What does NOMAS stand for?
“The National Organization for Men Against Sexism.”
(We see the term “Sexism” as covering the full range of inequalities and role prescriptions traditionally linked to gender and sexualities, including but not limited to, men’s and women’s unequal social power, privilege and opportunity.
What is the main mission of NOMAS?
There are several. The four most central goals and Principles of NOMAS are, in short-hand form: Pro-Feminist, LGBT-Affirmative, Anti-Racist, and concerned with Enhancing Men’s Lives. These basic core Principles are elaborated and discussed at www.Nomas.org under “History / Tenets”.
For over four decades, NOMAS has been a clear and consistent national voice onbehalf of men’s feminism and anti-sexism. NOMAS recognized early on that all oppressions are linked. Our stance on the intersectionality of sexism, heterosexism and racism are core to our mission. NOMAS is strongly LGBT-affirming, anti-racist, profoundly opposed to homophobia, and concerned with the many complex issues of gender, personality, roles, and power.
Who were the founders of NOMAS, and what was their inspiration in starting the organization?
NOMAS grew out of a nation-wide collective social-change movement, to whichliterally hundreds of men and women contributed. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, as feminism erupted across the United States and Canada, there began to appear “anti-sexist men’s gatherings” and publications, in New York, Berkeley, Portland, Chicago, Seattle, and other spots. In 1974 a professor in Knoxville TN found that young men were increasingly taking her Women’s Studies Classes. She directed them to plan some new anti-sexist activities, for men. One result was the first National Conference on Men & Masculinity, held in 1975. These M&Ms then occurred spontaneously in various cities each year throughout the late 70’s, and were hugely successful. (One in1978 in Los Angeles drew over 500 paid participants).
Clearly pro-feminist from the beginning, gay-affirmation also quickly emerged as a central priority. The 2nd National M&M was evicted from an Eastern college campus, for having gay topics on the printed Program. At the 4th M&M in St. Louis, men in NOMAS demonstrated against a homophobic business, marching while all holding hands.
But there was no organization to support these events, and by 1981 at the 7th M&M in Massachusetts, it was clear that more structure was needed. A group of men present proposed a new national organization, and after 100 men (& some women) had paid $10 to join, it became a [501-3-c] reality. NOMAS has since that time sponsored thirty-nine more annual Men & Masculinity Conferences.
Sponsoring these educational, inspiring and movement-building annual M&M gatherings remains a central commitment of NOMAS. But In addition there are now many National Task Groups, which advocate and work for positive social change throughout the year in a variety of ways,. The NOMAS National Council (collective leadership) has authorized Task Groups addressing:
Fathering, Gay Rights, Men & Mental Health, Child Custody, Homophobia,Eliminating Racism, Men, Health, & Aging, Male-Female Relationships, Men & Spirituality, Men’s Studies (gender-class-teachers & students), Men’s Culture (poetry, music, story-telling, creative arts), Reproductive Rights, Sexual Harassment, Sex-Trafficking, Prostitution & Pornography, Class Issues, Bisexuality, and The Ending Men’s Violence Network.
Reports from some of the most currently-active Task Groups appear regularly, on www.Nomas.org.
Why a strong emphasis on anti-male-violence?
Male violence remains a huge, unending global reality to almost all women and children, and to a great many men… perhaps even to most men. Our planet today bleeds, from male violence. Confronting male violence against women, in its many forms (e.g. rape, assault, domestic abuse, harassment, stalking, street-hassling) is neither easy, nor especially popular with many men. But we feel that confronting male violence should be a core-responsibility and concern of men who would think of themselves as feminist.
We are proud that NOMAS has taken a national leadership role in several key areas of confronting men’s abusiveness (such as domestic violence, groups for convicted abusers, men’s abuses of child-custody proceedings, etc.). We have had Men & Masculinity conference presentations on understanding rape-statistics, on femicides, on laboratory research on men’s aggression. NOMAS proudly endorses the New York Model for Baterrer Progams and its analysis of batterer intervention and the court system. The Board President of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) is a core member of the NOMAS national leadership. NOMAS has also recently collaborating in creating and disseminating a reproductive coercion tool kit for women and activists in all settings where women come for services. We are proud of what we have achieved and worked for around men’s violence against women, and in many other gender-linked, role, power and justice-related areas.
What are some other pro-feminist concerns of NOMAS?
