Male Member Uncertain
Concerning Men's Place
In Women's Movement
(Ed. note. All NOW members are
urged to submit essays concerning
any phase of the Revolution. If you
wish, essays will be published
People, both men and women first
become involved in the movement in
many ways. There are two main divisions. There are those who are already in the movement and then become radicalized and others who are
already radicalized and then join
the movement. My entrance took the
form of the latter.
Rummaging around a bookstore, I
ccme across a novel by Marge Piercy.
Its theme was the youth revolutionary
movement and it intrigued me. I
found myself gathering books on the
youth movement, the SDS, etc., and
suddenly subscribing to the Los
Angeles Free Press and the East
In the course of "studying" other
revolutionary movements I found myself carrying books home; books such
as the Female Eunich, Sisterhood is
Powerful and Woman in Sexist Society.
I would sit crosslegged by the bed
reading them to my wife. She became
interested, and although I encouraged
her to join, I found my feeling ambivalent about my own involvement in
this particular aspect of a cultural
revolution. I was unsure about the
reception a male would receive. After
my wife attended several meetings
alone, I finally went with her.
The first thing I noticed was the
way women began to come out of themselves at these meetings. I found
these women gathering themselves together and you could almost feel the
suppressed rage and hostility. It
seemed as though for many years these
women had found themselves in untenable positions. And yet didn't know
what to do about it.
Although they had all of the
things society considers desirable,
two cars, disposals, etc., they were
miserably unhappy. It seemed as
though past reaction had been to
blame themselves and all of a sudden
they found themselves with other
women who felt the same way. It
dawned on them that perhaps the problem was not with themselves, but
with the culture. Suddenly they
were not wrong -- society was.
This seems almost immediately
to convert to hostility and anger.
Once the tension was redirected
from guilt to anger they began almost
a catharsis of emotion, venting
One of the things I like about
NOW is that it provides an outlet
for this energy once the catharsis
has taken place. It seems to me
that NOW cures this rage and redirects it to meaningful goals.
In reading about splinter groups
in the movement such as the redstock-
ings, and the early feminists, I saw
that many became ingrown and are now
defunct because consciousness-raising
became an end in itself with with no
action. NOW provides both consciousness-raising and action so that when
a NOW member is asked, "What is it
that you do?", there is an answer.
They can talk about abortion reform,
equal employment, childcare or any
one of a number of things.
As a male, I am very ambivalent
about the extent males should become
involved in the Revolution. I have
had and continue to have many problems with this. There are sections
of the women's movement that do not
allow men to become members, and I
am not so sure they may not be
Men have problems as well as women, but the basis of the oppression
of white men is not sex. While it's
true there are certain things required of men because of their sex,
the enemy of men is not sexism.
Black people have said that their
enemy is not segregation — it is
racism. Women have said their enemy
is not discrimination — it is sexism.
White males need to find their enemy
and thereby define themselves, for it
is by defining your enemy you define
yourself. And for want of a better
term, I shall refer to their enemy
From a male point of view, any
liberation movement teaches us something. The black movement has not
taught us what the women's movement
has, and will, teach us. Most whites
were not exposed to the growing pains
of southern blacks, but everyone
knows (or as Sam Ervin says, "has")
To me, the movement asks two
Are you a chauvinist? There are
many devious ways to answer no to
that, but if you decide to take the
bit in your teeth and answer, "Yes,
I am a chauvinist," then you are not
through with it.
Because the second questions is,
"What are you going to do about it?"
And as long as you are in the company
of women, this questions is going to
be repeated over and over again.
And if you do decide you are
going to do something about it; if
you decide you are going to stop being a chauvinist. If you say to
yourself I will no longer be a part
of the oppression, then you have gotten yourself into a very tricky
In order to.abandon chauvinism^,
one must abandon the bulk of his
cultural conditioning. While he
is doing this, he is subject to
the censure of other men and also
The question for men is -- is
it worth the price?
I think it is. I believe that
although my reason for thinking this
is not clear to me, it is exemplified
by the things I have seen in the
company of women who are liberated.
I have noticed a real increase in the
ability and capacity of women to love
each other, the competitiveness of
the early movement has withered to
allow women to be more honest. And
this to me is the most encouraging
sign of all.
For if women, who have traditionally been taught to be competitive
with other women, can learn to love
each other, then perhaps so can men.
Nevertheless, I don't believe
the elimination of sexism would
solve the problems of women, at least
not totally. Just as the elimination of capitalism wouldn't necessarily solve the problems of men. I
think men are going to have to begin
their own liberation movement. But
it will not be a male liberation
movement — it will be a human liberation movement. And it will be led by
PEOPLE, regardless of sex.