The namesake of this magazine is Mary (Mother) Jones, a woman who stood up for the rights of men. Her husband was an ironworker and organizer of the National Union of Iron Moulders. After his early death Mother Jones honored her husband by becoming a highly successful union organizer fighting for the rights of working men. She dedicated her life to helping men get a fair deal and did so with great gusto and aplomb. Far from a suffragette she is often quoted as having said “You don’t need the vote to raise hell.”
The irony of this article is overwhelming.
The real Mother Jones fought for the rights of men who worked in the death professions. That is, those jobs that have a very high mortality rate. The jobs that are populated almost entirely by men who are sacrificing their own safety in order to provide for their families and loved ones. Workplace death is actually one of the many men’s issues that the author omitted from bringing up in this article. Rather than compliment the people who are working towards helping with this issue and these men her article instead attempts to denigrate and marginalize those working for the human rights of men and boys by name calling those folks haters and trolls. I do wonder if Ms Blake thinks of Mother Jones as a hater and troll?
She starts off the article with a huge cheap shot. In the first paragraph she tries to associate a murderer with the activists she is about to describe. There is literally no evidence that Eliot Rodger was in any way associated with the men’s human rights movement but facts don’t stop Ms Blake. Right off the bat she loses credibility by pulling such a low minded trick. Just imagine an article about the original Mother Jones that mentioned an unrelated murder in the first paragraph. It’s hard to imagine.
The majority of the article reads like a soap opera. She talks more about the personality of those involved rather than the issues at hand. In over 6000 words she never discusses any of the numerous issues men face for more than a sentence. That is remarkable.
It is also remarkable how she fails to mention the important work being done by avoiceformen.com. And of course, she fails to mention that a good portion of those at that site and who presented at the 1st International Conference on Men’s Issues in Detroit last June were women. Women who see the flagrant bigotry that Blake prefers to simply ignore. This might be more excusable if Blake had a short deadline but that was not the case. She has spent hours and hours, weeks and even months interviewing people about this and is totally aware of the issues at hand (including the workplace death issue) but has consciously chosen to simply not bring them up. That simply wouldn’t go so well with her personal misandrist theme of haters and trolls.
I think a better name for this magazine might be Mother Dworkin.
Check out this slightly altered Dear Abby column and see what you think.
Dear Abby: I think I have an abuse problem. I’ve been with my girlfriend for a year, and already I feel she is fed up with me. I don’t want to lose her.
When I was younger, my father used to abuse me. It was years ago, but I feel like I might have gotten that trait from him. In addition, I have a tendency to smack my girlfriend on the arm when she’s verbally abusing me. I just want it to stop.
I love this woman and I feel terrible after I do it. I keep telling her I’m sorry and that I have the worst tendency to act on impulse. Please tell me how to stop because I CAN’T lose her.
Sorry in Kansas City, Mo.
Dear Sorry: If you want your relationship to improve, you must realize it will take effort, not only on your part, but also your girlfriend’s. Neither of you handles anger or frustration appropriately. She shouldn’t verbally abuse you if something bothers her. And you need to find other ways than hitting her to make her stop.
Couples counseling could help you communicate more effectively with each other. Many licensed mental health professionals offer it. Please don’t wait.
The NASW Social Work Code of Ethics is a very helpful but demanding document. It asks us to live a cognizant life both at work and at home. If we take this document seriously, and we certainly must, it demands that we are prepared to confront things not in concert with the Code.
Unfortunately there is a massive failure by the entire social work industry to adhere to that code going on right now.
If you will, think about a southern, rural town in the early 1950’s. Imagine you are there to give a workshop to the townspeople on racism. Can you guess their reaction to your words about racial equality? Their daily habits and way of life is based on something far from what you are describing to them. What do you think they would say and do? My guess is they might politely listen but after leaving conclude that you were some sort of nut — a “n***** lover” or even more likely an interloper who hates them and their way of life.
In some ways I feel like that person right now. There is a form of discrimination that is clearly present, potently hurtful and yet most of those around me are hostile to hearing about it. They just don’t and won’t see it. If you call attention to it, if you point to the elephant in the room, they become hostile.
