NASW News Ignores Hardships Faced by Men and Boys

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NASW is mandated by its own code of ethics to be there for those in need. Sadly, it seems that those in need are defined as those who fit the narrative of political correctness. Men and boys don’t fit that narrative and simply need not apply. I could give you numerous examples but here is a start:

I was reading the NASW News a national monthly publication for NASW and noticed an article on suicide. I was aware of NASW’s past history of focusing on girls and suicide even though 80% of completed suicides are males. I read the article and found that there was no mention of men and boys being the vast majority of those completing suicide. I wrote the author a letter which he was kind enough to print in the May edition. Here’s the letter to the editor: (bold text was in the original letter but omitted by NASW)

– I just read your article on suicide in the NASW News. I am both saddened and shocked that there was no mention of the fact that males comprise 80% of those who complete suicide. 80%. Jut imagine for a minute that some other malady had 80% of the victims be female or black or just about any other demographic. Under those circumstances the article would have likely featured entire sections on this or that group that face the bulk of the problem. The least they would have done would be to call attention to the group most impacted. Why not so with men? Sadly this is not a new problem. NASW has been ignoring men as victims of suicide for many years having sponsored research on the suicide of women even though women are a fraction of those who actually complete suicide.

The obvious importance of the 80% stat is that men comprise a group that is unlikely to seek help in traditional settings. If people are very serious about wanting to help with suicide they had better start figuring out what might help men and how to attract men to treatment. At this point we are failing miserably and that is important for Social Workers to know. Finland was the world’s first country to take actions to help men and they have had considerable success. Australia is starting to work in that direction. The US is a Neanderthal with the media blacking out this important bit of information.

It is an embarrassment to me that NASW maintains such a sexist and misandrist attitude towards men and their difficulties. NASW was at the forefront of creating a White House Council on Women and Girls but when NASW was approached about supporting a proposed White House Council on Boys and Men they at first said they would look into it, but failed in ever responding, even after being prompted. Many wonder why there are not more men in Social Work. It seems clear enough to me.

I wrote a report on men and suicide when I served as the vice chairman of the Maryland Commission for Men’s Health. If you have any interest you can see the official version here (appendix D): http://dlslibrary.state.md.us/publications/Exec/DHMH/HG13-2407_2010(add).pdf

NASW Disappears When it Comes to Men and Boys Issues

My first message to Angelo McClain:

8-8-13

Hello Angelo McClain and thank you for creating this email for feedback.

I have been writing to NASW for some time and often have had the frustrating experience of getting no response. The topics I usually bring are simply not pc and have been ignored. I am hoping you may have a different response.

I have been working most of my social work career with men who are traumatized and have developed a number of ideas about the uniqueness of the way men heal. I have come to these conclusions from a variety of sources but one of those sources is the Indigenous African grief rituals and their tendency to treat men very differently in their healing paths following a significant loss. I studied several African tribes and one in particular the Dagura people and found a huge amount of information that helped me in understanding the men in our culture. Much of this is in my first book Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing.

This work has drawn me into seeing the plight of men and boys in our culture today and it is not a pretty sight. Men and boys face hardship and discrimination in a multitude of places and most people are simply unaware of this and focus instead on the hardships and discrimination faced by women and girls. These hardships are not stopped by racial boundaries. A quick look at the black community shows Black women and girls prospering on almost every index far ahead of black males. Why? My belief is that both black men and women face the hardship of racism but black men have the additional burden of all of the hardships of being male.

When I have seen articles that focus on the needs and hardships of women and girls I have usually written to NASW and asked about the male side of things. This is when I usually get ignored. Issues like domestic violence, suicide, divorce, educational opportunities, males in Social Work and many others.

I have been involved with a group that has written a document that covers much of these difficulties and has been presented to the White House as a proposal for a White House Council for Boys and Men. Our thought is that this would parallel the already existing White House Council on Women and Girls. So far the response has been far from enthusiastic. What I would like to see is for NASW to get behind this effort in a similar way that they got behind the creation of a White House Council for Women and Girls.

What do you think? The web site about this group and our proposal can be found here

http://whitehouseboysmen.org

Thanks for your time in reading this. I do hope to hear back.

 

 

McClain responded eight days later:

Dear Tom,

Thanks for bringing this issue to my attention.

