Regardless of what our personal opinion might be about gender issues, women’s rights and men’s rights, the one undeniable truth that remains is that feminism is an established movement, while there is no equivalent established movement advocating men’s rights.
If you believe, like I do, that the male and female gender roles are more or less equally constricted, then it might seem unavoidable to lobby for a masculist movement, in order to award men’s liberation the same political status as women’s liberation. So is this what I’m actually advocating?
Yes and no. It’s evident that we need a much greater focus on the situation of men and the male gender role than we currently have, however, we need to make sure that those issues are approached in the most constructive manner possible – and without turning an ambition for pragmatic reforms into an ideology or religion.
Before digging into the complex question of how to put men’s issues on the political agenda, let’s have a look at the male groups, institutions and support systems that we definitely need to create, or drastically increase in number:
- For men to access their true voices, without any women around to impress
- To discuss fatherhood
- For men to voice their pain, this includes personal pain as well as collective pain around the male gender role
- For men to explore what it means to be a man in a postmodern world
- To discuss how to be able to focus on one’s career while still being a father and husband
Male support groups
- For victims of domestic violence
- For sexual abuse survivors
- For ex-cons. Since society is unable to decrease criminality, the least we can do is to offer support groups for those who are looking for a fresh start.
- For the 70-80% of homeless who are men
- For male victims of domestic violence who are currently turned away from women’s shelters
- Do we need different therapeutic approaches for men? Is talking about your emotions the best way for men to develop psychologically?
- Gender specific psychological research would benefit both sexes
- Research shows that men have fewer close friends than women
- It’s important to reintroduce camaraderie between men, and to transcend homophobia. What’s wrong with a man comforting another man who’s lost his wife, child or friend?
- Evolving male friendship to mean something more than only doing or watching sports together.
As far as I’m concerned, introducing these resources for men have little to do with politics, and far from all of them will depend on government grants for their existence. I’m also hard pressed to find any arguments against the creation or expansion of these resources, since they address real and pressing concerns among men.
Masculism vs Gender Liberation
But what about the actual political dimension of men’s rights? What is the best way forward there?
A masculist movement may be needed as a temporary measure, in order to put men’s issues on the political agenda, and to raise public awareness around men’s issues. At the moment, most people probably believe that there are no real problems with the male gender role, and that men are nothing but the privileged sex.
The very real risk of establishing a masculist movement is that it could fairly easily become polarized and bigoted the same way that feminism has. Creating a war between an increasingly unhealthy feminist movement, and a burgeoning masculist movement that is quickly becoming polarized, will serve no one.
However, we do need to map out how the male gender role is hurting men, and how feminism is adding insult to injury by making men feel guilty for problems that were created by humanity, and not at all by men alone. Trying to bypass this step, and trying to avoid facing these male issues, will lead to a backlash in the long run.
There is sometimes a tendency amongst men and women alike, to advocate a path for men that exclusively stresses that men need to evolve more, perform more, and so on. As important as it is for men to continue evolving and demand more of themselves, this cannot be done at the expense of society facing the male problems that have existed for thousands of years, and those that have been added more recently by feminism. Men cannot be denied this process, even though we need to keep the process clean and avoid villifying women.
The early work of putting men’s issues on the political agenda may therefore involve a masculist movement, but I’m a firm believer that the end goal needs to be a gender liberation movement that describes all gender issues accurately and doesn’t privilege the pain and experiences of either gender. Such a movement will inherently be balanced and able to resist becoming an ideology.