Who is the group that faces discrimination that no one sees? It is men and boys. And the treatment of them in the arena of social work has taken a very, very disturbing detour from the NASW Code of Ethics for quite some time now.
Where it concerns the interrelationship between men and women our early survival mandated cooperative gender roles. Men would provide, protect and risk in order to ensure the safety of women and children. Women provided the essential immediate care of children.
This arrangement is what we have come to know as gynocentric in that the roles taken on by men and women hinged on fact that women and children had to be protected at all costs. While both roles are or were vital in the overall picture, life and limb sacrifices, the role of protector and provider fell on the shoulders of the male. In short, the male is replaceable. The women are not, because men can’t have children.
This arrangement worked spectacularly for a long time. However, human advancement, through the cooperative efforts of men and women, resulted in a world where gender roles are generally not essential for human survival. We have far fewer concerns over our immediate safety than we did on the African Savanna and technology has made many professions accessible to both men and women. Accordingly, women’s roles have evolved and expanded, affording them the opportunity to make more conscious choices, and to experience more freedom than strict gender roles could have ever afforded.
Men, however, have lagged behind in this area and that is where we start to encounter some of the problems that they face today. To more fully understand this, we must take a look at cultural development through the gynocentric lens.
Even before the industrial revolution, while the male role was functional and successful without question, it was one of significant, unrecognized and unseen sacrifice. Of course that made sense. Were humans to practice the same protection and compassion for men as they did for women, it would have destroyed us. In an environment of hardship we could not afford to busy ourselves with men’s suffering and pain. That unrecognized burden was what kept us alive.
Men’s roles threw them into positions where people just didn’t know if they would ever return home at any point. Whether in the Paleolithic realm of hunting and tribal conflict, or more modern warfare, the certainty of any man’s survival was never assured. When there is constant uncertainty about a person’s fate we tend to detach for our own psychological benefit. We see them as more disposable and basically live in a state of preparedness for their possible demise.
Let’s take an example. Those who are designated to die in war are treated like heroes if they accomplish the miraculous and survive. That “heroism” is offered to young men as a standard of manhood in order to have them fulfill the expectation of sacrifice when needed. When something or someone is seen as disposable we generally ignore their pain and hardship. Indeed, most antiwar sentiment in America is based on the fact that we are killing, not because we are dying. That is expected of the disposable sex.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s, when I worked as a psychotherapist with many traumatized men and women, it was clear that society’s focus was to help women suffering from emotional trauma. Matters became a lot more fuzzy where it concerned men’s pain. I found out very quickly that a man’s emotional pain was taboo. No one wants to hear it, people want to run away.
Honestly and compassionately addressing men’s pain usually triggers an instinctive fear that in doing so those men will no longer be available to provide and protect. They become, at least in our unconscious minds, a liability that we cannot afford.
It took me some time to understand that this fear created an empathy gap that is still rampant in the field. Even in what is supposed to be an enlightened field of work, we are operating on some level as though compassion for men will bring us to ruin. This detachment, indifference to and even hostility toward men’s pain and hardship will be made quite visible to you in the remainder of this article.
You will also see how and why social work currently operates as a professional culture in violation of the NASW Code.
We will demonstrate these issues one by one by first quoting from the code and then documenting how it is systematically violated. Let’s start with discrimination by laws.
Here’s what the code says:
4. SOCIAL WORKERS’ ETHICAL RESPONSIBILITIES AS PROFESSIONALS 4.02 Discrimination Social workers should not practice, condone, facilitate, or collaborate with any form of discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, or mental or physical disability.
That is very unambiguous language. It paints a clear, ethical path that social workers must follow when performing professional duties. Failing to follow those edicts is not just an ethical violation, it is an act of moral turpitude and an abuse of individuals entrusted to their care.
Let’s take a look at an example.
We know now that men are a significant portion of the victims of domestic violence. The latest CDC research confirms this and in fact states that in the past 12 months men were 53% of the victims of domestic violence. However, the services for domestic violence are astoundingly built to serve only women. This is overt discrimination.