I’m not sure what work NASW did in support of a White House Council on Girls and Women (I’ll have to look into that). And will assess how NASW might get involved in this effort. Next month I will be involved in a national panel discussing the issue of meeting the needs of boys and men.I can tell you that under my leadership as Child Welfare Commissioner in Massachusetts, we made many in roads regarding the issue of fatherhood as discussed in Component 3 of your proposal for a White House Counsel on Boys and Men. Essentially, our work involved getting dads involved (or re-involved) in their children’s lives for children known to child welfare or placed in the foster care system. A part of this work was changing the culture within the community regarding the value that was placed on fatherhood and father’s roles within families. We created Fatherhood Engagement Leadership Teams (FELT Teams) at the 29 Department of Children and Families Area Offices across Massachusetts. The FELT teams were co-lead by a father (with a child known to the system) and a DCF staff person. The bulk of the work was around changing the culture regarding how fathers were viewed, and as you say their healing process. We also did quite a bit of work connecting our work to prevent domestic violence with our fatherhood engagement work. Efforts here were focused on challenging and changing the notion that views men as being especially dangerous. One our biggest accomplishments was hosting an all-day conference in October 2012 that include 15-20 human service and corrections agencies as well as the judiciary. In fact, we had 14 judges and 2 chief justices in attendance. The 14 judges were there for the entire day and had numerous examples of how they had changed their practices to be more engaging and respectful of fathers. The focus of the summit addressed find ways to address institutional barriers and bias that discouraged participation of fathers in their children’s lives. The Summit was a validation that our previous five years of work had made a significant impact within the community. That work continues today.

Take care,

Angelo

From: trgolden3@gmail.com [mailto:trgolden3@gmail.com] On Behalf Of Tom Golden
Sent: Thursday, August 08, 2013 2:00 PM
To: naswceo
Subject: Hello Angelo McClain

Wonderful to hear that you have experience in focusing on the needs of men and taking helpful action. Great! My hope is that you can bring that to NASW. Our profession is in dire need of understanding the uniqueness of boys and men and to learn where they face hardship and discrimination. Have you written any on your experience in Massachusetts? Might be great to have something like that in the NASW national newsletter. I wrote an article for the Maryland chapter’s newsletter back in 2009 titled “What Every Social Worker Needs to Know About Men.” That might be good to have in there too.Hi Angelo – Thanks for your response. It’s a breath of fresh air.

I will be curious to hear from you about the history of NASW and the White House Council on Women and Girls. NASW was very active in promoting that council. They signed a letter to the president from a number of women’s organizations about the need for such a council. Numerous articles appeared in the NASW Newsletter about the process. It was big news for some time.

Here’s a link to the letter http://www.now.org/issues/constitution/Letter%20to%20President-Elect%20Obama.pdf

Note that it was signed by “50 Women’s Groups” I am sure you understand how this marginalized our few male members of NASW.

Tom

 

Hi Angelo – It’s been a couple of months since I heard from you and wanted to check and see if you have checked on the NASW connection with the white house council on women and girls. Any news on that? Have you thought of how NASW might support a white house council on boys and men?<<I’m not sure what work NASW did in support of a White House Council on Girls and Women (I’ll have to look into that). And will assess how NASW might get involved in this effort. Next month I will be involved in a national panel discussing the issue of meeting the needs of boys and men.

Thanks

Is Social Work Following Its Own Code of Ethics?

IS SOCIAL WORK FOLLOWING ITS OWN CODE OF ETHICS?

code-image2The NASW Social Work Code of Ethics is a very helpful but demanding document. It asks us to live a cognizant life both at work and at home. If we take this document seriously, and we certainly must, it demands that we are prepared to confront things not in concert with the Code.

Unfortunately there is a massive failure by the entire social work industry to adhere to that code going on right now.

If you will, think about a southern, rural town in the early 1950’s. Imagine you are there to give a workshop to the townspeople on racism. Can you guess their reaction to your words about racial equality? Their daily habits and way of life is based on something far from what you are describing to them. What do you think they would say and do? My guess is they might politely listen but after leaving conclude that you were some sort of nut — a “n***** lover” or even more likely an interloper who hates them and their way of life.

In some ways I feel like that person right now. There is a form of discrimination that is clearly present, potently hurtful and yet most of those around me are hostile to hearing about it. They just don’t and won’t see it. If you call attention to it, if you point to the elephant in the room, they become hostile.