The great portion of NOMAS’ work is done through our Task Groups, which elucidate a feminist analysis and position of the organization on various issues that impact men, women, and children in our society. For example, many conference workshops have addressed issues of positive, nurturing fatherhood. Our Task Group Chair on Fathering, Dr. Doug Gertner, is a lifetime leader in working directly with young fathers, and recently hosted a national radio program, exploring all the nuts-and-bolts of intelligent, positive, loving fathering & nurturing skills.
Our Men’s Studies academic division (M.S.A.) hosted the earliest national scholarly meetings and publications addressing men’s gender issues, and has continued this exciting scientific work for the past 20 years. Two nationally published academic Journals of Men’s Studies have had their origins in NOMAS. M.S.A. is currently working to recognize the “Great Feminist Social Scientists,” who mainstream-academics have so often ignored. Another working-group monitors new research on Bonobos, our little-known, but biologically-closest-to-us primate relatives, who are invariably older-female-centered-and-led.
All NOMAS leaders are offered valuable but costs-paid intensive two-day training in recognizing and confronting all forms and levels of racism; this is conducted by the nationally-acclaimed People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond based in New Orleans, LA.
Some of our leaders have always been active psychotherapists; Our Men and Mental Health Task Group was a catalyst in forming the current American Psychological Association’s Division on Men, or S.P.S.S.M.
A recent Men and Masculinity conference (M&M) address explored new issues of physical health, and new scientific anti-aging techniques: nutritional supplements, whey protein, double-bond EFA’s (Omega 3, 6, 7, & 9), HGH, and the three most-essential types of exercise.
M&M workshops have explored the deep and complex issues of straight-male homophobia; and NOMAS has offered unique programs on subtle gay-male couples’ issues, such as pragmatic, real-world “Power and Positioning.”
A recent M&M was focused on learning and serving the needs of gay, lesbian, and transgender African-American youth, and their support communities. At the Intersections: Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Race in Public Policy was co-sponsored with Affinity, a dynamic black feminist organization in Chicago.
NOMAS has designated its own “Poet-Laureate,” a blue collar man whose arresting, trenchant poems – “the Language of my Heart” – were born and nourished in his NOMAS and men’s conscientiousness-raising experiences.
NOMAS has been among this nation’s leading analytic voices in examining the many issues raised by the commercial sex-industry, including sex trafficking, prostitution, pornography, objectification, strip-clubs, global sex-tourism, lap-dancing, live phone sex, “happy-ending” massages, S&M, mail-order brides, ‘selfie – sexting,’ and many related issues. We have been mentored and work closely with many national feminist leaders in this area.
NOMAS historian(s) have on hand over forty years of men’s-movement records, periodicals, books, videos, articles, newsletters, posters, conference programs, and other materials. When a definitive history of the U.S. Anti-Sexist Men’s Movement is written, its authors will be NOMAS historians and writers.
What is NOMAS’ vision of what masculinity could or should be?
At the very early 7th M&M, one workshop was titled “What is Positive, in traditional Masculinity?” It discussed some “traditionally-masculine” qualities, such as intelligence, courage, determination, logic, self-confidence, etc.
It is not difficult to point to some ways in which “traditional masculinity” includes a number of positive traits. One can then envision a “new masculinity,” incorporating those positive ones, and none of the dysfunctional, destructive traits of traditional masculinity.
But it is also important to see that there is nothing inherently “masculine,” about any of these positive human qualities. Women and girls can and do possess all of them.
Psychological androgyny (comfort with having a wide range of skills) is a proven reality, and more psychologically androgynous people have been found to be better-functioning.
Therefore many of us now favor the more advanced ideal of essentially forgetting all the old gender role requirements, of “moving beyond” all the traditional sex-role assignments and stereotypes, and encouraging each person to have whatever personality we may choose, or aspire to. Thus in some real sense, we would be content for the entire cultural-construct of “masculinity” to gradually fade-away altogether.
What is NOMAS’ view of men and masculinity in society?
In its earliest days, NOMAS described itself in writing as pro-feminist and also “male-positive.” However, when an anti-feminist “men’s-rights” effort then emerged a fewyears later, and began to use that same “male-positive” phrase, we changed our own stated goal to “Enhancing Men’s Lives,” to avoid confusion with the reactionary, men’s-self-interest perspective.
Our basic Principles capture this important nuance: Traditional masculinity includes many positive characteristics in which we take pride and find strength… it also contains qualities that have limited, and harmed us. We are deeply supportive of men who are struggling with the issues of traditional masculinity… we care about men, and are especially concerned with men’s problems, as well as the difficult issues in most men’s lives.
