The emails continue to flow in to my in-box in response to Sunday's Glenn Sacks show. Right now, they're running about 5-1 in favor of Glenn and against me. Sample:
Whether you are an evil man or merely a wretched
brainwashed void I do not know. But I know without doubt that your cause
is repugnant and wrong. And whether you are eventually made accountable in
some way only time will tell.
Matilde the chinchilla has been reading some of these impertinent missives and is becoming rather cross! (I can tell by the way she nuzzled close to me while she had her almond this morning that she was feeling protective.)
To be fair,that invective is characteristic of most, but not all, of the criticism I've received. Some has been more eloquent and civil, like this recent comment by Stanton.
I'm not going to become a one-issue blogger. By tomorrow, I promise something on a topic other than men's rights and pro-feminism. But there is one topic I wanted to touch on today. When we were first chatting about doing his show, Glenn asked me if I ever read Men's News Daily. I admitted I was familiar with it, but rarely visited. Given that our topic for the show was the men's rights movement, he asked me to take another look at it. I'm told that MND is perhaps the single most important website for men's rights advocates. (I have no way of knowing whether that is true or not, but given the look and feel of it, I suspect that Glenn is right.)
In preparation for Sunday, I spent some time reading the various articles and following the various links at Men's News Daily. The topic of the site never came up on the show, but I do have some reflections to share. MND has an eclectic list of articles, some of which have precious little to do with men's rights issues. (Today I find links to articles on China, Iran,guns, and Social Security, for example). Not surprisingly, the politics of the site are solidly right-wing. Many columnists from the likes of Townhall or the National Review can be found spouting their consistently conservative views at MND. That's not surprising, of course. To the extent that they share a political vision that transcends anti-feminism, it would seem safe to characterize most men's rights advocates as right of center, though with libertarian rather than authoritarian leanings.
Now, I've spent many years in friendship and dialogue with conservative men. But most of the conservative men I've worked with on male issues come from a different strand of the men's movement than the rights advocates do. I'm talking, of course, about Promise Keepers. Back in June of last year, I posted a brief summary of the men's movement. I argued that there are actually four distinct groups with radically different approaches to men's work:
1. The Men's Rights Advocates, represented by everyone from Glenn Sacks to Warren Farrell to Men's News Daily to Stand Your Ground.
2. Pro-feminist Men's Groups are where my heart lies. They include the likes of NOMAS, Men Can Stop Rape, and XYOnline. Important leaders include Michael Flood and Michael Kimmel.
3. Mythopoetic Men's Groups, represented by the important work of Robert Bly and the Mankind Project.
The first and fourth groups have much in common. Both Men's Rights Advocates and Christian Men's Groups take a variety of traditionally conservative positions. Both are highly critical of the feminist movement; even the briefest visit to the websites of their various affiliates will make that much clear. Frankly, I'd be willing to bet that most of the American membership of both strands of the movement voted for President Bush.
But pro-feminist men and Christian men's groups also, surprisingly have something in common: they both place their emphasis on the ethical and behavioral transformation of men. If you go to Men's News Daily or any other Men's Rights site, you won't read much about the responsibility of men to change. Men's Rights Advocates believe that men don't need transformation, they need defending! The enemy of the MRAs is feminism and those who have helped to spread feminist influences through our courts, our schools, and our culture. But the MRAs don't believe that their members ought to engage in critical self-examination. They don't believe that MRAs primary responsibility is to help other men grow and mature. They rarely mention discipling or mentoring other adult men. In the MRA world, men are victims of both a feminist hegemony and individual women. Blame is never placed on men themselves.
Christian Men's groups, as I've said, almost always share that same hostility to feminism. But visit their websites, and you will see that the emphasis is NOT on defending men but on changing them. Read, for example this article from this month's New Man magazine: Talk Your Walk. It briefly tells the story of a man learning to become more humble and learning to better express his feelings to his wife and daughter. It's also a lesson about the real goal of the Christian Men's movement; as the article says:
Jesus sets the standard as the perfect role model, the only example necessary... It’s a wise man who practices the character of Jesus in order to develop gentleness and self-control in speech.
Now friends, that's a tall order. Whatever else may be said of Christian men's groups, they are most decidedly not "defending men just as they are"! They are not interested in blaming men's suffering on women. Rather, they are interested in guiding men to become ever more Christlike, a process which surely is long, intensive, and requires much in the way of mutual support and hard work. Most pro-feminist activists are also interested in helping men develop some of those very same characteristics cited in New Man; most of us (regardless of faith) are big believers in "developing gentleness" in men!
And over at Men's News Daily, I find many things that Christian men's groups would find objectionable. To give just one example, at the top of the page, there's a link to poker babes. In two words, we've got sexual objectification of women and a promotion of gambling. That's not a link you'll ever find at Promise Keepers! The Christian men's movement, as one might expect, places a huge emphasis on male sexual purity. For example, helping men win the victory over porn addiction is a critically important, perhaps even central, focus of the movement. But to put it mildly, I haven't found anything negative about porn at any of the men's rights sites. Indeed, to the extent that they are discernible, the sexual ethics of most Men's Rights sites are decidedly libertarian if not positively hedonistic. (For a blunter example of what I mean by the connection between MRAs and hedonistic exploitation, check out this blog hosted by Men's News Daily. Warning: not entirely work safe.)
I am an evangelical of a sort, though with fairly progressive views compared to the stereotype. Over the last few years, I have been to one rally and a couple of small group meetings of Promise Keeper (PK, as it is called). Though I disagree with many of the conservative social positions of its members, I have far more respect for PK and its allies than I do for the men's rights movement. That respect is rooted in the understanding that the fellows in the Christian Men's Movement are, like pro-feminist men, doing the hard work of individual and social transformation. Pro-feminist and conservative Christian men are both committed to ending the sexual exploitation of women. We are equally committed to creating "new men" of character, self-restraint, courage, and gentleness. We have much about which we disagree, but we do agree on the need for men to be transformed. In that, we share something that our MRA brothers do not.
I'll have more on the similarities between pro-feminist men and Promise Keepers another time.
UPDATE: Men's News Daily has a link back to this article with the charming headline:
AMBUSH: Pro-Feminist 'Girlyman' Hugo Schwyzer Takes Potshots at MND's Politics, "Hedonism"
Ambush, huh? Where can I get the pro-feminist "girlyman" t-shirt? Oh, and I am not a miltary historian -- what exactly is a "potshot"? What's the etymology? I'd like to know, so I can know whether I am being accused accurately.
And they have another banner linking to Glenn's site which reads:
Glenn Sacks Gores Misandrist and Feminist Apologist Hugo Schwyzer...
Huh. Gores. I'll go inspect my torso for signs of injury. (Oh, and I like the play on Glenn's name -- "sacks" can be a fine verb in that sentence,if only you add a comma after it.)