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Thursday, April 24, 2008

What Do Men Need?

A Hierarchy of Needs

Fifty years ago the psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote about the Hierarchy of Needs. According to Maslow, people have some needs that basically must be fulfilled in a particular order. Starting at the top, they are:


Although not every need at one level must be fully met before a person can aspire to the next level, the general outline rings true. Under physiological, for instance, we need air, water, food, and shelter (among other things). If we can't breathe, it doesn't matter if we're thirsty or starving or if we have no roof over our heads. And until those needs are met, we're not likely to worry too much about establishing some protection from saber-tooth tigers (or muggers). Likewise, if we are in physical danger, our self-esteem takes a back seat.

I want explore the middle two items, Belonging and Esteem, and what they might mean to us ordinary men.

Most of us have a sense of belonging in our families, our communities, our places of work. This gives us a rootedness, a compass by which we guide ourselves through life. It would seem a natural thing, then, for esteem to be a logical next step: we are loved, we are useful to others, and so on.
Feeling Like Crap

So why do so many men feel like crap? Or if we don't, why are we of absolutely no opinion about ourselves - in other words, why are we so numb?

We can talk about the devaluing of men in society and the assaults of feminism, and these may be factors, perhaps even significant ones. But I think there's a bigger factor: Men no longer get a sense of belonging from other men.

Many men get only tiny tastes of belonging from within even the best and most loving family. As for communities, they are atomized into cocoon-like households and typically offer even less belonging. Most workplaces are not long on social support, and aren't designed to be.

Many of us, often without knowing why, are isolated and lonely, even when we have a nice job and a loving marriage and family. A numbness sets in, and it feels natural. After all, we're meeting society's and our family's expectations to be a provider, a good and quiet citizen, and (depending on our situation) a faithful and loyal family man. This numbness affects all our relationships.
Men's Belonging

Where can men get a sense of belonging that will resonate with esteem and in turn give us a better sense of belonging in our families and communities?

Here are some other ways to put the question: Where can men get the most connectedness and understanding of what it's like to be a man? Where can men feel total acceptance of ourselves as men? I don't mean acceptance as husbands, or fathers, or workers, or leaders, or heroes, or anything like that. I mean acceptance for simply being male.

From other men.

I think if you get a few men together, and give us some time, we begin to come out of our loneliness and isolation to find that we're not the only ones with a full range of spiritual yearnings, sexual joys and frustrations, rage against abusive bosses, deep love for our children and partners, glory in our large and small victories, grief over our losses and compromises, zaniness and raunch, utter fatigue and distraction from just being a man.

Yes, our wives and girlfriends understand us - on their terms, or in terms of being part of a couple. But, simply because we are men, we have a far greater potential of understanding, and being understood by, other men.

This is not touchy-feely encounter stuff with lots of (perhaps) unmanly chatter. Our understanding can be nonverbal, contained in a glance, a knowing grimace, a grunt of appreciation. It's a kind of intimacy, but not the kind in which personal boundaries come crashing down. It's more like finding ourselves standing on common ground, a ground larger than the little islands we thought we were stranded on. When we do talk and listen, it's from the heart, with a clarity that can surprise us. The depth of understanding is a phenomenon I've seen in weekend gatherings, week-long retreats, and an afternoon of drumming and poetry.

The esteem part comes when we realize that we matter to other men, that our value to each other is simply in being men and not in accomplishing great feats. Because other men accept us - whole communities of men - we begin to accept ourselves and matter to ourselves.

This esteem can be brought back into marriages and families, strengthening connections there. In fact, I've heard several men report that, when things got shaky at home, their wives or partners said, in effect, "Time to do some more men's work."
The Challenge

I know it's likely that I'm preaching to the choir here. Most men reading this newsletter have already had some experience in, or at least interest in, men's groups.

But how can we spread the experience around? I'm not talking about becoming a "movement," just perhaps expanding our men's groups to include a few more men, or spawning off a new group in a new community.

I've been told that attendance at gatherings is declining, at least here in the Northeast. If the decline in men's work is widespread, it's possible that, as a collective, men are sliding down further into the pit of loneliness.

So here's an action plan: If you're involved in men's work in a men's group or by attending gatherings, invite another man to join you. If you lead a group, discuss expanding it and encourage the men to bring a friend. If you're not already in a group, you may have to start your own. See How to Start a Men's Group for some ideas.

It's a small start. But each man you bring into men's work is one more man who has a sense of belonging and self-esteem and who can bring those qualities back to his family and community.

From Menletter June 2004
by Tim Baehr

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

NINE questions you should ask your partner annually

10 questions you should ask your partner annually

What could I do to make you feel more loved?

What could I do to make you feel more respected?

What could I do to make you feel more understood?

What could I do to make you more secure?

What can I do to make you feel more confident in our future direction?

What attribute would you like me to develop?

What attribute would you like me to help you develop?

What achievement in my life would bring you greatest joy?

