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How I got interested in men's studies


 
    It all started with a college course in Women's Studies.  Luckily I didn't have one of those man hating professors.  My instuctor, Professor Francis, demonstrated how women were victims of violence and prisoners of the patriarch.  However, she didn't stop there.   She took things one step further by posing the question that if women were conditioned to stay within certain confines of behavior and punished for not conforming, what about men?  Do gender norms apply to them as well?  If so, what does this say about our society?  In other words, men are prisoners of their own roles as well.
    Professor Francis made me realize that by helping women we (men) are helping ourselves.  Women are an essential part of our lives.  They are our mothers, sisters, daughters, girlfriends, lovers, nieces, friends, and spouses.  Just as what happens to (us) guys affects them, it is also true that what happens to women affects men. It doesn't matter what your gender, race, sexuality, religion, or whatsoever.  It's all about respecting human beings.
    While taking Women in Perspective course, I attended some Women Studies seminars, meetings/discussions, and presentations.  The big realization came at a feminist collective meeting.  I was astonished with how intimately these women (who barely knew other) were opening their hearts to each other.  Furthermore, these women came from different backgrounds.  They varied by race, ethnicity, age, sexuality,  and class.  Their courage to be vulnerable and comforting (with each other) left me touched.  I thought to myself if these women are able to acknowledge each others differences while at the same time looking beyond them, then surely a group of guys could do it.
    So on the search began.  I hunted for men's studies books, groups, publications, whatever I could get my hands on.  First of all men's studies encompasses everything from radical feminist to men beating drums.  In these groups, feelings toward women range from fully supporting them to having contempt against them.   I had to find out which branch I could relate to or create my own.  I chose the second option.
 
 
What does men's studies mean to me? 
 

Men studies is about men of different backgrounds who are open to challenging some of the gender norms that we are conditioned to follow.  It's about men who want to have better relations with their spouses/lovers, family, kids, and male friends.  Tackling issues such as
emotional intimacy in our friendships, the impact of our parents, homophobia, our competitiveness with other guys while at the same time our desire to connect and attach with them, women, fatherhood, and more.  It is not just about tackling, but opening our hearts to each other by sharing our joys and sorrows. Men(not always trying to find a solution to the problem), but listening.  Men who can comfort each other from
a understanding statement like "That must be very painful" to warm gesture of giving a hug.
 
 

My experiences 

 My Dad
 

I have been fortunate in the respect that I have had a loving relationship with my dad.  A relationship most son's don't have with their father.   Eastern culture is an important factor in our relationship.  My father is from Pakistan and in that culture male friendship is different.  For many,  their is not only a emotional intimacy, but physical (tactile) intimacy.  In Pakistan, you can see two male friends walking arm in arm or one having his arm around his friends shoulder.  This is not a sexual gesture, but one of friendship.

When I was 5 years old, my father and I had our Saturday ritual where we would watch Bugs Bunny cartoons in the morning.  Then eat fish and chips and watch old classic movies like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or It's a Mad Mad World.  While watching these movies, I would lye down and rest my head in his lap.  At that time, I always felt safe in his arms.  Things haven't changed much today.  I rest my head on his shoulders whenever he holds me.  I am able to cry in front of him and express my feelings; he's always there to comfort me.  I thank God for the closeness we share.  To many, this geniune affection may sound strange.  But it is all quite normal for a tactile family.  Touch is not soley reserved for your romantic partner.  Instead, it is a way to communicate your way of greeting, nurturing, and expressing feelings to the people you care about.  My relationship with my dad has been the foundation for my close, gentle, and nurturing friendships. Furthermore, what he has taught me about male comradeship has fueled my interest in men's studies.  I am truly, truly lucky and I hope I will be able to have a similiar quality of relationship with my own kids.

Men's group

Finding a men's studies support group isn't easy.  So back in October 1996, I placed an ad in the local newspaper to start a men's support group.   In November, the first meeting began.  It went exceptionally well.  There were all types of guys.  Generation X guys, babyboom guys, single guys, married guys, white guys, black guys, gay guys, and straight guys.  For people meeting for the first time, we became very intimate in our conversation, exposing some of our own vulnerabilities.

Unfortunately, that was the group's only meeting.   I graduated from college and moved to another city.   No one wanted to take the leadership role of continuing the group.   I moved into my folks place temporarily and am saving up money to have my own place within the next several months.
As soon as I have my own place, then I will start forming a men's group within the local area.  In addition, I want to form a men's support network through the internet for people of all over the world.

 

So if you ever want to share your opinions, need a shoulder to lean on, or have a few questions, then you are more than welcome to write me at lifes_ journey@hotmail.com .  Good luck and may the great spirit take care of you.