We know from the research of Denise Hines1 that when men seek help as victims of domestic violence at these female only services for victims they are not only turned away, they are often told they are the abusers. Many battered men have reached out for help for themselves and their children only to be offered anger management classes because that is all these facilities will offer men.
This is profoundly destructive. It is, if we are to be honest, a second perpetration of abuse, this time at the hands of professionals who are ethically bound to do just the opposite of what they are doing.
Nearly everything related to the amelioration of domestic violence has been built for women. Social workers have said very little about this but the courts have started to acknowledge the discrimination that men face as victims of domestic violence.
In the Woods et. al. vs California2 case in 2008, a Superior Court in Sacramento, ruled that male domestic violence victims had been unconstitutionally denied services. The court held that state laws violated men’s equal protection rights by excluding male victims from state-funded domestic violence services. The court found: “domestic violence is a serious problem for both women and men” and that “men experience significant levels of domestic violence as victims.”
Then, in October 2009, a West Virginia judge3 struck down state rules for regulating domestic violence shelters because they operate “on the premise that only men can be batterers and only women can be victims” and “exclude adult and adolescent males from their statutory right to safety and security free from domestic violence based only on their gender.”
It’s clear that this problem is now widespread in the United States. Yet where is any objection to any of this being raised by social workers, who are deeply embedded in the provision of services to the victims of domestic violence?
Consider this. In California and West Virginia they were sued and found culpable for violating anti-discrimination laws. In both states they were found guilty of violating laws that almost exactly replicated their code of ethics.
So where are the professional sanctions against them? What NASW sanctions were placed on the people responsible? What investigations were done? Why, despite the fact that there is open and systemic discrimination against men practiced by social workers, is the NASW not cleaning house?
It is because the NASW draws the line at adhering to their own ethics where it concerns men. Where it concerns men, it is the people responsible for enforcing those ethics who are committing the most egregious violations of the same.
Family violence against men is seen as humorous.
In fairness it must be said that social workers are also people. And people, generally speaking, are detached from men’s pain.
Their humanness, however, does not excuse them for doing damage instead of rendering aid. They are educated people who must be expected to operate in accordance with their own professional codes. Just as they are expected to rise above every other area of potential bias they may have toward other groups, they are also beholden to practice the same with men and boys.
If you are a social worker working in the area of domestic violence are you aware of this discrimination? Are you speaking out against it? Remember, being aware and doing nothing is what the code calls “condoning and facilitating.” As social workers we need to stand up for those who are facing discrimination and in this case it is men and boys. If you do see this and say nothing you are a part of the problem. You are living in a small, rural town in the 1950s.
Will you follow the code and stand up for these men who face discrimination?
Social Workers in hospitals pediatric or OB/GYN units should be aware that there is severe discrimination going on right under their noses, a discrimination that is built right into our laws. Baby girls are protected from having their genitals mutilated by law. No exceptions for cultural or religious differences. No exceptions for anything, as it should be. Penalties for breaking this law are severe. At the same time genital mutilation of baby boys is one of the most popular surgical procedures in America. This is not a minor prick of the skin.
And there is now an abundance of medical research concluding for the most part that circumcision is actually just a euphemism for genital mutilation. There are deaths associated with this medically unnecessary procedure and now a variety of confirmed and suspected negative side effects.
Circumcision on average removes 6,000-10,000 nerve endings of erogenous tissue, nearly as many nerve endings as the entire female clitoris which many estimate to have around 8,000 nerve endings. The adult male equivalent in terms of amount of skin removed is the size of an index card, about 3 x 5 inches.
From the group, Doctors Opposed to Circumcision:
Memory starts before birth and newborn infants have fully functioning pain pathways. One would expect, therefore, to find psychological effects associated with the painful genital cutting operation.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a normal response to an abnormal event. Neonatal genital cutting is an event in which a newborn infant experiences extreme levels of pain, terror, and helplessness, so it fulfills the criteria as a psychogenic for PTSD. Levy (1945) reported that children experience behavior problems, such as night terrors and a fear of nurses and doctors, after surgery, including circumcision. Cansever (1965) tested boys before and after circumcision and reported that the ego seeks safety in total withdrawal. Levy found their symptoms to be similar to combat neurosis, now known as PTSD. Taddio et al. (1997) studied the behavior of babies at first vaccination.
