International Men's Day Divides People as Some Joke and Others Speak About Mental Health

November 19 has marked International Men's Day for over 20 years, but the day has become a point of debate. Many people mocked it online on Thursday, while others made a point to highlight the reasons it began—to bring awareness to men's mental health.

Begun in 1999, International Men's Day was imagined as a way to highlight awareness for men's health and mental health, as well as to promote gender equality and celebrate male role models, according to the International Men's Day website. The website also notes that the day of recognition wasn't intended to compete with or be a response to International Women's Day.

Despite the purpose behind the day, a number of Twitter users made jokes about International Men's Day on Thursday, saying they would partake in silly, traditionally "masculine" activities. One comedian remarked that she planned on watching a Jackass movie to celebrate, while another person shared a video of a young man jumping onto a pile of barbed wire. Someone else pointed out that International Men's Day also falls on World Toilet Day, which it does.

Joking aside, a few people did remark that having a day dedicated to men seems a bit pointless. Comedian Vir Das and the newsletter Girlboss both had similar tweets expressing a sentiment along the lines of "Every day is international men's day." Girlboss also shared a video saying it would unfollow everyone who posted about International Men's Day.

While there were plenty of jokes and criticism to be made, many people used the day as an opportunity to encourage men to speak about their feelings and not be afraid to ask for help when struggling, especially with mental health issues. A number of people, such as London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey, highlighted that men account for most of all suicides and sought to end stigma about men discussing their problems. "We must be able to talk about challenges men face. Then we can tackle them," he tweeted.

While some people sought to bring up problems men don't traditionally speak openly about, others tried to highlight much more than just cisgendered men and male gender norms. The Sussex Library made a point to shout out transmen and transmascuuline people, while offering tips on how people can celebrate the day. Another person also made a point to offer "cheers" to men who "fight against toxic gender norms."

Another person tweeted about making the day more inclusive to non-binary people, remarking that it was disappointing to not see organizations wish a happy International Men's Day to "mxn and non-binary people."

Men Embrace
Relatives of a man with symptoms of COVID-19 embrace in Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico State, Mexico, on June 21, 2020 during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Getty/Pedro PARDO / AFP