The mission of the Men's Resource Center for Change is to support men, challenge men's violence, and develop men's leadership in ending oppression in our lives, our families, and our communities.

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Web Editorial - February 2005

Good News in Difficult Times

By Michael Dover

Is it hard to use the word "optimistic" these days? We have a president who says he has a mandate for his extreme right-wing agenda based on a thin majority of the popular and electoral vote. A Secretary of State who helped deceive the nation into entering a war that has so far cost over 1,300 American lives and those of tens of thousands of Iraqis. An Attorney General-designate who believes the president can authorize torture if it suits his objectives. These are not times for feeling upbeat about the direction of this country.

Yet in the midst of discouraging news comes small but significant reasons for hope. In January we heard from two of our brother organizations--the Monadnock Men's Resource Center in nearby Keene, N.H., and the Men's Resource Center of South Texas in the Rio Grande Valley city of Harlingen--that they had both received their nonprofit tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. Just before that news came, several of our staff spent a day consulting with men from Burlington, Vermont who are working to start a Lake Champlain men's resource center. And on the same day I visited with representatives of several organizations in the Boston area (including one man in the midst of starting a Boston MRC), to talk about ways to have men show up across Massachusetts this October in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, in collaboration with our annual Men's Walk to End Abuse. And Steven Botkin, our executive director emeritus, in his new venture called the MRC Coalition, is hearing from men in Africa, Asia, Australia, and elsewhere, wanting to know how we can learn together, work together, in creating a new masculinity free from violence and abuse. A Zambian man will be meeting with MRC staff at the end of this month.

Is there a connection between these disparate realities? We think there is, and it lies in the notion that redefining masculinity is on many men's--and women's--agendas. Political linguist George Lakoff is convinced that the struggle between the religious right and progressives is one of competing father-images: the controlling father vs. the nurturing father. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the protection offered by Bush's controlling-father image has continued to dominate whatever efforts progressives might make to emphasize issues of nurturance such as health care and Social Security. Despite recent shifts due in large part to the war, the gender gap--women more supportive of Democrats, men more likely to vote Republican--has been real.

But change, as Buddhists remind us, is the only constant. And the good news from Keene and Harlingen and Boston is that men are standing up and saying "Yes!" to change. We are collectively daring to look within ourselves and outward to our brothers and see a better way of being male. We don't need the bluster or the threat of violence to feel good about who we are. We don't need to control our partners to feel right in our relationships. We don't need to frighten our children to feel loved by them. And we don't need to overpower those who disagree with us to experience justice.

Here at the MRC we take new hope and new energy from the friends around us, near and far. We revel in the newly emerging men's resource centers inspired by our 23 years of showing up as pro-feminist, gay-affirmative, male-positive, and anti-racist men in our communities. We rejoice in the collaboration and cooperation we share with our sister organizations here and farther afield.

Last October the staff and board members of the MRC met in retreat to look at next steps for the organization. Our facilitator reminded us that the success of the religious right stems from their unfailing vision, one that keeps them going and keeps their support firm. She invited us to imagine what the world will be like 50 or even 100 years from now if the MRC is successful in its mission. Later, we summarized that vision as follows:

The Men's Resource Center is committed to helping bring about a more just and peaceful world by redefining masculinity to exclude violence and embrace trust and compassion. We envision a safe and violence-free world in which:

  • Men and women are equally nurturing and equally empowered;
  • People of all gender identities and all ethnicities feel safe and accepted;
  • Human rights for all peoples, including freedom from violence and abuse, are protected;
  • Egalitarian, nonviolent families and relationships are supported in all their diverse forms;
  • All individuals can peacefully reach their full human potential; and
  • All people share a respect and sensitivity for the earth and all beings.

From Amherst to Harlingen, from Keene to Boston and Burlington, men are stepping forward and seeing similar futures. We can feel the optimism rising.

Michael Dover is associate director of the Men's Resource Center for Change. He can be reached at [email protected].

236 North Pleasant St.
Amherst, MA 01002
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