Recently I posted an open letter to Dr. Robert Brannon of the National Organization of Men Against Sexism (NOMAS) regarding their upcoming conference on men and masculinity. The letter was also sent to Dr. Brannon via Email.
In it, I expressed concerns over what appears to be positions and activities by NOMAS that are in diametric opposition to their stated goal of “enhancing men’s lives,” namely the absence of any attention to the many legitimate struggles faced collectively by men and boys in modern culture. I also expressed concern over their pervasive negative stereotyping of men as violent, power obsessed anathemas to civilized society.
The email also included a suggestion that they support the upcoming Male Studies Symposium at Wagner College, which brings an objective and academically sound approach to studying the condition of men and boys in modern culture.
On behalf of NOMAS, I was contacted with a response via email by Michael Kimmel, a sociology professor at Stony Brook, State University of New York, purportedly to address the concerns of my letter.
Unfortunately, in a few thin paragraphs Kimmel managed only to amplify the concerns about NOMAS’s activities and confirms the crypto-misandric sexism that is clearly the true agenda of the organization.
Here is Kimmel’s complete and unedited response:
Bob Brannon circulated your email message about the National Conference on Men and Masculinity, sponsored by NOMAS. I thought I would take a minute to reply.
NOMAS is a unique organization about masculinity because it rests on four co-equal principles, just as a table rests on four legs. (1) We are pro-feminist, which means we believe in gender equality. (2) We are gay-affrmative, which means we suppor the rights of all men to live lives of dignity and love, free of all discrimination, regardless of their sexuality. (3) We are anti-racist, which means that, again, we support the rights of all men to live lives of integrity and love, free of all discrimination, regardless of their race. (4)And we believe in “enhancing men’s lives” by which we mean that we want to enable all men to live lives of integrity and happiness.
Unlike other organizations, we believe that all four of these elements are essential — indeed, we believe that one cannot enhance men’s lives without committing to the struggles against racism, sexism, and homophobia. These four principles cannot be separated.
Our conferences, therefore, address many of the issues you raise But we raise them in context – a social context in which, sadly, gender, racial and, sexuality discrimination and inequality are still very much with us. So, we will discuss many of the themes you raise — Intimate Partner Violence, parenting, engaging men as involved fathers, sustaining that involvement after divorce, engaging boys in school, health issues and epidemiological disparities — and many that you don’t mention, like the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the crisis of black males in the inner city, supporting gay fathers as involved fathers, HIV risk reduction. However, I suspect by placing them in the larger contexts of persistent institutional and interpersonal inequalities, as we do, we probably won’t agree very much about how to remedy these problems.
I should point out, though that the national Conference on Men and Masculinity includes a Men’s Studies Conference, which, together with the American Men’s Studies Association’s annual conference – both of which have been taking place for about two decades — provides ample evidence that a robust and healthy field of Masculinity Studies already exists and is well institutionalized in the U.S. and abroad. This includes several international journals, 3 encyclopedia sets, a several theoretical and methodological handbooks for people researching the field, and numerous books series and other materials. No need to think your conference at Wagner is “creating” a new field. The field is strong, diverse, and remarkably exciting already. I myself have been working to build this field for nearly 30 years.
Department of Sociology
SUNY at Stony Brook
Stony Brook, NY 11794
Now, the largely non responsive and dismissive language Kimmel uses, combined with the activities of the organization, raises a fundamental question, not only about NOMAS, but about the entire field of “men’s studies” as it is practiced today.
Are these people academicians pursuing the study of masculinity to enhance the lives of men and boys, or are they simply educated political whores, seeking to repress any legitimate studies in the area they claim to represent?
Even cursory objectivity confirms the latter.
First, there are the four legs of NOMAS’s metaphorical table, none of which support the weight of the organizations hypocrisy. They fail the strength test in the following four ways:
1) Confining the belief in equality to feminists is disingenuous and incredulously infers that disagreement with feminist ideologues amounts to being anti-equality. It also ignores the great body of feminist literature that is misandric and advocates female superiority. 2) Being supportive of men and boys cannot be tied legitimately to a political agenda based on sexual orientation any more than it can be based on shoe size. It is a non sequitur clearly driven by political motives. 3) The issues of men and boys are not a function of race, unless you consider how legislation like VAWA, which NOMAS supports, inflicts disproportionate damage on African-American communities already brimming with disenfranchised men. Leg three of their table is a race card played to garner support from one of the communities that suffers the most from their work. 4) This is the most unstable leg of NOMAS’s table in that it is predicated on a complete and clearly intentional falsehood. A very limited overview taken from NOMAS’s website points unambiguously to how they view the majority of men:
NOMAS denounces father’s rights groups as “male supremacist” and accuses them of encouraging child abuse. In reality it is NOMAS that encourages real harm to children by actively undermining the father-child bond on a broad social scale. NOMAS asserts that the only reason a father would fight an allegation of abuse by the mother during a divorce, or attempt to gain access to, or custody of, his child, is to “punish her for leaving.”
