EARLIER this year I wrote about a controversial Gillette advert which urged men to be accountable for toxic masculinity.

The glossy commercial showed men behaving badly - an Alpha male boss dismissing the only woman in the boardroom; a creepy middle-aged actor lunging at his female co-star; misogynistic pop videos; even a wolf-whistling cartoon character. And it showed men being cool - confronting a gang of bullies; stepping in to break up a scrap between two little boys; urging a young daughter to “be strong”.

With the catchline “Men need to hold other men accountable”, it was a provocative advert; lauded by some commentators as “pro-humanity” and dismissed by others as an “assault to masculinity”.

What I thought was: a) If men are expected to take on the weight of responsibility for the sexist, patronising and violent behaviour of their forefathers, God help their mental health and wellbeing. And b) If that advert was made about women, all hell would break loose. Women aren’t expected to hold other women accountable for bad behaviour, so why should men?

The #MeToo movement is long overdue in highlighting the toxic behaviour of men to women. It is also, and rightly so, about promoting female empowerment. And somewhere within all that we should be raising boys who are responsible and respectful - but we should be mindful of their needs too.

Which is why, as a woman, I have no problem with International Men’s Day. Taking place yesterday, with the theme “Making a difference for men and boys”, the movement celebrates “the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities”, highlighting good role models and raising awareness of men’s wellbeing. We could argue whether we really need a day devoted to either men or women. “We should celebrate each other and ourselves every day”, someone tweeted. Yes, but we don’t, do we? That’s just a twee soundbite that belongs on a fridge magnet - or a tweet.

Is International Men’s Day tokenism? Divisive? It’s probably both, but I don’t think there’s any harm in taking time out to celebrate good men - and address the uncomfortable truth that some men are struggling with life.

The Samaritans say there has been a significant rise in the suicide rate in young men since 2017, and middle-aged men remain the group at greatest risk of suicide overall. Research by culture change business Utopia and The Hobbs Consultancy has found that men’s expectations of themselves have shifted. Seven in ten men report they still feel the need to be the main financial provider for their family, yet almost half claim they’re also the primary carer to their children. And only a third say their workplace offers flexible working hours that fit around parenting. One in five men say their employers discourage them from taking on parenting duties that may affect work and just 11 per cent say their boss is comfortable with them taking days off due to child sickness.

In a week when we’ve questioned the behaviour of some very high-profile men, it’s worth remembering that not all masculinity is toxic. Not all men are like the Neanderthals in the Gillette ad. I think men are often vulnerable and at risk of losing their way in life - they’re less likely than women to talk about things that stress them and less likely to cope with divorce or living alone, yet they don’t usually have the safety net of emotional support that women have. So let’s welcome a day devoted to men and their wellbeing.

* THE Great British Bake Off is looking for a fresh batch of contestants, who have until January 5 to apply for the next series. There’ll be plenty of hopefuls rising to the challenge, but I can’t help thinking the show has lost its way a little. What started out as a warm-hearted celebration of amateur skills has become an over-baked test of artistry that would reduce a seasoned professional to tears.

Forget the humble scone, ginger biscuit or lemon drizzle cake. Now you probably won’t even reach week two unless you can re-create the Sistine Chapel in frangipane shortbread.

* IT'S never too early to put up a Christmas tree if you're an attention-seeking celebrity. Former Corrie actress Catherine Tydesley, reality TV star Vicki Pattison and socialite Tamara Ecclestone are among the famous folk already showing off their festive decorations on social media. Apparently, it's quite the thing now to get professionals in to trim your Christmas tree. The results look tacky to me - lashings of candy canes, plastic elves, matching bows and baubles, all colour-themed and lacking any kind of personal touch.

And it's mid-November, people! Won't it all start to look a bit tired by December 1? We used to laugh at a house down the road that always had their Christmas tree in the window in November. Now it appears to be a badge of honour for smug celebs.