A Brief History of NOMAS
While other kinds of men’s movements have appeared in the U.S. over recent years the anti-feminist “men’s rights,” the mytho-poetic, and most recently, the conservative-Christian Promise Keepers, the anti-sexist men’s movement was the first.
The National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS) began as a loose-knit spontaneous social movement in the early 1970s. With the beginning of the “second wave” of American feminism in the late 1960s, “anti-sexist” men’s groups, articles, and other writing began to appear. In 1975 a group of men who were enrolled in a women’s studies course at the University of Tennessee held what they announced as “The First National Conference on Men and Masculinity,” in Knoxville, TN. The following year, a Second National “M&M” Conference was held at State College, PA. Over the next five years National M&M Conferences were held in Des Moines, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and Boston. During this period there was little formal organization, but an M&M ideology developed which was strongly pro-feminist and gay-affirmative, while also emphasizing traditional male sex role restrictions, and the need to enhance men’s personal and emotional lives.
The M&Ms however clearly rejected the male-self-interest philosophy of the “men’s rights” movement, which appeared as an anti-feminist backlash in the U.S. in the late 1970s. At the 1981 M&M in Boston, it became clear that some kind of structure was needed if the M&M tradition was to continue. A national membership organization was formed, and in 1982 its members elected an 18-person national council to provide a collective leadership to the anti-sexist men’s movement. In 1983 the name “National Organization for Changing Men” (NOCM) was chosen; in 1990 the present name, NOMAS, was adopted. In 1992, anti-racism was added as a major commitment of NOMAS, together with pro-feminism, gay-affirmation, and enhancing men’s lives. Supported and co-sponsored by NOMAS since 1982, the National M&M Conferences have occurred annually. The 2010 Conference, in Anaheim, CA, was the thirty-fifth National Conference on Men and Masculinity.
NOMAS today is guided by a national council and a larger national leadership collective. Its most basic values and ideology are summarized in its STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES, which has been copied by pro-feminist men’s groups in Europe and elsewhere. Women as well as men are welcome as members. To encourage activism and analysis across a range of anti-sexist men’s issues, NOMAS now has national task groups or resource persons in the following areas:
- Child Custody
- Eliminating Racism
- Ending Men’s Violence
- Homophobia, Heterosexism and LGBT Affirmative
- Men, Culture and Art
- Men’s Health and Mental Health
- Men and Spirituality
- Men’s Studies Association
- Sex Trafficking, Pornography and the Commercial Sex Industry
- Reproductive Rights
Today with its history of more than thirty-five years, it remains the oldest and the most politically progressive network of men who share a hopeful perspective about men and masculinity.