On the eve of International Women's Day, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the UN under-secretary general, penned a powerful and rousing open letter urging men and boys to stand alongside women in the fight for gender equality. Highlighting the new UN Women He for She campaign, she outlined the practical reasons why working to eradicate sexism is in everybody's interest – from strengthening economies to reducing world hunger. She also appealed to men to recognise that gender inequality impacts on those nearest and dearest to them – their mothers, sisters, friends and daughters. But, most importantly, she pointed out that standing up for gender equality is quite simply the right thing to do.
The following morning, my first tweet about celebrating International Women's Day was met immediately with a predictable reply from a male tweeter: "When's national men's day?" But before I could reply, another male follower jumped in: "I know, right???" he answered, "When's MY day? Why isn't every day about me? A whole day! Once a year! Where will it end?" In a second tweet, he continued: "Also it's November the 19th. That took a second on Google. BUT THESE BLOODY WOMEN, EH?" Without for one moment disparaging the importance of International Men's Day, which focuses on issues such as men and boys' health, gender equality and positive male role models, I appreciated the support from a male ally who was prepared to stand alongside us in defending the importance of International Women's Day.