Originally published in Summer 2005.
A headline in The Boston Globe on Father’s Day, “Daddy, What Did You Do in the Men’s Movement?” caught my eye with its catchy if cynical play on the phrase, “Daddy, what did you do in the war?” Expectantly, I began reading, eager to see how New England’s largest newspaper would report on the “personal growth, challenging violence” component of the movement that the Men’s Resource Center for Change has been championing for nearly 25 years. What a letdown the article turned out to be.
The cover story of the Sunday Globe’s “Ideas” section, the piece was written by a Boston writer-editor named Paul Zakrzewski. Inexplicably, instead of shining a spotlight on what is really happening in the many men’s movements active in the United States today, Mr. Zakrzewski recycled outdated information about Robert Bly’s Iron John, which he termed “a cultural exegesis on wounded masculinity”—published a decade and a half ago—along with references to the Promise Keepers, the evangelical Christian group advocating a kinder, gentler patriarchy whose heyday also passed years ago.
A growing number of men in the United States and around the world subscribe to the twin aims of “supporting men” and “challenging violence,” values the MRC has chrampioned for more than two decades. We’ve long followed men walking that talk, chronicling the rise of community-based men’s resource centers in Taos, N.M.; Harlingen, Tex.; Keene, N.H.; Burlington, Vt., and Worcester, Mass.; the budding Men’s Resource Center of Boston and Boys to Men in Portland, Me.; and the Men’s Initiative for Jane Doe, a project of the statewide Massachusetts coalition of battered women’s shelters and rape crisis centers. None of their rich, inspiring stories were told in the Globe article.
Absent, too, was any mention of the vibrant collaborations men’s organizations are having with women and women’s organizations, a hallmark of this diverse movement.
What also might have added some freshness to the article would have been a description of the emergence in the last several years of men’s work on dozens of college and university campuses, where male-run student groups with names like Men Against Violence Against Women and Male Dissent are engaged in taking the journey to healthy manhood on the twin tracks of inner work and outer action.
After reading the Globe article, Steven Botkin, director emeritus of the Men’s Resource Center for Change, sent the newspaper a letter to the editor, writing in part: “As someone who has been educating and organizing men for the past 25 years, I continue to be intrigued by how the media has played the ‘men’s movement.'” He noted that what he called “media hype about men’s personal growth retreats in the early 1990s made one expression of this movement a highly visible, and often ridiculed, fad. This, however, was, and still is, only a small part of the real story.”
Now founder of the education and consulting organization Men’s Resources International, Botkin continued, “In communities throughout the United States, organizations for supporting men and challenging the culture of violence are growing. A recent United Nations Institute on working with men and boys highlighted men’s organizations from many different countries and demonstrated an eagerness of women from around the world to work with men. While it may not have the media appeal of drumming in the woods, or football stadium gatherings, men for the past three decades, in partnership with women, have been patiently and persistently building a movement.”
In New England, the Globe’s primary community of readers, men’s work is alive and well, from the Monadnock Men’s Resource Center in Keene, N.H., to the Central Massachusetts Men’s Resource Center in Worcester, Mass., and the Lake Champlain Men’s Resource Center in Burlington, Vt.—three organizations that, as it happens, are working with the Men’s Resource Center for Change, and also distributing Voice Male magazine. The men who are part of this growing movement that supports men and challenges violence are also learning to better navigate their own complex, interior lives while finding their voices to take a stand as activists challenging the minority of men who perpetrate violence in society. That is a key characteristic distinguishing the older men’s movement the Globe article rehashed from the rich, many-faceted contemporary one the MRC is at the forefront of and which Voice Male reports on each issue.
Sadly, like many mainstream-media depictions of “the men’s movement,” the Globe article left readers under-served, ill informed, and hungry. The MRC and Voice Male’s mission continues to be one working to make sure its community receives a generous helping of ideas, programs, news, opinion, and inspirational reports on the journey to healthy manhood and the evolution of contemporary masculinity.