Monday, September 12, 2011

Reaching Men (more)

Brie, (and cc:d to Stacey Bellem – see below)
(note: see:

I’ve been reading some of what you’ve written recently related to your August 31, 2011 blog entry and the issues central in it.

I’ve never worked in primary prevention, hence at times I may miss some of the nuances related to it.

I agree with nearly all that I have read of your writings in these areas.

I would like to add several things, related to men, that I think are important to consider related to what you’ve written about.

Simply put the issues relate to

1.) Male responses to trauma and abuse – best in my mind approached by Stacey Bellem - and The Unifying Center – (website: currently very limited for good reasons),
2.) Male – involvement – in general, and
3.) Bringing about – Major substantive change with Men – Changing – Masculinity related to it
As Stacey states much more effectively than I can, men respond to being hurt by abuse as well as trauma , which can come from many things (violence around one, deaths of relatives and friends, serious failures in schools, major illnesses or injuries, etc.), with either (or a combination of) “manning up” (e.g. stuffing oneself – reacting silently) or responding with anger and lashing out generally at others.
Men and boys – oft times including both male abuse survivors and perpetrators of abuse and other violence – commonly need an openness to, an availability of and actual use of serious therapeutic help.

Unlearning – much of “masculinity” and how it imprisons men is an important part of the therapeutic help that is necessary.
Male involvement in ending violence issues is grossly small both in relation to the involvement of women and related to how men are deeply tied into the issues.
I’d estimate (and there is no way to really estimate the “correct” figure) that men have done and continue to do well under 1% of the total work done on violence issues. There is a small, but very committed, dedicated community of men such as David Lee, Chad Sniffen, Steven Botkin, Byron Hurt and others who do various important ending men’s violence related work. There is a second small community of male activists (in some cases they could be included in the first group) who focus upon their own oppressions including survivors of various types of abuse and Gay/Bi/Trans activists.

Men tend much more than women (in my estimation) to focus serious energy only upon issues that they see as being “my issue now”. A good example of this is looking back at the participation in HIV-AIDS support work in the 1980’s and 1990’s – the one group that is notable for its Non-participation was – Het identified men. While homophobia certainly limited such involvement, it also was because we Het men didn’t see a relevancy and importance of such work to our lives.

While some men complain online a lot about how there are few agency resources for male survivors of abuse, men who were not abused rarely seek out volunteer work and paid employment related to these issues. While working full-time, I was a volunteer tutor in public schools for six or seven years. I never saw another man under about age 70, doing regular volunteer work in the schools I volunteered in. I believe this was because fathers of young children are generally too busy to do such work, and that other men don’t see such work as being relevant to their (current) lives.

Violence is to me a serious “male” issue. Besides the issues of rape, domestic violence, and stalking - of women (which are very important issues to me), we have serious issues of violence directed at men and boys.

Besides the fact that men and boys are raped and are victims of domestic violence (from women), men and boys also face violence and the threat of violence from other men and boys. Such violence includes rape, domestic violence, sexual and non-sexual child abuse, bullying and the threats of and actual fighting that may occur through “normal life” as well as gangs and similar.

While there is some focus upon ending teen male violence primarily focusing upon poor, Boys of Color, in general there is relatively little focus by men upon violence issues as they relate to boys and men.

I believe that there is a general lack of awareness amongst most men related to masculinity and how it is difficult for us. - is the blog of a young woman (with less writing by a male ally) “Ozymandias” – who, when she focuses upon masculinity – has amazing insights relating to men and women – feminism, male violence and similar. While at times I believe that she overly sympathizes with us men – and views things as: “men and women have it equally tough” (and a corollary – “men and women are equally oppressed”) which I do not agree with, I admire her insights. (Other writings of hers about her sex/social life better reflect that she probably is about age 19-20 and not fully “mature”.)

She and her fellow blogger have had their blogs infested with men who are constantly criticizing “Feminism” as opposed to the statements of particular feminists. O – herself – critiques feminist related issues, but doesn’t simply directly attack “Feminism” or “Feminists” (as a “Boogyman”).

I believe that in addition to the anti-Feminist men – who I tend to not empathize or sympathize with, there is also a substantive group of men who (as is common amongst men) do not “get it” related to various issues related to both – “masculinity” and feminism in general.

I know that despite thirty years of feminism influenced life, I can easily feel – “hurt” and shut down in response to what I feel. If I had learned as a child and young adult to process issues and discuss my issues with peers (particularly men), it might be different. I think that most men I know of do not have a men’s support group, as I have (I got it started some years ago). Even with my support group, it still isn’t easy for me.

I suspect that many of the men – who self-describe themselves as supportive of significant parts of what they see “O” – as supporting, find it important or necessary to attack feminism or feminists - related to their inabilities to deal with their issues related to masculinity particularly When words may hit “too close to home”. I think that they rush – emotionally – to seeing themselves as being Specifically Attacked – and lash back using the only “weapon” they see relevant to what is going on – scapegoating feminism and feminists.