Who is the group that faces discrimination that no one sees? It is men and boys. And the treatment of them in the arena of social work has taken a very, very disturbing detour from the NASW Code of Ethics for quite some time now.

Where it concerns the interrelationship between men and women our early survival mandated cooperative gender roles. Men would provide, protect and risk in order to ensure the safety of women and children. Women provided the essential immediate care of children.

This arrangement is what we have come to know as gynocentric in that the roles taken on by men and women hinged on the fact that women and children had to be protected at all costs. While both roles are or were vital in the overall picture, life and limb sacrifices, the role of protector and provider fell on the shoulders of the male. In short, the male is replaceable. The women are not, because men can’t have children.

This arrangement worked spectacularly for a long time. However, human advancement, through the cooperative efforts of men and women, resulted in a world where gender roles are generally not essential for human survival. We have far fewer concerns over our immediate safety than we did on the African Savanna and technology has made many professions accessible to both men and women. Accordingly, women’s roles have evolved and expanded, affording them the opportunity to make more conscious choices, and to experience more freedom than strict gender roles could have ever afforded.

Men, however, have lagged behind in this area and that is where we start to encounter some of the problems that they face today. To more fully understand this, we must take a look at cultural development through the gynocentric lens.

Even before the industrial revolution, while the male role was functional and successful without question, it was one of significant, unrecognized and unseen sacrifice. Of course that made sense. Were humans to practice the same protection and compassion for men as they did for women, it would have destroyed us. In an environment of hardship we could not afford to busy ourselves with men’s suffering and pain. That unrecognized burden was what kept us alive.

Men’s roles threw them into positions where people just didn’t know if they would ever return home at any point. Whether in the Paleolithic realm of hunting and tribal conflict, or more modern warfare, the certainty of any man’s survival was never assured. When there is constant uncertainty about a person’s fate we tend to detach for our own psychological benefit. We see them as more disposable and basically live in a state of preparedness for their possible demise.

cher

Let’s take an example. Those who are designated to die in war are treated like heroes if they accomplish the miraculous and survive. That “heroism” is offered to young men as a standard of manhood in order to have them fulfill the expectation of sacrifice when needed. When something or someone is seen as disposable we generally ignore their pain and hardship. Indeed, most antiwar sentiment in America is based on the fact that we are killing, not because we are dying. That is expected of the disposable sex.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, when I worked as a psychotherapist with many traumatized men and women, it was clear that society’s focus was to help women suffering from emotional trauma. Matters became a lot more fuzzy where it concerned men’s pain. I found out very quickly that a man’s emotional pain was taboo. No one wants to hear it, people want to run away.

Honestly and compassionately addressing men’s pain usually triggers an instinctive fear that in doing so those men will no longer be available to provide and protect. They become, at least in our unconscious minds, a liability that we cannot afford.

It took me some time to understand that this fear created an empathy gap that is still rampant in the field. Even in what is supposed to be an enlightened field of work, we are operating on some level as though compassion for men will bring us to ruin. This detachment, indifference to and even hostility toward men’s pain and hardship will be made quite visible to you in the remainder of this article.

You will also see how and why social work currently operates as a professional culture in violation of the NASW Code.

We will demonstrate these issues one by one by first quoting from the code and then documenting how it is systematically violated. Let’s start with discrimination by laws.

Here’s what the code says:

  1. 4. SOCIAL WORKERS’ ETHICAL RESPONSIBILITIES AS PROFESSIONALS 4.02 Discrimination Social workers should not practice, condone, facilitate, or collaborate with any form of discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, or mental or physical disability.

That is very unambiguous language. It paints a clear, ethical path that social workers must follow when performing professional duties. Failing to follow those edicts is not just an ethical violation, it is an act of moral turpitude and an abuse of individuals entrusted to their care.

Let’s take a look at an example.

Domestic Violence

We know now that men are a significant portion of the victims of domestic violence. The latest CDC research confirms this and in fact states that in the past 12 months men were 53% of the victims of domestic violence. (see image below) Most estimates about the percentage of male victims of domestic violence seem to be between 25-50%. However when you search on domestic violence on the NASW web site the focus is on female victims. Here’s an example andanother here. Not only NASW focuses more on women, the services on a national level for domestic violence are astoundingly built to serve only women. This is overt discrimination.

dv-stats

We know from the research of Denise Hines1 that when males do seek help as victims of domestic violence at these female only services for victims they are not only turned away, they are often told they are the abusers. Many battered men have reached out for help for themselves and their children only to be offered anger management classes because that is all these facilities will offer men.

