December 2010 (revisions- September 2017)
Many people discuss, and have heard of women’s rights often in society. However, the topic
of men’s rights or the mans struggle is a rare conversation. Many believe it is women and women only that have struggled for equal rights, and have been suppressed in society by a dominant male force. History shows this is true, in many circumstances, but if we investigate the rights and lives of men, we will find they have many overlooked issues and struggles, especially in today’s modern society. This paper will explore some of the issues men have had to deal with, consciously, or unknowingly, but this paper will only focus on a few of these issues. The following is a list of topics facing men that I could never fit into one essay: Class societies, the sports industries, the sex industries, societal “conditioning”, media conditioning, institutional oppression, internalized oppression, the armed forces, the criminal courts, police, and prisons, the workplace exploitation of men as workers, schools, religions, the family, the alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceutical, and illegal drug industries, consumerism, the men’s health industries, the “mental health” system, circumcision and other forms of ritual mutilation, and last but not least: homophobia and gay oppression. (Human Male)
On a personal level, I grew up with a sister who was a feminist and fought for women’s rights. I am grateful I had my sister to influence my perspective and help open my eyes to the many issues surrounding women’s rights and human rights in general. However, my perspective was mainly focused on women being the only sex that had such complicated issues and challenges. It wasn’t until later in my life (late 20’s) when I started to discover and explore manhood and society, and this was mainly influenced by the international society of Re-evaluation Counseling (RC). I will discuss RC a bit more, but first I will dissect my personal view on men’s rights from my own experience. I grew up with the general consensus that men were supposed to be the primary care takers for their families, that men were to work hard, and that it was normal if the wife stayed home to manage the children and pursue the picture perfect role of the American household. When my parents divorced when I was 9 years old, and when my sister died when I was 19 years old, I started to view the world in a different light. I have noticed growing up that men and women are treated differently, and I have examined my own relationships to see how I may treat women or my girlfriends differently than my male friends. It is true that men and women are very different from each other, and these differences need to be evaluated in order to have a mutual understanding between the two sexes. As I grew up, women started taking stronger roles in the family and the work force, and more women were taking on roles that were previously dominated by men. These roles consist of women having rock bands and doing more stuff guys did, fulfilling higher positions in the work force, taking on more leadership roles, and basically stepping up to the plate and demanding full equality from society. Having a sister who was an intelligent feminist and activist definitely came to my advantage as far as broadening my perspective and lessening my chances of become like the mainstream-that tended to be very judgmental. People around me growing up were racist, fascist, and generally more stereotypical than I was raised to be. I may have more so fell into these ignorant trends if it were not for my sister and family circumstances to help shape my mind. Later, I learned that the liberation of men and women go hand in hand. “Men have been used as the oppressor group toward women (through the systematic installation of sexist patterns, beginning very early in boy’s lives), they need to deal specifically with the damage done to women by sexism. While it is not men’s fault that they have been set up to be the oppressor group over women, men cannot afford any tolerance toward continuing to play that role.” (Forbes, Human Male)
Men struggle with many things today. They are expected to be masculine and fit, as portrayed in popular magazines like Men’s Health, and many images shown on television. Men are expected to make a lot of money and generally be financially secure before being accepted by a woman for a relationship. Men today, struggle with a collective perception that they should not show feelings, which leads to a very unhealthy state of emotional suppression. This process starts early in a boys life, and worsens as he reaches adulthood. Women have been known to be more emotional, but this is primarily due to society’s acceptance of women’s emotionality. The media (all forms) is definitely responsible in a large part, for influencing men to think they have to be or live a certain way. They are basically taught to be rough and insensitive people who do not take care of themselves, especially emotionally, and must work harder than women. Men are usually expected to have short hair, and are able to grow facial and body hair, unlike the common expectations of a woman. The controversial multi-billion dollar pornography industry preys on men, and influences their perspective of sexuality and love. The main assumption put on men in society is that they are to have a military influenced perspective, if not actually join the military. Men have been expected to be the primary protectors and defenders of our nation first and foremost, over developing themselves intellectually or emotionally, or exploring their natural talents in many possible creative ways. The institution of education has co-piloted this shaping of men for many decades, and it is safe to say that they have been conditioned for primarily two things, the workforce and for war. “Oppression entered the field of work with the beginning of class societies (the slave owner-slave societies to begin with, the noble-serf (feudal) societies later, and the owning class-middle class-wage worker society in the present epoch). These class societies introduced exploitation and misery and degradation into the operation of work, because the motivation of oppression is not for the general good except incidentally, but for the profit of a small section of the population. The dirtiest, most damaging, most dangerous, and most exhausting “paid” jobs and the unhealthiest working conditions have always tended to be loaded on men. Many other men labor under the burden of dull, meaningless work. Nearly all men have to take what work they can get, often for long hours for very low pay. Men work too hard and too long. Men in all work-places are expected to perform unreasonable jobs within unreasonable limits, with few if any resources, human or otherwise. Men are corrupted by the system into working its will (rather than their own). “ (Human Male)
