Chortle gives The Problem With Men 4 stars

Anyone who’s been on Twitter on March 8 will know the Sisyphean task Richard Herring has taken on in doing fighting trollery with trollery.

On International Women’s Day, men flock to their keyboards to carp indignantly: ‘When is International Men’s Day?’ before slumping back with a smug grin on their face about the brilliant point they’ve so pithily nailed.

But what point is that? For as Herring so patiently points out, thousands and thousands of times at some cost to his sanity: there is an International Men’s Day, and it’s on November 19.

His unflagging responses are a simple, if intense, game of rising to the bait, though the whole exercise reveals there’s a whole lot more going on in the minds of the men who post a question they could easily google, and the wider world, than a simple inquiry.

Those who so unimaginatively protest that 24 hours of the year be given over to celebrating the mothers, daughters and sisters of the world are affecting indignity at a perceived injustice that, though imaginary, is somehow holding them back.

This brisk, relatively slight, title can’t hope to unpack all that’s going on here, but starting from his March 8 stunt – including addressing the issue of whether it’s right for a man to be fighting this battle at all – Herring gives a bullet-point guide to inequality, male arrogance and the fragility of ego that gets outraged when the focus dare fall on someone else.

Of course, it’s easy to mock and tease those who ask ‘When is International Men’s Day?’ (It’s November 19) – and Herring revels in doing just that with the wit of a man who’s spent 30 years battling hecklers, but laced with a strong streak of self-deprecation about the task he’s brought upon himself.

His most crucial point, though, is that when it comes to International Men’s Day (November 19), those men who were so vocal eight months earlier are notably silent. All those who think we can’t celebrate men, or complain that they want a day to raise issues such as suicide that disproportionately affect men, don’t take the chance when given it.

If only they did, perhaps they would find the true International Men’s Day was within them all along. (It’s not; it’s an actual day, November 19)

Of course, the people who should be learning these lessons are also the least likely to be reading a book entitled The Problem With Men.

But for everyone else, this bite-sized read might provide some ammunition should they meet any reactionary ‘meninists’ who get the hump about International Women’s Day.

Herring - who's now chosen to end his March 8 marathon – memorably likens them to childhood brats complaining they don’t get presents on someone else’s birthday, sulking that it’s not all about them. And that’s an image worth keeping.