This is profoundly destructive. It is, if we are to be honest, a second perpetration of abuse, this time at the hands of professionals who are ethically bound to do just the opposite of what they are doing.

Nearly everything related to the amelioration of domestic violence has been built for women. Social workers have said very little about this but the courts have started to acknowledge the discrimination that men face as victims of domestic violence.

In the Woods et. al. vs California2 case in 2008, a Superior Court in Sacramento, ruled that male domestic violence victims had been unconstitutionally denied services. The court held that state laws violated men’s equal protection rights by excluding male victims from state-funded domestic violence services. The court found: “domestic violence is a serious problem for both women and men” and that “men experience significant levels of domestic violence as victims.”

Then, in October 2009, a West Virginia judge3 struck down state rules for regulating domestic violence shelters because they operate “on the premise that only men can be batterers and only women can be victims” and “exclude adult and adolescent males from their statutory right to safety and security free from domestic violence based only on their gender.”

Family violence against men is seen as humorous.
Family violence against men is seen as humorous.

It’s clear that this problem is now widespread in the United States. Yet where is any objection to any of this being raised by social workers who are deeply embedded in the provision of services to the victims of domestic violence?

Consider this. In California and West Virginia they were sued and found culpable for violating anti-discrimination laws. In both states they were found guilty of violating laws that almost exactly replicated their code of ethics.

So if social workers were involved where are the professional sanctions against them? What NASW sanctions were placed on any social workers responsible? What investigations were done? What recommendation offered? Why, despite the fact that there is open and systemic discrimination against men practiced by social workers, is the NASW not taking action?

Does NASW draw the line at adhering to their own ethics where it concerns women and less so with men? It seems a possibility.

In fairness it must be said that social workers are also people. And people, generally speaking, are detached from men’s pain.

Our humanness, however, does not excuse us for doing damage instead of rendering aid. We are educated people who must be expected to operate in accordance with our own professional codes. Just as we are expected to rise above every other area of potential bias we may have toward other groups, we are also beholden to practice the same with men and boys.

If you are a social worker working in the area of domestic violence are you aware of this discrimination? Are you speaking out against it? Remember, being aware and doing nothing is what the code calls “condoning and facilitating.” As social workers we need to stand up for those who are facing discrimination and in this case it is men and boys. If you do see this and say nothing you are a part of the problem. You are living in a small, rural town in the 1950s.

Will you follow the code and stand up for these men who face discrimination?

OB/GYN

Social Workers in hospitals pediatric or OB/GYN units should be aware that there is severe discrimination going on right under their noses, a discrimination that is built right into our laws. Baby girls are protected from having their genitals mutilated by law. No exceptions for cultural or religious differences. No exceptions for anything, as it should be. Penalties for breaking this law are severe. At the same time genital mutilation of baby boys is one of the most popular surgical procedures in America. This is not a minor prick of the skin.

Circumcision on average removes 6,000-10,000 nerve endings of erogenous tissue, nearly as many nerve endings as the entire female clitoris which many estimate to have around 8,000 nerve endings. The adult male equivalent in terms of amount of skin removed is the size of an index card, about 3 x 5 inches.

And there is now an abundance of medical research concluding for the most part that circumcision is actually just a euphemism for genital mutilation. There are deaths associated with this medically unnecessary procedure and now a variety of confirmed and suspected negative side effects.

From the group, Doctors Opposed to Circumcision:

“Memory starts before birth and newborn infants have fully functioning pain pathways. One would expect, therefore, to find psychological effects associated with the painful genital cutting operation [circumcision].” Doctors Opposed to Circumcision

Any loving parent, and for that matter any responsible mental health worker who is working with new parents, should consider the following demonstrated facts and known side effects of neonatal cutting, as follows:

What we find, when considering all the evidence about circumcision is that the only difference between male and female genital mutilation is that one is socially acceptable and one is not. It seems obvious when you consider the longstanding, programmed indifference to the pain of males, which is which and why.

