By Uche Amunike
The International Men's Day is an annual event held all over the world every November 19. It is a day set aside to honour, celebrate and appreciate the numerous sacrifices of men in their families and society in general. The surprising thing, however is that this very important day is always observed very quietly. As a matter of fact, it always passes unnoticed, almost as if it didn't take place. I personally didn't even know that it was celebrated on that day, until I came across the information through an online group I belonged to. I was truly taken aback because it is supposed to be a very important, if not memorable day in the lives of all men. My question then remains, why is it never celebrated? Why will such an important event pass unnoticed?
Well, I went into the streets to sample opinions of a lot of men regarding this all important day and was even more shocked to note that 90% of the men I approached did not know that there was anything being celebrated. Some of them asked me if it was applicable to Nigerians as well or just foreign countries. Some others said they had never heard about such an event. Some said they weren't interested because they weren't like women who thrived on fanfare. That made a lot of sense because a lot of eventful special days that had to do with celebrating women always had excessive celebrations no matter how tough the economic situation of the country was. It didn't matter if it was Mothers day, International Women's Day, Children's Day, International Day of the Girl Child, etc. There was always a celebration, party, fanfare and what have you. Yes.
For women, every day ought to be lived like there was no tomorrow.
So, what is the International Men's Day all about? It is a day set aside for people everywhere of goodwill to appreciate all men and the roles they play in society for the greater good of all. It is therefore equally important like the International Women's Day. Significantly, so many countries celebrate it in so many different ways and with so many different themes. This year, for instance, India celebrated it and their theme was centered on raising awareness on men's mental health and also, to address the issue of male suicide.
Since 1999, this special day was created and revived to build a men's movement globally in order to promote an ideology that encourages peace and resolves disputes. It is a day observed to look at problems related to men that affect families and the rest of society. Suicide has been found to be the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, so, this special day is dedicated to them. It also creates the space for them to promote constructive dialogue between sexes for greater understanding and tolerance.
The project of International Men's Day also aims to celebrate 'invincible men' who not only positively influence their gender, but also, are inspiring role models for boys. It is a day that explores issues like real-life options, poverty, hunger, homelessness, fatherlessness, parental alienation, mass incarceration, religious and ethnic intolerance which may prevent men and boys from living healthier, purpose-driven and longer lives.
I want us to look at the whole concept of being a man. I also want us to look at it from a man's point of view. After all, it is their day! God created everyone with their own distinct qualities, which is why it is possible for certain men to be soft and emotional. If it is their nature, there is nothing they can do about it because you cannot cheat nature. It is beyond anyone. Why then do we let such men suffer depression for the mere fact that 'men are supposed to be hard'? It is sad that if a man expresses his emotional nature, he is regarded as weak. It is considered a sign of weakness. This is why you hear statements like 'Man up' or 'be a man'. I remember those years when my son was much younger. If he had any reason to cry, my husband would get really angry and ask him why he was acting like a woman. That made me feel so sad because as far as I was concerned, everyone had the right to express their feelings at every point in their lives. Besides, a boy should be allowed to be the boy he is until he gets to the stage of being a man. Then he will be transformed to the man he should be. Life is full of stages! I remember on this particular day he asked our son to get his reading glasses that he forgot in his car. It was quite late and there was power outage. Obiora my son was scared of going all the way downstairs in that darkness and was trying to get the torch but his father impatiently told him to go and get the glasses. And the next thing I heard was, 'you better start learning how to be a man. How can you be scared of the darkness.' My poor child helplessly opened the door to head downstairs in tears and enveloped in fear. I couldn't bear the thought of him being terrified in that darkness. I had to ask him to wait so that I would go with him to get the glasses out of pity. You see, these are the little injustices that our men have gone through as little kids and still go through as grown men.
I want to talk to all men reading me today. I think it is okay to shed a tear when you are sad and feel like expressing your feelings. There is nothing wrong with it. There is nothing wrong with hugging your wife in public or even kissing her when you drop her off at the airport or at the bus park. There is nothing wrong with doing the laundry in your home if it will mean making things easy in the home front. There is nothing wrong in cooking or being in the kitchen. Any kind of support you offer to your home domestically or otherwise doesn't make you less of a man, as long as that action adds value to your union. More importantly, apologizing to your wife, female colleague, daughter or sister doesn't make you less of a man. It only shows that you are a real man. So, kindly do not attach much importance to stereotypes like 'blue is for boys. Pink is for girls. Emotions are for women. Strength is for men.' These only end up giving you psychological pressures that have statistically greatly contributed to depression in a lot of men and suicide in a whole lot of others.
Are you still reading me??? Kindly learn to be expressive and refuse to bottle up your feelings. A lot of young kids have been psychologically scarred by this crazy mindset of men being almost inhuman all in the name of being men. Thankfully, the role of 'man' is changing in most families and even the larger society. Men have started being more acceptive of things in the home where women of today have assumed a lot of manly roles. Gone are the days when men refused to let women play manly roles for fear of being considered incapable of being the one in charge. Today, men have learnt to let go of their male egos and have also begun to let go of their conventional gender roles in the home. The entire 'be a man' mindset and the stress of certain expectations that a man is supposed to meet up with has killed lots of our men, not only physically but emotionally and psychologically. It has to stop.
Life is really tough and men need to be allowed the freedom to be themselves and react to situations in manners that they are comfortable with. It is a good way to make them feel empowered, understood, loved and respected. The moment we begin to understand that every person, irrespective of their gender have their own fears and advantages, the better for our society and posterity. We should stop painting the image of how men should act. It has caused a lot of damages. A lot of men live in denial, just to please society. The danger is that such men will spend their entire lives trying to prove a point.
It is not healthy for any home or society. It should be discouraged.
The International Men's Day has just been celebrated. These are issues that should be looked into. We need our men to live long. We also need them to live happy lives. We need our little boys to grow up into stable and mentally balanced young men. We need to set the precepts straight. It is time to celebrate these men. They have come a long way. They have been strong pillars. They have been through so much to see that their territories are not tampered with. They have smiled when indeed, deep down they are groaning in pain. They have kept straight faces in the face of pain, when indeed, they are inwardly wailing. They have proudly become rocks even though sometimes, they desire to be the weak ones for a change. These men are human, you know. They are truly flesh and blood and desire to be judged a little more fairly by every one of us.
Maybe then, the spate of men taking daily High Blood Pressure pills will be abated. This pressure should stop!
I won't complete this piece without appreciating all men who have made a mark in society as we celebrate the International Men's Day 2018. This year's International Men's Day has come and gone, albeit silently…unobserved…uncelebrated. That is totally unacceptable. Come 2019, I expect every man reading this to be proud of his gender and be the one to celebrate himself. So, kindly live your life to the fullest and never settle for less. Remember that your story is yours to tell and nobody can tell it better than you.
Come 2019, make it a big deal and party like never before. Appreciate yourselves and blow your own trumpets like women do. Above all, keep being the man who makes a difference wherever he finds himself. Posterity will not only highly value you, but will continue to speak of your good works even after you have long left the stage!!!
Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and former governor Peter Gregory Obi on my mind...