Townsville City Council is to be congratulated for hosting its second Employee Expo in celebration of International Men’s Day (IMD) at the RSL Stadium on November 12, ahead of the official IMD on November 19.
IMD aims to acknowledge the positive contributions ordinary, decent men make to family, community, and society while highlighting areas in which men face disadvantage and discrimination.
This year’s theme, “Working Together for Men and Boys,” is “intended to encourage greater cooperation in addressing issues that affect Men and Boys all over the world.”
Taking an inclusive approach, the council was able to facilitate several hundred of its male and female employees attending an expo focused on these issues and supporting men’s health and well-being. More than 30 exhibitors provided information on physical, emotional, and financial health and pursuits related to leisure, spirituality, and self-development.
Employee attendance was up significantly on the inaugural event in 2013. Hermit Park Clinic provided brief health checks and skin spot checks to some 150 individuals.
Discussions with TCC staff and organizers indicate that the expo will now become an annual feature of their employee support calendar. This represents a clear win for gender equality, with the City Council demonstrating concern for both sexes.
Below is the text of my opening address to the Townsville City Council International Men’s Day Employee Expo:
“Thanks to Mayor Jenny Hill and the Townsville City Council for hosting the IMD Employee Expo for a second year.
Various celebrations of International Men’s Day occurred around the world in the second half of the last century, including the first documented Australian celebration at Circular Queue Sydney in 1994.
But it was not until 1999 under the leadership of Professor Jerome Teelucksingh of the University of Trinidad that IMD celebrations became a visible worldwide phenomena endorsed by the UN, with observances now occurring in more than 60 countries.
Counter to the predominant negative discourse around men behaving badly, Prof. Teelucksingh has a vision of celebrating the positive sides of masculinity.
He based IMD on six pillars.
Number 1: To promote positive male role models; not just movie stars and sports men but everyday, working-class men who are living decent, honest lives. Men like you and I. And closely related to Number 1 …
Number 2: To celebrate men’s positive contributions to society, community, family, marriage, child care, and the environment.
Sadly, current social trends see up to one-third of children growing up in fatherless homes. Fatherhood is often disparaged as unnecessary.
Men are often portrayed as dangerous to children; Qantas and Virgin Australia reinforce this view with policies of not seating unaccompanied minors next to males on commercial flights.
Yet the importance of a connected father to children’s development, family stability, and social cohesion is well established.
Against this background, it is great to see the current Dads 4 Kids advertisements on TV showing positive images of ordinary, everyday dads interacting with their children.
Number 3: To focus on men’s health and well-being: social, emotional, physical, and spiritual.
Traditional masculine stereotypes often lead men to be neglectful of their health, especially their emotional well-being, and there is a well-documented “gender health gap.”
A male child born in Australia can expect to live five years less than a female child.
• He is 1.6 times more likely to die from cancer
• 1.9 times more likely to die from circulatory diseases
• Males are three times more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident
• Almost twice as likely to die from drug-related causes
• Men are three to four times more likely to commit suicide than women, an indication they often suffer psychological distress alone.
Yet efforts to address male health and government spending are significantly less than efforts and spending on women’s health.
Take a moment today to make sure you are looking after yourself.
Number 4: To highlight discrimination against males in areas of social services, social attitudes and expectations, and law.
Do males face discrimination? They certainly do in some areas.
· Health services and spending, as noted
· Fathers are far less likely to gain custody of their children following divorce, and we are a long way away from the ideal “equal shared parenting.”
· A major education gap exists, with boys performing less well than girls at school level and girls significantly outnumbering boys in university enrollments and graduations.
· Male victims of family and domestic violence (one in three) are not acknowledged, and there are virtually no services available to them.
· For the same crime, males routinely receive harsher punishment and sentencing in the criminal justice system than females.
Number 5: To improve gender relations and promote gender equality.
Often, gender equality is seen as only involved with improving women’s lives, and the focus has now shifted from equality of opportunity to equality of outcome.
We are told that women should make up half of CEOs and board members, but, surprisingly, no mention is made of women reaching parity in the dirty and dangerous trades mostly occupied by men.
Women have been helped to move into the workforce, but men have not been helped to have a greater role in the home and family.
Many campaigns exist to stop violence against women, yet men, who are the overwhelming majority of victims of violence (83 % of violent deaths worldwide, according to the WHO), are largely ignored. Why can’t we work to stop violence against everyone?
Let’s recognize the inherent differences between men and women and give everyone respect, compassion, and equality of opportunity, for men as well as women across the spectrum.
If we do that, we will surely come closer to building a strong pillar Number 6: To create a safer, better world, where people can be safe and grow to reach their full potential.