Tomorrow, Nov. 19, is International Men's Day, celebrated in the U.S. and 59 other countries–but not at the U.K.s University of York, which canceled its support after some 200 of university-connected feminists (staff, students, and alumnae) signed this open letter:

A day that celebrates men's issues – especially those outlined in the University's statement – does not combat inequality, but merely amplifies existing, structurally imposed, inequalities. The closing remark – ‘gender equality is for everyone’ – echoes misogynistic rhetoric that men’s issues have been drowned out by the focus on women’s rights.

So the university promptly issued this statement:

The Equality and Diversity Committee is clear that the main focus of gender equality work should continue to be on the inequalities faced by women, and in particular the under-representation of women in the professoriate and senior management.  We believe that we can make meaningful progress in addressing these issues, while at the same time addressing other aspects of the equality and diversity agenda.

Huh? There's an International Women's Day (March 8), which has been around since 1914 and enjoys the blessing of the U.N. So how about a little recognition for the other sex, the one that built all our roads and bridges? The International Men's Day website declares:

Objectives of International Men's Day include a focus on men's and boy's health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. It is an occasion for men to celebrate their achievements and contributions, in particular their contributions to community, family, marriage, and child care while highlighting the discrimination against them….

The ability to sacrifice your needs on behalf of others is fundamental to manhood, as is honour. Manhood rites of passage the world over recognise the importance of sacrifice in the development of Manhood.

Men make sacrifices everyday in their place of work, in their role as husbands and fathers, for their families, for their friends, for their communities and for their nation. International Men's Day is an opportunity for people everywhere of goodwill to appreciate and celebrate the men in their lives and the contribution they make to society for the greater good of all.

Apparently the ladies of the University of York got ticked off by the university's initial statement on Nov. 12 announcing its intention to mark the day:

Dr Adrian Lee, of the University’s Equality & Diversity Committee, said: “Our equality and diversity initiatives cover all nine protected characteristics as defined in the 2010 Equality Act – sex, race, age, disability, religion and belief, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marital status and pregnancy / maternity.  In the area of gender equality, the focus has rightly been on raising awareness about – and removing barriers for – women.

“We are, however, also aware of some of the specific issues faced by men.  Men are under-represented in the student population as a whole; they are also significantly under-represented in a number of academic disciplines across all three faculties. 

“In academic staff appointments, the data suggests that female candidates have a higher chance of being appointed than men.  In the professional support services, there are areas where men are significantly under-represented.  Likewise in academic departments, the support staff complement is often heavily weighted towards women, with some departments employing no men at all in these roles.

“The reasons for these circumstances are complex and the solutions will not be found overnight, but we are resolved to address these issues systematically and fairly, in the same way that we approach unfairness and discrimination faced by women.”

In wider society, men are confronted by other challenges which are significant from an equality perspective.  Boys underperform at school compared to girls.  Men are 20 times more likely than women to go to prison; they are much more likely to be victims of violent crime, are more likely to commit suicide and have a lower life expectancy than women.  Men are also less likely to access mental health services and other forms of support when they need them.

Oops! You can't say anything like that to a feminist! The U.K. Independent reports:

However, Dr Lee’s comments were not well-received by staff and students who wrote an open letter to Dr David Duncan – chair of the equality and diversity committee – as well as to the university’s vice-chancellor and president.

With almost 200 signatures of support, the protestors called for ‘a full account’ of the means by which a decision to promote men’s issues ‘in this way’ was reached by the committee. The letter added: “[They do not] acknowledge the reputational damage caused to the university by associating itself in this way with radical ‘men’s rights activist’ groups.” The group also sought an apology for the use of ‘dubious scholarship’ in the claim that women are advantaged in hiring processes.

And that was the end of International Men's Day. If I were Dr. Adrian Lee, I'd be updating that resume right now.