I’m so surprised to be featured here on this page, writing about the future of Voice Male magazine—a future my organization and I are about to play a big part in.
Not because VM’s editor, Rob Okun, and I hadn’t been talking about the magazine’s future for a while now—we have—but because becoming a magazine publisher was never on my vision board when I cofounded the Canadian NGO Next Gen Men almost a decade ago. To be honest, I also didn’t have running a profeminist men’s organization in my plans either. Full disclosure, I don’t have a vision board.
How did Next Gen Men get here?
Jason Tan de Bibiana, Jermal Alleyne Jones, and I started our organization in Canada in 2014 with a strong sense that we wanted to create a new narrative around what it means to “be a man” for the next generation. This desire was born of feeling pain—my own struggles with depression, and the tragic loss of Jermal’s brother to suicide. Unlike a lot of profeminist organizations, we entered the field through the lens of gender as a social determinant of health, not necessarily through the portal of ending gender-based violence or furthering gender equity. Those ideas came later and are foundational to our work. (I wrote about our beginnings in an article in the Fall 2021 issue.)
However, once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And when we looked under the hood, we saw that traditional masculinity not only dealt boys and men a lot of pain, but also caused a lot of harm. Enter bell hooks, the late feminist writer and thought leader who has been a guiding light in my life. She wrote:
“The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead, patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.”
-Excerpt from The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love (2004)
Boom. Patriarchy. That’s the heart of the problem. My systems-driven brain lit up.
Sure, we touched some individual hearts and minds through our efforts, but what #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, the fall of Roe v. Wade, mass shooting after mass shooting, and the rise of Andrew Tate indicate to me is that what we actually need is institutional transformation. A culture reset. And the culture is crying out for it with think piece after think piece on male loneliness, an epidemic of gender-based violence, and the growth of problematic (read dangerous) online spaces where men are brainwashed to become purveyors of hate.
In the decade that I’ve been doing this work, the landscape has shifted. Next Gen Men is now able to get into places we didn’t initially imagine we could—from locker rooms to boardrooms, not to mention some rich late-night pub conversations where we go deep, talking about feminism and transforming masculinity. These were breakthrough conversations we previously didn’t know we’d be able to have.
And to keep a record of all this, the profeminist men’s movement needs a paper of record. A trusted curator, convener, and chronicler. Since its humble beginnings as a single-page, typed newsletter in 1983, Voice Male evolved into that paper of record; the activist-writer Jackson Katz describes it as our movement’s Ms. magazine.
Astute readers may have noticed that articles by Next Gen Men staff have been filling these pages over the last few years. In this issue there are two. Later this year, we’ll have the tremendous honor of becoming Voice Male’s new publisher. Voice Male has long been illuminating the way; soon it will be up to us to shine a light on the path ahead, leading to a new chapter in profeminist men’s work — what a tremendous honor.
We’ll be bringing some Canadian flair (watch out for weird spellings of labour, honour, and other Canadianisms), but we promise to continue Voice Male’s history of publishing articles and raising issues that change the way we see, act, and think about masculinity.
I’m grateful to Rob and the Voice Male team for holding the baton for as long and as well as they have. I’m also grateful to you, dear VM reader. I can’t wait to see what we will build together in the future.
That future, I hope, will be one where boys and men will feel less pain, cause less harm, and reap the rewards of positive masculinities, deep and healthy relationships, resilient mental wellbeing, and the peace that comes with true gender equity. Perhaps we’ll even be able to one day say that men’s dominant emotion is happiness. Wouldn’t that be something.
Executive Director, Next Gen Men
Jake Stika can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org