And that is just one of many outrageous slurs from NOMAS against the people whose lives they claim to “enhance.”
NOMAS endorses the New York Model dealing with batterers, which identifies them as unsuitable for psychological treatment and better handled through the criminal justice system, even while they steadfastly cling to the myth that domestic violence is a male only offense. The result of this can only be that female batterers are enabled to repeat abuses on spouses and children, and men alone are identified as perpetrators and are incarcerated as incorrigible social liabilities.
NOMAS, though the words of their founder, Robert Brannon, suggests that men who hire prostitutes are rapists, because prostitutes cannot be considered to be making an informed decision to engage in sex for money. In doing so, he creates false victims of women and false perpetrators of men with a line of reasoning so myopic it could only be the result of an underlying agenda.
NOMAS officer Barry Goldstein, who is also co-chair of the organizations Task Group on Child Custody, argues that family courts are biased- against women. In a glaring example of denial that would shame an alcoholic, Goldstein totally reverses the reality of family courts that are corrupt and biased against fathers, and presents us with a fantasy world in which we need to take action to provide women even more leverage in a system that is already rigged in their favor.
This is the same strategy common throughout the NOMAS organization, which appears to follow the same disturbing methodology- determine the political position on an issue, generate evidence by any means necessary that supports the agenda, ignore any evidence that doesn’t support the agenda (and if evidence can’t be ignored, demonize the messenger), and finally, present the information to the world at large with the fraudulent claim that it was a result of scholarly investigation.
This brings to the sad reality that we are in, and have been for some time, a crisis of authenticity in the study of men and boys. And a crises of moral integrity.
In fact, there is very little legitimate pursuit of male studies and organizations like NOMAS are playing their part as much as possible not to advance those studies, but to make sure they never happen. One element of the repression is demonstrated by Kimmel resting on 30 years of pursuit of those studies, which has not resulted in a single men’s studies degree. And we witness another as we watch women’s studies programs across the nation begin to change their name to “gender” studies, with no corresponding change in curriculum. The ploy here is obvious. ”Gender studies” implies coverage for both males and females, even when coursework and degree programs tailored for men do not exist. It is a preemptive move designed to forestall the inevitability that at some point the detrimental effects of misandry, as furthered by organizations like NOMAS, would require scholarly investigation in order to ameliorate.
The posturing from Kimmel is symbolic of that crisis, and common to those who embrace the unwholesome marriage of activism and scholarly pursuits. For what Kimmel asserts here is not a quest for knowledge, but personal and organizational hegemony over an entire field of study. It is an arrogant and dangerous approach that, by necessity, corrupts scholarly integrity to serve a political agenda.
And indeed this is the stated creed of NOMAS, who on their website openly declare that they are “activist scholars.” It is a quintessential oxymoron, exposing the fact front and center that these men are no more scholarly than Dr. Phil.
In what is purely political activism on behalf of feminists, the gay and lesbian community and other “victim groups,” NOMAS and a host of other organizations and university departments have surrendered their academic credibility and acted to repress any legitimate investigation of the male condition. And in doing so, they have taken on the authoritarian tone reminiscent of the medieval church, clinging hostilely to the orthodoxy they serve in the face of emerging science and enlightenment that they view as a threat.
Miles Groth, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at Wagner College, which will host the Male Studies Symposium sponsored by the On Step Institute in April of 2010. In email communications I questioned Dr. Groth about the philosophical differences between the prevailing model of “men’s” or “gender” studies now in place in universities across the western world, and the “male studies” initiatives like the one underway by the On Step institute.
“Gender Studies programs and departments claimed to include as many courses on men as on women,” says Groth, “In fact, courses such as “Psychology of Men” or “Literature by and about Men” are rare, both as stand-alone courses in departments or in Gender Studies curricula (usually as electives). Often such courses are not welcome and there is pressure on faculties to reject the acceptance of such courses—unless they explicitly indicate that they are grounded in profeminist ideology.” [Italics mine]
Groth goes on to state that the Male studies initiative was actually a reaction to this reality. “Such restrictions have led to the current initiative, begun several years ago by the On Step Institute and launched on May 27, 2009, with a conference at NYU’s Steidhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development on “The Future of Men,” to form a Male Studies department at a major research university.”
“The goal is to begin by creating Male Studies programs, then undergraduate degrees in this academic discipline. Ultimately, there will be a master’s and terminal (PhD) degrees offered in the discipline. Hence the name of the Wagner teleconference–“Male Studies: A New Academic Discipline.”
So, contrary to the assertions of Kimmel, which rest on the wobbly table with the rest of NOMAS’s rhetoric, Male Studies is, in fact, a new discipline. And it is bound to raise even more ire as it gains momentum.
But in the words of Mahatma Ghandi, a prime example of masculinity and an icon of activism, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
It appears round one is about to start.
You can support the On Step Institute by attending Male Studies Conference online. The cost is $15.00, and the proceeds will go to helping OSI establish Male Studies as a new academic discipline that will genuinely enhance the lives of men.