A Guide to the Men's Movement

Although often referred to as a single entity, the men's movement is really a collection of various types of groups. Some focus on personal growth; others promote social change or the greater recognition of men's rights in such hot-button areas as child custody and abortion. The following are some of the key branches:

Mythopoetic. This is perhaps the largest and one of the fastest-growing groups. Members focus on ways to explore spiritual questions through literature, mythology, art, and movement. Retreats frequently include drumming and circle councils. The number of men involved is estimated to be between 100,000 and 200,000.

Healing and Therapy Groups. The largest focus of activity in this branch is support for men in recovery from drug and alcohol problems. Membership is estimated at 20,000 to 50,000.

Men's Rights/Fathers' Rights. These men are largely interested in changing laws regarding alimony, child custody, rights of unmarried fathers, and abortion. According to Bert Hoff, editor of M.E.N., a leading men's magazine, this branch is small but growing. Some estimate their numbers at about 5,000.

Profeminist/Gay Rights. This branch encourages men to renounce sexist, homophobic, and racist behavior. Adherents lobby strongly for women's rights, gay rights, and other minority causes. According to Christopher Harding, editor of the men's quarterly, "Wingspan," the ranks of this group have declined steadily in recent years because of its critical attitudes toward men. Michael Kimmel, a professor of sociology at the State University of New York in Stony Brook, estimates current numbers at about 2,000.

Promise Keepers. Primarily a Christian movement, it was founded in 1990 to "unite men through vital relationships to become godly influences in their world." Adherents are urged to abide by seven promises, including building strong marriages and families, pursuing vital relationships with other men, and committing to bringing about positive change in their communities.

The movement has been criticized for white exclusivity, and leaders say they are trying to broaden racial representation. Organizers claim to have attracted 700,000 to stadium rallies this decade. Because it has a religious component, most observers place it in a separate category from the more traditional groupings above.

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