What mutual goal would you like to see us accomplish?

Optional - Have I overlooked any question you would like for me to ask?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Invitation . . .

The Invitation

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living
I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart's longing

It doesn't interest me how old you are
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love,
for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow,
if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled
and closed from fear of further pain

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own
without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it

I want to know if you can be with JOY, mine and your own
if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips
of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful... be realistic...or
to remember the limitations of being a human

It doesn't interest me if the story you're telling me is true
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself
if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul

I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore trustworthy
I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every day
and if you can source your life from ITS presence

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine and still stand
on the edge of a lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, "YES !"

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you
have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair,
weary and bruised to the bone...and do what needs to be done for the children

It doesn't interest me who you you came to be here
I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied
I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself, and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer.
Indian Elder MAY 1994.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Philosophy of

The Philosophy of

Here we describe the purpose and philosophical guidelines under which The Men's Activism News Network is run. We hope this page will help to clarify what is about, and what our selection criteria are for news stories.

The underlying purpose of The Men's Activism News Network is twofold:

To provide pro-male activists with news and information that will aid them in working toward establishing equal rights for men and the improvement of men's lives.

To encourage participation in activism projects, and to promote membership in men's rights organizations which coordinate activism efforts and serve as a supportive network for men.

In addition to these two principles, would like to reach out to as many pro-male men and women as possible. We try to post news and information that is of interest to people of many different backgrounds and political ideologies, within reason (ie, gender idealogues who hate men need not apply). Frequently, you may see articles posted to that come from different, sometimes contradictory perspectives. We do this because we want to help foster a dialogue between those with differing views on men's rights issues, and to recognize that there are often issues which are not black and white within our movement.

With that in mind, here is how we generally deal with potentially controversial issues within the men's movement:
Conservative or Liberal? Progressive or Traditional? aims to be as apolitical as possible. Liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and people from other political backgrounds should be able to find something of interest on this site. Also, we believe that there are ways to promote men's rights through political activism with most political parties, and encourage people to do so. Thus, we will occasionally report on a political party or candidate's activity when it is related to men's rights, but this in no way endorses or condemns any party or candidate as pro- or anti-male.

Whether men are happier with their traditional roles vs. the changing and expansion of men's roles is also not a black and white issue. Stories related to both perspectives will be frequently posted.
Political Correctness/Racial Issues/Gay Issues does not believe that political correctness, in and of itself, is a good thing. However, we do support the many issues that men of color and gay or bisexual men face, and want to encourage all men, regardless of their race or sexual orientation, to work together to improve men's lives and dignity. We will post news when it is related to the status of minority or gay men as men. General news stories about race issues or gay rights are unlikely to be posted unless they specifically relate to the rights of men. We do this to maintain the focus of The Men's Activism News Network, not to discourage people from participating in other civil rights causes. has no official position on gay rights, affirmative action, and other related issues. Views presented on this web site about these issues are limited to the individual who made them, and do not represent the views of
Women's Violence and the Portrayal of Women

We believe that one of the misperceptions that is currently harming equality and men's rights is the myth that women are less violent than men. Although pointing readers to examples of women's violence is one way to help break down this myth, we do not wish to attack women merely for the sake of "exposing women's faults" - after all, the media is currently too eager to portray men as abusers, murderers and rapists. Therefore, unless the news story is related to an issue which is more closely tied with men's issues (ie, an example of domestic violence against men, or inequality in sentencing female criminals), we will generally not post stories that are simply about women being violent. would also like it to be made very clear that even though we post news about women who have falsely accused men of rape or harassment, we do not claim that all women do this, or that services which support female victims should be abolished (although we do believe men should have similar services available to them, which is often not the case).

The Men's Activism News Network also welcomes the contributions of women to this movement, and receives a significant amount of participation from women. Although we believe that male-only groups are of great benefit to men and society, we ultimately believe that it is only when men and women work together with trust and respect for each other that justice for everyone will be achieved.
Are we taking things too seriously?

Some people might say that we're reading too much into some of the material that is posted to, that we're over-analyzing the media or have no sense of humor. Perhaps in some circumstances, this could be true. But the goal of this site is to make people aware of the fact that men are treated unfairly because of their sex, and that many of these ways are so deeply embedded in our culture that it can be difficult to view them in this light. Men's roles have traditionally been not to complain about their problems, and some people might find our articles out of line in this sense. But it's important if we are to achieve equality and be treated as whole human beings, that we speak out about injustices and dissatisfactions in men's lives.
Why we're not a men's rights organization

Please note that The Men's Activism News Network is not really an organization, but a service to pro-male activists and groups. We feel that there are plenty of excellent men's rights organizations out there and we should avoid the creation of further divisions within the movement when possible. readers and contributors are members of a community, but we do not have official meetings, membership lists, or anything like that. Anyone with a sincere interest is men's issues is welcome to become part of this community.

-- The Admin Team