They found that circumcised boys have a much stronger reaction to pain of vaccination than do girls and intact non-circumcised boys, which the authors suggested is an “infant analogue” of PTSD. Other authors also have reported PTSD in circumcised males. Rhinehart (1999) reported four cases of PTSD secondary to neonatal circumcision in middle-aged men that he encountered in his psychiatric practice. Ramos & Boyle (2001) reported PTSD in 70 percent of Filipino boys who experienced ritual circumcision and 51 percent of Filipino boys who experienced medical circumcision.
Circumcised males often feel great anxiety regarding their circumcision. This manifests itself in a reluctance to talk about circumcision or an assertion that “I’m circumcised and I’m fine.” van der Kolk (1989) reports some traumatized males also have a compulsion to reenact or repeat the trauma. These feelings emerge as the “adamant father” syndrome. Typically, a circumcised father will irrationally and adamantly insist that a son undergo circumcision, although this is contrary to contemporary medical advice.
Some circumcised doctors also exhibit anxiety by pushing medically unnecessary circumcision on their patients or writing medical journal articles to defend the practice. Such articles are “flawed papers that dismiss the harm and exaggerate alleged benefits.” This has caused the medical literature on the subject of male circumcision to become voluminous and polarized because other doctors write letters and articles to refute the false claims of circumcised doctors.
Circumcision of the newborn usually is performed in the first week of life (the perinatal period), and, as reported above, clearly is traumatic for most boys. Several authors report that perinatal trauma causes self-destructive behavior in adult life.
Circumcision is cyclic trauma. Many males, who were circumcised as infants, grow up to become circumcisers themselves, in an unending repetitive pattern of abuse.
You can read the entire document here with sources.
What we find, when considering all the evidence about circumcision is that the only difference between male and female genital mutilation is that one is socially acceptable and one is not. It seems obvious when you consider the longstanding, programmed indifference to the pain of males, which is which and why.
Here are some more sources demonstrating the severely negative impact of circumcision on infants, their parents and how those consequences follow the victims through life.
There is an abundance of other research. True enough, there are studies that conclude that circumcision does not produce significant problems for men but as we find in criticisms of those studies, circumcised researchers and circumcised doctors who perform circumcisions both have emotional and financial investment in the procedure.
What is most damning in my mind though is that social workers in the OB-GYN and neonatal fields do not generally deliver any information to parents that might make them reconsider whether circumcision was healthy for their child.
This failure to educate and inform their clients, or indeed to inform themselves of the research is a clear violation of NASW ethical codes.
Part of what drives this is that male genital mutilation is a profitable venture. Aside from the money made doing the procedure the foreskins can be sold for around $400 each depending on how they are used.
Some are used for research while some are turned into very expensive women’s facial cream advertised on Oprah. We are now aware that these circumcisions, the majority of which are conducted without anesthesia, are causing psychological problems and physical problems for the boys and men who are unfortunate enough to have been subjected to them.
Alexithymia (a deficit in emotional acumen and experience) and PTSD have both been connected to male infant circumcision and it is doubtless that many more negatives will be found. In fact much of what we know about girls who have faced genital mutilation is also being found true for the millions of little boys and the men they become.
Social workers are rightly very concerned about female genital mutilation but are failing roundly to address this concern on behalf of boys. If you are a social worker are you following the code and speaking out against the mutilation of children for profit, or are you turning a blind eye to the matter altogether as long as the victims are boys?
And have you considered that if you are working with a family going through childbirth and postnatal care, and you have remained silent about this issue that you can reasonably considered accessory to the abuse?
These are tough questions but as social workers we are not ethically afforded the luxury of failing to answer.
Now let’s move to an area where men and boys face discrimination not from laws but from societal ignorance and lack of compassion.
