As many readers know, in my 5 years as editor of M.E.N. Magazine I became known as a "mythopoetic." As I began, it seemed like there were two "factions," mythopoetic and menís rights. There were two magazines, M.E.N. Magazine and Backlash, each with their different appeal. The perennial issue we all faced, and continue to face, is how to reach a broader audience of just plain, ordinary guys leading real lives and dealing with real issues.
Then I got the contract to be the Forum Manager of the Menís Forum on The Microsoft Network, or MSN. That was a bit of a struggle in itself. Women On-Line had a paid Forum Manager and staff, and Menís was moderated by whoever was handy, most frequently a woman. But a man named Jim Bracewell, a man from the heart who founded the Orlando Menís Council and created the Florida Menís Gathering, put his stake in the groundóand told me about it. So thereís now a "male-positive" space on one of the major on-line services.
Itís been a fascinating and challenging experience, that has taught me a lot about whatís on a lot of guysí minds and how hard it is to talk about it. We havenít been talking about sports, sex and cars. Most of the men arenít interested in the "menís movement" or any "menís rights causes." But when one guy started to say something "politically incorrect" the message he posted to the continuing-discussion Bulletin Board would be smothered with a bunch of replies about womenís issues. And when one guy started to post about being a battered husband, all the folks wanted to talk about is how men battered women. It didnít feel like a male-positive environment.
We set a Forum rule against misandry, and that caused a controversy. At least a lot more people learned a new word for "male-bashing," one thatís as respectable as "misogyny."
After a lot of hard work, that looked like one of Michael Meadeís "conflict hours," we created a space where men could speak their minds. And when a woman told a story about a guy who was so obnoxious she just had to slap him silly, she was astounded when a lot of men said, "but thereís no excuse for violence." A lot of women heard the message, and the double-standard involved, and started to think. They are now very supportive when a man talks about the chest-to-belly-button knife scar his ex gave him. I was astounded at the number of guys, who arenít "mythopoetic" or "menís rights," who told the same story.
The guys there donít talk about drumming, and donít talk much about poetry. But they do talk about circumcision, "victimhood" as a way of life, what happens when a wife of two decades walks out the door because sheís "not fulfilled," and what it feels like to put Dad in a nursing home. And how Domestic Court has screwed up their lives. The women, who have horror stories of their own, are starting to agree with the guys.
There are philosophical discussions, too, and a lot of silly banter. But what really strikes me is that what the guys on the Forum are looking for is the same thing that the guys at Wisdom Council, the menís rights activists, readers of this magazine, and a lot of other guys are looking for. A place to tell their stories and speak the experience-wisdom of their truths, in the company of other men, in a way that they can be heard. So they can make a difference in their own lives, in the lives of others, and in the society in which they live.