With the beginning of the “second wave” of American feminism in the late 1960s, “anti-sexist” men’s groups, articles, and other writings 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. These “M&Ms” then continued–being held in various cities each year throughout the late 1970’s. These gatherings were hugely successful. In1978 the M&M 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 a Pennsylvania college campus for having gay topics on the printed Program. At the 4th M&M in St. Louis, there was a demonstration against a homophobic business with men marching while holding hands. A growing critique of the restrictiveness of the traditional male role led to a focus on the need to enhance men’s personal and emotional lives. In addition, there was a clear rejection of 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.
But there was no formal organization to support these events and promote relevant social change. By 1981, it had become clear that more structure was needed. A group of men present at the 7th M&M in Boston proposed the formation of a new national organization. After 100 men and some women paid $10 to join, the paperwork was filed and the National Organization for Men (NOM) became a [501-3-c] reality. In 1982 the membership elected an 18-person National Council to provide a collective leadership to the anti-sexist men’s movement. In 1983 a new name, the National Organization for Changing Men (NOCM), was chosen. In 1990 the present name, the National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS), was adopted. In 1992, anti-racism was added as a major commitment.
From its earliest forms to the present NOMAS has been an inclusive organization. While white men have been the most numerous members and leaders, women and people of color have been there from the beginning–furthering the goals of the organization as both members and leaders. Unfortunately (but predictably) many written histories of the pro-feminist men’s movement ignore this fact.
NOMAS, the oldest anti-sexist men’s organization in the United States has continued the M&M tradition that began back in 1975. Due the pandemic, M&Ms 45 and 46 were held as virtual events.
For many years NOMAS operated through a Task Group structure in which task group leaders and national resource persons were entrusted with making policy statements and taking action in specific content areas. These groups have included: Child Custody, Eliminating Racism, Ending Men’s Violence, Fathering, Homophobia, Heterosexism and LGBT Affirmative, Men’s Culture, Men’s Health and Mental Health, Men and Spirituality, Men’s Studies Association, Sex Trafficking, Pornography and the Commercial Sex Industry, Reproductive Rights, Pro-Feminism.
Our most basic values and ideology were summarized in our original STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES. This historic document has been copied by pro-feminist men’s groups in Europe and elsewhere and cited in various histories of the pro-feminist men’s movement. add link to original statement