Here’s what the code says:
6.04 Social and Political Action (a) Social workers should engage in social and political action that seeks to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources, employment, services, and opportunities they require to meet their basic human needs and to develop fully.
Places men face discrimination based on ignorance and/or lack of compassion.
Did you know that eight out of ten completed suicides are males4? Have you heard that stat tossed around? Have you ever heard a social worker rise up to say that we are ignoring the glaring problem of male suicide? Probably not. The gynocentrism in modern social work does not permit for men, as a group, to have any of their issues given due prominence. This is true even when men are killing themselves at four to five times the rate of women.
NASW studied suicide some years ago. The study focused on girls and suicide. I asked at the time why they didn’t study boys since boys were 80% of the victims and they said the funding requested the study focus on girls. Sadly, this is not uncommon. The focus of the media, researchers and clinicians is on girls and women even though they are a fraction of the victims. As a Social Worker, do you see this discrimination? Shouldn’t a commensurate amount of research be done based on those who are most victimized? Shouldn’t any conference on suicide have most presentations related to male suicide and what to do about it? Shouldn’t we create services designed for those who are most at risk? We need to stand up for the victims and potential victims of suicide that are being ignored and marginalized. Will you stand up for boys and men? Do you think that ignoring that question puts you in direct violation of your professional responsibilities?
We all know about maternity leave for women. It is pretty much a standard. But why wouldn’t paternity leave also be a standard? Why is paid leave only given to the mother and not the father? And why are so many social workers so vocal on the need for men to assume more childcare duties yet remain mute about the very kind of legislation that would allow that to happen?
People are starting to wake up to this discrimination. California, Washington and New Jersey have all passed laws offering “family leave” for all, not just for mothers. What does it say about the social work field that they are not pushing similar initiatives in the other 47 states?
Men tend to live shorter and sicker lives than women. The fact is that white women have the greatest longevity followed by black females, followed by white males, followed by black males. Both black and white men live shorter lives than both black and white females. Some are thinking that black males are at the bottom since they face the burden of both racism and of being male.
“‘Being male is now the single largest demographic factor for early death,” says Randolph Nesse of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “If you could make male mortality rates the same as female rates, you would do more good than curing cancer.”
Nesse’s colleague Daniel Kruger estimates that “over 375,000 lives would be saved in a single year in the US if men’s risk of dying was as low as women’s.” (New Scientist Magazine, July 2002)
Men die earlier and more often than women from nearly every major cause of death except for one, Alzheimer’s. And the reason for that is that they do not live long enough to compete for that honor.
Even with the longevity and poor health experienced by men what we find is that the services available to them are considerably less than what is provided for women. The United States has seven national offices for women’s health but none for men. They have web pages for womenshealth.gov and girlshealth.gov but none for menshealth.gov or boyshealth.gov. Why do we discriminate and treat men and women so differently? As a Social Worker are you speaking out and standing up for the men and boys who are obviously being marginalized? If not, are you violating our code of ethics?
The roles in education have been reversed. What was once considered discrimination against women and girls in their 22% deficit in college degrees has now reversed. It is the boys and men who are getting far fewer degrees than the women and girls. The difference? Now we don’t call it discrimination against boys — we call it empowerment of girls. The disadvantage and discrimination of the boys and men is simply ignored and reframed as a positive. As a social worker are you willing to stand up against this discrimination against boys and men?
I hope you are starting to see the profound bias facing men and boys in today’s world, and in the way that that the social work field is not just ignoring, but facilitating that problem.
The hardship and discrimination they face is ignored and worse, they are villainized and blamed for the problems they experience. Where did Social Workers learn this? In grad school. Our social work education is clearly anti-male and is in dire need of an overhaul to close the empathy gap, and to restore the social work profession to its own ethical standards. If we are educating and training social workers to violate their own code of ethics then it stands to reason that we are left with a pervasive problem throughout the field. We are left with the disturbing reality that the field is the problem.
Part Two will focus on Social Work Education and its anti-male bias.