Social scientist in NOMAS’ M.S.A. largely pioneered the early psychological analysis of the many male-role issues that so limit and undermine most men’s happiness: competitiveness, workaholism, emotional inexpressiveness, aggressveness, unavailability in relationships, unwillingness to get help, lack of male friendships, sexual objectification, homophobia, and others. Many ways in which men are limited and harmed by traditional masculinity are cited at www.Nomas.org, under “Tenets:Enhancing Men’s Lives.”
So NOMAS is profoundly positive for men, in pointing to all the clear personal benefits of un-learning traditional masculine values, and moving beyond those limitations. As to generalities, we need to be honest and realistic about men as a whole, and about ourselves. We need to acknowledge both the positive and praiseworthy in men, and also the shameful, selfish and sad, rather than projecting some “good” or “bad” global image of men. And as mentioned before, we would be content for the entire cultural-construct of “masculinity” to disappear altogether.
Do you have any measures of “success” with NOMAS efforts?
We have in fact been remarkably successful, in many ways. First, with no paid staff, no major tangible resources, and working against all the massive resistance of ancient custom, social inertia, and long-entrenched Patriarchal structures & attitudes, we have made clear and definite progress, on each of our central Principles.
NOMAS and the M&M Conferences, for almost forty years, have been a national arena in which straight men, gay men, bisexuals, and people of all sexualities, regularly meet, and work productively together, usually indistinguishably. NOMAS is a place where heterosexism and homophobia are seen as a central problems by everyone. NOMAS is and has long been a clear national men’s voice, calling for a totally GLBT-Affirmative society.
NOMAS has been a visible and consistent ally of the feminist women’s movement, and has resolutely rejected all collaborations with other “men’s” groups which are anti-feminist. NOMAS has always welcomed women’s participation, and collaborates closely with NCADV, and other feminist groups. In several areas NOMAS programs have been valuable to the larger feminist movement, including analysis and work on domestic abuse, child custody, mandated groups for batterers, healthy group-process, and addressing harms inherent in sex-trafficking and use in prostitution.
NOMAS pioneered the analysis of all the issues of average men’s lives, and the many wounds and emotional burdens of the traditional male role: neglect of relationships, lack of good fathering skills, suppressed emotions, isolation, competitiveness, workaholism, aggression, absence of healthy male-female relationships. NOMAS sponsored the academic study of men-and-masculinity, giving birth to the academic field now called Men’s Studies. It sustains an emerging community of anti-sexist singers, poets, story-tellers and creative artists, under the banner of “Men’s Culture.”
The fundamental similarities of oppression based on ethnicity or race, to the oppressions based on sex, and on sexual orientation, have been increasingly evident.
Early in our history, NOMAS had elected to explicitly add Anti-Racism to its other basic gender-linked Principles. NOMAS has committed to “examine and challenge racism, in ourselves, our organizations, and our communities.” NOMAS has also created an original anti-oppression group tool, the Empowerment Process, used now within NOMAS and being adopted by other groups.
Perhaps NOMAS’ most extraordinary – most unlikely – great success, is that it has survived, endured, and in fact prospered, and grown markedly more effective, since that first M&M gathering in 1975. There have been struggles, disappointments, and setbacks. But as other organizations have come and have gone, NOMAS and the inspiring annual M&M Conferences have endured year after year, and still continue to evolve and improve. It is this remarkable continuity that is another proud accomplishment of this movement
What is NOMAS’ view of “men’s-rights”?
Although Women, as a group (at least in the West), have made symbolic gains in gender equality, men world-wide still have a highly disproportionate share of privilege, power, money, and personal safety. Those facts are incontestable to any fair observer.
NOMAS honors and supports the feminist struggle for equality, and for freedom from old gender-requirements; we are proud to be a part of it. The men’s-rightists, or male supremacy groups, are our ideological polar-opposite: they labor and contrive to ridicule and castigate feminism, at every opportunity and to maintain the system of male dominance. The self-interested and reactionary “men’s-rightists” are perhaps the clearest ideological enemies of male pro-feminists.
In 1987 in Hartford CT, a group of men’s-rights enthusiasts attended the 12th NOMAS M&M. They distributed materials attacking feminists. Controversy very soon erupted. NOMAS then made a clear and decisive move: to sever all connections with the entirely non-compatible men’s-rights perspective.
Men’s-rightists focus mostly on issues in which male-self-interest seems to them… imperiled. They are predictably against all alimony, against child-support obligations, against any “deadbeat-dad” laws, against rape-awareness and rape-prevention efforts, against any punishments of domestic abusers. They have developed elaborate “how-to kits,” and offer legal advisors, instructing-divorcing men how to claim child custody -even if they have no wish to raise the child – as a perfect way to bully and terrorize the mother.
