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Thanks for asking
You did say “Who is this guy?” didn’t you?
I know I’m asking a lot — as if there aren’t a bazillion other writers out there for you to read. I suppose that yes, in a way, I think I’m special. Not because I was born that way, or because I am inherently special, but because I have stumbled along a path in my life that has shown me things that are often not seen and are even more seldom actually talked out loud about.
In 1983, after conversations with two women whose views startled me into seeing just how poorly the male point of view in relationships is understood or even considered, I started a radio show at WCVT (now WTMD) at Towson State University (now sans “State”). Almost every week until I gave up the show in 1989 I got to interview a person who in one way or another challenged the ideas that “It’s a man’s world” and that being male is full of unfair privileges with no disadvantages or trade-offs.
It didn’t take long to see that some of our most difficult social problems — problems that cost our state and nation untold dollars, grief and wasted opportunities, problems that are typically blamed exclusively on race or class — are rooted deeply in the unspoken problems our society visits upon men and boys.
In 1985 and 1986, after he appeared on my show to talk about a conference he was staging on “Black Men: An Endangered Species,” I teamed up with Richard Rowe, then of the Baltimore Urban League, to try to get the state to form a commission or a task force to pay attention to how the sex of so many men in trouble exacerbated the problems of race and poverty. As we circulated with our piece of legislation, just a Resolution actually, through the halls of Annapolis in search of a sponsor we heard the snickers and the fears. Some male legislators dismissed our proposal “The Wimp Bill.” Others told us quietly they understood what we were driving at, but they couldn’t sponsor or even support it because “It would make the women mad.”
Quite clearly, in electoral politics men do not have all the power.
Just before the deadline for finding a sponsor and securing an advance date to allow us to marshal our supporting experts for a hearing, one of the whispering, supportive legislators suggested we show our resolution to Elijah Cummings, then a state delegate. As he finished reading our why’s and whereas’s, he sighed, reached for a pen, and said “Just don’t embarrass me.”
At our hearing we most decidedly did not. Elijah later told me that we had made him a star.
That was thirty-seven years — and maybe 7,000 or more Baltimore murders — ago.
And still we focus exclusively on the gender issues of women and girls.
Increasingly passionate about the missed opportunity for our body politic to pay attention to what is really going on with men and boys, I completed a Masters in Social Work in 2008. I did a year as a Correctional Officer (AKA Jail Guard) in the infamous Baltimore City Detention Center. I followed that with a year as a Parole & Probation Agent in central Baltimore. Then I went to work for National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) as a trainer for various state corrections systems to teach prison staff how to run NFI’s “InsideOut Dad” program for incarcerated fathers.
I then started a social work consultancy called Working Well With Men whose mission was to provide “tools and training for the Social Work profession to help men give and get all the love they can.” It is quite telling that I was never able to convince a single social work or social service agency that I had anything valuable to offer.
In the last ’80s, though neither divorced nor a father, I was executive director of the National Congress for Men, an organization of brokenhearted then outraged men whose motto was “preserving the promise of fatherhood.”
In 1994 St. Martin’s Press published my book Good Will Toward Men: Women Talk Candidly About the Balance of Power Between the Sexes, a collection of interviews I conducted with twenty-two women, most of whom identified as feminists, all of whom were ready, willing, able and even eager to talk not just about women’s disadvantages as women, but also their advantages, and not just about men’s advantages as men, but also their disadvantages.
In perhaps one of the earliest examples of what has come to be known as Cancel Culture, several St. Martin’s staff members expressed displeasure with the book’s challenge of orthodox feminism and all sales and promotion efforts for the book ceased. Good Will Toward Men went nowhere, except to bookstores’ remainder bins. After that disappointment, I expressed my unhappiness with a wry and pithy book called If Men Have All the Power How Come Women Make the Rules. I published that one myself because my agent couldn’t find an established publisher to take it on. Ironically, that book has proven to be my most popular and successful.
I was named 2012 Outstanding Recent Graduate of the University of Maryland School of Social Work. I gave presentations on the Social Work profession’s gender bias at the National Association of Social Workers state conferences in New Mexico (2010), North Carolina (2011) and Maryland (2015). An emblematic piece of feedback came from New Mexico: “The presentation and the presenter pissed me off, but it all made me think really hard and made me realize that I need to keep these kinds of ideas in mind.” In 2008 and 2009 at the University of Alabama I presented to the First and Second National Conferences on Social Work With and For Men.
There was no Third.
How about you? Have you had similar thoughts and experiences?