International Men’s Day Makes Some People Angry — But Men Face Real Issues That Can't Be Ignored

Photo: Shutterstock.com /  Skrynnik Mariia
man in hoodie sitting, depressed, on a park bench looking at ocean

In a patriarchal society where 98% of the people who have held the office of President have been white and 100% of them have been male, it's hard to imagine a need for an International Men's Day, which is November 19th.

After all, the stats that show the progress of gender equality are depressing: only 27% of Congress is female, only 8.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, only 30% of college presidents were women in 2019, and only 27% of the judges sitting in lower federal courts are women. 

Women earn lower salaries for the same jobs and are less likely to be promoted to positions of power (even when controlled for other factors like education differences), and are much, much more likely to be killed by a current or former romantic partner than men are. 

It's bad out there. 

But recognizing that women today still face powerful gender discrimination doesn't mean that men aren't suffering under patriarchy, too. Especially men who also belong to other marginalized groups: men of color, LGBTQIA+ men, disabled men, men experiencing poverty and homelessness, and men with depression and other mental illnesses — just to name a few. 

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Even men who seem like the have it all on the surface may be suffering in ways that we rarely address. That's why I have compiled this list of very real issues facing men today, issues that deserve our attention and compassion.

I'm of the opinion that addressing these issues with compassion would help heal many of the bigger issues that affect all of us. 

This is not in any way an exhaustive list, nor does it imply that anyone of any gender cannot experience these problems. It's just a way to get a conversation started that, ultimately, would benefit everyone. 

8 serious men's issues that deserve attention on International Men's Day

1. Men's risk of death by suicide is sky-high

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, "In 2019, men died by suicide 3.63x as often as women" and was the 8th leading cause of death for men in 2019, despite being considered largely preventable. 

While women's rate of suicide deaths has been catching up in recent years compared to decades past, the difference is still astounding. 

Writing for the BBC, Helene Schumacher notes that "Women also are even more likely than men to attempt suicide. In the US for example, adult women in the US reported a suicide attempt 1.2 times as often as men. But male suicide methods are often more violent, making them more likely to be completed before anyone can intervene." 

Schumacher also notes that men may choose more violent or immediate means to die by suicide because their intent is greater. She notes, "One study of more than 4,000 hospital patients who had engaged in self-harm found, for example, that the men had higher levels of suicidal intent than the women."

2. Men have a lot of undiagnosed and untreated depression and anxiety. 

How much? We don't really know. As I cited in my last article about men and mental health, men often find themselves unable to ask for professional help.

Joseph Harper, a mental health professional wrote, "I have watched mothers and wives literally drag the men they love into my office," he writes, adding, "I often struggle with some male patients to pull information about their emotional issues out of them because they are so reluctant to speak. Others simply downplay their problems saying things like, 'It’s not really a big deal,' or 'My wife is blowing this out of proportion.' Then there are the men who are simply embarrassed and ask, 'Nobody will ever know I was here, right?'"

Clearly society has taught men and teenage boys that asking for help is unmanly, shameful or useless — or all three at once. 

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3. Men experience high rates of drug and alcohol addiction

According to the NIH's National Institute on Drug Abuse, "Men are more likely than women to use almost all types of illicit drugs, and illicit drug use is more likely to result in emergency department visits or overdose deaths for men than for women."

This is likely due to the points made above, but it may also have to do with stresses and pressures associated with other items on our list today, like dangerous jobs, the silencing of male survivors of sexual violence, homophobia and other intersecting oppressions — or even the pressure of being a "good provider" according to the traditional patriarchal expectations of men.

4. Men perform incredibly dangerous jobs

In the United States, men are the vast majority of employees in almost all of the top 25 most dangerous jobs: From logging to oil workers to roofers and garbage collectors, we expect men to risk life and limb and rarely consider it to be heroic in any way. 

Of course, men also comprise the vast majority of deaths in the military, which isn't considered a job in the traditional sense and therefore isn't counted in the list above. 