Here are some sources demonstrating the severely negative impact of circumcision on infants, their parents and how those consequences follow the victims through life.

http://www.cirp.org/library/psych/goldman1/
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201501/circumcision-s-psychological-damage
http://www.circinfo.org/Warren.html

There is an abundance of other research. True enough, there are studies that conclude that circumcision does not produce significant problems for men but as we find in criticisms of those studies, circumcised researchers and circumcised doctors who perform circumcisions both have emotional and financial investment in the procedure.

What is most damning in my mind though is that social workers in the OB-GYN and neonatal fields may not deliver information to parents that might make them reconsider whether circumcision was healthy for their child.

This failure to educate and inform their clients, or indeed to inform themselves of the research is a clear violation of NASW ethical codes.

Part of what drives this is that male genital mutilation is a profitable venture. Aside from the money made doing the procedure the foreskins can be sold for around $400 each depending on how they are used.

Some are used for research while some are turned into very expensive women’s facial cream advertised on Oprah. We are now aware that these circumcisions, the majority of which are conducted without anesthesia, are causing psychological problems and physical problems for the boys and men who are unfortunate enough to have been subjected to them.

Alexithymia (a deficit in emotional acumen and experience) and PTSD have both been connected to male infant circumcision and it is doubtless that many more negatives will be found. In fact much of what we know about girls who have faced genital mutilation is also being found true for the millions of little boys and the men they become.

Social workers are rightly very concerned about female genital mutilation but are failing roundly to address this concern on behalf of boys. If you are a social worker are you following the code and speaking out against the mutilation of children for profit, or are you turning a blind eye to the matter altogether as long as the victims are boys?

And have you considered that if you are working with a family going through childbirth and postnatal care, and you have remained silent about this issue that you can reasonably considered accessory to the abuse?

These are tough questions but as social workers we are not ethically afforded the luxury of failing to answer.

Now let’s move to an area where men and boys face discrimination not from laws but from societal ignorance and lack of compassion.

Here’s what the code says:

6.04 Social and Political Action (a) Social workers should engage in social and political action that seeks to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources, employment, services, and opportunities they require to meet their basic human needs and to develop fully.

Places men face discrimination based on ignorance and/or lack of compassion.

Suicide

Did you know that eight out of ten completed suicides are males4? Have you heard that stat tossed around? Have you ever heard a social worker rise up to say that we are ignoring the glaring problem of male suicide? Probably not. The gynocentrism in modern social work does not permit for men, as a group, to have any of their issues given due prominence. This is true even when men are killing themselves at four to five times the rate of women.

suicide-stats

NASW studied suicide some years ago. The study focused on girls and suicide. I asked at the time why they didn’t study boys since boys were 80% of the victims and Elizabeth Clarke, the NASW Executive Director at the time said the funding requested the study focus on girls. Sadly, this is not uncommon. The focus of the media, researchers and clinicians is on girls and women even though they are a fraction of the victims. As a social worker, do you see this discrimination? Shouldn’t a commensurate amount of research be done based on those who are most victimized? Shouldn’t any conference on suicide have most presentations related to male suicide and what to do about it? Shouldn’t we create services designed for those who are most at risk? We need to stand up for the victims and potential victims of suicide that are being ignored and marginalized. Will you stand up for boys and men? Do you think that ignoring that question puts you in direct violation of your professional responsibilities?

Longevity

Men tend to live shorter and sicker lives than women. The fact is that white women have the greatest longevity followed by black females, followed by white males, followed by black males. Both black and white men live shorter lives than both black and white females. Some are thinking that black males are at the bottom since they face the burden of both racism and of being male.

longevity

“‘Being male is now the single largest demographic factor for early death,” says Randolph Nesse of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “If you could make male mortality rates the same as female rates, you would do more good than curing cancer.”

Nesse’s colleague Daniel Kruger estimates that “over 375,000 lives would be saved in a single year in the US if men’s risk of dying was as low as women’s.” (New Scientist Magazine, July 2002)

Men die earlier and more often than women from nearly every major cause of death except for one, Alzheimer’s. And the reason for that is that they do not live long enough to compete for that honor.

Even with the longevity and poor health experienced by men what we find is that the services available to them are considerably less than what is provided for women. The United States has seven national offices for women’s health but none for men. They have web pages for womenshealth.gov and girlshealth.gov but none for menshealth.gov or boyshealth.gov. Why do we discriminate and treat men and women so differently? As a Social Worker are you speaking out and standing up for the men and boys who are obviously being marginalized? If not, are you violating our code of ethics?

