Men's liberation movement

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The consciousness and philosophy of men's liberation is critical of the restraints which a society imposes on men, informed by academic thought ranging from Plato to Paine to Marx to current male-oriented, rights based activism. Men's liberation activists are generally sympathetic to feminist standpoints and have been greatly concerned with deconstructing negative aspects of male identity and portions of masculinity which do not serve to promote the stories and lives of all men.

Men's liberation is not to be confused with different movements such as the men's rights movement, in which some argue that modern feminism has gone too far and additional attention should be placed on men's rights. Whilst the two approaches may debate the degree to which men benefit from institutional power, they both stress the costs of some negative portions of traditional masculinity.


Beginning well before the women's liberation movement of the 1960s, men in the early portions of the 20th century started to use the battle for worker's rights as a way of examining their own lives as men in a capitalist society. This can be observed as writers like Upton Sinclair exposed the horrendous conditions men worked under in meat packing plants. Unskilled immigrant men did the backbreaking and often dangerous work, laboring in dark and unventilated rooms, hot in summer and unheated in winter. Many stood all day on floors covered with blood, meat scraps, and foul water, wielding sledge-hammers and knives. The extent to which the growth of capital outpaces wages can and does force men to work in dangerous conditions and for others' betterment is often viewed through the lens of Marxism. Thus, it is somewhat difficult to differentiate between men's liberation, men's rights, and labor rights. The rights of labor are often synonymous with the rights of men. This can also be examined politically in the 1791 treatise, The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine. In this work Paine suggests "The mutual dependence and reciprocal interest which man has upon man, and all the parts of civilised community upon each other, create that great chain of connection which holds it together. The landholder, the farmer, the manufacturer, the merchant, the tradesman, and every occupation, prospers by the aid which each receives from the other, and from the whole. Common interest regulates their concerns, and forms their law; and the laws which common usage ordains, have a greater influence than the laws of government. In fine society performs for itself almost everything which is ascribed to government." In as much as Sinclair and Marx were attempting to empower working men from their capital holding brethren -- Paine is shown to be examining the rights of man to be a worker of his own sort, free from a government which doesn't exist to his betterment. The men's liberation movement, as recognized by feminists and today's gender scholars who are often ignorant and even hostile towards Marxist critique, developed mostly among heterosexual, middle-class men in Britain and North America as a response to the cultural changes of the 1960s and 1970s, including the growth of the feminist movement, counterculture, women's and gay liberation movements, and the sexual revolution.[1][2][3] Jack Sawyer published an article titled "On Male Liberation" in Liberation journal in the autumn of 1970, in which he discussed the negative effects of stereotypes of male sex roles. 1971 saw the birth of men's discussion groups across the United States, as well as the formation by Warren Farrell of the National Task Force on the Masculine Mystique within the National Organization for Women.[4] Robert Lewis and Joseph Pleck sourced the birth of the movement to the publication of five books on the subject in late 1974 and early 1975, which was followed by a surge of publications targeted to both lay and more academic audiences.[5] The movement led to the formation of conferences, consciousness raising groups, men's centers, and other resources across the United States.[6] The movement dissolved by the late 1970s, when the conservative and moderate members of the movement formed an anti-feminist men's rights movement, and the progressive members joined the feminist movement.[2]


Racial differences have historically stratified the men’s liberation movement and such divisions still remain problematic today. Some profeminist scholars argue[7][8] that racism within American society has emasculated non-white men. For example, black men are perceived to lack control over their innate sexual aggression.[9] Within this ideological framework black men are presented as hyper-sexual to an animalistic degree; they therefore represent beasts, not men.[citation needed] East Asian Americans have been emasculated in an opposite way: they have been portrayed as desexualized, unattractive, small, wimpy, intelligent, and devious (see: Stereotypes of East Asians in the United States).

Gay liberation

Second-wave pro-feminism paid increased attention to issues of sexuality, particularly the relationship between homosexual men and hegemonic masculinity. This shift led to more cooperation between the men's liberation and gay liberation movements. In part this cooperation arose because masculinity was then understood to be a social construction, and as a response to the universalization of "men" seen in previous men's movements.


Radical Faeries

The Radical Faeries were organized in California in 1979 by gay activists wanting to create an alternative to being assimilated into mainstream men's culture.[10]

California Men's Gathering

The California Men's Gathering was created in 1978[11] by men in the anti-sexist men's movement. Author Margo Adair who attended the twelfth gathering in 1987, wrote that she found the atmosphere strangely different than anything she had previously experienced. After thinking about it, she realized it was the first time she had ever felt completely safe among a large group of men, with few other women. She also noticed that everyone was accepted, and affection among participants was displayed openly.[12]

The California Men's Gathering organizes biannual retreats focused on men's issues.[13] Currently, most of the men attending The California Men's Gathering are gay or bisexual.[14]

National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS)

NOMAS is a pro-feminist, gay affirmative men's organization, which also enhances men's lives. The 1991 NOMAS national conference was about building multicultural communities.[12]:57


  • Men's support groups
  • College men's centers
  • Public advocacy and law reform

See also


  1. ^ Baker, Maureen & Bakker, J. I. Hans (Autumn 1980). "The Double-Bind of the Middle Class Male: Men's Liberation and the Male Sex Role". Journal of Comparative Family Studies. 11 (4): 547–561. 
  2. ^ a b Messner, Michael A. (June 1998). "The Limits of "The Male Sex Role": An Analysis of the Men's Liberation and Men's Rights Movements' Discourse". Gender and Society. 12 (3): 255–276. 
  3. ^ Carrigan, Tim; Connell, Bob & Lee, John (September 1985). "Toward a New Sociology of Masculinity". Theory and Society. 14 (5): 551–604. 
  4. ^ Pendergast, Sara; Pendergast, Tom, eds. (2000). "Men's Movement". St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. 3. Detroit, Michigan: St. James Press. pp. 344–345. 
  5. ^ Lewis, Robert A. & Pleck, Joseph H. (October 1979). "Men's Roles in the Family". The Family Coordinator. 28 (4): 429–432. doi:10.2307/583501. JSTOR 583501. 
  6. ^ Lewis, Robert A. (December 1981). "Men's Liberation and the Men's Movement: Implications for Counselors". The Personnel and Guidance Journal. 60 (4): 256–259. doi:10.1002/j.2164-4918.1981.tb00295.x. 
  7. ^ Hoch, Paul. "White Hero, Black Beast: Racism, Sexism, and the Mask of Masculinity", reprinted in Feminism & Masculinities, Peter F. Murphy, ed. ([1970]; Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 93–107.
  8. ^ Messner, Michael. "Politics of Masculinities: Men in Movements". Oxford: AltaMira Press, 2000, pp. 4–5.
  9. ^ Carbado, Devon (1999). "Walking Proud: Black Men Living Beyond the Stereotypes". Black Men on Race, Gender, and Sexuality: A Critical Reader. NYU Press. p. 309. 
  10. ^ Thompson, Mark (21 January 2003), "Remembering Harry", The Advocate, Here Publishing, retrieved 2008-10-17 
  11. ^ Gambill, Edward (2005). Uneasy males : the American men's movement, 1970-2000. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc. p. 1852. ISBN 9780595373208. 
  12. ^ a b Adair, Margo (1992). Hagan, Kay, ed. Women respond to the men's movement: a feminist collection. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. p. 64. ISBN 0062509969. 
  13. ^ Markoe, Merrill (1992). What the Dogs Have Taught Me and Other Amazing Things I've Learned. New York: Viking. ISBN 0670843105. 
  14. ^ "Mission and Vision". The California Men's Gathering. Retrieved July 25, 2017. 
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