The International Men’s Day (IMD) website describes the occasion as “an opportunity for people everywhere of goodwill to appreciate and celebrate the men in their lives and the contribution they make to society for the greater good of all.”
When I first read this, I thought to myself this is the standard we all need to live into. Upon further examination, I realized there were several words that, in my opinion, might need reframing.
The first word that caught my attention was opportunity. We are at a moment in time where the social and political narrative is shining the light on men. We men must decide for ourselves whether we want to be part of the solution with respect to gender equality, equity, equal opportunity and racial justice or if we choose, by our silence and inaction, to contribute to the current narrative driven by the minority of men that are the ‘bad apples’ that we read about in the press. IMD might be an opportunity for people to celebrate men, but for me the real opportunity is for us men to put in the necessary work to effect change that will benefit all.
The second word that caught my attention was appreciate. There are more men than ever before stepping into some form of allyship and that is a good thing. Myriad companies are recognizing the critical role men must play in DEI efforts and they are doing something about it. While I can appreciate the recent increase in interest, we are still so far way off from where we need to be. So let’s appreciate, but let’s not be complacent.
The third word I focused on was celebrate. I understand the need to celebrate small wins, but it just seems a little premature to be celebrating all men right now when there are quite a few who are still just standing by. There are plenty of efforts and contributions towards gender equality, equity, and equal opportunity by men that are worthy of celebration, but maybe instead of celebrating we should be building upon the progress we are making, fostering momentum by investing time and money on engaging men as allies, and making sure we involve all men in these efforts. We need a real movement with millions of men making contributions to advance equality, justice, and an end to violence of any kind before we can truly celebrate.
Contribution is all about action. Men are the majority in leadership positions. We can make massive contributions in leadership and allyship because our position, platform, and privileges afford us this power.
When I continued to read the IMD page I found the following quote, “International Men’s Day encourages men to teach the boys in their lives the values, character and responsibilities of being a man. Mahatma Gandhi said, “We must become the change we seek.” It is only when we all, both men and women, lead by example that we will create a fair and safe society that allows everyone the opportunity to prosper.” I agree with this statement and, at the same time, feel there is a significant call out that I need to make: Before men can teach boys the values, character, and responsibilities of being a man, us adult guys need to examine our own playbook on what it means to be a man. We men need to learn to step into healthy masculinity in order to be the models our boys need to see.
Here are some simple steps you can take right now:
- Declare for yourself an intention to learn more about what drives your language and behavior – without self judgment.
- Seek a female mentor and get curious about her experiences and how she is impacted by men’s behavior.
- Seek and secure a male accountability partner. The work of an ally is not something we can do alone.
- Learn about and understand the concept of power differentials and how others may experience your power and position.
- Make a few commitments to act differently.
- Celebrate that you are doing the work and keep doing it!