From the Guest Editor
Part 1 (March 1995 issue)
In the next two issues of M.E.N. Magazine, men from across the country will be speaking out. We will share with you our ideas of some of the problems in the men's movements. None of us are happy about doing this. It's not easy, no, not at all. It goes against all the rules that some of us grew up with. "Never air dirty laundry." "It isn't anybody's business but our own," we've heard growing up. To tell the outside world that the family was having difficulties was the greatest sin possible. However, sometimes the rules need to be broken.
The contributors in the next two issues have a strong sense of loyalty and concern for their brothers in the men's movements. The men's movement has been the joke of the media, the target of some women's groups and often misperceived by the general public. We feel protective. We do not want to add to the negative image. Yet we feel the need to stand up and bring into the light some of the difficulties and abuses found within the Men's Movements. Just as it was necessary for some of us to break the rules and bring to light problems in our families, it is necessary to do so in the men's movement.
It is of great importance to have a widespread public discussion. We must stop hiding the difficulties that are now present in the Men's Movements. Some men are willing to speak out, but in general men are fearful. The men's movements is experiencing difficulties. Numbers are declining, different factions are suspicious of each other, and the gathering together of ideologically diverse men is becoming rarer. It is time for us to become honest. There are some things wrong within the Men's Movements. It is time to air out the dirty laundry. We need to create a public debate within the Men's Movements.
In the next two issues, nine men will share in a spirit of dialogue. Our attempt is to present our observations clearly and respectfully. The desire is to challenge but not to bash. Therefore, in our writing we attempt to be passionate and compassionate. There is confidence in what we are saying. Yet we know there is more to say and to learn. Our desire is to create more public dialogue. We acknowledge there are more topics to cover. It is clear that this is the beginning of the discussion not the end.
These two issues came about because of the hard work of several individuals. During a Men's Conference this fall many men spoke quietly to me about the problems and abuses they were experiencing in the Men's Movements. I was encouraged more then once to organize a group to discuss the issues. I found myself reluctant. I didn't want to be identified as a complainer. I also wondered why these men did not organize their own group.
My lack of courage at that conference ate away at me. A month later I called Bert Hoff in Seattle. "Bert this is what I need to do," I said. "I want to give voice to some concerns and to shed light on the shadow side of the Men's Movements." His answer was immediately "Yes." He had just done an interview with Shepherd Bliss from California, who had shared his concerns about Men's Work.
I immediately called Harris Breiman from New York. He wanted to write about the need to serve imprisoned men. Dale Roads from Indiana responded "yes." He was frustrated with the misunderstanding of initiation within certain organizations in the men's movements. Homo Sapient from the midwest was somewhat hesitent, fearful of some of the homophobic responses. He chose not to sign his article. Onaje Benjamin, from New York, was suggested by Harris. His response was, "about time". Ron Knobbe who works on a reservation in Wisconsin was immediate in his response. He shared about the anger of Native American towards the misuseof their symbols and rituals. With little explanation, Jed Diamond had his article to me within a week. His concern for the enviroment is known by many. Bennett Spelce from Texas did not say a word. "What would I say about the shadow side of the men's movement?" was his first response. "When do you need it? I don't know what I'm going to say but I'll start immediately. I know that I need to do this," was his second reply. The final person on board was Hosea Gonzelez from Minneapolis. He was reluctant. Why should he be bothered? Men within the men's movement ignored his work with men. Why would they listen now? His article will be in the March issue.
Each men spoke freely in his own voice. Each man wrote without reading the other's work. Not all the authors agreed with each other. However, we were united in recognizing that the men's movements was in need of some fresh air. We wanted the men's movements to open the windows and air out the dirty laundry. We wanted our brothers to go beyond defensiveness, small agendas and most of all fear. We desired to make movement. It was hoped that these two issues would support men in entering into a deeper levels of communication about the Men's Movements.
On a personal note I wish to thank all the authors. Their patience, courage and their hard work is encouraging. Most of all Bert Hoff and his staff need a special thanks. In editing these two issues of M.E.N. Magazine, I have come to deeply appreciate his work. It is only because of Bert's presence that I was able to accomplsh my task as special editor. The Men's Movements owes him a debt of gratitude. He is a man of vision and courage. I know that some editors would not have touched this project.
Part 2 (April 1995 issue)
This is the second issue of M.E.N. Magazine discussing some of the difficulties facing the Men's Movements. As I wrote in last months issue it is not easy to be critical of the Men's Movements. The Men's Movements has already received much criticism from the outside. Why add more fuel to the fire? However, it must be done because "it is the truth that sets us free." If men's work is to be effective, we must be willing to take a hard look at ourselves.
There are two main reasons why for some of us it is hard to look at the Men's Movements. First, some men will feel protective. The men's movement has become their sanctuary. It will be difficult to look critically at something that is so personally important. Secondly, there will also be some men who will protest an open public discussion. They will fear looking at themselves and their organizations. The reasons maybe power, ideological rigidness, fear or insecurity. In protectiveness or fear some individuals and groups will resort to rationalizing, denial and bashing. For these persons the individual who brings to light the problem will become the problem . These fear responses must not be supported. We, all, need to be aware of our own fear and protective attitudes. Many of us will find it difficult to hear the problems and abuses within the Men's Movements. An open discussion needs to happen. We need to trust that open critical discussion will promote healthy and strong men's work. The discussion needs to be based on civility. We need to avoid personality bashing and other petty fear responses. Ideas, truthfulness, respect and compassion need to be the basis of the discussion. I wish to encourage you to look at the suggestions for continuing the discussion. It is in the continued discussion within the Men's Movements that growth and creativity will emerge.
As special editor of these two issues I have learned many things. My own attitudes have been put to the test. I have been forced to face some of my own prejudices. Through the insights and the long conversations with the authors, I have been changed. My own work with men has been affected for the good. I wish to thank all the authors for their writing and willingness to put themselves on the line. I wish to acknowledge Bert Hoff and all the staff of Seattle Men Magazine for their courage in supporting this critical endeavor. Their work will hopefully affect you in the same way that it has me.
Andre Heuer D.Min. LICSW teaches, consults and writes on men's issues. He has worked in prisons, treatment centers, churches and social services organizations. Andre is a member and volunteer at the Twins Cities Men's Center. He has published several articles and his chapter on "Men and Goodness" will appear in April in the book Men Healing Shame ed. Schenk; Everingham by Springer Publishing Company. He can be reached at 5609 Vincent Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55410. (612) 920-5914.
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