International men’s day

 “It’s a shocking fact that around the world, one man a minute dies by suicide with men and boys being twice as likely to die by suicide as women and girls. That’s not just a statistic, that’s somebody’s son, husband, brother, father or friend dying and we can and must do more to save these men’s lives.”
-Warwick Marsh, coordinator

Saturday 19th November 2016 marked a historical day for men. Finally, after years and years of fighting for it, we received an international day that focused on men’s issues such as

  • Mens and boy’s health
  • Improving gender relations
  • Promoting gender equality
  • Highlighting positive male role models
  • Celebrating their achievements and contributions, in particular their contributions to community, family, marriage, and child care while highlighting the discrimination against them.

Men, like women, make sacrifices every day in their work, role as husband and fathers, for their families, their friends and communities etc. Over 60 different countries across the world worked together to celebrate this contribution and – more importantly – discuss the silent killer that is taking so many fathers, sons, husbands, brothers and grandfathers from us: Suicide. Find out more below but an important fact to remember is that 4 men commit suicide to every 1 woman.

In the UK, 4,630 men killed themselves in 2014, men are nearly four times more likely to kill themselves than women with 13 men dying from suicide every day. International Men’s Day UK invites all people, all over the UK, to use 19th November 2016 to start a national conversation about male suicide in your country.

According to dedicated website,, The theme is designed to help more people consider what action we can all take to “Make A Difference” by addressing some of the issues that affect Men and Boys such as:

  • The high male suicide rate
  • The challenges faced by boys and men at all stages of education including attainment
  • Men’s health, shorter life expectancy and workplace deaths
  • The challenges faced by the most marginalised men and boys in society (for instance, homeless men, boys in care and the high rate of male deaths in custody)
  • Male victims of violence, including sexual violence
  • The challenges faced by men as parents, particularly new fathers and separated fathers
  • Male victims and survivors of sexual abuse, rape, sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, forced marriage, honour-based crime, stalking and slavery
  • The negative portrayal of men, boys and fathers


A long fight
Although an amazing day, and one that will change a lot of lives, it hasn’t been an easy fight. The first call for International Mens Day was over 50 years ago in the 1960s. Many men came forward and asked for 23rd February to be International Mens Day, the male equivalent of International Women’s Day which is on March the 8th. In 1968, journalist John P. Harris, wrote an editorial brining to light the lack of balance in the Soviet System which promoted the day for women without celebrating men. Amongst the article is a quote about the communist system still very much relevant to society in general today, if not more so:

“makes much of the equal rights it has given the sexes, but as it turns out, the women are much more equal than the men[1].”

The interest in International Mens Day has been nothing less than outstanding with 60 different events across the country to bring attention to these issues. It has also made history. Following an argument bought forward by MP Philip Davies, the backbench MPs discussed the highlighted issues and bought them to light including male suicides, male victims experience of domestic violence and marginalization amongst others. They have published the full debate online which can be downloaded and read here.


We don’t need to tell you how happy we are to see International Mens Day and hope that it makes a positive difference around the world. But that doesn’t mean we can sit back and relax, there is still so much to do. We need you to keep talking about it, sharing things you see (including our tweets and Facebook posts) and highlighting any person who is seen to be actively promoting the denial of a father to his children. Join the fight and keep the conversation going – without that, men will still suffer in silence.

[1]  John P. Harris, ‘Red Women – Painted Town’, Salina Journal, p.4. 28 March 1964


Men don’t need self esteem anyway!

MP Philip Davies recently shared his disgust at the fact that women don’t have to wear uniform in prison as it may affect their self esteem, however, men can only earn the right.

This question triggered a research project that not only exposed gender inequality within prisons but also within the sentencing structure.

This blog post started with one simple question, asked by a colleague:

 “Did you know that female prisoners don’t have to wear uniforms in prison as it may affect their self esteem?”