Bob Dylan said something that most feminists do not consider, he said, “women rule the world, as no man has ever done anything that wasn’t influenced by a woman”. Although women have historical grounds to complain about inequality, it is often overlooked how much power women really have. In countries such as Sweden, where historically women have had equal rights to men, there are still women there fighting for women’s rights. The mystery is however, where are the voices of men? How often do you ever hear anything about men’s rights, or about the evolution of manhood? Men should consider things do not have to be the same, and if one thing is scientifically proven, it is nothing ever stays the same. But men have been stuck in many patterns for hundreds or thousands of years, and it starts with the family. “Boys in our present societies have been treated differently than girls. The family is the first place to the role-definition of “what it means to be a man” is taught and enforced, the first place most boys receive a model of what they are and aren’t supposed to grow up to be like. From the very beginning, boys are held and talked to less than girls, under the false assumption that being a man means that boys must be able to handle things “on their own” and must not complain. As they grow older, boys have been pushed out to handle the world by themselves. Within the family, boys have often been isolated, have often had violence perpetrated upon them, and have been encouraged to isolate and hurt others for showing any emotion, zest, or curiosity. “ It is vastly known that men are supposed to be less emotional than women. This is simply a manifested story that we have all came to believe without a reasonable investigation into this pattern. The truth is, that being pent up with emotions is totally unhealthy and blocks a person’s full capacity to feel all of the pleasures that life offers. This clogging of feelings also blocks one’s best intelligence and could be considered a fogging of the mind and soul. Women have been known to be more intuitive and emotionally healthy than men. Maybe this is because women are accepted and expected to be emotional and show feelings. (Human Male)
What could one reason in particular be, that a man will grow up with a significant emotional problem? Take the sex industries for example, the sex industries are harmful to men in many ways. “Perhaps the worst effect is the shame and self-disgust that many men are loaded with, because they internalize the message that they are to “blame” for their frozen preoccupation with sex. In fact, this preoccupation is reinforced by society and based on hurtful experiences they endured that they were in no position to prevent or avoid. There is a transfer of huge sums of money from the customers to the owners of the sex industries. Some estimate that the pornography industries are more lucrative than all of the Hollywood enterprises. The sex industries serve as a diversion from liberation and other rational activities, including real closeness. The sex industries harm men’s and women’s relationships with each other, often patterned attitudes (portraying women as sex objects) have been installed by the distress in the culture to replace the natural response of relaxed affection between men and women. These tense preoccupations come up around women, and the culture has attached shame to this. All people sense intuitively that involvement with the various phases of the sex industries is not rational, and that the sex industries are dehumanizing to both men and women.” It is obvious that our parents, educational experience, and society in general play massive roles in shaping our view of sex. Look at the average relationship frame, boy meets girl, they date and act like their married parents, with the drama and all. There are few people experimenting with relationship framework in general (at least in America), but it is obvious that the typical recipe for relationships that people buy into, needs some serious re-evaluating. How else can you explain a divorce rate that is about to surpass the marriage rate? (Euro)
This paper has briefly stated the problems and issues men have faced, yet does not really discuss the solutions. Men’s liberation organizations like Re-evaluation co-counseling, teach men to break the unhealthy patterns that disrupt their potential to become a fully developed human male that can take their power back and move beyond the life experience of the average male, which sadly has become a life of quiet desperation. With a society that does not particularly advertise such options, it is up to each man to decide what quality of life they will reach. If a man chooses to really explore themselves and develop a spiritual core, they are more likely to come across the right teachers, classes, workshops, retreats, and alternative studies, like that of RC. (re-evaluation co-counseling, international community for men and women) Other organizations that exist in reference to men’s rights exist, but not always on a large scale. The Men’s Rights Movement is concerned with the diminishing of the legal and societal rights of men, primarily in Western cultures. This includes disparity in conviction, sentencing, custody, matrimonial and alimony laws, as well as the discrimination and degrading of males in society at large, including in education, the work place, and in the media. The National Coalition of Free Men (NCFM) was founded in 1977 and is the oldest men’s rights organization in existence. The America Coalition for Fathers and Children was founded in 1995 and provides a forum for discussion of men’s rights. It is amazing that the topic of men’s rights does not come up much in the media, in the schools, at the fitness centers, or at the dinner tables. A lot of us are familiar with women’s rights, civil rights, human rights, gay rights, and the general rights stated in the Bill of Rights, but it would be a rational and an intellectual tragedy if this subject does not gain more attention and consideration. As a man who has challenged society, authority, and inherited perceptions and ways of thinking, I have demanded of myself an expansion of knowledge in this regard. I do not want to live the life of a man that has regrets, of a man that lives in quiet desperation, of a man that is status quo and doesn’t dare to speak his mind and speak his heart. I will continue to educate myself, and practice mindfulness when it comes to treating every human being equal: despite their race, religion, sexual orientation, or their sex. (Wiki)
Jackins, Harvey. ‘The Human Male: A Men’s Liberation Draft Policy”. Rational Island Publishers, USA; ISBN: 1-58429-037-4.
Wikipedia. “Men’s Rights”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men's_rights.
Flood, Michael. “The men of co-counseling”. www.europrofen.org.