What is International Men's Day and do we really need it?

Stock picture of man celebrating in honour of International Men's Day. (Getty Images)
When is International Men's Day? (Getty Images)

Tomorrow, November 19, marks International Men’s Day (IMD), a globally recognised awareness day that aims to celebrate the cultural, political and socioeconomic achievements of men, while also shining a light on the issues men and boys face as a group.

IMD was created just over a decade ago, in order to give men an equivalent to the century-old International Women's Day (IWD).

But some are opposed to the idea of a day dedicated to celebrating men, arguing that it in some way waters down the annually celebrated IWD, which continues to shine a light on the very real problem of gender inequality. (See our article about Equal Pay Day, which takes place this Sunday, for proof that women's fight is ongoing.)

Others, however, fully respect the importance of IMD and addressing the issues facing men that need highlighting. Whatever your view, here's everything you need to know about the annually marked event.

International Men's Day: What you need to know in 9 points

When is International Men's Day? International Men’s Day in the UK is on 19 November every year, which in 2022 falls on a Saturday. It is marked across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

Stock picture of a group of diverse men hugging in celebration of International Men's Day. (Getty Image)
There is some debate about whether we need an International Men's Day. (Getty Image)

What is International Men's Day? International Men's Day (IMD) is an international awareness event celebrated annually on 19 November.

Every year people are encouraged to come together to support and celebrate men and boys in all their diversity.

The awareness day is said to focus on six main pillars: highlighting discrimination against men; supporting male health issues; improving gender relations; promoting gender equality; celebrating male contributions to society; and promoting male role models.

In the UK the Men and Boys Coalition is responsible for the International Men’s Day platform.

How did International Men's Day come about? While there were calls since the 1960s to establish International Men’s Day, the idea didn’t gain popularity abroad until Dr Jerome Teelucksingh, a Professor of History at the University of the West Indies established IMD in 1999.

He chose November 19 as IMD to commemorate the birth anniversary of his father. He urged people to take advantage of this day by bringing up issues concerning boys and men.

What are the themes for International Men's Day this year? In the UK there are three core themes, which remain the same every year to encourage maximum participation. The three themes are:

  • Making a positive difference to the wellbeing and lives of men and boys

  • Raising awareness and/or funds for charities supporting men and boys’ wellbeing

  • Promoting a positive conversation about men, manhood and masculinity

According to event organisers these core themes help to address some of the issues that affect men and boys and include important topics such as the high male suicide rate.

In 2021, 4,704 men in England, Wales and Scotland took their own lives. This is the equivalent of 13 per day. Men make up 75% of all deaths by suicide and it is the biggest cause of male deaths under 50.

Other subjects the awareness day hopes to shine a light on include men's health (including male cancers), shorter life expectancy and workplace deaths.

Challenges surrounding men as parents, particularly new fathers and separated fathers is another important topic event organisers hope to spark conversations about.

The day also hopes to raise awareness in support of male victims of violence, including sexual violence.

In short, IMD provides men and those that support them the opportunity to discuss problems relevant to men, such as fatherhood, boys’ education and the worldwide epidemic that is male suicide.

Watch: GMB debates whether we need International Men's Day

Sounds like a worthy cause, so why the controversy? Social media typically delivers a mixed response to the annual IMD celebration.

While some are in favour of the day as an important opportunity to discuss male-specific issues, others argue about the necessity of an event to champion men, when they are still in a position of power.

Yahoo UK previously put the question to its followers on Twitter, and views amongst female respondents were varied.

One respondent felt the awareness day was theoretically a good idea, but had lost its way. “International Men's Day tackles some really important issue that affect men and it's right that these get some time in the spotlight,” the user wrote. “My problem is that the day has been co-opted by some antifeminists who try and use it as a springboard to air their anti-equality views.”

“I’m here for the equality," another wrote. "Women get a day so men should too. Women don’t need to have more to be equal, they literally just need to be the same and stuff like this is the start of that."

Yet others were staunchly against the idea. “Every day is International Men’s Day,” one user wrote.

What do men think? The same Yahoo social media poll revealed a surprising amount of antipathy towards the day.

“Personally I'm not a fan of 'days' as it feel sometimes it gives people an excuse to only focus on specific important issues for a very limited period of time when really it should be normalised and something present in all our conversations all year round,” one man offered.

Another respondent added: “We probably don't need International Men's Day, really. I think a celebratory day is great for races, sexes and groups that historically have faced persecution or marginalisation, but historically white men have clearly faced extremely little persecution throughout the world."

However, some were in favour: “I feel in a modern world that rightly exposes people for all sorts of negative behaviours and attitudes, that there are many good people in the world (of all descriptions) and to have a day that celebrates positive male role-models (as another day does for their female counterparts) is not a bad thing. Especially in this word of political correctness.”

“Of course there should be a male awareness day. There are so many important issues affecting men specifically – like the much higher suicide rate and the pressures young boys face to be masculine – and that deserves discussion,” agreed another male respondent.

Stock picture of a man looking depressed. (Getty Images)
International Men's Day offers an opportunity to shine a light on male issues, including mental health. (Getty Images)

What have those in the public eye said? Two former Prime Ministers have also delivered their verdict on IMD, with both encouraging people to get involved and embrace the day.

“This International Men’s Day let us recognise and celebrate the incredible contribution that men and boys make to our society – and make sure that they are not alone to suffer in silence,” former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said of the event.

While his predecessor, Theresa May, also previously commented: “I recognise the important issues this event seeks to highlight including men’s health, male suicide rates and the underperformance of boys in schools, these are serious issues that must be addressed in a considered way.”

How has it been marked in previous years? With a Parliamentary debate, gigs, charity promotion days, book launches, mental health discussions, film showings, comedy nights, get-togethers, award announcements and charity fundraisers.

How will it be celebrated this year? The Loose Women panel is to be replaced with an all-male panel today, Friday November 18, in celebration of the male-specific day. Vernon Kay will host and will be joined by actor Larry Lamb, Olly Murs and TV and sports personality Ade Adepitan MBE with the panel aiming to tackle the taboos around men’s health and discuss the topics that really matter to them.

Meanwhile Jake Quickenden is set to undergo a testicle examination live on air, to highlight the importance of regular check-ups.

To find out more about how to get involved visit the International Men's Day UK website for a whole wealth of ideas about marking the day.