To support these ugly, self-serving positions, male supremacists manufacture, and work to widely promote, “facts” that are often patently ludicrous: e.g. that charges of rape are mostly false, and that just as many men are battered-and-abused, by their brutal female spouses, as are women by men. These fantasies has been fervently promoted, despite no visible evidence supporting it, and massive evidence to the contrary.
NOMAS is strongly supportive of protective mothers, and in 2015 held our M&M conference in conjunction with the Battered Mothers Custody Conference. “Fathers’-rights” organizations – more accurately termed the male supremacists, or the abusers’ lobby – have sought to frame the child custody dispute as one between men and women, or mothers and fathers. In reality the dispute is between a small group of extreme abusers, who are willing to hurt mothers and children in order to control their partners, vs. the large majority of men and women who want to see children protected from abusers. NOMAS believes it is important for good men to stand with the protective mothers’ movement, to demonstrate that the abuser groups do not speak for all or even most men.
The male supremacist movement has successfully sought to manipulate courts, to undermine the limited progress made to prevent domestic violence. A large majority of contested custody cases are actually domestic violence cases, involving the most dangerous abusers. They believe she had no right to leave, and seek to use custody as a way to pressure victims to return, or punish them for leaving. Seventy-five percent of women murdered by their partners are killed after they leave. In a recent two year period, we found news stories about 175 children murdered by fathers involved in contested custody. In many cases the courts had used standard flawed practices to give the abusers the access they needed to kill the children. They more commonly use custody courts to regain access to their victims; they have enormous success in gaining custody, despite their abuse and limited parental involvement.
Some observers have imagined that, because those men hug each other, and speak of “men’s issues,” and “brotherhood,” we should all be able to get past our minor theoretical differences. We feel quite differently: that men’s-right-ists are a part of the old-order, of undisguised Patriarchy, of privileged men seeking to hold on to privilege, and to domination of women.] .
What are some specific examples of the impact of male supremacy in our culture?
Certainly, there is an endless list of examples.
When “men’s-rights” first began to get media coverage, one national group named as “Father of the Year” a man known to have sexually-abused his young daughter, repeatedly, forcing her mother to flee with the child from the U.S. into hiding.
A “men’s-rights” web site, today, extols: “the hidden victims of domestic abuse: the men who find themselves with abusive female partners.”
Another men’s-rights site, today in 2015, is attacking feminists for “the perpetuation of myths, like rape culture,” and claims that “50% of rape allegations are false.”
A courageous mother rescued her children and became the first U. S. woman to gain asylum in the Netherlands; the judge had granted the father custody, knowing he had fractured the little boy’s skull. A male supremacist web-site encouraged its members to gang-rape the mother, because she had saved her children.
When a woman was murdered in 2014, after accusing campus football players of raping her, a men’s-right-ist newsletter gloated, that she: “took one for the team.”
A current men’s-rights blog observes that a feminist web-site… “is a great recruiting tool for the Men’s Movement… Delusional Idiot Women, who obviously Hate Men.”
Does NOMAS do any work in support of young men or boys?
In an important sense, ALL of our work should be clearly seen as “in support of young men or boys,” since we are continuously working on many fronts to transform the role-enforced, gendered, patriarchal, unequal world that they will have to live in.
Teen-age men have served as NOMAS leaders on the National Council, and some men in the NOMAS national leadership today are in their 20’s. For a period of years NOMAS sponsored and supported a (youth-led) National Task Group on “Ageism and Adult-Supremacy.”
Those of us who are high-school teachers, college teachers, and therapists work professionally and supportively with many young men on a daily basis. Many NOMAS leaders are invited to speak to high-school, college, fraternity, and other young audiences. One of our national leaders is often invited to speak to young men in military service, about a range of anti-sexist issues.
Families, children, and young people are always welcome at NOMAS Conferences. On occasions we have had a concurrent “Children’s Conference,” with safe educational activities, so that parents can take part in the M&M.
NOMAS recently collaborated with the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta, to produce much-needed reading materials for the many young men in the waiting rooms, who have accompanied their partners to abortion clinics.
What are your goals with the organization? Are they social, political or cultural?
As a 501-c-3 organization we cannot be directly, overtly political. As detailed above however, we seek basic, transformational, radical social change, of central aspects of our entire culture. We seek to advance the basic core principles of equality, gender justice, and liberation from traditional gender roles and norms that NOMAS proudly stands for.