You know, I’d like to think that making the case for the need to set aside a week — as Carter G. Woodson proposed and instituted back in 1926 — to recognize and celebrate the achievements of Black Americans was a no brainer. (Sidenote: Black History Week would later be expanded, in 1976, to what we now know as Black History Month) I mean, would anyone be so callow as to wear a straight face and suggest that economic advantage, social well-being, human history itself, since close to the inception of phenomenon we cognize as race, was not the sole property of Whites?
Bear with me. We’re getting to the question of International’s Men’s Day I used to headline this article.
The same goes for Black Studies programs in higher ed, which were instigated by college and university students, on the radical winds of the Black power movement. Whites insulted by the idea of Black Studies, or Black History Month, who form their mouths to demand why it is that they aren’t bestowed a whole month or academic program, reserved to highlight their contributions to human civilization, find themselves quickly slayed with the rejoinder, because “Every month of the year is white history.” Or, because “American education was made by and for white minds.”
Now, the punchline. For White Studies or history, read International Men’s Day (IMD).
See, International Women’s Day is a no brainer. But, IMD?
Created in 1999, IMD is ostensibly a holiday advocating an appreciation of men’s health and well being, and better gender relations. Say, what? I know, sounds laughable, right? What temerity! And gall. As if we don’t exist in a world where “Everyday is ‘Men’s Day.” As if, at a moment when statistics could not be any clearer about the systemic reach of sexism, gender inequality, and global male privilege, we really need yet another faux-excuse, masquerading as a holiday, to deepen an already dangerous, seemingly intractable patriarchal order.
Would anyone deny that, without absolutely any question, of the two human sexes, women are the more discriminated and oppressed? Or, to channel the ancestral voice of Lorraine Hansberry, “twice oppressed.” Would anyone be so obnoxiously bold as to whitewash gender pay gap (even in the so-called Western developed worlds), the disproportionate and alarming impact of rape culture, and the psychic deficits traced to slut-shaming? Would anyone hand-wave the professional challenges that women continue to face in the modern workplace? I should hope not.
So, then, why exactly are we, or, rather, what would be a reason to, celebrate International Men’s Day?
As far as I can tell, the only stomachable legitimacy for IMD is to, well, advance feminism. Yep, fellas. That’s all I got.
Feminist and womanist scholars of color like bell hooks, Toni Morrison, Angela Davis, and others have always insisted that, although patriarchal gender norms are fatal for women, on deeper inspection, men are negatively impacted as well. Even if these men are unconscious of the severe harm done to them.
Returning to the analogy I opened this piece with, an argument can be made that White Studies, or even White history (not that current Manifest Destiny shit taught in schools now) could be useful if, and only if, it sought to honestly interrogate and deconstruct White identity, and put forth an anti-racist agenda.
For “honestly deconstructing whiteness” and “anti-racist agenda”, read “honestly deconstructing masculine identity” and “anti-sexist agenda.”
Thus, if done right, IMD could potentially be an genuine instrument of feministing. A way for men around the world to implode patriarchy, sort of speak, from the inside.
Because, the truth is y’all, a world based on gender hierarchy and inequality is one in which, ultimately, everyone loses.
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