The Men’s Movement: Is It Really A Thing?

With all the controversy surrounding Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement, it would seem as if being a man in today’s society is a precarious place to be. William H. Macy, star of Showtime’s Shameless, said backstage at the recent Screen Actors Guild Awards, “It’s hard to be a man these days.”

But what exactly did he mean? Was he speaking in terms of it being hard because the curtain that previously hid bad behavior had been thrown aside and men couldn’t hide anymore? Or was he simply pointing out that the male population felt it was under attack (whether that’s accurate or not, whether men are guilty or not) in this #MeToo era?

Enter the men’s movement. As with the women’s movement, it emerged in the 1960s in the United States. These two movements started with the same purpose: to focus on gender issues and to bring equality and fairness to each gender.

The men’s movement has a few sub-movements, each with a different focus.

1. The Men’s Liberation Movement

Just as the women’s lib movement worked to shatter gender stereotypes and open up opportunities for women, the men’s lib movement did the same. Its supporters work to deconstruct male identity and masculinity ideology because they’re seen as restrictive and even damaging to men.

2. Pro-Feminist Men’s Movement

This offshoot of the men’s lib movement happened in the mid-1970s and was influenced by several other movements, including Black Power, anti-war, activism and LGBTQ movements. Members of this group support feminism and the belief that men don’t have to be constricted by traditional gender roles and can be comfortable with expressing their emotions and behaviors that might not always be seen as “manly.” They work to eradicate sexism against both men and women and have supported feminists on issues including the ERA, reproductive rights and fairness in employment.

3. Men’s/Fathers’ Rights Movement

In the late 1970s, the men’s rights movement (MRM) became a viable, separate movement from the men’s lib movement of the previous decade. It focused on issues of discrimination and inequality surrounding family law, child custody laws and government services. One of the issues that sprang from this movement was paternity leave, with the argument that new fathers needed time off from their jobs to effectively bond with their newborn children.

4. Mythopoetic Men’s Movement

Psychoanalyst Carl Jung is behind this movement, which is the least political of the major “men’s lib” offshoots. Its focus is on spiritual perspective and self-help. It emphasizes mythology communicated by poetry and sees masculinity as including deep unconscious patterns that become apparent via stories and rituals. Cue men’s forest camps where they tell stories and summon their inner animals by baying at the moon.

Many women may feel as if men are the last people on Earth who “deserve” a movement. The “boy’s club” environment of many workplaces and groups is to blame for that. Men have their own insecurities and fears, and many don’t fit into the “preferred” groups that these boys’ clubs represent. So, before you bash men in general, it’s a good thing to understand that discrimination doesn’t just happen to women. Men and women worldwide are working to level the playing field and while there are ongoing advancements, there are always continual struggles because of those who fear their empires will be torn down. Maybe that’s not such a bad outcome.