A Perfect Day to Feel Manly: Masculinity and International Men’s Day

It takes a special kind of a failed social justice warrior (and bonehead) to go around social networks on the International Women’s Day and complain it is unfair women have their day and men do not.

international mens day

So, let’s settle this once and for all – not only that International Men’s Day exists, but it has existed since the 90s. It is celebrated every year on 19th November and was first inaugurated in 1992 on a different date (7th February) by Thomas Oaster. The small island-state of Malta was the first to recognize it in 1994, and the present date is also a Maltese contribution, decided by the Maltese AMR Committee in 2009.

The purpose of this day is to promote awareness of various male issues, which often include a number of male-specific diseases like prostate and testicular cancer. So, if you own any of those or both, please use this occasion to inform yourself on how to recognize early signs and perform self-examination.

However, this time we are not here to induce a cancer scare but to celebrate and discuss manhood. 

Masculinity In Danger… What?

The thing about masculinity is that no one can tell you for sure what it is and it has been getting some bad press lately. When it comes to appearance, you more or less know it when you see it – typically in the form of hairy, muscular and square-jawed guys. But when it comes to all the other stuff, you will hardly find many people that can agree on it.

Recently a (not particularly manly) conservative US Senator warned that the traditional masculine virtues like “courage, and independence, and assertiveness” are in danger, which makes men retreat to pornography and videogames. Oh boy, where do I even start?

It might be manly to be brave, but courage is certainly a universal human virtue. It comes in many forms and a single mother working two jobs to support her kids is no less brave than people exposing themselves to life-threatening situations.

The Price of Self-Reliance

Independence is a tricky one because it comes with two faces. The positive side of independence is being capable to figure things out and perform on your own when necessary.

Then there’s the pathological form of independence in the form of radical self-reliance. The idea that men must always be able to take care of themselves is taking a massive toll on us and men are, for instance, much less likely to seek medical help, which is especially true when it comes to seeking help for mental health problems (which might also offer a more plausible explanation for overindulgence in pornography and videogames).

Secure Beats Assertive Every Time

And as for the virtue of assertiveness – well, it is no virtue at all. Assertiveness comes from a place of insecurity. The toughest, most manly and fatherly figures I’ve ever met in my life were also some of the kindest. Also, polite and soft spoken, but manly nevertheless.

Yet real masculine virtues are not that hard to figure out, and most of us that grew up to be decent human beings likely had some sort of father figure at some point in our life that embodied them. Probably it was a person that made us feel safe and protected. Or a person that might not have been self-reliant, but was certainly a reliable one, and perhaps a person secure enough to be kind and polite.

Not All Masculinity Is Toxic

Let those be the virtues we want to celebrate. Real men are secure enough not to feel threatened every time toxic masculinity is publicly discussed. Surely it exists, but so does toxic femininity.

Men are still often dealt better cards in society just by being born male, and that is still unfair. However, there are times when men get shittier deals and those are much less likely to be discussed.

Men die younger, have twice as many fatal traffic accidents, do some of the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs, and are way more exposed to deadly violence. Men also still tend to die in wars in unproportional numbers and even get victim-blamed for it (as if the guys dying on front lines have anything in common with warlords, generals and politicians that sent them there).

Some of us are good, some of us are bad, some of us are hairy, others are not… big, small, fat, thin, muscular… we come in all shapes, shades and flavors. But we’re only human after all.

So happy Men’s Day to all my fellow men.