Douglas, Emily M.; Hines, Denise A.; McCarthy, Sean C.Violence and Victims, Volume 27, Number 6, 2012, pp.871-894(24)
Research since the 1970s has documented that men, in addition to women, sustain intimate partner violence (IPV), although much of that research has been overlooked. A growing body of research is examining the experiences of men who sustain female-to-male IPV, but there is still much to be learned. This exploratory study assesses the experiences of 302 men who have sustained IPV from their female partners and sought help from 1 of 6 resources: domestic violence agencies, hotlines, Internet, mental health professionals, medical providers, or the police. We examine what demographic characteristics and life experiences are associated with where men seek help and how they rate those experiences. We make recommendations for agencies, service providers, and first responders about how to tailor services for this specific population and their families.
excerpt – “This is just basic unfairness. It’s raw gender bias,” said Harvey D. Peyton, attorney for Men & Women Against Discrimination.
The West Virginia legal challenge is among a growing number of battles being waged across the country by groups that allege state laws requiring gender-neutral programs are skewed by discriminatory rules and regulations that embrace gender biases.
This is what you get when you swallow the blue pill.
Most men live under an invisible blue taboo. This powerful and cloaked prohibition discourages men in many ways, one of which is from letting anyone know if they might be feeling blue. But it goes much deeper. It’s not just about emotions, the blue taboo includes being needy or dependent in any way. Men find themselves automatically avoiding any communication that might portray them as dependent or needy. I have been watching this taboo for years and have marveled at men’s creativity in sidestepping this dilemma. Men have simply expressed their emotional pain and neediness in other ways. Some use actions, some use inaction. Most men have found ways around this prohibition and feel just fine about it. We should be good right? Wrong.
The taboo also impacts women (and other men) by discouraging them from listening to the man’s emotional pain, his neediness or his dependency. In my years of working with couples in therapy I have very rarely seen a woman who routinely listened to the emotional pain of her male partner. Think purple polar bear. Very rare. Women do often claim that they want a man who is in touch with his feelings but if you scratch and sniff you find that this means that he should be in touch with HER feelings. It is a rare women who can regularly sit with the man she loves and non-judgmentally hear him out on a feeling level. Yes, women will claim that men give them no chance to do this, that they are cold and unfeeling, but give her a chance in therapy to listen to his pain and what I have seen repeatedly is that she has a very hard time with this and often recoils.
Men have also found ways around not being heard in relationships. Again, they turn towards their strength of action and their powerful ability to utilize solitude. But that is not the end of this story.
The very same resistance to hearing men’s pain and men’s needs in relationship we can also see in our cultural structures. Just as a man’s emotional pain and neediness is taboo in relationship that same disinterest in men’s needs can be clearly seen in our culture. It’s the same blue taboo just on a different octave. Take the family court. How many times have you heard men clearly state that it was as if they were invisible. When his ex complained to the judge she would get swift and helpful responses. But when he voices what he needs he gets silence or worse yet, gets slammed for it. This is the blue taboo playing out in the family courts. Women’ needs are seen as a call to action and men’s needs are seen as his selfishness. In this arena, the blue taboo is deadly and there is no workaround for men. They are sunk and no one sees it. Only the men who are pummeled see it clearly. If these broken men try to explain this injustice the blue taboo works again to discourage anyone from really hearing their needs and injuries. So they had best not complain about it since that is, of course, taboo. And we wonder why men commit suicide ten times as much as women following divorce?
We see the same blue taboo dynamic played out in our legislatures. When women complain that they are in need you see the legislators jump and jump high. They are on a fast track to a solution. When men voice their needs what do you see? You see shaming and turning away. Men’s needs are simply not heard. We have a multitude of laws to help women including the VAWA, rape shield laws, affirmative action, and many many more. This is the blue taboo at work. Men’s meeds are routinely ignored. There is no workaround. But men had better not complain…
We see the same thing in the media. It fills its plate with women’s needs, women’s complaints, women’s feelings and on and on. Do you see many articles about the needs of men? Nope, there is that purple polar bear again. Feminism filled the welcoming media elite for 50 years. It has literally become the default voice. But what happens when men start voicing their needs? Just look at the media reaction to the latest AVFM conference. Men and women gathered to discuss the needs of men and boys and you know the rest. Hit piece after hit piece. This is the blue taboo, The needs of men are taboo.
