International Men's Day (IMD) has arrived, wedged alongside International TV day and International Toilet Day, sharing November 19th on the calendar. As apt as that confluence may seem to some, there's more to the day than jokes about privilege on social media.
Whether it's the pay gap, cat calling or any of the general everyday sexism that women have to deal with all the time, the fact that there's an International Men's Day at all is one that causes a bit of consternation when it comes around every year.
As a white male aged 18 to 49, I'm very much aware that there's little need for a day to recognise the discrimination I've suffered and to attempt to bring my hitherto unrecognised complaints or issues into the public domain. As Homer Simpson once put it, "everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are".
That aside, IMD needs a bit of help on the public relations front, as it does seem to be widely misunderstood. Events to mark it have been met with outcry that seems to miss the point of the message they're trying to spread.
According to their official site, the people behind IUMD want to focus "on men's and boy's health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models". That can take the form of men looking at whether or not they get enough exercise, should they look at their diet and how much they drink, or, importantly, address issues of mental health that they might be struggling with.
The day falls in November, a month where men around the world also take part in Movember, which also looks to promote a range of similar issues for men. Their focus is on prostate and testicular cancer as well as mental health and physical inactivity, and there are some worrying statistics behind those initiatives.
Worldwide, one in four adults are not active enough, and 3.2 million deaths every year can be attribute to not exercising regularly enough. For young men (15-34) testicular cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer, while one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, with over 3,000 men given the diagnosis in Ireland every year. When it comes to frequency of cancer in general, Ireland is in the top 10 in the world, which means that any opportunity to raise awareness of the benefits of checking yourself for signs of the disease is one that should be taken.
The statistics on mental health are even more stark; three out of every four deaths by suicide are male, with one man dying every minute.
Stereotypical ideas of what it is to be a man, particularly remaining "strong and silent" in the face of troubles, are part of the problem, and both Movember and IMD encourage men to share their problems and communicate with friends and family about whatever issues might be troubling them.
Highlighting the existence of male domestic abuse, both physical and mental, is also a key concern for IMD. In 2014, the Amen support service had 6,660 contacts with people who were seeking their services, up a staggering 36.8% from the previous year. Again, the stigma of being a male victim of domestic abuse is a huge issue, and raising awareness or helping to break the perceived sense of silence around it is a vital part of helping victims get access to the help that they need.
Ribbing and joking on social media are all seen as acceptable ways to celebrate IMD, as people talk about how easy men have it, that there's no need to celebrate the day at all, and that men are being too sensitive when they point out that treating it in a lighthearted way is doing more harm than good.
That impulse to not treat it seriously is something that crops up again and again across the issues that IMD is looking to promote awareness of, from mental health to male domestic abuse. When men jokingly ask on International Women's Day when there's an International Men's Day (thanks to the work of Twitter user David Heffron and the writings of comedian Richard Herring, many of them now know that it's today) they also contribute to the problem.
The (predictable) fury on social media from men who think that there is no day to mark their achievements only serves to create a hostile reaction when the day itself does come around, but that isn't really the point of the day at all.
Feeding the Twitter trolls is always a terrible idea, but joking about IMD is more fuel to the fire of those men who already fail to recognise the inherent sexism of the system in which they live.
Mental health, domestic abuse and cancer are issues that affect both men and women, but in different ways, every day of the year, so save the 140 characters you were going to use to joke, complain or protest the day and maybe use them to help raise awareness around those topics on Twitter, and reach out to someone who might need it.
If you want to know more about what you can do to help raise funds for many of the causes discussed in this piece, you can find more information on Movember's website.
If you want to learn more about male domestic abuse, Amen support services can provide further information.
If you want to learn more about prostate or testicular cancer, or ways to support fundraising initiatives, you can consult the Irish Cancer Society.