Jack Kammer, MSW, MBA
In 1983 on WCVT (now WTMD) at Towson University, north of Baltimore, I launched a radio show on male-female relationships and the gender issues of men and boys. It didn’t take long for me to realize that serious social problems are connected to society’s lack of awareness of male gender issues and the sexism that creates them. The show ran until 1989. The management of WFBR liked it and wanted to program it, but the station’s ad sales team said advertisers would never buy it for fear of making women unhappy.
That only convinced me all the more that male gender issues needed attention.
In 1985 and 1986 I worked with the late, former 7th District Congressman and Black Caucus Chair Elijah Cummings when he was a Maryland state delegate in the effort he sponsored to have Maryland establish a task for force on men to study the connection between male social issues and problems of crime, violence, educational underachievement, unpaid child support and others. The idea was derided in the Maryland General Assembly as “The Wimp Bill,” but privately several delegates confided that they recognized and understood the need for the proposal but said they could never support it because “it would upset the women.”
Again, I took that as indication that we had a cultural taboo — recognition of sexism against men and boys — that needed to be broken.
In 1994 St. Martin’s Press published my book Good Will Toward Men: Women Talk Candidly About the Balance of Power Between the Sexes, a collection of interviews I conducted with twenty-two women, most of whom identified as feminist, all of whom were ready, willing, able and even eager to talk not just about women’s disadvantages as women, but also their advantages, and not just about men’s advantages as men, but also their disadvantages.
In perhaps one of the earliest examples of what has come to be known as Cancel Culture, St. Martin’s staff expressed displeasure with the book’s challenge of orthodox feminism; at their insistence all sales and promotion efforts for the book ceased. Jean Marbella of the Baltimore Sun also stitched a panel into what is called among male issues activists “The Lace Curtain.”
Good Will Toward Men went nowhere, except to bookstores’ remainder bins. After that disappointment, I expressed my unhappy emotions with a wry and pithy book called If Men Have All the Power How Come Women Make the Rules.
As if to prove the premise of the book and channeling the adamance of the women at St. Martin’s, Rick Horgan, a VP and Executive Editor at Warner Books took a pass on If Men Have All the Power by writing to my agent “While there’s much truth at the heart of this, I didn’t particularly like the one-liner approach, and the contempt this would inspire among the women in house would be immense. I’ll let one of my male competitors be the one who gets pummeled.”
In 1998, I published If Men Have All the Power myself because my agent gave up on finding a publisher to take it on. Ironically — and sadly — that book has proven to be my most popular and successful, though it’s not nearly as positive and productive as Good Will Toward Men could have been.
My determination to find an opening, a forum, a platform for unabashed, uncensored consideration of the social implications of male gender issues only continued to grow.
In 2007 and 2008 I served as a facilitator for the Alternatives to Violence Project, an intense, exhausting, exhilarating weekend workshop conducted in prisons around the globe. My main impression was how little support and encouragement we give to men’s need to give and get love, and how that lack drives them to prison and often unspeakable, desperate, loveless acts along the way.
Hoping to find a way to be part of Maryland’s social services program design, I entered the dual-degree MSW/MBA (social work and business) program at the University of Maryland. After getting my Masters in Social Work in 2008, I found no opening for my aspiration. To stay close to the situations of Baltimore’s and Maryland’s most unfortunate men, I did a year as a Correctional Officer (AKA Jail Guard) in the infamous Baltimore City Detention Center. I followed that with a year as a Parole & Probation Agent in central Baltimore. Then I went to work for National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) as a trainer for various state corrections systems to teach prison staff how to run NFI’s “InsideOut Dad” program for incarcerated fathers.
In 2007, while pursuing the Masters in Social Work, I researched and wrote an entry in the Abell Foundation Award in Urban Policy titled “Asking the Right Questions about Baltimore’s Marginalized African-American Men and Boys.” It did not win. One of the judges, former Baltimore City Councilman Jody Landers, told me the judging panel was afraid women would think we were “blaming them.”
In 2012 I was named Outstanding Recent Graduate of the University of Maryland School of Social Work. I gave presentations on the Social Work profession's gender bias at the National Association of Social Workers state conferences in New Mexico (2010), North Carolina (2011) and Maryland (2015). An emblematic piece of feedback came from New Mexico: “The presentation and the presenter pissed me off, but it all made me think really hard and made me realize that I need to keep these kinds of ideas in mind.” I also presented at the First and Second (there was no Third) National Conferences on Social Work With and For Men in 2008 and 2009.
In 2013 I started a social work consultancy called Working Well With Men whose mission was to provide “tools and training for the Social Work profession to help men give and get all the love they can.”
In short, I have been involved in the connection between male gender issues and serious, troubling social problems for four decades.
I am hoping the “A Seat at the Table for Men and Boys” blog on Medium will stimulate a full, honest, vigorous, personal, public and political discussion of male gender issues and their connection to our most intractable social problems.
And I hope we can muster enough faith in women to recognize that many women understand — and even insist — that gender fairness and balance have to be a two-way street.