March 30, 2010

Mentoring and Sexism

Guest blogger Tim W., has an understandable concern about men and mentoring. If you'd like to connect with Tim after reading this, send an email to me at earl at and I'll pass it along.

For the past 25 years, I have been doing gender equity educational work in middle and high schools in Arizona. My interest in gender issues began in graduate school (mid-1970s) when I took a sociology course on gender. At that time was mostly about women/femininity with an occasional article on men/masculinity. After graduation I joined a men's group and also became aware of the small, pro-feminist, men's movement in the US. These involvements helped me realize both the political/power dimensions in gender relationships and, specifically, how men have been restricted and hurt by traditional gender roles.

Some of the beliefs and assumptions I was brought up with as a young man include: A) men have to be strong (physically and emotionally) and can't be vulnerable (such as asking for help or admitting you're scared/uncertain); B) the best way to handle conflict is by being (at the minimum) assertive, and (if need be) aggressive or violent; C) the best measure of success for men is money, power, and material possessions (including an attractive partner). My interest in your Man-Making website and blog grew out of a concern adult men may be unconsciously mentoring boys and young men in ways that perpetuate those views of manhood.

In my student presentations, I emphasize work, careers, and financial independence for girls/young women (traditional male roles) and I emphasize parenting and homemaking responsibilities and rewards for the boys/young men (traditional female roles). For both I encourage them to consider all the jobs/careers available to them, rather than restricting themselves to traditional male or female jobs/careers. I invite all men who are mentoring, or those with boys in your lives, to do the same. Watch for those subtle sexist messages in your exchanges with young men.

Keep up the great blog,


For the record, I believe that all men are mentoring, whether they know it or not, because adolescent males are always watching and listening to men.

For those who would like more information on this topic, Tim recommends the National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS). On their site you can also find a great piece titled:12 Steps Men Can Take to End Sexism. This would be a great conversation piece between you and a young guy or group of guys.


  1. Great quote:

    "I believe that all men are mentoring, whether they know it or not, because adolescent males are always watching and listening to men."

    thanks, Tim

  2. Anonymous7:44 PM

    While I applaud the idealism of NOMAS I am uncomfortable with gender equity and traditional role obfuscation that accompanies this philosophy. I'm sure there is room for many difference of opinions here (at least I hope), but I'm not likely to applaud the making of a "new man" in accordance with the ideals of feminism. I don't think traditional masculinity is necessarily violent, I think feminists think traditional masculinity is violent. Nor do I think making men more like women is a good thing.

    Charley (the contrarian)


Your response to this blog post is appreciated and welcome.