Whatever psychological burden men have to overcome, women are still the most universal and direct victims of our patriarchy. Our organization must take a highly visible and energetic position in support of women’s struggle for equality. Our movement was born directly out of and continually nourished by feminism. Our support for women’s rights and specific women’s issues must be vigorous and unmistakable. The simple truth is that oppression of gays, homophobia, women’s oppression, and men’s numerous sex role burdens and wounds are all part of the institution of patriarchy. Each injustice associated with sex contributes to all of the others. All oppressions are linked, and a consciousness of any oppression leads to an awareness of them all. The uniqueness and great potential strength of our movement is that we span all these categories of oppressions. Most people in this country have never heard gay men speak up for women’s rights. Most people have not heard heterosexual men speak out forcefully for the civil rights of Gay men and Lesbians. Most people have not heard women speak knowledgeably and sympathetically about men’s sex role burdens. In NOMAS, all of these things take place at every conference or meeting. There is something very special and wonderful in the breadth of our vision as a social movement, which speaks more persuasively than any of us could do alone. The totality of our opposition to the consequences of patriarchy is no weak point at all, but our greatest strength. We are not standing up as men to create a movement that cares only about men’s sex role issues, or only about gay rights, or only about supporting women’s fight against sexism. What is most special about our movement is that we have seen the connections between all these injustices, and are committed to ending all of them.
This is the greatest challenge to our integrity, and one of our greatest opportunities to make a real difference in people’s lives; to create positive social change. The homophobia of the majority of American men can hardly be underestimated. We speak out for Gay Rights, even in light of frightening and alienating the majority of men before they can hear anything else we have to say, not only because gays are among the most oppressed minorities in the world today, or because gay men and women have been a vital part of our movement, but, because the oppression (heterosexism) of gays is tightly linked to sexism- which is unquestionably the most potent single factor which makes most heterosexual men afraid to deviate from the traditional male sex role. We advocate for Gay Rights to heal the incalculable damage that homophobia, and the fear and confusion that it engenders, has done to both homosexual and heterosexual men. From this position, it is natural to cite and dispel the popular myths about homosexuality, to mention the incredible fear and suffering and anxiety that oppression inflicts on gay Americans, and to staunchly advocate an end to all discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The enduring injustice of racism, which, like sexism, has long divided humankind into unequal and isolated groups, is of particular concern to us. Racism touches all of us and remains a primary source of inequality and oppression in our society. NOMAS is committed to examine and challenge racism in ourselves, our organizations, and our communities.
It is important to be clear about the ways that most men’s lives can become happier and more fulfilling by un-learning large parts of the male role. Realistically, this is the main positive personal gain we have to offer the average, thoughtful but uninvolved man who might be interested in joining our movement. The satisfaction of being part of a struggle against social injustice will also be important, but these are the ways in which a man’s own personal life can most clearly be improved, even in the short run. These benefits are all very real. Some of the main issues in this general category are:
- More (and better) time spent with ones children. The traditional male is a financial provider and authority, but has little time for daily, affectionate parenting, and little emotional preparation for dealing with the needs of children.
- Genuine male friendships. By overcoming competitiveness, homophobia, inexpressiveness, and several other aspects of the traditional male role, men can begin to experience intimacy, trust, and real support in their relationships with other men. Instead of chums, men can have real male friends.
- Putting work in perspective. Instead of building their entire identities around career status and being a Provider, men can develop other sources of satisfaction and self-esteem, such as the quality of their personal relationships with others.
- Emotional expressiveness. By overcoming the traditional male denial of most emotions and feelings, men can have more meaningful relationships, richer and fuller emotional lives and even be physically healthier.
- Compulsive competition. By rethinking the obsession with Winning that so many men are socialized into, we can free ourselves to relate to people in many other, more satisfying and more productive ways.
- Sensitivity and interpersonal skills. Men can learn to be good listeners, to be gentle, to be sensitive to other people’s needs and feelings, and able to nurture.
- Sexual pleasure. No area of human experience is more thoroughly influenced by male role posturing and pressures than the ability to give and receive sexual pleasure. People are each different, but the male role demands just one traditional masculine sexual style. On top of his other problems, macho man doesn’t have much fun.
- Unlearning aggressiveness. Physical and verbal aggressiveness, an important aspect of traditional masculinity, has taken a terrible toll on women and children, and on men themselves. This society is challenged with the misery caused by male violence, and aggression brings no happiness to the men who are trapped in it.
- Fear of femininity. The ridiculous stigma of doing, saying, or enjoying anything considered feminine is learned very early and continues to haunt and limit traditional men all their lives. It’s a simple but profound relief to realize that we can say, wear, eat, enjoy, play, and do whatever we want without warring about what category it falls into.
This is not an exhaustive list. These issues should not be the only concern of the anti-sexist men’s movement, but they deserve a major place.