messaging about men needing to “tough it out” and “man up.”

Others, however, aren’t taking the day seriously at all, as if it’s better to crack a joke than check in on men’s mental health.

Contrary to what critics of feminism think feminists say about masculinity, masculinity isn’t inherently negative. However, the upholding of values such as dominance, aggression, and control is what makes masculinity toxic. When men don’t feel they can be themselves and can exhibit traditionally “feminine” traits such as empathy, care, and collaboration, and feel forced into a box that requires them to uphold traditional notions of “manhood,” that’s when we run into trouble. It’s a culture that teaches boys from young ages that they must be tough and unemotional, and it hurts everyone involved.

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Perhaps, more people can take this Twitter advice and check in with the ways in which they’ve rejected toxic masculinity, too.

If you are a teen dealing with depression or other mental health issues, see PBS.org for a list of resources and organizations that can help you. If you are an adult, see Mental Health Resources.

Samantha Grasso

Samantha Grasso

Samantha Grasso is an IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.