At this year’s Kick-Off, there’s no doubt one of the most powerful performances was Ammon Allen-Doucot’s poetry with Seth Yoder’s piano accompaniment. This was based on a poem, “Compulsive Masculinity,” that Ammon wrote and posted on his blog, “Stray Thoughts, Little Couplets, Hopes, Dreams.” The content of this poem was powerful and the delivery electrifying. This performance seemed well rehearsed and more importantly it was obvious that the performers put their full being and creative individuality into this form of live art.
There was one area, though, which in my personal opinion was a poor match for such talent. Ammon introduced this poem as one about why young men on campus should be feminists. This is what made me share my perspective here – young men and women should expand their perspective to include men’s gender liberation theory.
In our society, men are commonly taught to express only certain feelings and be wary of deep emotional bonding with other men. Socially conscious young men are taught by feminist teaching to be concerned about women and women’s experiences. However, what about these men’s own lives and issues?
We are at a time where males struggle more in areas such as suicide, mental health, education, unemployment and homelessness than their female peers. Whereas discussion of and activism to address women’s issues is encouraged, the same does not apply to men’s issues. Sometimes these causes have actually met resistance.
When the political scientist Warren Farrell gave a lecture at the University of Toronto about issues of boys struggling in school, the event was met by harassment by students who pulled fire alarms, made loud disruptive noise and screamed at event goers that they were “misogynist scum.”
How has the environment for learning become so rotten? While the understanding and corresponding responses to the study of women’s experiences is clearly important, is it not time for young men to listen to themselves and address the issues they deal with in society? Is it not time for others to listen as well?
If traditional compulsive masculinity is harmful to both men and women, does this mean that men should become more like women? I find the idea that men should try to connect with a feminine side to be incredibly sexist, as well as unscientific. In its place, I believe that young men should strive for a higher plane of mature development than our culture’s compulsive masculinity.
“There are as many masculinities as there are men,” to quote an alumni of Wagner College in New York. Such a positively developed, mature identity could be described as individually expressed lion and lamb properties, which work together for the betterment of society.
Is there a theory to explain men’s experiences? I am glad to note here the existence of a movement, theory, lobbying voice and international body that is addressing these experiences. The theory called “men’s gender liberation” is defined in “Men Freeing Men: Exploding the Myth of Traditional Male” by Francis Baumli.
The movement includes gatherings, volunteer and outreach activities of men, researchers and groups sharing information and stories about these topics, and a large online community of discussion of these topics. The lobbying voice in the U.S. is the organization the National Coalition for Men (NCFM). The international body will be represented by talks and events around the world that will happen on Nov. 19, International Men’s Day.
Men’s experiences are important topics whose discussion does not trivialize women’s experiences. We can acknowledge and respond to power imbalances in such a way that still moves forward to actually help real people in need.
I invite all to broader scopes of understanding of and compassion for the world. I welcome campus men to be a part of a men’s group, which will involve building a community of support and addressing personal, systemic and societal issues in our lives.