International Men’s Day meets the MRM

As some people know, November 19 is International Men’s Day. So being a good little MRA, I looked online to see if any event was scheduled in my town, and indeed, there was one. The day was established 12 years ago, and according to the website is observed in over 50 countries. I attended, wondering what to expect, and who I might run into.

You will not be surprised to learn I was underwhelmed by International Men’s Day, but I did find a way to entertain myself. The Roundhouse, where this event was held, is a very nicely appointed community centre located in the heart of Vancouver’s Soho neighborhood at Davie and Pacific Boulevard. The building is a converted train switching station, built around what was once a turntable for rotating loaded train cars. The brick architecture is a pleasant change from the more recently popular steel, concrete and glass dominating my city.

Inside the community center was an open-plan conference room with a raised platform, several speakers made presentations while I watched. How to be more connected to your community and nature. Why truly sustainable energy matters at a personal level. Please come join our drum circle in the other conference room. There was a foreskin awareness table – and a woman in a black t-shirt printed with “I [heart] foreskin” handing out leaflets. Men’s Health magazine had a table. A local book-seller had a table with books on men’s spirituality, including a title by Robert Bly. I noted nothing written by Dr Farrell.

Somebody gave me a leaflet and explained I could use it to attend his first class on being a man for free. Manology helps men look at how ideas about masculinity shape us. It’s a place for men to be authentic and connect with each other.

The tone of the event was subdued, and the men each representing their issues were subdued men. International Subdued Men’s Day. I watched as a middle aged female employee of the community centre cruised slowly through, keeping an eye on proceedings, and making sure teh menz didn’t get ideas above their station. She noticed me too, as I was making no attempt to slouch or avert my eyes.

To be sure, each of the various issues presented, or represented by tables lined with fliers were, and are legitimate concerns. Men’s health, foreskin integrity, responsible electricity use with communities. Sure, none of these are illegitimate issues.

However, missing from the presentations, from the literature, and from the signage was the central issue of men’s rights. That men are are now, and have for 50 years, been under sustained, organized attack. That was the elephant in the room, and whether anyone at the roundhouse community center International Subdued Men’s Day event knew it, besides the scowling MRA in the bike jacket – they surely all felt it. Evident in every slumped posture and gentle, subdued voice, these men know they’re being allowed to have their little men’s drum circles and book-tables. They are being permitted to pretend they have personal masculine agency. This is the safe, moderated, permitted men’s movement. This is the feminist-friendly version of masculinity. Of course you little darlings can have a men’s health table at your event. After all, if prostate cancer takes daddy out, who will buy princess her cute little hatchback for college?

Feminist governance, the ongoing war against men was nowhere mentioned. I would hazard to guess that while these international subdued men can feel their second class status – they do no recognize it consciously. They do not recognize that they are under attack, or by whom. I am, of course, a civic-minded sort, and so I took steps to aid them in their understanding.

On leaving the International Subdued Men’s Day even at the West End Roundhouse community center, I noticed that activists besides myself were showing the colors. It was a chilly, but sunny Saturday in Vancouver, and directly across the street from the community center were two yellow-placard wearing volunteers from a local women’s shelter. These are a familiar site when the sun comes out, and I wandered over to take a picture of whatever lie the signs sported this day. Sometimes its 1 in 4, sometimes it’s 1 in 3, sometimes its rape, other times its domestic violence.

Today, I learned that an astonishing 90% of women are sexually harassed in the workplace. As usual, no source was cited, but why only 90%, why not all of them? Several questions bubbled to the top of my mind, including:

  • how many men are sexually assaulted to compare to your claimed 90%?
  • what’s the source of that made-up number?
  • why don’t you know the source of the number on your sign?
  • aren’t you dishonest to make an inflammatory claim without knowing its source?
  • why do you support violence against men?
  • why does promotion of hate against men not count as hate speech in Canada?

…along with many other questions.

However, I didn’t ask any of these questions. Not because I’m timid or lazy, but because I’d thought of a different approach.

I asked if they knew what was going on right across the street in the community centre.

They claimed that no, they did not know.

I informed them, using the tone of a colleague providing insider information – that today was International Men’s Day – and that an International Men’s Day event was being conducted right in that building there.

I further confided that the men at that mens day event had a table of books about drum circles and men’s mysticism, and a prostate cancer awareness table, and a community living talk was being presented. I asked my new feminist friends – one of whom was a protein deficient male feminist in his late 40’s “you guys are raising money, right?” Indicating his collection jar as I said this.

You guys should go in there and hand out your flyers. This is what you’re here for. And those guys can donate some money, too.

After a little more friendly encouragement from me, I smiled, took a flier, and waved goodbye.

I pulled back a block and a half to watch. Sure enough, my new friends from the women’s shelter crossed the street, and I’m sure found enthusiastic support from the men putting on their International Subdued Men’s Day presentation. I’m glad I was able to help.

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