This question triggered a research project that not only exposed gender inequality within prisons but also within the sentencing structure (more about that in our next blog). It began by reading through the PSO 4800: Guidance notes on gender specific standards focusing on woman prisoners, a document written against the background of the new Gender Equality Duty (April 2007), to see what rules apply directly to woman.  I would like to say that I’ve conducted a thorough comparison between the guidance notes for men and woman but I couldn’t find one for men specifically. There was an information booklet, written by the Ministry of Justice, for male prisoners and young offenders but does not have the same format, or detail, as the PSO so any comparison would be futile.

Subsection 3 of Category G: ‘Day to day living’ focuses on the property and clothing of female prisoners.  Within this section, which takes reference from Her Majesty’s Prison Service (HMPS) Standard, states that most male prisoners wear prison issue clothing and exchange dirty for clean from the prison laundry whereas women should be allowed to wear their own clothing?  The reasoning behind this decision was that

‘Women do not wear uniform and have not for many years. It is generally recognized that part of the rehabilitation for many women prisoners involves the ability to maintain and raise self-esteem. Self-esteem is linked to many women with personal appearance. Many women will want to have regular changes to clothing, to have varied clothing, to use make up and dress their hair.

This means that women need greater amount of clothing than men and thus will need access to more property – including toiletries – particularly lifers and women serving long sentences.’

 Whilst we agree with needing access to more toiletries in prison, particularly for hygiene reasons during the menstrual cycle, the idea that appearance is less important to a person’s self esteem if they are male is ludicrous. Even more non sensical is that men are given the opportunity to wear their own clothing only when earned under an incentive and earned privileges scheme. It’s not just the inequality of this decision that infuriates me but, as the link between clothing and identity has long been established, it seems that the prison service is saying that males’ rights are less than that of a female. In a paper entitled ‘Clothing, Identity and the Embodiment of Age’, Julia Twigg[1] expands more on what sociologists such as Veblen (1889)[2] and Simmel (1904)[3] have  previously explored, that clothing is more than simply apparel and actually helps a person define class identity. This belief was expanded on by Fine and Leopold (1993)[4], Polhemus (1994)[5] and Evans (1997)[6] who looked into the use of clothes as a means of self expression, self realisation, stabilising identity and registering belonging.

Nowadays, we have modernised the prison uniform to consist of grey trousers, sweatshirts and jumpers with prison issued underwear and socks. In November 2013 Chris Grayling, who was then Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice but has since been moved to Transport Secretary, announced that all convicted male prisoners are to be banned from watching violent and sexually explicit films as part of a crackdown on perks. The article fails to mention if females will be treated the same way but, as female prisoners are mentioned later in the article, it’s safe to assume that this isn’t a rule for all.

Of course, traditionally, prison uniform was about establishing uniformity. Women in UK jails have not been required to wear uniforms as research found they were better behaved when allowed to wear their own clothes. However, in his speech to parliament, MP Philip Davies revealed that supporting research conducted by the Ministry of Justice was ‘so deficient it was not even published’. If it has not been proven to be true, how can it be enforced? Prisons should not run on hearsay but cold, hard facts.  By taking away the prisoners clothes, they remove the person’s sense of identity and turn them into a non person, therefore helping to institutionalise them. By segregating prisoner’s rights by their gender, the HMPS standards are sending out a strong message – that male prisoners are not valued as highly as female.

We are not asking for prisons to throw out uniforms, or that prisons should not allow clothing be used as an incentive, but that there should be equality between the sexes. Both male and female inmates should be either in uniform or in casual clothes.To even imply that one sexes self esteem is valued above another is uneducated and abhorrent.

[2] Veblen, T. (1899/1953) The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions, New York: Mentor
[3] Simmel, G (1904/ 1971) ‘Fashion’, On Individuality and Social Forms: Selected Writings, trs D.C.Levine, Chicago: University of Chicago Press
[4] Fine, B. and Leopold, E (1993) The World of Consumption, London: Routledge
[5] Polhemus, T. (1994) Streetstyle: From Sidewalk to Catwalk, London: Thames and Hudson
[6] Evans, C. (1997) ‘Street style, subculture and subversion’ Costume, 31, 105-10