It’s International Men’s Day so, in that spirit, it’s time to talk about some men’s issues. Not the turgid crap MRA’s or Meninist twerps bang on about, which is always, *always*, the lack of availability of sex, but actual men’s issues. You know, the ones that the above groups never bother actually talking about.
Depression, for instance. Suicide is the leading cause of death for men under the age of 45. We’re bad at opening up, at sharing our feelings with each other. There is a cultural problem, especially in Britain, with dealing with men’s mental health. Among other men we’re hard wired to feel embarrassed if anyone begins to speak about their difficulties. If there is a man in your life who’s having a hard time or who has been a bit withdrawn, try speaking to him. Ask if he’s okay. Ask what’s up. Discuss it over a coffee or a beer, encourage him to open up in a safe environment where he will not be judged.
Secondly, and this is the one that’s probably easier to deal with, men are much more likely to die of preventable diseases than women. The reasons for this are, again, cultural. There is still a cultural pressure to ‘tough out’ illnesses or minor health complaints rather than attempt to go to a doctor. Men need to be much more willing to get health complaints dealt with because that strange lump or that recurring headache might develop into something much, much more serious. This is a hard barrier to break, mostly because it’s self inflicted, but it *can* be broken. If you have some niggling health issue that simply won’t go away then make a doctor’s appointment on Monday and be prepared to talk about it.
Thirdly; violence. It doesn’t take a philosopher to figure out that violence is undesirable and should be avoided if at all possible. It also doesn’t take a demographer to figure out that men are more likely to be victims of it than women (though the figures are out there and they’re deeply depressing). I don’t need to say it but I will; don’t indulge in violence. Men are better than that.
Finally, chauvinism. Chauvinism does not empower men, it never has. It unquestionably has worse social effects on women but it also reduces men to brutes who cannot control their urges. I, for one, reject the chauvinist view that I am a violent rapist in waiting. I, like all men, am more than capable of reason and sound judgement, of controlling my body. I am also capable of drawing a distinction between a woman who wishes to have a conversation and a woman who wants to sleep with me.
There are men’s issues and they are both real and urgent. We have to remember what they are and not slide into an insipid, reductive view of masculinity. If there’s a man in your life that you appreciate then let him know, if you are a man then try to remember that privilege comes with both a cost and a responsibility. You owe your brothers the support and solidarity that seems so often to come so naturally to women, and you owe it to yourself to be the best man you can be.