 

Education

The roles in education have been reversed. What was once considered discrimination against women and girls in their 22% deficit in college degrees has now reversed. It is the boys and men who are getting far fewer degrees than the women and girls. The difference? Now we don’t call it discrimination against boys — we call it empowerment of girls. The disadvantage and discrimination of the boys and men is simply ignored and reframed as a positive. As a social worker are you willing to stand up against this discrimination against boys and men?

education

I hope you are starting to see the profound bias facing men and boys in today’s world, and in the way that that the social work field is not just ignoring, but facilitating that problem.

The hardship and discrimination they face is ignored and worse, they are villainized and blamed for the problems they experience. Where did Social Workers learn this? In grad school. Our social work education is clearly anti-male and is in dire need of an overhaul to close the empathy gap, and to restore the social work profession to its own ethical standards. If we are educating and training social workers to violate their own code of ethics then it stands to reason that we are left with a pervasive problem throughout the field. We are left with the disturbing reality that the field is the problem.

Part Two will focus on Social Work Education and its anti-male bias.

References

  1. Douglas, Emily M.; Hines, Denise A.; McCarthy, Sean C.Violence and Victims, Volume 27, Number 6, 2012, pp.871-894(24)

Abstract:

Research since the 1970s has documented that men, in addition to women, sustain intimate partner violence (IPV), although much of that research has been overlooked. A growing body of research is examining the experiences of men who sustain female-to-male IPV, but there is still much to be learned. This exploratory study assesses the experiences of 302 men who have sustained IPV from their female partners and sought help from 1 of 6 resources: domestic violence agencies, hotlines, Internet, mental health professionals, medical providers, or the police. We examine what demographic characteristics and life experiences are associated with where men seek help and how they rate those experiences. We make recommendations for agencies, service providers, and first responders about how to tailor services for this specific population and their families.

  1. https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2013/may/15/denying-male-domestic-violence-victims-aid-is-unconstitutional/
  1. http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/w-va-court-tosses-rules-governing-domestic-violence-programs

excerpt – “This is just basic unfairness. It’s raw gender bias,” said Harvey D. Peyton, attorney for Men & Women Against Discrimination.

The West Virginia legal challenge is among a growing number of battles being waged across the country by groups that allege state laws requiring gender-neutral programs are skewed by discriminatory rules and regulations that embrace gender biases.

  1. https://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures

Resources

  1. These three reports were written by the Maryland Commission for Men’s Health and explore the problems of domestic violence, suicide, and men’s health.
  2. Youtube’s with more information on Domestic Violence, men’s issues,

Is Social Work Following its Own Code of Ethics? Part Two

code-art-1Part One of this article addressed some of the historical aspects of gynocentrism, its necessity in early civilization as a survival mechanism, and how it has become antiquated and restrictive for both sexes as we evolved into modern society.

We examined how men and boys, even after decades of a “sexual revolution,” are still very tightly bound by expectations based on their sex, and indeed how this even extends pervasively into the areas of mental health and social work.

Time after time, as we look first to the NASW Code of Ethics, then examine what is actually happening in real world social work, we see a profession that has all but severed itself from its guiding principles and has done so in order to practice sexual discrimination rather than prevent it.

I cited examples from the areas of domestic violence services, genital mutilation, suicide prevention and other areas where the social work profession has become a wealth of contradictions and an embarrassing lack of ethics that often crosses the lines into civil rights violations.

Sadly, social work schools do little to address any of these things. In fact, as we further this examination we will see that social work schools are actually contributing to the problem rather than helping.

While it is not an excuse for violating the NASW Code of Ethics, it is little wonder that most social workers are unaware of the issues men and boys face, given that all these issues are simply ignored and even suppressed by the social work educational system.

That is not hyperbole and I am about to prove it to you.

What you do see in social work education is a lop-sided (read discriminatory) focus on women and their issues. There is no question that women face hardships. There is also no question that they are not alone in that capacity.

The social work code of ethics rightly states in the preamble that social work is concerned with ALL people and yet our social work educational system is actively and consciously avoiding and ignoring difficulties faced by half the population based on their sex.

Here’s what the Code says:

1.05 Cultural Competence and Social Diversity (c) Social workers should obtain education about and seek to understand the nature of social diversity and oppression with respect to race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, and mental or physical disability.

