A Feminist Looks at the Men's Movement: Search for Common Ground
The day I was preparing a talk on which this chapter is based, I met some friends for dinner to discuss how we could help a man we knew who had been incarcerated for many years and was struggling to get parole. Twenty years ago, he had been an adolescent with an absent father and a brother-in-law (a career criminal) who became his surrogate father. For Eddie at age sixteen, manhood meant being tough and emulating macho men with guns.
When I arrived home after dinner, the telephone rang. It was Jim, a male friend who lived in another part of the country. He said he had just had a bad ulcer attack. "Do you know what my main problem was?" he asked. "I couldn't think of anyone I was close enough to be able to ask for a ride to the hospital. I didn't want anyone to know I was in such pain."
Jim and Eddie represent just two of the ways in which men are damaged in our culture by their attempts to live up to the standards of "real men" who have to be tough, self reliant, and aggressive, no matter how destructive the consequences are for themselves or others. What is particularly poignant is that so many men, whatever their race, ethnic background, social class, and sexual orientation, are either unaware of this damage (because our culture still holds on to the myth that men "have it all"), do not know how to talk about it, or are afraid to talk about it for fear of being ridiculed or blamed. The mythopoetic branch of the emerging men's movement is a step in the right direction; it gives men a framework with which to gain awareness of gender-related problems and begin to find practical ways of dealing effectively with those problems.
I know the power of having a framework about the social construction of gender and how that construction can constrict and demean women. Robin Morgan