One would think that our places of higher learning might not be so brainwashed by this taboo but anyone with eyes can see that our universities are about women and girls. Women’s studies, women’s centers, women health, blah blah blah. Ask for something for men and boys and you get a cold shoulder. It went so far in Toronto that campus groups were banned if they were about the needs of men. This is the blue taboo.
So men are in a huge bind. When men voice their needs they are routinely ignored both on a micro and macro level. When they complain about this injustice they meet the same taboo. They are ignored or shamed. There is no way out. Be a man. STFU.
At one time in human history this may have been a productive path. For survival purposes we split up the roles with men doing the more dangerous work of providing and protecting and women the childbearing and child oriented tasks. This arrangement obviously set up a scenario where women would ask for what they wanted/needed in order to maintain the family life. There might be arguments over the details of this but the bottom line was the women would “ask for” and the men would then be responsible to get the provisions or the safety that women requested. His job of providing and protecting was directly related to her requests. She got very practiced at asking for what she wants and voicing her needs. Men got very practiced at providing for those needs and wants. Note that this is a one way valve. Women voice needs, men respond. There was no corresponding flip side where women responded to men’s needs.
This may or may not be the origins of the blue taboo. No matter where it came from we need to start dismantling it asap. We have spent 50 years dismantling women’s sex roles but have yet to even have a look at men’s. This is yet another spin off of the blue taboo. We work hard to change women’s restrictive roles but ignore those of men. Blue taboo anyone? Focus on women and ignore the needs of men? Yup. But how long can we afford to “empower” one half of the population while we continue to ignore the needs of the other half? Probably not much longer. Let’s not let that happen. Take that red pill.
This Salon article offered a paragraph about my part in the conference and I found it highly inaccurate. I thought I would take some time here to voice my side of things. I have been interviewed by the mainstream media many times over the years including The New York Times, Washington Post, CBS Evening News, CNN, and even the NFL Channel and ESPN. Each of these interviews was fair and accurate in their portrayal of the message I was trying to get across. The Salon article however fails in that regard and the writer seems to have a bone to pick with men and boys. Here’s the paragraph in question:
If one of the primary messages of the conferences was “feminists are bad,” the other was “men’s rights activists are good.” In the talk “Men’s Unique Way of Healing,” social worker Tom Golden covered every inch of the stage with his energetic pacing and pantomiming, opening the talk by holding his hands in the air and chanting, “Men are GOOD!” “How many of you have been told that you don’t know how to talk about your feelings?” Golden asked the crowd. His explanation: Men shouldn’t be expected to open up emotionally. They sit in a fishing boat all day without saying a word and then exit the boat as best friends. Michael Jordan emoted by crying for his late father after winning the championship. Men are “good” just the way they are, and need not bother with all of that “crying” and “talking about your feelings” stuff.
Okay. So let’s take the very first part.
“opening the talk by holding his hands in the air and chanting, “Men are GOOD!””
Now have a look at the very beginning of the youtube (about 2:40) and see if I hold my hands in the air and chant men are good:
So I hope you noticed my hands were behind my back and I said “men are good” exactly two times. Not much of a chant. But why would he want to portray me like that? My guess is that what I was saying went against the grain of his own belief system and he was trying to paint me as a fanatic of some sort. Perhaps he was thinking… “men are good? No, can’t be right. Men are the problem!” And when we don’t agree with someone and want to diminish their ethos what can we do? Say they are chanting! You know, who chants? Mostly religious folks who are far from the mainstream and often seen as fanatics. The default population views “chanting” with great suspicion. So let’s just paint Golden as a chanter! LOL Cheap. Whatever happened to Woodward and Bernstein? This writer actually reminds me of what I might expect from a middle school student who had it in for the person they were writing about.
