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)
What do you think about International Men's Day? (Getty Images)

Today is quite rightly all about International Women's Day (IWD). But if you are wondering if there's an International Men's Day (IMD) as well – yes, there is, every autumn.

It's 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.

Sound familiar? IMD was created just over a decade ago, in order to give men an equivalent to the century-old IWD.

But some are opposed to the idea of a day dedicated to celebrating men, arguing that it in some way waters down today's celebration, which continues to shine a light on the very real problem of gender inequality.

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

When is International Men's Day?

IMD in the UK is on 19 November every year, which in 2023 falls on a Sunday. It is marked across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Read more: What International Women's Day is all about - and why it's more crucial than ever

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 Images)

What is International Men's Day?

IMD is an international awareness event celebrated annually.

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 and promoting gender equality; celebrating male contributions to society; promoting male role models and creating a safer world for everyone.

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 19 November for 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.

Read more: International Women's Day: Fascinating figures show the truth about a woman's life

Group of men are talking and laughing together in a mental health support group.
One of IMD's aims is often to help raise awareness and funds for charities helping men. (Getty Images)

What are the themes for International Men's Day?

In the UK, there are core themes, which were the same in 2021 and 2022:

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

  • Promoting a positive conversation about men, manhood and masculinity

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

The theme for 2023 will be developed over the spring.

According to event organisers, these broad 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 provisional data for July to Sept 2022, there were 16.8 suicide deaths per 100,000 males (1,034 deaths registered) and 5.5 suicide deaths per 100,000 females (350 deaths registered), according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Other subjects the awareness day often hopes to shine a light on include men's health, 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

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 issues 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.

Read more: Men and depression: How to spot the signs and address it

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 previously 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 is it be celebrated?

Last year, the Loose Women panel was replaced with an all-male panel, in celebration of the male-specific day. Vernon Kay hosted and was joined by actor Larry Lamb, Olly Murs and TV and sports personality Ade Adepitan MBE. The panel tackled the taboos around men’s health and discussed the topics that mattered to them.

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

To find out more about how to get involved and stay tuned about how it will be celebrated in 2023, visit the International Men's Day UK website.