Home > Social Commentary > Introduction to the Men’s Movement: Interview with Paul Elam of A Voice for Men

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!

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consultation Services:

Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.

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  1. Cityman
    January 19, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    My ex turned my 8 and 10 year old boys against me (Parental Alientation) 14 years ago. I have not seen them in all that time. Distraction does not even come close to how I have felt due to the lose of my 2 sons over these 14 years. I cannot bring myself to forgive her.

    • johnthatsme
      October 28, 2011 at 1:41 am

      There are some crimes a person just doesn’t have to forgive. And as a side, forgiveness has nothing to do with healing.

  2. January 18, 2011 at 12:42 am

    Paul Elam,.. a true HERO !!!

  3. September 14, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    After reading through the comments here I wanted to stop in and say thank you to Dr. T., for the interview and for the stellar work she does here.

    I also got the added benefit of seeing that I need to do some more writing on anger in the men’s movement. To me, it is an understandable problem, but a problem nonetheless.

    I doubt that I would have as much to contribute to this subject as Dr. T., but I can speak to it from personal experience. The way I used to see men treated in clinical settings made me bitterly angry. I would have been a better advocate at the time with some more composure and by remembering that grudges are like a big suitcase with no handle; heavy and hard to lug around.

    Again, many thanks to the good Doc. The men’s movement is moving to the consciousness that little of our work will be accomplished with signs in the streets and angry protests, but in our personal life choices, including a healthy set of boundaries on what we tolerate. To that end, Tara Palmatier is an invaluable resource for the good of all men.

  4. ozymandias
    September 14, 2010 at 9:28 am

    On the subject of forgiveness – this reminds me of my relationship with my stepfather who was abusive and certainly had narcissistic traits. My mother eventually divorced him citing his abuse of me as being a primary reason. However, I had already left home years previously. I thought my mother had a nerve saying it was his treatment of me that she could never forgive whilst she appeared to quite happily ignore (though not condone) it at the time. So she used a past indiscretion from years ago against him to justify her divorcing him. Ring any bells anyone?

    Anyway, when I left and started my own life up, I assessed the past situation. I saw that my stepfather had been put in a very difficult situation as a young man (to try and bring up 2 kids that weren’t his – he was only 21 years old and I was 10 at the time and full of hell, more than likely). I understood that he could only draw on his own experience at the hands of his own father (who was actually a very pleasant man to the rest of the world). I understood that he probably never had a chance. I chose to visit him about 5 yrs after my mother divorced him. Just to catch up and show there were no hard feelings.

    He didn’t have to understand what he put me through. He didn’t even have to acknowledge it. I certainly didn’t feel I had to say “I forgive you”. But I did this for myself. By truly forgiving him in my heart, it allowed me to never have to play the victim. It was a life lesson for which I am truly grateful as without it, I don’t know how I could have survived the horror of the breakdown of the relationship with my 2nd wife.

    I read a very open and honest testimonial from a NPD husband a while back that went into detail on his feelings and how he felt it impossible to suppress his urges. He stated that the person on the receiving end “shouldn’t take it personally”. I think that’s an important factor in moving on without bitterness or anger. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY. Wow – how difficult is that to get your head around?

    Incidentally, my mother was mortified that I had been able to forgive him. Go figure :)

  5. ron
    September 14, 2010 at 1:38 am

    I think it may just be a mater of semantics, then. For me, forgiving means burying the hatchet, liking the other person, again and seeing that she realizes the mistke/abuse and has remorse. I never hold onto anything if a transgressor acknowledges the wrong and does not try to justify it.
    Janis Abram Spring, in her book “How Do I Forgive you”, describes the process by which one can move on and spit out the poison, despite not forgiving.
    It is a one sided process, where the victim fully ackowledges his pain and the trauma, and feels okay about it.
    So many modern theories say it is wrong to consider oneself a victim. But, it is not wrong to acknowledge it. It is an accurate description of what many of us have been through. Living life as a victim is another story.
    I really view my expierience, while incredibly painful, as something that built trmendous strenght in me.
    For one thing other than something bad happening to one of my kids, there is virtually nothing I could face that is more painful , and that is very freeing.
    And, through educating myself to red flags and my susceptibility to these predators, I am fairly certain that I can avoid these vampires in the future. I feel that if I became involved with one, again, I would recognize it early and I, certainly would know that I could survive a breakup with one.
    And, you are right, I will never get an apology or acknowledgement from either XW.
    In fact, just last month, when I inquired if she wanted to come clean, and I pointe out her journal excerpts documanting her liasons with “strangers”, my first wife told me that she had only two emotional affairs and that they were only inappropriate because the “chemistry had become sexualized” (where do these folks come up with these jingoistic, new agish phraes? And, what the hell does it mean?)
    After 16 years, with incredible evidence of the affairs( I , actuallyknow the identities of 5 people((4 men, one lesbian)) she had sex with).

