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Buried Treasure: selections from the Peace News archives

35 years ago: Cede power

In this era, Peace News’s supportive coverage of feminist campaigns and of anti-sexist men’s groups was still sometimes controversial; it frequently led to continuing debate on the letters pages each fortnight. Here, Mark Ashmore joins in.

ImageI read the letter from Mary Winter [who had accused men’s groups of being ‘the counter-attack on the Women’s Liberation Movement’] with anger, then amazement, and finally with sadness. It seems that not only do male readers not know much about the women’s movement but also some female readers not know much about ‘Men Against Sexism’.

‘Men Against Sexism’ (MAS) avoid the use of the term men’s liberation because it does sound arrogant and does not make clear the great differences between women and men under Patriarchy. Men’s self-oppression is self-inflicted for which they receive privileges: but it is no less real for that.

Manchester’s MAS group is certainly not a counter-attack on the women’s movement. If anything it is the opposite, as one of its roles is to help men see that feminism is not just a threat to male supremacy but is also a liberating movement for all. Many men do hope for an end to all sexism and therefore hope for people’s groups but most accept that this is a long, long way off. We do try and support other groups by for example organising creches.

I can see how women can take power and I can see how men can help or hinder this process, but can someone tell me how men can cede power if there is no-one to take it?

Men are united by both their privileges and their oppression and it is this dichotomy which makes traditional male groups so fragile and shallow. MAS groups come together because men feel threatened by feminism as well as for more positive reasons such as becoming more human, and the aim is mutual support so that we, as men, stop looking to women for emotional support. From the letters in PN, it seems to me that it is men outside of MAS groups who want to co-opt the women’s movement.

From a letter in the 8 September 1978 issue of Peace News. Compiled by Albert Beale, author of Against All War: Fifty Years of Peace News.