It’s the classic refrain trotted out every year come 8 March, when International Women’s Day is celebrated:
“But what about International Men’s Day?”
As the comedian Richard Herring takes it upon himself to point out to the complainants on Twitter, every single year: don’t worry, there is also an International Men’s Day, and it falls on 19 November every year.
Behind the jibes, though, there is I think a serious point being made. I don’t think there’s anyone out there who would deny that, despite the steps forward slowly starting to be made, that women still have some way to go to gain an equal footing with men, particularly in the workplace. And yes, some of those asking on International Women’s Day when International Men’s Day is, are doing so purely as a wind up, to belittle or to express faux outrage.
“It’s not pie.”
There are also some however who ask the question out of fear. It is a common misconception when it comes to equality. That more equal rights for one group somehow means less for another.
My absolute favourite quote on this sums up the reality:
“Equal rights for others does not mean fewer rights for you. It’s not pie.”ORIGINAL SOURCE UNKNOWN
Because, contrary to popular belief, improving the rights and opportunities available to minority groups and demographics does not mean things will get worse in the workplace for those who fall outside of that grouping. On the contrary! We, all of us, operate currently in a patriarchal society, one which is typically reflected in our places of work. And sure, this disadvantages women… but it also disadvantages pretty much anyone who falls outside of the stereotypical male persona that this societal set up favours.
Fighting the same fight
Still, almost twenty years into the new millennium, it is those traits demonstrated more commonly by men that the majority of organisations and those at the top value when it comes to deciding promotions, pay rises, power. Valuing these traits favours a small majority; and is highly detrimental to the vast majority, including a vast proportion of men. There is a reason that suicide rates in men remain frighteningly high, that suicide remains the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the country. We have created – and continue to perpetuate – a corporate world where speaking about your feelings is seen as weak. Where showing emotion is frowned upon. Where talking openly about your mental health, even in the year 2019, is seen as something that is “brave”.
So, on both International Women’s Day, and on International Men’s Day, and on all days celebrating minority groupings of any kind, my sentiment remains the same. Regardless of how we label it, we are all fighting the same fight. This is about creating a world – and a world of work – which is equal and open to all, regardless of gender, age, race, sexuality, disability, nationality or any other minority characteristic.
A world which values people for being human, not for being robots.
I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of world that I want my children to grow up in.