My first job out of college was as a reporter for a daily newspaper. It was 1973. Two decades later, when I arrived at the Men’s Resource Center (MRC) in Amherst, Massachusetts, I had edited two magazines—one promoting alternative energy, New Roots; and one celebrating Yiddish culture, The Book Peddler; and I’d served as publisher of another, Workplace Democracy, which advanced worker-owned businesses.
Joining the staff at a male positive, profeminist, antiviolence men’s center, I didn’t initially know I’d be circling back to magazine editing. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. When I was 23, one of my early mentors was the night city editor at the daily paper where I was writing obituaries in the afternoon and covering police and fire after dark. “Once you get printer’s ink in your veins,” Steve Pappas told me, “it’s impossible to get it out.” Fortunately, I always liked that inky feeling—it’s like having another blood supply coursing through your veins. That was 50 years ago; I still feel that way.
A lot of people and organizations have played a role in transforming what started out as an organizational newsletter (then called Valley Men) into the magazine you’re reading today, but I’ll always carry a special place in my heart for my family at the Men’s Resource Center, one of the earliest and most wide-ranging men’s centers in North America. The MRC was long a source of inspiration, ideas, and writers for Voice Male.
That family feeling—the camaraderie we felt as we worked in our comfortable old house-turned-into-an-office in a small downtown—is why I am so pleased that Voice Male will soon be published by another family, the warmhearted staff at Next Gen Men. It’s a “small-but-mighty Canadian nonprofit whose work is dedicated to one ambitious thing—to change how the world sees, acts and thinks about masculinity.” Reading that, I knew Next Gen Men would be the right new publisher. More on them in a minute.
The first issue of what became Voice Male was published in May 1983 by the visionary founding executive director of the MRC, Steven Botkin, my beloved brother from another mother. It was single-spaced, typed and just four pages long. It carried no graphics and featured listings of local, regional, and national events including “a march against rape…co-sponsored by Men Against Violence Against Women, and Sisters in Health” and an announcement of “the Eighth National Conference on Men and Masculinity…in Ann Arbor, Michigan.”
The back page featured a poem, “Thoughts on Withdrawal” by David Grief. It included these lines: “I hide behind my walls, my moat, my boiling oil, my drawbridge: a man’s heart is his castle, mine is secure.…” At the end of the poem he writes, “I am scared, frightened…what if I die in my castle all by myself…I think I’ll let the drawbridge down.” At its best, Voice Male has always been about both the men trapped behind the castle walls and those who have let the drawbridge down.
Voice Male exists because of the women’s movement. It was born out of women’s struggle for liberation. From off our backs and Ms. five decades ago to Everyday Feminism, Women’s Media Center, and Bitch today (to name just a few of our foremothers and present- day sisters), Voice Male unambiguously locates itself within the feminist gender justice movement, a movement that recognizes that not just a publication—but all men— can be both “male positive and profeminist.”
Next Gen Men’s executive director Jake Stika and I have been talking about their organization becoming Voice Male’s new publisher for a while now, and we’re both feeling energized as we enter the home stretch of our passing the torch to them. I’m excited and hopeful about how they’ll take the magazine to the next level. I hope you’ll feel that way, too. Check out their website, nextgenmen.ca; listen to their podcasts; read their blogs. To help ensure a smooth transition, I’ll stay involved for a while, assisting them in the ins and outs of producing the magazine. They’re planning on producing their first issue sometime after Thanksgiving. (That’s US Thanksgiving; Canada celebrates the Thanksgiving holiday on the second Monday in October. See, I’m learning already.)
It’s been a privilege to edit Voice Male for all these years. Even when we’ve published painful stories in these pages, they’ve been tempered by articles on the progress we’re making. Men are changing; a new generation of boys is growing up with new models of how to be a boy and a man. Sure, patriarchy is stubbornly trying to hang on. Ultimately, it is an unsustainable model in a world women will lead and one inhabited by more and more “next gen men.”
Next Gen Men staff describe themselves as “champions of hope and workers for change.” When I first read that tagline I thought, “Hey, they must be describing Voice Male.”
Then, thinking about it some more, I realized it was a sign: it was the moment for us—who you might describe as This Gen Men—to pass the torch on to them: Next Gen Men. I’m ready.
Rob Okun can be reached at email@example.com.