Unfortunately I see such reactions to insights that are on the whole both reasonably balanced and extremely insightful as being a or the common “natural” response to a significant percentage of men being challenged (or feeling challenged when they aren’t being challenged).

I have a difficult time perceiving how it will be possible for there to be substantive change in ending violence (as well as in bringing about positive change which in general will be life affirming and supporting of people in general) until and unless:
Men – become involved – at least minimally comparable to how Women are involved in the causes and issues that exist.

I’m Not talking about 50/50 involvement! IF – one presumes that Male Involvement in these causes is 1% of the total work done, doubling that involvement will still only mean that there is 2% of the total involvement. One could try to draw a parallel – with the participation of Women in electoral politics. Is it significant now – that there are 17 women in the US Senate? I don’t know – but it’s a lot different than when it went from 1 to 2.

The involvement of men in these issues is Not a simple concept. There’s a big difference between the number of men – who were involved in Men Stopping Rape and how many of the men involved continued their activism long-term related to some of the important issues we worked on. While some women obviously similarly – leave serious causes, at least as of today, there is much more of a reminder – day-to-day – of rape as an issue based upon things such as the street harassment that younger and not-so-younger women face that reminds them of rape as an issue in ways that far less men will have similar reminders .

While in some ways there has been Dramatic Change in past decades related to gender related issues, there still are reminders that there’s a long way to go – for many issues. It is rare when women stalk men and then kill them, while men, far too frequently, stalk and then kill female ex-partners - for example.

While I heard several days ago –from a woman – posting in Prevent-Connect stating that in her state there are more Male complaints of Domestic Violence from Women – than vice versa (at least amongst youth), I find the basic part of that hard to believe. Individual men are certainly abused by individual women. I hear of relatively few situations of Men murdered by women in domestic violence cases – except when the Man has nearly killed the woman previously. Far more women are killed and I would guess threatened with and facing serious and often escalating levels of violence from their partners.

It is certainly necessary and important for there to be increased emphasis upon programs reaching both boys and girls as they grow up in schools and elsewhere to help seriously cut back upon violence. Such programs need to address both the concerns of survivors and potential survivors of violence as well as helping prevent abuse from abusers and potential abusers.

I think that it is na├»ve to believe that efforts such as I’ve alluded to in the paragraph above will be sufficient, by themselves, in reducing violence directed both at women/girls and men/boys to the degree that they won’t remain as very serious issues that continue to need additional attention.

While differences certainly exist, there are useful parallels in comparing the Civil Rights Movement related to Black People and ending violence issues related to women and men. In period of the mid-1960s into the early 1970’s the foci related to Black People and Civil Rights changed substantially from changing oppressive laws which limited Black People and favored White People to blaming (primarily Poor) Black people (e.g. “welfare queens”) and similar. There was almost no serious focus upon the need to change the attitudes of White People and to focus upon racism perpetrated and perpetuated regularly by White People.

As the modern Women’s Movement moved beyond some early successes there was a similar “pushback” which oft times singled out Women of Color and Poor Women for blame for various things. There was and is relatively little focus upon violence and its perpetration and prevention. It is rare when there is serious focus upon the highly significant percentage of people who are Abusers – Rapists, perpetrators of Domestic Violence and perhaps most seriously the Abusers of Children.

I cannot imagine how there will ever be serious success in greatly reducing violence until such issues are taken much, much, much more seriously by a significant percentage of men (and boys). Today violence of boys against boys is commonly seen as an issue limited to poor, generally Of Color Boys – in gangs and similar. Relatively few men see the significance of the percentages of men who are abused as boys as a Major Issue, yet alone seeing the importance of male violence directed at women and girls.

It remains problematic for me to see how men and boys will focus upon violence issues seriously and be strongly committed to working to end such violence. Ending violence issues currently and in the future seem likely to remain peripherally important to the vast majority of men as long as they don’t see such issues as being Very Important in their immediate lives.

Oft times where violence issues are important to some men, such as survivors of childhood or other abuse they face two different types of issues in coping with what they face lacking the:
1.) tools to deal with their abuse as per the first section of this writing and
2.) support and potential support of others – particularly of peers who both may not have had similar abuse and where they have been abused, are not likely to talk about it.

I believe that efforts of women to end violence over recent decades have been amazingly strong and oft times quite successful, given the lack of substantive support and involvement of men. My sense is that such efforts will continue to have some areas of limited success as well as some failures until and unless their issues become “male issues” that deal with core issues of “masculinity” – what it is and what it should become.

Bringing about – Major substantive change with Men – Changing – Masculinity related to it remains the basic issue which I’m concerned about.
How men can be reached related to violence issues remains problematic. One can debate the lack of a serious societal concern with issues related to men and violence and “blame society” for why violence continues to be a “female problem” largely in the minds of many.