But it gets worse. The article quotes me as saying “How many of you have been told that you don’t know how to talk about your feelings? Golden asked the crowd.” (the actual quote was “how many men in this audience have heard that? That you are not dealing with your feelings” – considerably different but close) But then goes on to say
“His explanation: Men shouldn’t be expected to open up emotionally.“
Okay now this one gets me. I have spent over 30 years sitting with men in deep emotional pain and have never said and will likely never say that men shouldn’t be expected to open up emotionally. He has missed the entire thrust of the talk. What I tried to say was that men have a very different way to open up and most people can’t even see it.
The article says:
“Men are “good” just the way they are, and need not bother with all of that “crying” and “talking about your feelings” stuff.“
Yet another horrible interpretation. What I have found and I hope what I said in the talk was that men have a different way to get at their emotions. I never said anything about them not needing to bother with the crying etc. The fact is that their actions and inactions will often move them to a place of tears. They are just much less likely, for a wide variety of reasons, to do this in public.
The question that arises in my mind is why would this reporter write such a biased and inaccurate piece when all of the rest of the interviews I have done over the years have been markedly different in accuracy? I think it is a small jump to see that this was the first time that I had presented for AVFM in a public men’s issues setting. My normal setting is with mental health professionals or with hospices. In those settings people seem very receptive to the message but once you get associated with men’s issues you get slammed. I think what we are dealing with is a culture and a writer who is so gynocentric and so threatened by hearing the idea that men have needs that he fails repeatedly to be able to see and discuss those needs. He shuts down and attacks. This is what people do when they are feeling threatened. Be sure to read the rest of the article and you will see that his slant was not reserved just for me. The entire conference seems to have gotten under his skin.
I wrote a comment for the online Salon article to try to clarify what I actually said but I think it is falling on deaf ears. Read some of the comments and you will see Archie Bunker and worse. Archie was at least lovable. If you can detach it can actually be fairly entertaining to read through them. This is a brainwashed group that is vehement that their brainwashing is the only way to see things and anyone voicing a different viewpoint is seen as an idiot who can’t get dates. I mean really? I will paste in the comment I made here.
Here’s the comment:
Thanks for including me in your article. While I do appreciate being included I feel that you didn’t seem to portray the talk in an accurate manner. I thought I would post here and offer the basics that you seem to have missed. I would encourage everyone to have a look at the free video on youtube and judge for yourself the accuracy of this article. http://youtu.be/h7yaH-DVbYQ?t=2m34s Here are the main points:
You can’t say all men heal one way and all women heal another. It is much more complicated but it is fairly safe to talk about most men and that is what the talk considered as will this post.
1. Most men will process their emotions in a way that is very different from the cultural default. They will tend to use action, inaction, and honoring to do so.
2. Men do this for many reasons but the main reasons that were discussed in the talk were that a man’s emotional pain is taboo in our culture. The second reason of four was that men are expected to provide and protect and this expectation includes a powerful expectation that men avoid any form of dependency. When men are seen as dependent they are often judged as not being “real men.” Men are not dumb enough to fall for that trap.
3. There are physical reasons for these differences starting with the large levels of testosterone that boys (and about 18% of girls) receive at about 2 months in utero. We discussed the probable impact of this on the processing of emotions. The work of Shelly Taylor (The Tending Instinct) showed us that when stressed, men and women have different paths to cope. Men tend to fight or flight. That is, they tend to connect their stress with action or inaction while women do something very different. Taylor found that women will “tend and befriend.” That is, women will move towards INTERACTION when stressed. This contrasts with the men’s tendency to move towards action and/or inaction. This important bifurcation starts to help us understand our differences in processing emotions.
4. The talk then gave two examples of the way men heal. We discussed Eric Clapton and the way he worked with his loss following the sudden death of his young son. We also discussed Michael Jordan and his ways of coping following the murder of his father.
I have been working with men in emotional pain for over 30 years and having someone write that I said “Men shouldn’t be expected to open up emotionally” is pretty shocking and inaccurate. I said nothing of the sort. What I did say was that men have a very different way to process their emotions and we need to factor that in when we help them connect. The material I presented was a summary of what usually takes 3-4 hours to get across. Many details were left out due to time. If you have any interest I have written two books on the topic, Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing, and the more recent kindle book “The Way Men Heal.”