The Voice

Thanks so much for being “the voice” for all the men who are part of a men’s movement (by virtue of how they live their lives) but may not know it. Voice Male helps connect us all.

Jim Hafner Hadley, Mass.

No Coverup

Joe Ehrmann (white) and three children (black) outdoors, smiling and facing the camera.Editor’s Note: Last fall, after we posted on Voice Male’s Facebook page that the Fall issue was available to read online, activist-colleague Jonathan Grove commented: “So this mag is a VERY important one… AND, this cover… I don’t know who or why it was chosen, but we can’t be doing antisexism work while implicitly endorsing white-savior ideology. This isn’t ‘just a picture.’ It’s the cover.”

Voice Male is committed to ongoing self-evaluation and appreciates the challenges and support our colleagues offer us. As I wrote at the time on Facebook, “It would have been better had we chosen the cover photo after more scrutiny and thought. (The magazine was already at the printer’s.) The question Jonathan raised is part of a larger conversation about media images, race, and white privilege…”

As Voice Male strongly encourages robust debate that promotes enlightened dialogue and greater understanding, I invited a range of people across gender, race and age to have a look and respond. Comments ranged from “I would suggest, if you can, to use another image that’s not gonna generate those feelings of white men coming to the rescue and saving communities of color.” to “The response has nothing to do with the cover or articles inside the journal. It has to do with reading race into everything. Too many of us succumb to race fever.” To read all the comments—and weigh in with yours—go to

Third Wave Meets Second Wave

The latest issue of Voice Male was on my kitchen counter when my daughter-in-law visited. She looked at the tagline on the cover and said, “‘Changing men?’ Is this about how to get men to change?” I told her a little about the magazine and how my husband had said he thought it was about how to change your man—as in exchanging something in a store you don’t want. We had a good laugh. Then she read the article about men who use violence and told me later, “This magazine is good!” As a third wave feminist, she has some ideas that I, as a second waver, don’t always agree with and we have some very “warm” debates. I was pleased to find some common ground. It is so rare to read something by men, about men, that does not disappoint on some level. I am glad to find something that validates women’s experience. To share this precious magazine with a dear sister in her thirties is priceless.

Emmy Rainwalker Dorchester, Mass.

Language Matters

After reading the well-considered articles that addressed the concept of masculinity, and masculinity and violence in the Fall 2015 issue, I was dismayed at the inclusion of the poem “In the Cave of Teenagers” by Freya Manfred on the final page of the magazine (Editor’s note: See poem at right). The poem had the effect of undoing the messages of the previous articles through its gender polarization and stereotyping, and by perpetuating the popular assumption of a natural link between aggression/violence and men.

I could not detect that the poem was written ironically and therefore it reinforces the social tolerance of male misbehavior, including uncontrolled aggression. What is a reader to conclude about the mission of Voice Male if an issue concludes with a piece that seems to be saying, “Boys [Men] will be boys [men]?” If we are to believe that our concepts of gender can be changed, how does a poem like this one support that endeavor? Language is important. It filters in to our consciousness and creates our perceptions of the world. We know this from how language is consciously spun in advertisements and political campaigns to create the feelings and attitudes that will direct specific results. We also know it from reactiveness over the use of pejoratives and slurs, as well as from controversy over the use of appropriate language for marginalized populations previously named by those in power. I don’t believe for one second that men commit violent acts because they are male, but because it is what is expected of them. As Allan Johnson says in his article in the same issue (“Can a Man Be a Human Being?”), “Manhood, unlike the body, is only an idea, which means that, outside our imagination, it does not exist.” Manhood, like womanhood, is a concept, and therefore subject to change. I can’t see how Ms. Manfred’s poem could achieve that. I care about the mission of Voice Male and I believe in our shared power to create a different world. I hope my words help.

Jean Ballantyne Santa Barbara, Calif.

Freya Manfred responds:

I’m a watcher. Often, in any poem, I’m simply reporting on what I see in the world around me. My mother’s hard death. My father’s easier death. My young sons’ love of beauty. My teen sons’ sometimes-dopey preferences. My adult son’s enlightening passion for art and peace and fairness. In my poem I wasn’t making a philosophic or political point, I was just describing a single incident in a single day. It’s not always my job as a poet or as a human being to proscribe—but to describe. A poem is just as valid if it reports what Jean Ballantyne wants to see as it is if it reports what she does not want to see. I might add that she seems to think that instincts don’t exist, that we are only victims and pawns of social pressures and cultural identities. (Is her point that men commit violent acts because it’s what’s expected of them? What about male biology? Testosterone? Nature? I believe she weighs too heavily on the nurture side, when the answer may be: it’s both!) Her response seems to me to be too simplistic, and doesn’t embrace the wonderful paradoxical complexities of what it means to be human, boy or girl, woman or man, or combinations in-between. I was just describing a narrow but real aspect of human nature, an aspect which is not entirely forced upon us, but which also can emerge—in men or women!—from within. I feel we are both natural and created from external forces.

Poems which try to change the world to make it look the way you wish it to look usually end up being polemics.

In the Cave of the Teenagers

In the cave of the teenagers
our sons screech and caw
in crow-harsh cadences
until I thrust my head inside
to beg for quiet:
“What for?” they ask,
narrowing their eyes at me
as if they’d just sighted prey.
I spy their father slouched between them,
watching a movie with no women in it:
twelve natives chase a daring naked hunter
across the African desert,
while he outwits and kills them, one by one.
I retreat, closing one door after the next
on the echo of tribal drums.
I am curious how the hunter will fare,
but all these male bodies smell
like the musky hole I found on our hill
when I was a girl of twelve:
I probed deep inside with a long stick
until a fox charged, snarling, into my startled face,
and vanished forever into the woods
behind a beautiful, blazing red tail.

—Freya Manfred

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Editors: Voice Male,
PO Box 1246, Amherst, MA 01004