The Fear of Being a Male Advocate

by Sean Kullman

Sunday, December 5, 2021

For the most part, there is little in the way of assertive male advocacy. Even the words male and advocacy seem like an oxymoronic phrasing that someone mumbled in a drunken stupor. And if the person mumbling were male, it would make sense since males are at least 72% of those likely to die from alcohol use disorders according the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Many would argue that men are empowered enough, mocking any attempt to discuss the topic of male advocacy as a form of hate speech coming from the most privileged. Those who care deeply about advocating for males and females equally and equitably have been chastised for even considering male rights. Dr. Warren Farrell, the father of the Men’s Rights Movement and a former 3x National Organization of Women Chair, was ridiculed and protested against at the University of Toronto in November of 2012 while attempting to speak openly about the challenges boys and men face. One time feminist and strong women’s advocate, Cassie Jaye, was denounced by feminist groups for her documentary the Red Pill because Jaye did not slam Men’s Rights Advocates as nothing more than hate groups. Feminist even managed to have theaters cancel some of Jaye’s showings of the film. In other words, feminist groups actively suppressed the work of a female documentarian because they did not like the topic of her work, regardless of its efficacy and diligence. Politicians too have mocked Men’s Rights Activists as whiners. This too distracts us from the political and social realities on the ground and discourages the citizenry from demanding more.

For the most part, too few men have barely dipped their toes into the waters of male advocacy when diving into the pool in droves is now essential.

Is there such a thing as poor, white, and male in America?

GIBM estimates there are nearly 17 million males living below poverty in the U.S. The rate of poverty amongst males of color is higher, but white males account for the highest number of males living in poverty because they represent a greater number of the male population. Although it’s important to disaggregate data to help us understand the ways different groups are impacted, poverty knows neither race nor gender, yet race and gender have divided us when it comes to the framing of basic human needs, food and shelter, and the policies that come with them.

Using data from the 2020 Census Illuminates Racial and Ethnic Composition of the Country and the U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2020 and 2021 Annual Social and Economic Supplements (CPS ASEC), GIBM estimates there are approximately 8.2 million white males, 3.9 million black males, and 5.1 million Hispanic/Latino males living below poverty in the U.S.

Even attempting to discuss white male poverty in today's climate seems so politically contentious that it's almost laughable, accept for the 8.2 million white males living in poverty who listen to politically charged rhetoric around patriarchy, white male privilege, and toxic masculinity. And doing so in no way should underscore the real challenges facing our boys and men of color. These men and the millions of others living paycheck to paycheck are feeling the pressures as well, and we are seeing it exercised in drug addiction and suicide and a widening Male Gender-Gap in education. Mentioning these things in public garners real ridicule and many are afraid to speak openly.

Fear of Being a Male Advocate

More than ever, we need older males, particularly the educated classes, to cast aside their inhibitions and lead, fund, and support male advocacy groups and policy changes. Although there is a great need to focus on boys and men of color, more than ever we cannot deny the essential truth in this contemporary American time: all boys and men, regardless of race, are doing worse than their female counterparts on far too many life measures. One young man who did have the courage to speak up was awarded a proclamation by the city of Kirkland in Washington during Domestic Violence Awareness Month and has continued his work to advocate for boys and men in a number of arenas.

Even though the New York Times chimed in regarding its concern with males in a recent article by Liza Featherstone on "Josh Hawley and the Republican Obsession With Manliness," one cannot help but sense the Times fears Hawley's brand of masculinity more than it cares about boys and men.

Hawley is right about some things, [says Featherstone]. Deindustrialization has stripped many men of their ability to earn a decent wage, as well as of the pride they once took in contributing to prosperous communities. Boys are sometimes overdisciplined and overmedicated for not conforming to behavioral expectations in school. And while more women than men are diagnosed with anxiety or depression, men are more likely to commit suicide or die of drug overdoses.

None of these problems are caused by liberals. But liberalism hasn’t offered a positive message for men lately. In the media, universities and other liberal institutions, it sometimes seems that every man is potentially guilty of something. As Mr. Hawley puts it, men are being told by liberals that “they’re the problem.” Our side — the progressive side — has struggled to articulate what a “nontoxic” masculinity might look like, or where boys might look for models of how to become men.

Though Featherstone at least addressed some of the leading concerns our nation's sons face, the Times must do considerably more than react to a particular type of masculinity it abhors. The response feels more reactive than proactive. After all, the Times has an "In Her Words" column but no "In His Words" column for well established and recognized writers who have written on boys and men's issues for decades but who do not find ink with any consistent or regular seriousness in the Times. And to suggest "liberals" are not somewhat of a cause of these problems is to turn a blind eye to the Times own reluctance to support a regular column, the White House to champion a Gender Policy Council on Boys and Men, and to establish an Office of Men's Health. (There is, currently, an Office of Women's Health and a White House Gender Policy Council for women and girls as well as many other programs. The Office of Women's Health and Gender Policy Council were established during two pandemics where men represented the greater number of deaths, HIV and COVID).

In her resignation letter to the New York Times, Bari Weiss wrote:

Op-eds that would have easily been published just two years ago would now get an editor or a writer in serious trouble, if not fired. If a piece is perceived as likely to inspire backlash internally or on social media, the editor or writer avoids pitching it. If she feels strongly enough to suggest it, she is quickly steered to safer ground. And if, every now and then, she succeeds in getting a piece published that does not explicitly promote progressive causes, it happens only after every line is carefully massaged, negotiated and caveated.

At the end of her resignation letter, Weiss would write, "I’ve always comforted myself with the notion that the best ideas win out. But ideas cannot win on their own. They need a voice. They need a hearing. Above all, they must be backed by people willing to live by them."

I imagine those are the ideals our nation's sons think about nearly every day and hope are fulfilled by those of us around them.

Ways to donate to the Global Initiative for Boys and Men

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