As much as women contribute to the community, family, marriage and childcare, we shouldn’t forget the contributions of men. International Men’s Day, which falls on 19th November, is a day to celebrate men and their achievements, while highlighting the discrimination they face. It is a day to promote gender equality and a day to focus on men’s and boy’s health.
This is also the month of Movember, a movement to raise awareness of men’s health issues, like prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health.
However International Men’s Day should not be celebrated as just a ‘Day’. There are many reasons why this day should be taken seriously.
The Case for International Men’s Day
There are many reasons for why International Men’s Day should be commemorated. For one, life expectancy for men is 5 years shorter than that for women. Suicide rates have increased over the years, and approximately two-thirds of suicides in Singapore are males. In schools, boys fare worse than girls of the same age in terms of test scores. Men also face discrimination in other ways – only men are required to go through mandatory National Service in countries like Singapore, Denmark and South Korea.
As such, it’s important to look at International Men’s Day not just as a celebration of the achievements and contributions of men, but also as reminder to step back and look at what can be improved.
Men’s and Boy’s Health
There’s much about men’s health that can be improved.
In Singapore, for 2016, the life expectancy at birth for women is 85.1 while that of men is 80.6. While the life expectancy of the population has increased drastically since the 50s, men’s life expectancy has always been lower than women’s.
According to a study led by University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology researchers, heart disease is the reason for this difference in life expectancy between males and females. In the early 1800s, the life expectancy of men and women were relatively similar, up until the late 1800s when this phenomenon emerged.
In addition, there are 3 types of cancer that are unique to men – prostate cancer, testicular cancer and penile cancer. According to statistics from the National Cancer Centre, prostate cancer is the third most common cancer among men in Singapore, and in 2015 there were 4,053 cases of men with prostate cancer.
It is not just cancer that we need to raise awareness for.
There is a need for us to do more for men’s mental health. According to this diagram provided by the Samaritans of Singapore, the number of men who have committed suicide is about twice that of women. In 2016, 65% of people who took their own lives were men.
A few reasons for this disparity could be that 1) men and women cope with their emotions differently and 2) men are less likely to seek help. According to Ms Christine Wong, Executive Director of SOS, the male stereotype encourages self-reliance and self-control, especially among elderly males who may fear stigma and embarrassment should they approach others for help.
Gender equality is when “women and men enjoy the same rights and opportunities across all sectors of society, including economic participation and decision-making, and when the different behaviours, aspirations and needs of women and men are equally valued and favoured.”
However, boys and girls are being brought up differently; even schools teach boys and girls differently. This may be what is causing boys to do worse than girls in school and university.
In a study conducted by a team of economists from MIT, Northwestern, and the University of Florida, they have found that the methods of upbringing counts for a lot. In poorer families, the gender gap widens.
Boys should be treated more like girls in order for them to stop falling behind in school. Parents should be doing the same kind of activities with both genders, such as singing nursery rhymes and songs to boost language skills.
Discrimination Against Men
We usually talk about gender equality in relation to the discrimination against women, but in reality men are discriminated in many ways as well.
1) In many countries, only men are required to attend mandatory military/national service. These countries include Armenia, Austria, Brazil, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and many more. Only certain countries, such as Israel and North Korea, have compulsory military service for both men and women.
There’re also many laws that favour men and not women. In divorce cases, men can face alimony payments even in situations where their ex-wives are capable of earning a substantial income. In the United States, men receive custody of their children in only 10% of divorce cases.
Just like women, men, too, have to deal with being judged stereotypically. Men are supposed to be masculine, strong, and intimidating. If men do not possess these traits, does that make them less of a man? No, but the society still has these perceptions of men that are difficult to shake off.
Celebrate Achievements and Contributions
Of course, there are many aspects in which men has contributed to the society – innovation, economic and social development, family, and more. For this section, we’ll just focus on men’s role in the family.
In the United States, 71% of adults feel that to be a good husband or partner, it is very important for a man to be able to support a family financially. Despite the fact that women bring in half or more of the earnings, men still contribute more of their income in most couples.
In bringing up a child, research has shown that mothers tend to play with children at the child’s level, whereas fathers tend to establish challenge, initiative and risk taking into the play. This allows for growth and development of physical and mental skill sets in the child.
Movember is a movement that happens every November, coinciding with International Men’s Day. The Movember Foundation started out promoting fundraising for prostate cancer research, and then testicular cancer. Right now, it is focusing on men’s mental health.
Movember challenges men to grow a moustache for the 30 days of November, thereby changing their appearance and the face of mens health.
For the entire month of Movember, these selfless and generous men known as Mo Bros become walking, talking billboards for 30 days. Through their growing efforts they raise awareness for the often ignored issues of mens health, by prompting conversations wherever they go.
Another crucial part of being a Mo Bro is to raise funds for mens health. Men donate their face and, much like taking part in a run or a walk for charity, ask their family and friends to sponsor their efforts.
Movember is not just for men. The women of Movember, are known as Mo Sistas. They play a vital role in the success of Movember by supporting and encouraging the men in their life to get involved. Mo Sistas also get involved by signing up at Movember.com, and participate by raising funds and awareness themselves. Essentially, Mo Sistas do everything that Mo Bros do, without a Mo.
At the end of the month, Mo Bros and Mo Sistas celebrate their Movember journey by throwing their own Movember parties or attending one of the official Gala Parties held around the world.
– Irish Cancer Society
How to Get Involved
You can show your support for men in the following ways:
- Take part in Movember. Grow a moustache and raise some funds. Remember, women can also join in by being active, and raising funds while doing so.
- Appreciate all the men in your life. Give them your support and encouragement, especially if you know of anyone who is struggling with their mental health.
- Treat your son the way you would treat your daughter. Do not teach them what “being a man” means because there shouldn’t be any stereotypes.
- Donate to a men’s charity. There aren’t many men’s charities in Singapore, but there’s the Movember Foundation that you can contribute to.
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