  6. September 14, 2010 at 12:15 am

    Ron & Finally: Forgiving doesn’t necessarily mean saying out loud to your abuser / former abuser, “I forgive you.” You can forgive for YOURSELF…to let go…without saying one word to the other person…ever.

    Forgive for YOU, not for her. Holding on to unforgiveness or anger, like the old saying goes, is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

    Also, remember – Forgiveness and Trust are two very different things, and mutually exclusive. One doesn’t necessarily EVER have to have ANYTHING to do with the other. Forgive to let go. Avoid Trusting people who have proven that trusting them merely brings you pain and suffering.

    Also, Love -and/or- Wanting to Be with [Ms. Abuser]…also two different things, also capable of being mutually exclusive.

    Another 2 cents from the peanut gallery,
    TGI

  7. Ron
    September 13, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Jen :ok I wont lie here, Im kinda tradional when it comes to a man taking care of the wife(but I think if a wife stays home she should pull alot of the weight there). However, I also agree a man should not be tricked or manupulated(by the courts or the women) into doing so. I also think that if many states changed child support to 50/50 couples would think twice before bringing children into an already bad marriage(I cant tell you how many times I have seen marriages having problems and then all of a sudden the wife gets pregnant).

    Both parties need to take care of one another.

    • Jen
      September 14, 2010 at 2:05 pm

      your right I totally messed that up. I was really trying to point out that I think its ok to be traditional or not and knowing what you want and what your partner wants before marriage is the key. Figuring these things out after marriage can be a disaster and cause many arguments(and this is including people without mental problems). Throw a mental health condition in the mix and the arguments just get ridiculous and crazy. But I think the majority of them start with a sense of entitlement that your partner “should” do or be what you want them to be even though the entire time during courtship they gave you no reason to think thats who they ever where.

      • Jen
        September 14, 2010 at 2:10 pm

        were* omg I can not spell or type worth crap sorry.

  8. Ron
    September 13, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    I can forgive, but not unless I get an apology and acknowledgement. Otherwise, I move on and just try to accept that the abuser is incapable of owning her crap.
    I will never forgive someone who has not apologized and accepted responsibility. I will avoid that person.

    • finallywokeup
      September 13, 2010 at 5:38 pm

      Well said, Ron, I agree. “Forgiving” under those circumstances only inflates their sense of entitlement, and makes you complicit in whitewashing their history (at which they are already experts – why help them?).

      So, again NO CONTACT seems to be the best policy.

    • Ace
      September 13, 2010 at 10:03 pm

      Hey Ron,

      I don’t think you’ll ever get recognition nor apology from these people, but I also think it’s within your power and remember I’m using the word POWER to forgive.

      I do believe that you forgiving takes back the power and allows you to move forward and place it in the memory banks. We all use too much energy fighting or justifying their behaviour, that way they still retain the power over us even though they’ve gone !!!! The best tool is indifference, it blows them away, they can’t compute it as a reaction. When you get to it, it becomes funny to watch them maneuver to try and provoke reaction. It reads like a game when you’re armed with the knowledge you now have.

      Forgive, move on and become indifferent to their ways !!

    • Mr. X
      September 28, 2010 at 5:20 pm

      I too believe that words can have a certain ‘power’. That’s all the more reason to be clear about their meaning and use them correctly.
      I will always work to forgive someone who has done wrong IF they recognize the damage they’ve done, express regret for what they did, repair the damage or make ammends if possible and appropriate, and work to keep from repeating the offense.
      This is the standard I hold for others and myself.
      If someone does damage unknowingly or they believed it was unavoidable, and it’s not reasonble to expect an apologogy (e.g. you no longer communicate with them, the person’s dead, the subject’s too painful…), then I can forgive that person too.
      I can also forgive a person if I believe that they could be appropriately remorseful for a willful act, but there is some reason it is not/can not be expressed.
      But I can not forgive everyone.
      Like somebody who damages innocent children, conceals their crime, asks for God’s forgiveness in a secret sacred rite (doesn’t ask for anyone elses forgiveness), and continues to damage children.
      I have no right to forgive those people.
      I can accept that things happened. I can work through what I feel because of it. And I can empower myself to take positive action to prevent these offenses from happening again, because the perpetrators will not take it upon themselves to stop it.
      I believe these are much more appropriate and powerful uses of the words ‘forgiveness’ and ‘acceptance’.

