Back then, there were male retreats, drum circles and vows of getting back in touch with the true meaning of manhood -- not the Rambo/Vin Diesel/James Bond crap of pop culture -- but manhood which embraced the responsibility of raising children and being a good husband.
It was a movement which covered the full range of the political/spiritual spectrum, from new age drum-thumpers to Christian Promise Keepers.
Today, however, the Men‘s Movement is as fleeting as the afterburn of a firefly‘s trail -- ridiculed out of existence -- or more likely -- it went the way of most well-meaning vows of responsibility and was simply tucked away when the novelty wore off.
But there‘s still a need for such a movement in our country, as any number of angry young fatherless men will attest. Consider Eminem, for instance, whose father abandoned him when he was six months old. He‘s the ultimate parody and extreme example of a 30-year-old man/boy who never had a father to guide him; still sassing his mama (who he lived with until the age of 25), and still dependent on her as a source of abusive material in his songs for the benefit of his insecure teen fans.
Here‘s what Eminem has to say about his upbringing and why he‘s so angry: “He‘s a problem child, and what bothers him all comes out/When he talks about his f**kin‘ dad walkin‘ out/‘Cuz he just hates him so bad that it blocks him out/If he ever saw him again he‘d probably knock him out.“
Critics of Eminem wonder why his songs are so vicious in regard to his mother, women and gays. Perhaps it‘s because he‘s still an angry boy inside, who never grew up. Perhaps it‘s because he was never guided by the example of a father or an uncle who had his act together.
Apparently, however, he‘s trying to reverse his past: An article in the recent Village Voice notes that Eminem is a devoted father to his seven-year-old daughter, Hailie, vowing that she will have the dad he was denied. As Marshall Bruce Mathers III, he attends PTO meetings at Hailie‘s Chippewa Valley School District in the suburbs north of Detroit and is considered a very good father by his neighbors in the gated community of Manchester Estates.
What was it about the Men‘s Movement that offered a sense of hope to fatherless children?
It started in 1990 when Minnesota poet Robert Bly -- the son of an alcoholic father -- wrote a visionary book called “Iron John,“ which traced the passages from boyhood to manhood. “Iron John“ called on men to explore their primitive past.
A central belief of the Men‘s Movement was that for tens of thousands of years, boys grew up at the side of their fathers and uncles, first as hunters in the forests and savannahs, and later as farmers bringing in the crops.
This all changed in the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s, however, as dads went off to work in factories, leaving their sons at home or in school. At the beginning of the 20th century, 70 percent of all American‘s lived on farms and 30 percent in the cities. By the end of the century, those figures were more than reversed, and the loss of farm life created an even greater distance between fathers and sons.
Then there‘s the whole divorce thing and the fact that men and women don‘t need to live with each other any more if the other person‘s face gets wearisome. Boys raised by their mothers often get so that they don‘t even want to see the old man any more because he‘s not quite as comfortable to be around as mom -- he may be a trifle scarier, more demanding, gruff, direct, and in-your-face with a lower timbre to his voice that‘s intimidating.
Some feminists pish-posh these qualities as being expendable, but statistics reveal that scraping the bark with daddy bear -- rough and demanding though he may be -- provides a nurturing experience for young men -- and girls too.
Consider the following from the same Voice article about Eminem. According to information from the Census Bureau, Centers for Disease Control, and Department of Justice, among others, “kids from fatherless homes are five times more likely to commit suicide, nine times more likely to drop out of high school, 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances, 14 times more likely to commit rape, 20 times more likely to end up in prison, and 32 times more likely to run away from home.“
None of this is meant to disparage the efforts of single mothers, who are often left holding the bag of parenthood with social supports under constant threat of attack.
But it does point out that the need for men to be involved in the lives of their kids is as strong as ever. The Men‘s Movement seemed to die at first frost -- a pity -- and perhaps an indication that men never were all that serious about it to begin with. Some men, anyway.