“When is International Men’s Day?” the student asked in a challenging voice.
I hadn’t mentioned anything in class about today, International Women’s Day. I consider myself a fairly staunch feminist (OK, a very staunch feminist), but I hadn’t brought it up because it wasn’t germane to the class. We are talking about settings in dystopian novels, and I didn’t think a discussion of International Women’s Day was in the cards for us. But he’d watched the Google Doodle as he logged into our Google Classroom site and he was full of questions and umbrage.
I didn’t know how to react. How to tell this young, white man that men don’t get a special day because they have not been put down. That you can’t honor the dominant group because the dominant group inherently gets every place of honor. I don’t know this student well, and I didn’t know how far to push his thinking or his attitude. What was his home life like? Did he have a mother who told him these things? Did he have a father who told him the opposite?
“Every day is International Men’s Day,” a female student piped up.
After her comment the floodgates were opened, and I did say what I was thinking. About hierarchies and patriarchies and all of the other -archies out there. He pushed back a little, but he did clearly acknowledge the power bestowed upon him by his race and gender. He seemed different at the end of the conversation. He still didn’t acknowledge I was right (there’s a type of student who will never acknowledge that you’re right), but I could see he was at least thinking about what we’d talked about.
As our conversation wound down, another student, this one an African American boy, chimed in, “Maybe we should have International Men’s Day during White History Month.”
I smiled as the conversation started again. It took us off task, of course, but it was an important detour to take.