A couple days ago, I learned it was International Men’s Day. I confess: I didn’t know there was an International Men’s Day. The person who brought it to my attention was a woman. Another person in the conversation was a man, and he said he felt uncomfortable acknowledging a day to celebrate men. And then, through the course of the conversation, he changed his opinion and expressed hope that maybe this day is a chance to recognize the kind of men – the kind of people – we need to celebrate and encourage.
Exponentially higher suicide rates and worries about showing “weakness” (also known as emotion or stress) are just two things I hope that increasing numbers of 21st century men can overcome. And this video (albeit a sort of extended commercial) does a really good job of explaining the sentiment behind International Men’s Day.
It’s interesting that I learned about this day not long after I heard one of my former managers speaking on the news. The fact he was on the radio is no big deal; part of his job is to be a spokesperson. What is a big deal – to me – is that every time I hear him, I think of all he taught me.
I’ve been fortunate that all my bosses have been fantastic (except in my first co-op role where people threw things at each other and often only narrowly missed my head…I mostly try to forget those four months). But I also know that’s not every woman’s experience. So, each time I think about one of my male managers, I feel especially grateful that all they ever did was lift me up.
Jon taught me that good communications includes an ability to come up with a good analogy, and he showed me that a good working relationship includes trust.
There was Scott, who I wrote about earlier this year because in addition to letting me try my hand at all kinds of projects that were above my experience level, he also spent time showing me what it means to take good care.
Peter demonstrated we could have fun while doing difficult work, and even though he called me Spock because he sometimes found me too logical, he always gave me the credit for the great work we did together.
Another Jon came to be my manager as a result of a merger, and his own role probably wasn’t his first choice of job — but he always made sure to support me in mine.
And then there was John (with an H this time) who was in an entirely different time zone from me and several high-profile tasks, but he relied on me to keep him up-to-date and was always there for a phone call when I needed one.
Lastly, we can’t forget about Hieu, who decided on the basis of one conversation that I was different from him in all the right ways and should therefore lead a project completely outside my experience – a project that, without exaggeration, changed my life.
Beyond my direct managers, I’ve also experienced strong support from working with several male executives (let’s be real: most executives are male) who turned to me, listened to my often unvarnished opinions, and – in several cases – thanked me for helping to change their minds.
These are the kinds of men we need in the world. These are also the kinds of women we need, and I’ve known and worked for many of them too!
Moving along: did you know the day after International Men’s Day is Transgender Remembrance Day? This commemoration was started in 1999 and honors the memory of transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. According to Statistics Canada, transgender people are significantly more likely to experience violence, mental health issues, and suicide than cisgender Canadians.
I know I have friends who will see this post and wonder why I’m highlighting International Men’s Day. They’ll say, “every day is men’s day” and they’ll wonder if I’m a good enough feminist.
The thing is, I’m well aware of the inequality between men and women. I know about the gender pay gap, and the statistics about domestic violence (especially during the pandemic), the higher rates by which Indigenous women go missing and are murdered, the body-shaming shit some women get from their partners, and the unwanted innuendo and groping – or worse – that happens in the workplace and many other situations. Not only am I aware of all these things; I’ve experienced all of them in some form.
I’m also aware that men make up just under half our population, and they have more than half the power. So, if we want to change anything, it makes sense to have men along for the ride. And as I think about my friends who are wondering how best to raise little boys these days, I think we’re going to be further ahead by celebrating and role modelling men like my former bosses.
I know there are multiple waves of feminism and that the feminist approach has evolved over the last several decades. I also believe that at its heart, feminism is about gaining equal rights, and working together to support everyone’s equitable and just access to those rights.
I debated writing this post several times in the last 48 hours because I was worried about people who might call me out for writing about men instead of women or transgender folks.
But also in those 48 hours, I had an online exchange with my mom and one of her friends where, if I understand them correctly, I learned they are tired of feeling accused of being horrible people if they express an opinion or concern that isn’t progressive enough. My response to them was that they don’t have to choose a side; they can hold concerns and open their hearts to others.
With that view in mind (not to mention the point of this blog), there wasn’t much choice left for me except to write this post and say, belatedly: Happy International Men’s Day…knowing we’re in this world together, let’s make it safer and more open to everyone.