Two longtime groups working on issues affecting boys and men have merged, creating an entity organizers hope will eliminate male stereotypes and aid in the push for gender equality and paid parental leave.
It is the unification of the two groups founded in western Massachusetts — the Men’s Resource Center (MRC) started in Amherst in 1982, and Men’s Resources International (MRI), an outgrowth of MRC, founded in 2004.
The hope is that the new group, MERGE for Equality, will be more efficient and have a greater impact, says John Engel, executive director of the new entity. The merger was publicly announced at the third annual Men and Boys Summit held in Worcester earlier this summer. Some 200 activists from over 100 organizations, whose work touches every county in Massachusetts and parts of Connecticut and Rhode Island, participated in the daylong event, Engel said.
MERGE, which is an acronym for Men Embracing their Role in Gender Equality provides three core services: an annual Healthy Men and Boys Summit, training and consulting services and advocacy campaigns, Engel said. It also offers support to local and global organizations already engaged in social change, he said.
The objective is to work with boys and men to offset traditional conceptions of masculinity to advance gender equality worldwide, according to Engel.
“We believe all boys are born loving, caring and sensitive. We reinforce that belief and provide space to explore that,” he said. When boys are raised suppressing their emotions, they become emotionally and socially disconnected, he said. Men are told not to ask for help, to “man up” and deal with their problems on their own, which leads them to violence and anger instead of dealing with emotions in healthy ways, he said.
“The media and other sources set a limited stereotype for what it means to be a man. Men don’t have to be hyper-masculine, competitive and domineering — however, they do need to be held accountable to all people when it comes to violence prevention,” Engel said.
One of MERGE’s key local partners is Safe Passage, an organization that serves survivors of domestic abuse.
“It is so vital to support boys and men in the efforts to achieve gender equality, as they are a part of the solution to make our community safe for everyone,” said Laura Penney, Safe Passage Director of Community Engagement.
During the summit, MERGE announced its intention to work with MenCare, an international fatherhood organization, in an advocacy campaign calling for paid leave for both men and women after childbirth. By using MenCare’s educational videos, research, and connections, MERGE hopes to mobilize local individuals and organizations to push for paid parental leave, Engel said. “All parents should experience the joys and challenges of parenting. Making women solely responsible for childcare inhibits them in leadership roles and in the workplace,” he said.
It’s a Different World
The role men play at home and work has changed a lot since the 1970s. Here are some ways things are different, according to the State of America’s Fathers 2016 by MenCare, a global fatherhood campaign interested in gender equality:
Share of stay-at-home fathers who said that they are not working because they are caring for their home and family rather than because they are unable to find work, ill or disabled, in school, or retired,
in 1976-1979: 1 in 100
In 1989: 1 in 20
In 2012: 1 in 5
Percentage of American working men who agreed that it is better for all involved if “the man earns the money and the woman takes care of the home and children,”
in 1977: 74%
in 2008: 40%
Percentage of parents who work 35 to 40 hours per week who feel they do not spend enough time with their children: 63%
Of those who work more than 40 hours per week: 73%
Proportion of U.S. resident men born in 2001 expected to go to prison during their lifetime, if current incarceration rates remain unchanged:
1 in 9
Among white men: 1 in 17
Among black men: 1 in 3
Percentage of children who will live in a household without their biological father at some point in their childhood: 50%
American fathers have increased the time they spend with their children during the workday by 65% over the past 30 years.