  9. September 12, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    I’m glad Mr. Elam emphasizes that while anger has its place, it is better used as a temporary catalyst. For those who wallow in anger (male or female), it becomes a tool to keep us ‘stuck’ rather than moving forward.

    Men (and women) who have been abused need to find that anger in order to come to terms with what they’ve been through ~ it’s a necessary ‘stage’ – but meant to be eventually passed through.

    • shrink4men
      September 12, 2010 at 11:14 pm

      I agree, TGI. Anger is a necessary stage—just like in the process of healing from an abusive relationship. Getting stuck in any of the stages isn’t healthy and will keep a person from moving forward. Forgiveness is important, too. Although, sometimes this can only be done from a safe distance. Forgiving someone who has treated you poorly or abusively doesn’t mean you condone their behavior or the way they treated you. If anything, it’s good to forgive the person who’s hurt you so that you’re not stuck holding onto the anger. In the case of an abusive relationship, I think this is best done once you’re out of the relationship as it’s rather challenging to forgive someone who is still actively hurting you.

      • Jen
        September 13, 2010 at 2:16 pm

        I agree a lot with this comment. Many people get stuck in either not forgiving at all and never moving on, or with the thinking that you have to forgive and continue putting up with the abuse(this also includes ignoring the abuse or denial). You are right in saying it should be done from a safe distance because if you stay you might comprimise your own character and values.

  10. Jen
    September 12, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    ps.

    I have to mention too, that there are also men who like the traditional women marries her, knows she wants to be a stay at home wife but then begins to verbally abuse her. To me I think people need to know what kind of person they want and honestly many people get married having no clue what so ever what they want and then blame the spouse for all their woes in life. But sorry thats a whole nother story all together.

  11. Jen
    September 12, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    ok I wont lie here, Im kinda tradional when it comes to a man taking care of the wife(but I think if a wife stays home she should pull alot of the weight there). However, I also agree a man should not be tricked or manupulated(by the courts or the women) into doing so. I also think that if many states changed child support to 50/50 couples would think twice before bringing children into an already bad marriage(I cant tell you how many times I have seen marriages having problems and then all of a sudden the wife gets pregnant).

  12. Female
    September 12, 2010 at 7:19 am

    There is power in numbers. Thanks Dr. T for giving your readers a direction to take in order to make a difference. We women figured out a long time ago that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Our men have to be heard.

  13. ron
    September 11, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    I have been reading his stuff for quite some time and he is very sharp and rational.Another guy you might interview is Marc Rudov. He is edgier , but, also very reasonable and aware.

  14. September 11, 2010 at 3:48 am

    Glad y’all hooked up. I had to take Paul to task for narcing on us old hippies, but he copped. Tara, U R the bomb, redhead. Keep me in your addy book if U come to Memphis; I might be available to be your tour guide.

  15. Mr. E
    September 10, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Great post, and I’ve got to say that the link to “How to keep someone with you forever” and the further links in that post were all fantastic.

  16. Justin_Case
    September 10, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Thanks Tara! Great interview. Wow, a men’s movement. It’s about time. Prejudices against men being explored. It really amazes me. I just know how my ex would react to some of his ideas. I checked out his site and really liked it. Thanks Dr. T!

  17. shrink4men
    September 10, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    You’re welcome, OG. However, the thanks should go to Paul Elam. I did the easy part; I asked the questions. Thanks to you, too, OG, for all the support and wisdom you provide to others here.

  18. September 10, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    Interesting interview. I’d like to see more like it.

    It’s interesting that while the majority of politicians still seem to be male there seems to be very little done to address the various legal inequities that affect so many men.

    Particularly those held hostage within the strange universe of the abusive PD wife.

    Thanks again for this blog, Dr. T.

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