International Men's Day Opens Conversations About Mental Health, Sexism and Other Issues

Since 1999, November 19 has marked International Men's Day. According to International Men's Day website sponsored by the Australian nonprofit Fatherhood Foundation, the annual celebration seeks to "focus on men's and boy's health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models." As the day trended on Twitter, many praised the occasion for encouraging men to be more open about mental health and rally against toxic masculinity, but some also took the opportunity to bring attention to male privilege and inequality.

Many on social media took the holiday to spread awareness about the mental health risks that men face. Writer and podcast host Jeff Ramos authored a long Twitter thread that encouraged men to be open about their emotions, to speak to people with different points of view and to dress well. British Army soldier Glenn Haughton, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chiefs of Staff Committee, shared a video with an uplifting message for men who may suffer from mental health issues. "We need to break down the barriers to seeking mental health care and remove the stigma. Starting a conversation about it doesn't need to be difficult, it just needs empathy, being approachable, and listening," he said.

If you're a straight dude, make friends with LGBTQ folks, you'll learn a lot. If you don't know any people of color, make friends with tons of them, you'll also learn a lot. Listen to people older and younger than you, you'll learn a lot. #InternationalMensDay

— Jeff Ramos (@ohjefframos) November 19, 2019

The date and event may change, but the message doesn’t. #InternationalMensDay is on 19 Nov, please help me to continue breaking the stigma and driving the importance of mental strength, fitness, resilience & wellness. Talk, share, listen & normalise the conversation. #TimetoTalk pic.twitter.com/kn7LIU7DDq

— Glenn Haughton OBE MBA (@SEAC_Defence) November 18, 2019

As this year's theme was "Making a difference for men and boys," many took the opportunity to acknowledge the men who made a difference in their lives. Singer Maverick Sabre shouted out many men that others can relate to, before stressing the mental health angle of the day.

Don’t like when anything is boiled down to just one day.

But to all the fathers,step fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, nephews, grandads we love you.

Speak your mind and let your heart be known. You’re never less of a man for feeling and expressing. #InternationalMensDay

— Maverick Sabre (@MaverickSabre) November 19, 2019

Others took the opportunity to celebrate the types of men who often face discrimination for not being straight, white or cisgender. Popsessed podcast host Holly Shortall both acknowledged the importance of encouraging men to seek mental health care and drew attention to the fact that men of color, trans and gay men often don't have the same privilege that straight, white, cis men do. The ACLU further reiterated this point.

Would have rolled my eyes at #InternationalMensDay in years gone by, however I now recognize that while male privilege does exist - gay, trans and men of colour do not always benefit from it, and also that men’s mental health stigma is a massive issue that need attench 💓

— holly✨ (@hollyshortall) November 19, 2019

There’s no one way to be a man.

Men who get their periods are men.

Men who get pregnant and give birth are men.

Trans and non-binary men belong.#InternationalMensDay

— ACLU (@ACLU) November 19, 2019

Despite the fact that International Men's Day "is not intended to compete against International Women's Day," as the website states, many couldn't help but clap back at men who do diminish that holiday. Author and journalist Andi Zeisler wished a Happy International Men's Day exclusively to men who don't ask about it on International Women's Day. Another woman mocked the men who complain about International Women's Day. Ellie Schnitt of Barstool Sports just found it funny.

Happy #InternationalMensDay to the men who never ask, "Well, is there an International MEN'S DAY?!?!" on International Women's Day

— andi zeisler (@andizeisler) November 19, 2019

International Men's Day and I am yet to see any invites to fundraising and awareness-building events organised by men. Where's the cupcakes, MRAs?

— Celeste Liddle (@Utopiana) November 19, 2019

international men’s day? I have to laugh

— ellie schnitt (@holy_schnitt) November 19, 2019

The Fatherhood Foundation offers more resources to learn about the holiday and participate in events.

men's day
Two men wearing Arab headdresses giving the traditional Arab greeting in the Hilton Hotel at Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Tim Graham/Getty