Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Shrink for Men Interveiws Paul Elam of A Voice for Men

Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD conducted an interesting interview a while back - posted at her blog, A Shrink for Men - with Paul Elam of A Voice for Men and also one of the editors of Men's News Daily (which will be ceasing publication soon).

Disclaimer: I have been critical of some of the stuff I have read at Men's News Daily and some of the other sites Elam mentions - he and I do not see eye-to-eye on many things. But the men's transformation movement is about men, plural, and that means plural visions and perspectives.

That said, here is the beginning of the interview:

Introduction to the Men’s Movement: Interview with Paul Elam of A Voice for Men


Last year, Paul Elam of A Voice for Men contacted me to ask if I would contribute to Men’s News Daily, a men’s movement website for which he is the editor. Intrigued, I read through the site and had some misgivings. There’s some material I agree with and some material that I found off-putting. Like any movement, men’s activism attracts different people with different ideologies and agendas. Primarily, I was put off by the extreme, neo-conservative beliefs and rhetoric of some of its members. Paul and I discussed my reservations, which he kindly addressed. He allayed my misgivings and I agreed to republish some of my material on MND.

I believe men and women need to organize and fight for fair legislation regarding domestic violence laws and divorce and custody legislation. Our system is sick and many people are stuck in sick workplaces and relationships that sap them of energy and the ability to make healthy decisions. When you’re in a sick system, you think, “this is just the way it is.” The dysfunctional system is so pervasive, many people don’t stop to think, “this isn’t how it should be and what can I do to change for the better.” A sick system programs you to tolerate abuse and injustice and tells you that there’s something wrong with you if you try to buck the system.

The post-feminist pendulum has swung too far to the other extreme. How is it just that a man can be forcibly removed from a home he paid for based on nothing more than an unsubstantiated claim of abuse? (Just do a search for ‘how do I get my husband out of the house.’) How is it just that one adult, by virtue of his sex, is financially responsible for another able-bodied adult just by virtue of her sex after the relationship ends and often for the rest of his lifetime? Even child support ends when a child becomes an adult. Why isn’t custody automatically presumed 50/50 in every state? Why aren’t women required to pay support for the 50% of the time the children are with their fathers (if the father is lucky enough to get 50/50 custody)? Why aren’t women prosecuted for making false abuse claims and violating court orders?

The present laws are unfair and they’re not going to change until the people who are the targets of this kind of injustice and the people who care about them organize, pitch in and fight to level the playing field. Both men and women need to join together to do this. To this end, I asked Paul if he would allow me to interview him to provide an introduction to the men’s movement and he very generously agreed:

1. Paul, in a nutshell, what is the men’s movement, men’s rights or men’s activism?

Actually, it takes two nutshells, because we are talking about two areas that have some overlap with each other. The first is father’s rights and some other agendas that involve legislation and actual rights as we know them. Clearly, with the bias against men in family courts, and things like false accusation of rape, domestic violence and sexual harassment we are talking about clear cut violations of constitutional rights and due process.

The rest, and I think equally important area, is what I prefer to call the men’s movement vs. calling it the men’s rights movement. This is a movement that is well underway that is challenging men to examine their roles as men in modern times, and supports them for making more realistic choices about what they expect of themselves, particularly in their relationships with women.

This is the part of the movement to which I think you, Dr. T., make a particularly valuable contribution. So much of our frustrations as men come from trying to satisfy some very unrealistic and unhealthy expectations from women. That can come up for sure when we encounter personality disordered women in relationships, but also in our dealings with women that we would call normal.

The fact is that the continued expectations for men to act according to old school gender roles for men are out of sync in a world where women’s roles have changed so significantly. In fact, I’d guess that many of the men you counsel were hobbled in dealing with borderline or narcissistic women, not just because those personalities are so good at manipulation, but because they are particularly adept at manipulating the pressures on men to “man up and take it.”

I think the men’s movement provides a lot of support to men for changing their expectations of themselves and certainly in placing some more realistic expectations on the women in their lives.

Read the whole interview.

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