The Modern Men

’s Movement Essay, Research Paper

The Modern Men’s Movement

The 1970’s saw the intensification of the feminist movement as a social,

moral, and political force in the American arena. They focused their attention

on the systematic oppression of women in politics and business. They were

attacking male chauvinism, dominance, and a social system that relegated females

to household duties. By most standards, the feminist movement has been

successful in nearly all of its endeavors. The result, however, has left the

American male uncertain of his own role in not only the dating arena, but the

business, marriage, and society in general. All the things that once made a man

desirable now make him the enemy of the advancement of women. The result has

been a reactionary ?Male? movement. Though not as prominent in the media or

politics the feminine counterpart, it has garnered a rather loyal following

through the 1980’s and 1990’s. It focuses not on men’s rights, but functions

more as a male bonding experience that educates and enlightens men about their

new roles. ?Created in the mid 1980’s, the Mythopoetic men’s movement emanates

from the works of Robert Bly. His view is that the men’s role has lost direction.

The men’s gatherings are to reconstruct a valid male initiation and role model.?


This male movement has been cautiously encouraged by women’s groups.

Most realize the new pressures being exerted on men by the changes in society

and recognize a male movement as a means to finding the new balance. “I believe

that ‘we’, I.e. men and women, need a “men’s movement” in the sense of men that

have come to understand the evils of patriarchy … These are men who are

prepared to work in harmony with women to create a new society liberated from

patriarchy.” (Hagan, 14) Women want and need the men’s movement as bad or worse

then men do. The entire point of the feminist movement is to change men. Though

not overtly stated as such, the promotion of women must occur in men’s thoughts

to happen in a society initially run by men. They must encourage men to not only

bond with each other, but to reconstruct their mindset in a way more appropriate

to the new social structure.

That is exactly the point of the men’s movement. It is important here

to distinguish between different factions of the men’s movement. There are more

than a few, but most fall into one of two categories. The smaller, less

important group deals with their frustration in a non-directed physical bonding

manner. They have gone so far as to assume initiation and celebration rituals

similar to those of Native American culture. The larger group, including

feminists and male liberationists, believe in feminization of the male character.

“Masculinity distorts an individual’s nature. It puts him out of touch with his

emotions. Men do not cry. They do not touch each other. They do not form real

friendships. They are too silent. They are aggressive, achievement oriented,

competitive bullies.” (Stearns, 179) Stearns goes on to assert that by assuming

more feminine emotional and social traits that allow more healthy relationships.

The problems with male-hood have not arisen as a result of men’s

complacency, but the sudden rapid change in the status of women. ?Men may be

less responsible for female dissatisfaction than women’s inability to find the

family an adequate substitute for traditional child bearing.? (Stearn, 163)

Suddenly, in the last decade, the role of the man has become uncertain. In the

1950’s and 60’s, men were the breadwinners. A man brought to the marriage the

capability of support. The woman brought to the marriage the home and children.

Now, the women also bring in the money and the man has become an optional part

of the family. Women can now become successful on their own and children become

a burden. The man ends up wanting the family more than the woman, and must give

up power to have it. When man loses his worth to the relationship, he loses the

power and his traditional role also.

This shift in power also allows women more room to criticize qualities

that have previously gone unnoticed. “To old complaints about male brutality or

insufficient attention were added new ones… More recently women have become

freer to criticize male lack of emotional sharing and sexual incompatibility.”

(Stearn, 163) Most feminists recognize that the male movement is a response to

their changing wants and needs. Most men, likewise, recognize that a change in

their own behavior is needed to promote the social well-being of both sexes.

The television media today is but a single example of many institutions

striving to embrace the goals of the men’s movement. One television show comes

to mind immediately. Home Improvement, and Tim (the toolman) Taylor personify

the male striving to embrace the new order. Every episode features a man trying

shed his male, grunting, belching, insensitive past. No watcher of 1990’s

sitcoms is unfamiliar with the patented Tim Allen grunt. His goal in life seems

to be to keep his wife and kids happy without giving up his tools. That is what

the men’s movement seems to be about, letting men be happy, keep their family,

and their toys, tools, or whatever it is they cherish.

There are several questions that need to be asked when the idea of

changing either of the sexes arises, however. Why are we trying to change the

traits that have evolved in man over the last thousand years? Further, there

are certain traits in the male psyche that are genetically based. Are we

striving to change those traits or suppressing them? We cannot change the

genetic code that makes a man. The expression of those traits can not be

altered, just hidden.

Today’s society strives to hide or change personal features to fit

self perception as well as a wanted public image. People change hair color,

eye color, and now, even physical sexual characteristics to fit the way they

want society to see them. Is the new men’s movement just a reflection of this

trend? Men have been bashed through the 1970’s and 1980’s. As a result, men

started wanting to change their public image, lest they become referred to as

Neanderthals. The resultant movement may be seeking to give the male species a



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