Traditionally, American men have had minimal involvement in gender movements. This could be because men have customary had privileges that women movements have been constantly fighting and advocating for. In the past, when women movements were fighting for women’s rights, several men were opposed to their efforts. However, a few notable men like Douglass Frederick were in support of the struggle for women’s rights. An increased participation by men in gender movements was however noted during the second wave of women’s liberation movements. Several men joined the National Organization for Women among other groups that worked for the liberation of women.
In recent years, a number of men have shown remarkable interest in exploring a variety of issues affecting men’s lives. Several of them seek to identify and critically examine the social constructions of masculinity in America. These groups have different strategies, goals and even conflicting ideologies. Some aim at changing the meaning of masculinity while others endeavor to reinforce the traditional image of masculinity. This essay will focus on a variety of men’s movements, while addressing the issues explored by these groups.
In the United States, a lot of issues concerning the social constructs surrounding males were vastly addressed, especially in the years between 1980s and 1990s. During this time, men movements were responsible for the creation and formation of men-based studies. Colleges and universities in the United States offered courses which were based on extensive research on issues affecting men. Such movements in support of men’s rights exist to date. Today, there exists a very strong connection between men and women movements. Often, the men movements emerge in reaction to particular issues pursued by women movements (Wood 95).
Profeminist men movements emerged during the 1960s. This involved men’s participation in movements such as the students Nonviolent Coordinating committees and students for a democratic society. The major concern for these groups was discrimination against women. Apart from focusing on the women, men liberation movements argue that men are more prone to victimization in issues such as prostitution dating, rituals, divorce settlements, fake rape accusations, sexual harassment and even domestic violence. Such movements endeavor to change the laws that they perceive to be harmful to men. An excellent example is the National Organization for Men against Sexism (NOMAS) which was formed in the early 1970s. This organization is Profeminist and affirms gay rights while seeking to enhance the emotional and personal lives of men (Messner 2).
The NOMAS organization sponsors workshops which enhance men’s awareness on restrictive social views of masculinity, which can hinder their development. It also offers guidance on how men can become more sensational and sensitive. The association believes that some attributes such as courage and ambition, which are traditionally associated with masculinity, are also present in women. NOMAS condemn some masculine attributes such as aggression, violence and emotional insensitivity. The association has for a long time addressed the issue of violence against women. Another of its areas of focus is the ending violence towards the gay. It is believed that the violence is due to homophobic attitudes by men towards gay people (Wood, p.98).
Another type o men movement is one centered on masculism. Masculists argue that men continue to suffer due to discrepancy in application of legislation. They argue that men are often forced to meet very tough conditions before they can be admitted to serve in certain occupations, as in the military service. They are also concerned with men, most of who work in hardship areas as in mining. Masculists also continue to address inequality in education, health, violence and parenting. They aspire to ensure social justice for all, men included (Messner 15).
Since the mythopoetic men’s movement, men movement groups have continued to evolve and their interests continue to differ. Today, there are men movements that are concerned with men’s health, fathers’ rights as well as organizations supporting male victims of rape. This discussion cannot be complete without mentioning some of the most notable men movement groups in the history of US. The mythopoetic movement began in the 1980s with few men coming together for lectures. Later, the number grew to include thousands of men who became mythopoetic leaders, a good example being Michael Meade who sought for spiritual guidance on the way to rediscover and regain masculinity. The essence of the mythopoetic movement is to enable men to explore, discover and reconstruct their inner selves (Messner 18). The influence of mythopoetic is however slowly declining.
Another significant men movement is the ‘Promise Keepers’.This movement began during the 1990s when a football coach together with his friend came up with an idea of having a full stadium of men who were committed to Christian discipleship. This idea was communicated to other men and spread extensively. In the year 1993, the movement’s vision was fulfilled when a gathering of men estimated to be about fifty thousand joined together for singing and praising, while promising to be good men. This group came up with about seven resolutions that would help them become better in their roles as men. Promise keepers however seem not to support gay rights which are considered as immoral by the founder of the movement. On the other hand, they strongly advocate for racial integration and active participation within the local churches (Claussen 14-17).
During the year 1995, a minister named Louis Farrakhan led thousands of African Americans in the ‘million man march’ in Washington to pray for forgiveness and express a commitment to restore men’s sense of morality and leadership within crisis ridden families and communities. Following this march, organizations such as the ‘Association for Advancement of Colored People’ reported increased membership numbers among the African Americans.
Another organization, ‘Big Brother’, also made similar reports of an upsurge of African American membership. The big brother movement is based on the basic principle of brotherhood, that the best way to help a neighbor is to help him/her to help themselves (empowerment). The objective of the big brother movement is to build self respect and character that would enable the beneficiaries to be self dependent and live a better life. The movement focused more on young boys who had more trouble with the law enforcement system. A similar organization called the big sister was stared by Mrs. William Vanderbilt in 1911 to help young girls who had come into conflict with the law (Coulter 102).
Men movements have indeed played a significant role in generating interest and research on men-related issues. For instance, the creation and development of several men studies is largely influenced by men movements. All this have contributed to a knowledge pool that informs decision making. This knowledge can be used for policy advocacy and change. Masculists movements have brought out outstanding issues on the welfare of men that are worth noting.
Movements like NOMAS have also tried to address the issues of violence towards women and sexism towards gay people. On the whole, the community gains significantly when men become responsible members within their families. This is what the ‘Fathers Educational Program’ run by NOMAS intends to achieve. Emphasizing on the positive aspects of masculinity while teaching men on ways through which they can control their negative characters such as aggression, is likely to result to peaceful coexistence of people within the society.
Groups such as the Promise Keepers play a key role in instilling moral values in men in relation to their roles within the family and the society as whole. They also instill discipline and commitment in serving others, through encouraging participation at the local churches. Rights advocacy movements contribute greatly in identifying the more pressing concerns as well as the solutions to such concerns.
Men movements are likely to add to the benefit of reducing social exclusion and thus promote the enjoyment of human rights by all social groupings within the community. This can be achieved through constant advocacy that some men groups are engaged in. Activities involved in men movements make a great contribution towards faster integration and coherence within the society. Sustained research on issues affecting men is likely to generate more interest and attention to different aspects of masculinity, and thus help the society to redress restrictive views, misconceptions and attitudes attached to masculinity.
The movements also help to protect the underprivileged people within the society, who include men who cannot meet the cost of seeking for legal address when wrongly accused. Such cases are very common among many poor men in India who suffer as a result of false dowry cases and alleged misuse of state legislation.
In conclusion, most men movements in the United States of America began after the first and second waves of women liberation movements. There have been progressive changes with more men movements being formed to address emerging issues such as gay rights. Men movements are closely related to women movements as they address similar social concerns such as oppression, liberation and equality of opportunities. The main aim of various men movements is to ensure that men’s rights are not violated, and that there is social justice for all. The benefits of these movements include stimulating research and studies on men-related issues which has provided better understanding of masculinity. This has in turn contributed to initiatives that control violence against women while dealing with homophobic attitudes towards the gay people. Some of the most notable men movements include ‘The Promise Keepers’, ‘The Mythopoetic Movement’, ‘The Big Brother Movement’, as well as many other masculists men movements.
Claussen, Dane. The Promise Keepers: essays on masculinity and Christianity.USA: McFarland, 2000
Coulter, Ernest “The Big brothers.” Journal of the National Institute of Social Sciences (US) (2009):102
Messner, Michael A. Politics of masculinities: men in movements. USA: Rowman Altamira, 1997.
Wood, Julia. Gendered lives: communication, gender, and culture. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2008.