I have witnessed the growth of the Modern Feminist Movement in my lifetime (I’m 60 years old). The growth of a relatively strong movement of women working to end: rape, domestic violence and child abuse seems obvious to me.
Parallel to the growth of the Modern Feminist Women’s Movement has been “The Men’s Movement”. Beginning in the 1970’s there have been multiple, occasionally overlapping movements of men, with female allies in some cases. I would separate such movements as follows:

1. Men’s /Father’s Rights
2. Self Actualization including Mythopoetic
3. Gay/Trans Men
4. Pro-Feminist

Men’s/Father’s Rights advocates have become increasingly vocal in proclaiming the need for men to find themselves commonly blaming women (or some women) for the primary problems that men face. Where there has been a focus on violence issues within this Movement it has largely been one of proclaiming that violence of women against men is equally prevalent and important to violence of men against women.
While peripherally this may help increase awareness given to men as victims of violence, commonly the vitriol expressed towards women in general makes serious efforts to end violence questionable.

Self-actualization advocates may help some men deal with their own victimization and possibly help some men end their own abuse of others or prevent it from occurring. My general impression of such movements is that they tend to involve men who are privileged economically. They largely limit their effectiveness in working to end violence because their efforts are largely limited to helping small number of peer – men who have had and will continue to have common experiences with these men.

Gay/Trans men may in some cases do effective work within the Gay/Lesbian/Bi/Trans community. It is difficult for me to discern precisely how effective they are in such work. Their effects beyond the GLBT community are certainly generally negligible.

I am most familiar with the Pro-Feminist Men’s Movement having been involved in it off and on over the past 30 years. It appears to me that it reached its peak success in the 1980’s or early 1990’s and is relatively insignificant in its overall societal impact today despite the impressive efforts of a dedicated core of men committed to serious work for positive change.

The most important reason I believe that most men do Not get seriously involved in violence issues and work for positive change (such as through the Pro-Feminist Men’s Movement) relates to how such issues are not seen as currently Important in these men’s lives. A majority of men do Not see violence issues impacting upon their lives except in distant and abstract ways. Where they may fear armed violence such as men with guns around them, it is likely a different issue such as “crime”, “poverty”, “Black/Latino gangs” or similar – not: “Men” or “Masculinity” or “Violence Issues” for them.

Where men are seriously impacted by violence issues, they commonly focus most of their energy responding to such issues trying to cope with whatever they face. Male survivors of abuse and trauma commonly are either silenced and carrying a lot of weight inside themselves or lash out at others using their fear and anger in the only ways they know how to cope with their feelings. Some Male Survivors do reach out to others and build from their experiences. It is difficult for such men, though, to get support and connection with fellow Survivors and even more difficult for them to reach other men, who commonly may not relate to their issues (or even be open to hearing about them at all).

Efforts by men in the Pro-Feminist Men’s Movement over the past 35+ years have oft times brought men in for the short-term either in reaction to things such as divorces or because they connected to an issue such as domestic violence or rape. A significant percentage of these men become less involved as their issues and priorities change over time.

Efforts by both Feminist Women and Pro-Feminist Men to get men connected with violence issues out of empathy and “doing the right thing” and similar seem to attract only a limited number of men, and to keep them connected commonly for only the short-term.

I believe that serious change amongst men is unlikely to happen until a significant minority of men see how traditional “masculinity” hurts us in a variety of ways and are significantly motivated by such insights to push seriously for societal change. Such efforts will recognize how male socialization hurts us in a wide variety of ways.
Ways we oft times are hurt by our male socialization include:
1.) higher death rates particularly when we are teenagers and young adults from accidents such as driving at high speeds or otherwise acting recklessly, 2.) higher successful suicide rates when young, 3.) fears of being bullied or otherwise physically assaulted by male peers, 4. ) (partially at least) greater difficulties in school and lower grades than female students on average, 5.) seeking medical assistance less readily resulting in increased likelihood of preventable deaths from illnesses and injuries, 6.) significant emotional loneliness and excessive emotional dependency upon female significant others – most notably perhaps among men living after the death of a long-term female partner.

It is, of course, not obvious how we can seriously reach a significant minority of men and help them see how traditional masculinity hurts them to the degree that they will work to significantly change it for the better.

I think that reaching a lot more men in these ways will require both efforts that involve both men and women (and boys and girls) as well as particularly effective efforts of men reaching younger men and younger men working with their peers to build a more effective, positive movement of men.

I would argue that though such a path is difficult, it is the best way for men to help to bring about serious, societal change leading towards a world where violence will be much, much less common and where true peace will be possible.
While the support of women is obviously important, such change will Not occur until and unless a lot more men get motivated and involved in working to make it happen. I believe that only then will a really significant proportion of men begin understanding how Feminism and supporting women is really important and a positive force in their lives.

In none of what I say do I wish to imply that work with women and girls is not also very important. It is entirely self-defeating for efforts to reach boys and men be at the expense of work with girls and women.

I believe that serious work with boys and men will take the time and serious commitment of many of us. To the degree that we look for simple or quick fixes we will not effectively move forward. I hope that more men will learn much more from the failures of men of my generation as well as the relative insights and successes of parts of the modern Feminist Movement.

We men do need to work hard and struggle as well as to learn to laugh at ourselves and be happy, more self-sufficient, more effective loving and caring people. Thanks!