Amanda Goldrick Jones, Men Who Believe in Feminism.Amanda Goldrick Jones, Men Who Believe in Feminism. Westport, CT: Praegar, 2003. $64.95 hardcover.
When I mentioned to several colleagues that I was reviewing a book on the profeminist men's movement The men's movement is a social movement that includes a number of philosophies and organizations that seek to support men, change the male gender role and improve men's rights in regard to marriage and child access and victims of domestic violence. , they made some interesting comments--"Well, that must be a thin book," "Do we really need to know how men learn to cry" and "You don't mean those guys that beat drums and hug trees, do you?" If nothing else, Amanda Goldrick-Jones deserves credit for undertaking a topic that is often met with a smirk, rolled-eyes or dismissive opinions. Fortunately, she accomplishes more than that in her clear, often engaging, account of the ignored and misrepresented effort of some men to support feminist ideals.
In Men Who Believe in Feminism, Goldrick-Jones traces the emergence, activities and challenges of the key branches and organizations of profeminist (also termed anti-sexist) men's movements in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain Great Britain, officially United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, constitutional monarchy (2005 est. pop. 60,441,000), 94,226 sq mi (244,044 sq km), on the British Isles, off W Europe. The country is often referred to simply as Britain. , and Australia. In each country, these collective action efforts had their roots in the new wave of feminist activism of the 1970s. Goldrick-Jones describes the ways in which male activists framed their causes, determined "valid" issues, held themselves varyingly accountable to feminists, and addressed internecine in·ter·nec·ine
1. Of or relating to struggle within a nation, organization, or group.
2. Mutually destructive; ruinous or fatal to both sides.
3. Characterized by bloodshed or carnage. conflicts. In the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. , these efforts reached their zenith in the 1980s; in the other countries, a bit later. Currently, there is relatively little profeminist men's mobilization.
What is apparent from this book, however, is that men do need to be involved in anti-sexist organizing and education. In her most compelling section of the book, Goldrick-Jones first outlines the extent of violence against women, what she terms "the female holocaust", and then conveys the work men did to both support the efforts of feminists (mostly through fundraising) and to confront the actions of other men. Indeed, this anti-violence wing was and is the strongest of the profeminist movement.
Much of the book focuses on intra-movement schisms. In essence, there were three streams that claimed to represent "the men's movement". One focused on how men were constrained by traditional sex roles. These activists often claimed that while some men held societal power, most were also oppressed op·press
tr.v. op·pressed, op·press·ing, op·press·es
1. To keep down by severe and unjust use of force or authority: a people who were oppressed by tyranny.
2. by patriarchy. As such, they had a relatively loose connection to feminism. A splinter group splinter group
A group, such as a religious sect or political faction, that has broken away from a parent group.
Noun of this wing coalesced co·a·lesce
intr.v. co·a·lesced, co·a·lesc·ing, co·a·lesc·es
1. To grow together; fuse.
2. To come together so as to form one whole; unite: and extended the notion of male oppression by claiming that women, specifically feminists, held power over men. This became the basis for the mythopoetic myth·o·poe·ic or myth·o·pe·ic also myth·o·po·et·ic
1. Of or relating to the making of myths.
2. Serving to create or engender myths; productive in mythmaking. movement championed by Robert Bly
Robert Bly (born December 23, 1926 in Madison, Minnesota) is an American poet, author, activist and leader of the Mythopoetic Men's Movement in the United States. , the founder of the fathers' rights actions in divorce and custody issues, and more traditional religious efforts such as Promise Keepers Promise Keepers is an international Christian organization for men, based in Denver, Colorado, United States, self-described as "a Christ-centered organization dedicated to introducing men to Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, helping them to grow as Christians". . Not surprisingly, these men are hostile to feminists (and vice versa VICE VERSA. On the contrary; on opposite sides. ). Finally, a comparably smaller cadre of men focused on challenging the gender power and privilege held by men. For the most part, these men focused on anti-violence, and while some of their efforts were viewed with skepticism, there was some sense of working in concert with feminists. This wing is the truest expression of profeminist men.
As with the feminist movement, the politics of race, class and sexuality undermined the profeminist movement. Regardless of which wing one focuses on, participants were overwhelmingly white and middle-class. From the conference proceedings, magazines and other literature reviewed for this book, there appears to be few attempts to engage men of color not of the white race; - commonly meaning, esp. in the United States, of negro blood, pure or mixed.
See also: Color . Issues regarding sexuality, heterosexual and gay, proved even more complex. For example, some men attempted to defend certain types of pornography as freedom of sexual expression, which met with considerable condemnation from many feminist activists. And while support for gay rights was often forthcoming, that was substantially undermined when a prominent pro-feminist leader in England confessed that when he was 17 he had a sexual relationship with a 12 year old boy. The subsequent firestorm effectively ended his activism, as well as his organization--the National Organization for Men Against Sexism.
Goldrick-Jones account of the profeminist male movement is primarily descriptive, which isn't a problem, per se. Yet had she contexted her account within an analytical framework, such as those provided by the extensive social movement literature, the reader would have a much more dynamic understanding of this movement's growth, development and decline. For example, sociological accounts of the feminist movement, with its competing ideologies, decentralized de·cen·tral·ize
v. de·cen·tral·ized, de·cen·tral·iz·ing, de·cen·tral·iz·es
1. To distribute the administrative functions or powers of (a central authority) among several local authorities. structure, and struggles with political purity and cooptation, provide ideal templates for a more rigorous examination of the profeminist movement.
The other main critique of this book has to do with the seemingly misleading focus conveyed in the title. It does provide evidence for the ways in which some of the profeminist campaigns and activists engaged in transgressive trans·gres·sive
1. Exceeding a limit or boundary, especially of social acceptability.
2. Of or relating to a genre of fiction, filmmaking, or art characterized by graphic depictions of behavior that violates socially gender politics, but the reader is left to connect the dots. And, there is little information about the men who made up this movement. How, for example, were their lives altered? Were they able to challenge their own gender privilege, and if so, how? Did they create new forms of progressive masculinity? These questions are important not only in understanding the dynamics of the movement, but also in comprehending the social change efforts of anyone who is combating their own group's power such as white people engaged in antiracism work. Yet Goldrick-Jones leaves this important aspect of transformational politics unexamined. However, it is important to remember that the author has tackled a relatively unknown collective engagement to address sexism. She shows that there were men committed to ending gender injustice, and shows that many more are needed today.
Cheryl A. Hyde
University of Maryland, Baltimore University of Maryland, Baltimore, (also known as UMB) was founded in 1807. It is one of the oldest universities in the United States and comprises some of the oldest professional schools in the nation and world.