On a personal note, every time I watch men and even teenage boys boxing, competing in mixed martial arts (MMA), or playing football, I think about how we, as a society, simply expect men to sacrifice their bodies for our entertainment — especially men and boys of color.

The NFL has one of the highest rates of serious injuries, including spinal cord and traumatic brain injury (and subsequent permanent brain damage like CTE), of any profession. Many excuse these injuries by saying, "But look how rich they get!" as if a high salary makes up for a lifetime of pain or disability.

What's more, the average NFL player's career only lasts 2.5 years (!!!) and players are often left with few job prospects and no insurance to cover their many injuries as well as no disability assistance. Some end up with serious addiction issues due to years of narcotic use for managing pain.

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5. Male survivors of sexual violence are often silenced 

Most people don't realize that men and boys face a 1 in 6 risk of experiencing unwanted sexual interactions before they turn 18. 

While sexual violence stats always vary based upon how data is collected and what constitutes sexual abuse or rape, one thing we know for sure is that men and boys are victims of sexual violence more than people realize. 

Adding insult ot injury, many male survivors are shamed, blamed and silenced when they seek help or try to call out their abuser and even considered dangeorus, based upon the fallacious Vampire Syndrome myth

More support is needed for any boy or man who has experienced abuse, but fortunately there are now organizations like '1 in 6' where men can get confidential support online. This is especially helpful for guys who haven't had gender-specific treatment available to them in more rural or conservative areas. 

6. Men who are abused by women are pushed into the shadows

While it is still considered comparatively rare for men and teen boys to be abused by current or past romantic partners, we know that this is an issue that has always existed and has long been kept quiet. According to NCADV, 1 in 9 men have experienced severe intimate partner violence

A friend who worked in a small-town emergency room for many years said they regularly had men coming into their department with injuries consistent with domestic violence, but who would never press charges or admit they were being battered. After all, it would be considered weak to be hurt by a woman.

But that doesn't mean it's not happening. And if men feel they cannot speak up about it, then they aren't getting the support they need to heal and may remain in very dangerous situations. 

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RELATED: 25 Compelling Quotes About Men and Toxic Masculinity 

7. For-profit prison systems are making rich white men richer off the bodies of men of color 

The United States judicial system is complicated and deeply biased, and almost everyone agrees upon that. The issues are far too many to address here.

But one very clear example of this is the ways in which for-profit prisons have exploited our criminal justice system in order to become wealthy. Judges have received illegal kickbacks for sending more people to jail or prison, and most of these victims are Black men. 

These prisons also put incarcerated folks to work, essentially enslaving them. 

Ava Duvarnay's documentary, 13th, explores this issue in depth, and is definitely worth a watch in honor of International Men's Day.

8. Homophobia is still rampant in schools and many communities of men

Despite the fact that there are more out queer men and women in many positions of power and represented in TV and movies than ever, homophobia is still alive and thriving in many communities.

Any teenage boy can attest to the commonality of hearing the word "gay" used as a pejorative — even among kids who claim they would never discriminate against or harm a gay classmate. 

Homophobia is also rampant in many communities with cultural and religious traditions that are discriminatory.

This type of bigotry isn't damaging just to members of the LGBTQIA+ community, but to anyone who may be seen as gay or queer — from male survivors of sexual violence to boys and men who simply don't fit into the standard "Man Box". 

And while progress is being made toward full LGBTQIA+ acceptance, hate crimes against queer men are still occuring — in fact in 2019 it was reported that the rates of hate crimes against LGBTQIA+ folks were rising, and the results are often deadly. 

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Joanna Schroeder is a feminist writer and media critic whose writing has appeared in The New York Times, Time, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, BuzzFeed, Esquire, Vox, and more. She has a degree in gender studies from UCLA and is raising three very busy kids while working from home. Follow her on Twitter or visit Joanna Schroeder's website for more.