The "Men's Movements"

Menstuff® provides a brief background on the different segments of the "men's movement".


Men's/Father's Rights
Men's Recovery
Mythopoetic
Pro-Feminist
Promise Keepers
Books

This is an attempt to look at the men's movement, and some of its major issues over the past 30 plus years, through books. Included is a critique that reviews what each of the four major segments can learn from the other. I have also included several books that are Out-Of-Print (OOP), because of their inportance to the understanding of that movement. They can often be found at used bookstores.

This information has been garnered from a review of over 3,500 books published since 1958 covering more than 100 men's issues. This information was gathered from three main sources: the rather extensive library at The National Men's Resource Center and two bibliographies, one put together by the Men's Studies Task Group of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism and the other a book titled "Men's Studies: A Selected and Annotated Interdisciplinary Bibliography" by Eugene August, published in 1985 and updated in 1994.

Early writings in the men's movement often centered around the male condition and were supportive of or a reaction to the women's liberation movement at a time when many men were caught between traditional roles as men and the newer expectations. The political activism that grew from this work formed two major segments - pro-feminist and men's rights.


Men's/Father's Rights


This group is best represented by the National Congress for Men, which was founded in 1981 as a coalition of several hundred fathers and men's rights groups around the nation. Of any of the men's movements to date, the father's rights segment potentially carries much the same energy that the women's movement has maintain, though centered around injusticies in our societies exclusion of men from the household (except as provider), and as "visitor" upon divorce. The difference is that most men don't experience this injustice until after the divorce, so the movement builds on "after the fact" energy, and even here, once men solve their current problems, many go back to business as usual, taking away the energy needed by the movement to actuate desired reform. This group could learn from Recovery about their addiction to anger, and from the Pro-Feminists regarding a wider perspective on human rights. (See also Books and Periodicals.)

Herb Goldberg's books reflect his personal shift in perspective and often speak to this movement, while Warren Farrell made a shift from the pro-feminist segment to a more Men's Rights stance with his 1986 offering The Manipulated Man, Ester Vilar, 1972 OOP The Hazards of Being Male, Herb Goldberg 1977 The Other Side of the Coin, Roy Schenk, 1982 The Myth of the Monsterous Male & Other Feminist Fables, John Gordon, 1982, Men Freeing Men, anthology ed Francis Baumli, 1985, Why Men Are the Way They Are, Warren Farrell, 1988.


Men's Recovery


While recovery programs have been around for many years and have large representations of men in them, they, too, have seen themselves as holding no real political stance. While addictions are used to repress the expression of feelings, because of the a-political nature of the recovery movement, it's not always clear for the need to change part of the larger system to allow expression of feelings outside of 12-step meetings. Millions of men have joined mixed and men's only recovery groups on about every addiction you can think of, and have just started to bridge across to other facits of the men's movement for the feeling part. These other facets hold an outlet, experience and understanding of the part feelings play in our lives, how men are set-up in this culture and how to find ways to free the feelings more on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis.

For starters, I would recommend that every man, whether in rocovery or not, read and digest Merle Fossum's Men in Rocovery, Finding our Direction previously titled Catching Fire: Men Coming Alive in Recovery followed by The Trickster, Magician & Grieving Man: Reconnecting Men with Earth, by Glen Mazis. (See also Books and Periodicals.)


Mythopoetic


As men's political activism continued through the late 70's and early 80's, a third segment of loosely connected men began to form what Shepherd Bliss termed the "Mythopoetic" side of the men's movement. This segment concentrates on looking at the male situation through myths and poetry. This segment tends to focus on the man's individual life, and has yet to make the political statements required to change how these men experience the world outside a men's drumming circle. The emphasis on men's only space, while positive in the short-term to work with mutual issues in a safe space, lacks the larger perspective of the community at large where the men must rejoin the others in this world. They can learn from pro-feminists that by having the intention of periodically opening the "men's space" to women, it dispells the old systems of exclusion that no longer serves women or men.

Important books include: Mythopoetic Perspectives of Men's Healing Work: An anthology for therapists and others, Ed. Edward Read Barton, 2000; Puer Papers, James Hillman, 1979; Puer Aeternus, Marie-Louise Von Franz, 1981; The Phallic Quest, James Wyly, 1989; Iron John, Robert Bly, 1990; King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, Robert Moore & Douglas Gillette, 1990; Meeting the Shadow, ed Connie Zweig & Jeremiah Abrams, 1991; To Be A Man, ed Keith Thompson, 1991; Pigs Eat Wolves, Charles Bates, 1991; Knights without Armor, Aaron Kipnis, 1991 (See also Books and Periodicals.)


Pro-Feminist


This group is best represented by the National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS). While officially forming in 1982, the group dates back to 1975 when some of the core activists organized the first National Conference on Men & Masculinity. This group concentrates primarily on the issues of the power and privilege men have over others and strongly encourages men to make the personal political, to change the larger community for the good of all. While originally springing up from men's consciouness raising groups who were very involved with their feelings, it seems a more recent direction is even more activist, which tends to draw away from feelings other than anger. The best thing members of this movement could do is to explore recovery, concentrating on the personal issues that drew them in the first place. Seeing this connection will probably cause a re-direction of their individual political work towards healthier solutions. They could also learn from Men's Rights and hear the pain the unjust legal and social system causes men, as well as women and children.

While there were some good books written before 1971, the basic primers for this group were: Unbecoming Men, anthology, 1971; A Male Guide to Women's Liberation, Gene Marine, 1972/1974; Men & Masculinity, Joseph Pleck & Jack Sawyer, 1974 OOP; The Forty-Nine Percent Majority: The Male Sex Role, Deborah David & Robert Brannon, 1976; The Male Machine, Marc Fasteau, 1976; For Men Against Sexism, anthology 1977; The Myth of Masculinity, Joseph Pleck, 1981; A Mensch Among Men, Harry Brod, 1988; Refusing to Be a Man, John Stoltenberg, 1989. (See also Books and Periodicals.)


Promise Keepers


The Promise Keepers boast over a million men as members. What is more interesting is that they are coming together as fathers. It was started by University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney in 1991. An evangelical Christian, he finds that "We are seeing...a huge hunger among men who want to learn to live successfully in today's world." Promise Keepers offers these men a chance to recommit themselves not just to Jesus, but to their families as well. McCartney stresses cooperation, responsibility and even an openness to minorities and homosexuals. Wall St Journal

The success of the Promise Keepers program, at least for now, cannot be denied. McCartney was out-drawing The Rolling Stones, though those days have passed. The thing I find most interesting is the reaction once again with activists trying to destroy anything that smacks of "men's growth". "They don't allow women." Neither do many women's events and festivals. I don't know anyone who feels women will share and open up at the same level in mixed company as they do with their own sex. So, why should we expect men to be more vunerable? Seems just another way to control men. "They preach dominance over women." While the gatherings are primarily made up of men from fundamentalist Christian families that already following certain teachings, it's the religious teachings, the churches and the men and women in those sects that should be receiving the criticism. From women writers who posed as men to get in, to many others who've been inside, this is not a major point. The major point is to re-commit to the family through promises that you will be held accountable for by other men. For more information about Promise Keepers, call Brian Yeager, the National volunteer coordinator at 303.456.7276. (See also Books and Periodicals.)

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Abe Lincoln said, "The best way to destroy your enemy is to make him your friend." Any takers?



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