Introduction to the Men’s Movement: Interview with Paul Elam of A Voice for Men
Last year, Paul Elam of A Voice for Men contacted me to ask if I would contribute to Men’s News Daily, a men’s movement website for which he is the editor. Intrigued, I read through the site and had some misgivings. There’s some material I agree with and some material that I found off-putting. Like any movement, men’s activism attracts different people with different ideologies and agendas. Primarily, I was put off by the extreme, neo-conservative beliefs and rhetoric of some of its members. Paul and I discussed my reservations, which he kindly addressed. He allayed my misgivings and I agreed to republish some of my material on MND.
I believe men and women need to organize and fight for fair legislation regarding domestic violence laws and divorce and custody legislation. Our system is sick and many people are stuck in sick workplaces and relationships that sap them of energy and the ability to make healthy decisions. When you’re in a sick system, you think, “this is just the way it is.” The dysfunctional system is so pervasive, many people don’t stop to think, “this isn’t how it should be and what can I do to change for the better.” A sick system programs you to tolerate abuse and injustice and tells you that there’s something wrong with you if you try to buck the system.
The post-feminist pendulum has swung too far to the other extreme. How is it just that a man can be forcibly removed from a home he paid for based on nothing more than an unsubstantiated claim of abuse? (Just do a search for ‘how do I get my husband out of the house.’) How is it just that one adult, by virtue of his sex, is financially responsible for another able-bodied adult just by virtue of her sex after the relationship ends and often for the rest of his lifetime? Even child support ends when a child becomes an adult. Why isn’t custody automatically presumed 50/50 in every state? Why aren’t women required to pay support for the 50% of the time the children are with their fathers (if the father is lucky enough to get 50/50 custody)? Why aren’t women prosecuted for making false abuse claims and violating court orders?
The present laws are unfair and they’re not going to change until the people who are the targets of this kind of injustice and the people who care about them organize, pitch in and fight to level the playing field. Both men and women need to join together to do this. To this end, I asked Paul if he would allow me to interview him to provide an introduction to the men’s movement and he very generously agreed:
1. Paul, in a nutshell, what is the men’s movement, men’s rights or men’s activism?
Actually, it takes two nutshells, because we are talking about two areas that have some overlap with each other. The first is father’s rights and some other agendas that involve legislation and actual rights as we know them. Clearly, with the bias against men in family courts, and things like false accusation of rape, domestic violence and sexual harassment we are talking about clear cut violations of constitutional rights and due process.
The rest, and I think equally important area, is what I prefer to call the men’s movement vs. calling it the men’s rights movement. This is a movement that is well underway that is challenging men to examine their roles as men in modern times, and supports them for making more realistic choices about what they expect of themselves, particularly in their relationships with women.
This is the part of the movement to which I think you, Dr. T., make a particularly valuable contribution. So much of our frustrations as men come from trying to satisfy some very unrealistic and unhealthy expectations from women. That can come up for sure when we encounter personality disordered women in relationships, but also in our dealings with women that we would call normal.
The fact is that the continued expectations for men to act according to old school gender roles for men are out of sync in a world where women’s roles have changed so significantly. In fact, I’d guess that many of the men you counsel were hobbled in dealing with borderline or narcissistic women, not just because those personalities are so good at manipulation, but because they are particularly adept at manipulating the pressures on men to “man up and take it.”
I think the men’s movement provides a lot of support to men for changing their expectations of themselves and certainly in placing some more realistic expectations on the women in their lives.
2. Why do you think so many people, including men, don’t take the men’s movement seriously or write it off as a bunch of angry, conservative women-haters, which, I have to admit was my blanket bias initially?
It’s a complicated question, but I think the first part of it is answered by understanding sexual selection. The men’s movement advocates for men learning how to take better care of their own lives. On the other hand, women tend to choose men who will sacrifice their own interests to them. So in a sense, taking the men’s movement seriously is antithetical to competing for sexual selection.
At least it appears that way on the surface. The truth is that men with their own sense of identity, values and boundaries do just fine with women. But for most men the path of least resistance -sacrifice- appears to be their only option. That is why I am a big fan of some aspects of Game, or Zeta Game as I have written about in some of my articles. These concepts show men that having a more clearly defined set of expectations, and acting on them, can actually help them attract more and healthier women.
To the rest of your question, one of the reasons that the men’s movement has been tagged with attracting a bunch of angry, conservative women-haters is because some of those guys are out here and are very vocal.
Every movement has usurpers that hang out and attempt to take advantage of any momentum gained by using it for a different agenda. It is to be expected. But unlike feminism, which was commandeered by leftist radicals and misandrists, I think the men’s movement is doing a good job of evolving its mission in the right direction and disallowing political ideologues any significant foothold in the movement.
Most modern MRA’s are well aware of the fact that neither mainstream political party can be trusted because they both maintain and promote anti male policies.
And luckily, since the growing “non rights” arm of the movement isn’t dependent on politics for growth, it makes it easier to shake off the socon’s (social conservatives) and extreme left elements as we go along.
3. Why should everyone reading this, whether they’re male or female, care about the men’s movement?
Because we care about our sons, brothers, fathers, grandfathers, uncles and husbands. Allow me to take your question here and rephrase it. Why should anyone reading this, whether they’re male or female, care about men?
That is a good bit easier to answer. For instance, when I tell you that men now only represent 40% of college graduates, and that number is projected to significantly worsen over the next twenty years, or that male suicide rates are five times that of women, or that 80% of the jobs lost on the current bad economy were men, and remind you that we are talking about people we love, then the points become a little more personal. None of these issues have anything to do with “rights” per se, but they do have to do with our families and people we care about.
It is just that as a culture, we have a very hard time seeing men as a monolithic group unless it is to vilify them or bemoan their having too much privilege. But thanks to people like you and others this is beginning to change.
And by pushing this message out there, we can confront an entire culture and challenge them to examine their own prejudices about men. Underneath it all, I do think people are good. Sometimes they just need a kick start. Men and boys are in trouble these days, and I think when most people become aware of it, they will open up to doing something to correct it.
4. I think it’s natural for most people not to think much about their rights until they’re violated or experience some injustice. For men and women who reach this point, what can they do to get active, involved and make a difference?
The answers to this one are unlimited. There is much that needs to be done. The first thing I suggest is for people to work in the area that they feel passionate about. If you are a man who has lost everything to a corrupt family court system, or a woman who has seen this happen to a man you care about, then there are organizations like Father’s and Families that do good work and I am sure would like help. There is also Fathers4Justice, which operates internationally.
Also, there is a wide range of websites that push information regarding the men’s movement. Angry Harry, The Spearhead, Misandry Review, and of course A Voice for Men. All these sites operate, often on shoes string budgets, but accept donations. If you can, donate to them. Or, If you can write effectively about your experiences, submit articles to them so that others may be able to identify with your circumstances. Just add your voice to the choir.
The one bit of personal advice I have is not to let anyone talk or shame you out of your anger. You have likely earned it and then some. But don’t make everything you do just a product of being mad. Take whatever talents this life has brought you, whether it is computer skills, web development, graphic design, music (yes, we have our own genre of music in the MRM), writing, or other skills and let your indignation drive you to productive use of them.
When all is said and done, nothing beats rolling up your sleeves and getting busy.
For anyone interested in doing that, you can do so on your own, or there are certainly people in the movement that will help you find a place to plug in your talents and make a difference.
Thanks to Paul Elam of A Voice for Men for a very informative interview!
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