Recently, I wrote to Tim Baehr, who is the administrator of a website called Menletter. The nature of my message was to be a reply to a question he had posed to his readership about what they felt the men’s movement was. In short, I had answered that we are a civil rights movement. I have recently gotten a full reply to my message, in the form of a blog post to the Menletter website, called “Looking Back, Looking Around“.
I think it’s appropriate to respond in kind. As such, I’d like to start off by addressing the crux of our disagreement, which is whether men’s problems are internal or external in origin. Mr. Baehr is concerned that men may build an unhealthy victim mentality, if we focus on external discriminations, in lieu of internal emotional duresses or short comings. It must be acknowledged that men are victims. Until we come to terms with this, we can’t help ourselves. The first step is admitting our problems. For too long men have ignored what’s ailed them, because of external societal pressure. Males are told “boys don’t cry”, so we’re trained early on to hide our problems, even from ourselves. We’re told to not acknowledge our troubles by letting out tears or emotions. As a result, men become emotionally numb. Men do have emotional issues; but, they stem from repression from the outside world. It will only be when we recognize this, that we will realize that we can cry and express ourselves.
The same holds true for any other men’s issue. Again, I can’t emphasize enough that our problems are external in origin. Take a look at the draft, for example. The reason that’s there is because of Congress, not because of us. No amount of self examination will repeal the Selective Service Act. What will remedy it is a march on Washington or some such action. In my original message to Mr. Baehr, I said, “Our problems are external in origin, and our answer must be external too. The answer lies not within, but without.” It is political activism that will bring us equality under the law, and it is cultural activism that will bring men to reject society’s warped perceptions of us and its warped expectations on us.
The truth will set you free, and the truth is that males are victims of their society. It is not self destructive to recognize this, rather, it is seeing our predicament with clarity. The numbers should speak for themselves. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 60% of college students are female; but, no affirmative action exists for men. Every other group who doesn’t perform well in academics get’s support. The reason for this is that society cares about those groups, but the group it doesn’t care about is us. According to the American Psychiatric Association, women are 70.7% of nonreciprocal domestic violence perpetrators; but, no shelters exist for battered men. Only two states, California and West Virginia, have been forced to stop turning away men from domestic violence shelters; and, that was through legal action by way of discrimination suit, a external solution. Society doesn’t care, when men are beaten. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 66.4 percent of men, or 2 in 3, will experience a physical assault in their lifetime. Yet, even with the extraordinary prevalence of men being hurt, no one cares that men are denied help from these shelters. 1 in 6 males have been sexually assaulted before they even reach adulthood; but, many states only define rape as forced penetration of a vagina, such as North Carolina, so men can’t even get the same justice as raped women can get in many areas of the country. In these areas the various Rape Shield Acts don’t even cover males. Society doesn’t care when males are raped and molested. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics, men are more likely to die of every major cause of death; but, no Office on Mens Health exists. A Office on Womens Health does exist though. Society doesn’t care when men are ill. According to the The Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, 80% of homicide victims are males; but, no Violence Against Men Act exists. A Violence Against Women Act does exist, though. And, this is just a small sampling of the statistics out there. Make no mistake, men are victims. If you think otherwise, I invite you to look at Arlington, the largest mass grave in the United States, filled to the brim with the bodies of dead boys who were forced to fight in war, and used as slave labor for the military.
Mr. Baehr fears that I am externalizing our problems; but, I fear that he is internalizing them. He quotes Pogo Possum, who said “We have met the enemy and he is us.” After this quotation, Mr. Baehr goes on to add that, “Men control, or potentially control, possible remedies to the rights issues that still face their male constituents today.” To this I must point out that most men are powerless, not powerful. No man can remedy our situation so easily. If we work together we can press for legal reform, but it will not be easy. Every right we fight for and every inch of ground we take will be hard won. Civil rights is an uphill battle, when people don’t care about you. To say that we men have the power to make these things magically happen or that we are the enemy is naive and blaming the victim.
So in summation, the realization of our victim-hood will not be detrimental. It will allow us to finally see things the way they are. With this new insight, we can effect change and move forward. Far from being damaging, this acknowledgement will let us begin the healing process by setting us on a better, more pragmatic, path, that factors into our courses in life that we need to care about ourselves. Imagine a world where boys do cry, and a world where people put a hand on their shoulder and ask how they can help.