In the lead article of his consistently excellent magazine, Voice Male, Rob Okun recently decried the recent murders in Norway and wrote of his frustration that the media still does not “connect the dots,” failing to recognize violence is a result of male socialization and violent media.
This article reports on a first step to prevent violent masculinity and create liberated men on a national level that unfortunately did not come to fruition in the development of a long-term coalition of men. Asserting that the work of a few disparate men who speak to the issue of to the issues of sexism and violence, though on-message and courageous, is inadequate to the task, Charlie Donaldson exhorts men to create a powerful national and international organization that will lead men to supplant violence with new senses of integrity and compassion. Such an alliance could connect the dots with a louder voice, clearly and visibly advocating a new manhood.
Charlie is co-author of Stop Hurting the Woman You Love: Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Abuse as well as articles, blogs, and poetry on men and men’s issues. He presently resides on Beaver Island, a dreamland of rocky beaches and boreal forests in the middle of Lake Michigan, where he operates a retreat center for himself and other men.
Last winter, The New York Times reported on the brutal rape of an 11 year girl in Cleveland, Texas, and in the course of the story, blamed the victim for contributing to the assault “by wearing make-up and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her twenties.”
The start: An ad hoc coalition
The response to victim-blaming in the Times story was strong and came from a variety of individuals and groups. Among them, 44 men who supported a statement in which they declared that “we [need] to make it clear to other men that we do not tolerate or condone the mistreatment of women.” These men spoke for themselves and various organizations across the nation that are deeply concerned with sexual violence and committed to the development of men of compassion and integrity.
This publication of this statement by this ad hoc national coalition of men represented a new and exciting development in the history of men’s work in this country. As a group, the men took a stand against male violence against women and, implicitly, male violence against other men.
Our mentors: Bright, committed, persuasive
The men who signed the statement crisscross the country, carrying the message that hyper-masculinity is deadly to women and other men, that gender equality and opportunity are birthrights still to be achieved in this nation that, by a great margin, domestic violence is a men’s problem, not a women’s issue. They present at colleges and university, on panels at conferences; they write for national newspapers and magazines with a telling and bold message. They are bright, committed, and persuasive men who speak with great understanding and conviction about the urgency of ending violence against women and finding new ways to liberate men.
There seemed some hope of a national organization with the firepower (excuse the metaphor) to address this huge issue, but a movement toward a national–even international–movement soon languished.
Norway: Another lesson
The murder of 76 women, men and children this summer in Norway shocked most of the world. For those of us in the men’s movement, it should propel us to look once again at who we are and what we do. In his editorial in the standard-bearer of the movement to end violent masculinity, Voice Male magazine, Rob Okun bemoans that once again the media has missed the point in their interest in political motives. Anders Behring Breivik, he passionately asserts “is the latest canary in a deadly masculinity mine whose coldly calculated killing spree warns us of the risks we face if we don’t remake masculinity.”
Rob says that the journalists fail to connect the dots. Why? Why don’t these insightful and experienced men and women see that hyper-masculinity continues to be the scourge on humanity? The painful answer is that we have failed to connect the dots for them. As strong as the leaders of a movement to end male violence—Jackson Katz, Tony Porter, and Rob Okun himself (among many others)—are, the message needs a larger venue. The dead canary is really a signal for us. We are not getting the job done.
Rob says that “we must turn this tragedy into a teachable moment.” Right on, Rob. However, we are the target of the first lesson, not our audience. We must think anew. We are voices in the wilderness: it’s noisy out there, and we need a proclamation that’s frequent, loud, and clear. Our lesson is that we must collaborate to create a national venue on which to give our message national and international attention.
What’s missing in America
The National Organization of Women has provided an immeasurable service to the women—and men—of the United States. But where is the correlative organization of men? The signers of the statement about the rapes in Cleveland, Texas represent many small but important organizations; Voice Male and other publications speak with authority and fervor but none speak with a national voice.
I believe that it is up to men to join together to create a more compassionate and egalitarian world. It is an unfortunate commentary on men that they have no national organization: men have fallen where women have succeeded. To use our favorite male metaphor, we need to step up to the plate.
I propose an organization of men, perhaps called The National Alliance of Men for Integrity and Compassion (NAMIC pronounced nam-ic) that would be pro-feminist, gay-friendly, community-minded, remaking masculinity and, promoting men’s growth. NAMIC would bring our mentors who are already carrying the message and many other men together. It would work to end toxic male socialization to our boys, to promote loving and respectful relationships among men, to create a compassionate world that supports men in intimate familial and other relationships. This new organization would incorporate both the battered women’s and the mythopoetic men’s movements.
Here are some specific tasks that only a national and international organization could effectively accomplish.
- Create a mission statement, set of objectives, and talking points that not only further this organization but also provide a context and structure for other organizations that do similar work
- Establish a network of scanners who monitor media for sexist and misogynistic language, journalism, and programming, reporting such violations to key media personnel and to other media
- Educate journalists and other media personnel to recognize the role of violent masculinity and to avoid victim-blaming in news reporting situations of sexual and domestic violence
- Identify and condemn media programming which role models
violent and abusive behavior as well as the humiliation of men in TV program and commercials which can contribute to violence and abuse
- Publish a national magazine (using Voice Male as a model)
- Sponsor trainings and conferences to build national and international collations
- Promote media such as films, TV series, internal sites and radio programs that show and encourage healthy masculinity, integrity, community, and compassion
- Monitor and encourage progressive legislation that enhances both men and women’s personal growth and well-being
- Collaborate with and spin-off smaller organizations with overlapping missions such as civil rights, environmental concerns, government reform
- Train a cadre of men who are peaceful warriors to collaborate with other altruistic organizations to intervene in conflict at home and abroad in order to increase safety and promote public welfare
- Set standards of male behavior promoting community, compassion, and integrity while disavowing behavior that creates alienation, coldness, and selfish individualism, remembering that the greatest sin is indifference to suffering whether it’s the case of a man abusing a woman or a government official ignoring the misery and distress of his constituents
- Promote national best practice standards for batterer intervention and sexual assault treatment.
It should be noted that there are some organizations with similar goals as NAMIC. However, they seem not to have taken steps to become a truly national organization. There are also groups such as the National Coalition of Men, but these are men’s rights organizations and differ in fundamental ways from NAMIC.
No lack of support
I am convinced there is no lack of potential support for a National Alliance of Men, both in men who can see its value and women who want to join men in their many common interests. This organization would stand by the National Organization of Women when funding for women’s health, and when reproductive rights are threatened. This organization would monitor the media for sexist language and sexually violent programming, speaking up with a united voice. It would support anti-bullying measures and programs. It would bring together men of insight and principle to establish common national goals and tactics. NAMIC would revolutionize the society just as NOW profoundly changed the world,
I believe that there are many liberated men in significant roles in our society who would support NAMIC in its mission to end violence and hyper-masculinity replacing power and control, emotional, physical and sexual violence with compassion, community, and integrity. These men would, I am convinced, back NAMIC with their dedication, credibility, celebrity, and finances. If the creation of NAMIC excites you as it does me, please email me at the Men’s Resource Center.
We need NAMIC to partner up with NOW. Rob suggests “an ongoing international teach-in, semester and semester.” Who will lead this movement? It’s got to be an organization with national reach. Think of the murders: Columbine, UWV, Tucson, and ask yourself, “How many deaths will it take till [we know] that too many people have died?” And, to quote Rob, “If not now, when?”
Charlie Donaldson LLP LPC
Men’s Resource Center of West Michigan
PO Box 478
Beaver Island, MI 49782