Ladies, why so serious?

The most unsurprising aspect of International Men's Day on Tuesday was that every bloke I contacted about it didn't even know there was an International Men's Day (IMD).

I spoke to a priest, police inspector, newspaper editor, sports reporter, yachtsman, unemployed dude, ad exec, floor tiler, publican, electrician - gay and straight men, single and married, dads and not - none of 'em had a clue an entire calendar day had been set aside to highlight their 'issues'.

I'll be honest here and admit I had no idea either until I saw the concept being mocked in my Twitter feed by a feminist blogger and forwarded her email address to the International Brotherhood of Oppression so they'd spam her Gmail account with Jean-Claude Van Damme quotes from Bloodsport.

Equally unsurprising as the lack of awareness were the laconic replies I got from the men I asked about IMD: "We're so easily forgotten", "That's every day", "I hear it's big in San Francisco", "Do we get blow jobs?", "I assume every day is Man Day and act accordingly" and so on and so forth.

Some might argue this sort of humour comes from being the patriarchal overlords pulling the levers of global exploitation, while others might suggest it's symptomatic of male selflessness to not be focused purely on one's own wellbeing.

Needless to say, no man I spoke to also knew there was a "Men's Strategic Roundtable" held at  Parliament House, Canberra, on Tuesday where a white paper titled The Modern (Aussie) Man was presented to attendees.

That study, commissioned by the advertising agency M&C Saatchi, was "the result of eight months of one-to-one interviews with 140 men, primarily aged 27-55 years, from a broad cross section of Australian demographics, workforce and geography".

About 70 of the men were leaders in their industries, the other 70 "every day" blokes and, as transparent a ploy as it is to sell men more stuff they do not need, there were some interesting findings.

Unsurprisingly, the research found the majority of respondents prioritised their families; disliked 'shopping', wankers and vain men and are unassuming romantics. They're also "women’s biggest fans; respectful of their right to equal opportunities, considerations and benefits".


What particularly struck me was one of the "key findings" that "men want to laugh more at home but want to avoid perpetuating the perceived female logic (that) male humour is immature or signifies men don’t want to grow up".

"Humour is his Swiss Army Knife of Life," says the study, "a coping/resilience facilitator, stress reducer, relaxant, relationship builder, and breaker of awkward moments.

"Humour is the social glue of Australian men. Their style of humour is similar to modern-day stand-up comedy; with men taking (uninterrupted) turns to tell comedic yarns, often with high levels of exaggeration or embellishment. Sharing humorous stories is like doing a mini-performance; it gets perfected over time for better effect."

Tellingly, however, the researchers found the modern Aussie man "feels disappointed that women who loved his humour in the early stages of getting to know him frequently say that his humour is immature later on in their relationship".

"He would love to laugh more at home with his wife/partner, but doesn't wish to further perpetuate the perceived female logic that a male's affinity with simple yarn-style humour is immature or signifies that men don't want to grow up. Lack of humour doesn't feel grown up to Modern [Aussie] Man. It feels lifeless."

On the other hand, "men feel they have become the sacrificial lamb for the sins of every man throughout time, so have developed gender-issue laryngitis that stops them sharing thoughts, concerns and issues (around either gender) for fear of being labelled sexist".

The absolute dearth of media coverage for IMD and reactions such as this from Britain's Telegraph columnist Ava Vidal ("My first thought when I heard that there was an International Men’s Day was to sigh and roll my eyes.") and this epic tantrum  from Fairfax's Daily Life about the white paper, pretty much sum up why men stay silent around women; who wants to be mocked?

Of course, this also maintains the widely-held feminine conviction men don't share their feelings or care about these issues, which seems to be in part because we deal with them differently - ie. with humour.

The research also found "Australian men need man time, whether alone or with other men, to be the best version of themselves. This is re-balancing and de-stressing time, with the absence of expectations, judgments or stress" and that men were "their most relaxed and authentic selves around other men".

The study also highlighted a phenomena many guys would be familiar with, where they feel they have to ask permission from female partners to spend time with their mates.

"Men frequently deploy the technique of 'covert tradeoffs' to ease this process," while there was a perception "women have the freedom of self-diary management for their personal time and pursuits".

It paints a rather forlorn picture of the dynamic in heterosexual relationships - with men so worried about speaking their mind, they simply don't, and save the best of themselves for male friends who understand having a laugh and taking the piss is a mighty effective way of shrugging off life's many worries.

As I've said many times on this blog, gender issues are two sides of one coin and, if either sex wants to understand perceived resistance to their own concerns, they need merely look at their attitude to the other sex's issues.

If that is the case, maybe us blokes need to take life a bit more seriously (at least when women are around) and women need to lighten up.

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Please don't take it personally if I do not reply to your email as they come in thick and fast depending on the topic. Please know, I appreciate you taking the time to write and comment and would offer mummy hugs to all.