So the Code encourages us to understand diversity based on sex and to practice with informed compassion about the same. Let’s take a look at what the schools charged with educating our social workers actually provide.

If you survey the courses of an MSW program you will see courses about working with women, gays, minorities and other special populations but what you are very unlikely to find are courses about working with men. Specialized training is vital for an education that works to enhance the understanding of practitioners and to further the mandates of the NASW Code.

Yet when we acknowledge that men comprise a large portion of social work clients and certainly represent a population in need of those services we must also conclude that they are, as a group, largely marginalized in social work education.

At this point perhaps you can think back to Part One of this series for a moment and recall what I said about gynocentrism; about how human beings have an instinctive fear about and resistance to elevating the needs of men into a prominent position.

Could it be that gynocentrism at least partially explains the exclusion of men, as a group, from social work education?

Are the schools breaking their own code of ethics by focusing on one sex and ignoring the other?

A quick glance at the University of Maryland School of Social Work’s online available coursesshows a course focusing on clinical issues with women, one on clinical issues with adolescents, one for clinical issues with gays, one for clinical issues with African Americans, one for aging, one for immigrants, one for just about everything but none for men. If you search on their web site for the word “women” you get nine results. See below:

code-art-2

When you search for “men” you get three results, all of which say “men and women.” Can you see how men would feel marginalized by that sort of thing? There is zero interest in teaching about men and their needs while the dominant focus is on women, girls, minorities, and gays. That is not acceptable.

At this point you may be in disagreement. It is common, especially within the social work profession, to operate on the assumption that these specialized courses are a natural response in a world which has always been about prioritizing men (the subtext of that being that men either do not need or do not support).

It should be noted that the assumption that men need no specialized support is directly a part of the gynocentrism we have discussed in this series. It is also a product of misandry. Misandry, even if not hatred of men and boys, is a rationalized neglect of and indifference to their pain and suffering.

It is the same mode of thinking demonstrated by people who scoffed at women’s suffrage or indeed wondered what on earth African Americans were complaining about in the 1950s rural south. And it is in clear and egregious violation of the NASW Code.

Another way to evaluate the degree that men and boys are being ignored in social work education is to have a look at the index of social work textbooks. When you look for “men” in the index you will usually find nothing. When looking at the index of the 2014 edition of American Social Welfare Policy: A Pluralist Approach, written by two men, Howard Karger and David Stoesz you find no mention of men in the index. However, there is an extensive entry under “women.” The image below shows page 441’s index entry for women. Note there are 17 entries under the heading “women.” Enough said.

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The Code says that Social Workers should seek education about social diversity based on sex but what we see is a focus only on women and girls. Social work schools are predominantly female institutions. It is a sad fact that this majority has created a system that focuses nearly exclusively on themselves and ignores the minority (men).

If this same dynamic were played out with race instead of sex the racism would be obvious and quickly condemned. If the roles were reversed for the sexes it would be equally obvious that there was a problem. And social workers would be deeply invested in correcting the problems.

What we are witnessing here on an institutional, day to day basis, is sexual discrimination in action. The interests and needs of women are put at the forefront while men are marginalized.

Can you see that this focus on women and a lack of interest in the lives of men creates a chilling effect on men? Shouldn’t social work attend to men and women equally? At this point it is clear that it does not. As a social worker are you willing to stand up against this discrimination? If you are an administrator at a school of Social Work are you willing to stand up for Social Work to be more inclusive?

The social work educational system is failing to teach about the issues that disproportionately affect men and boys. Male suicide, genital mutilation, men as DV victims and a range of other issues are simply treated as though they do not exist.

If it were just an omission of content it might be an easy fix but it goes a number of steps further and literally creates a hostile environment for male students.

The research of Hyde and Deal shows clearly that men in social work schools are reluctant to speak up in class for fear they might be judged as sexist or racist. Casual conversation with these male students will give you a sense of their fears of being judged for their opinions. Here’s a quote from Hyde and Deal:

Many (males) indicated that they were viewed as the “symbol of oppression” and lamented that they were not treated as individuals.

And this:

“It’s like some instructors hate white male students—like we’re the ones responsible for discrimination.” Or, as another student forcefully stated, “I am sick and tired of apologizing for having a penis!”

The male students in the study and likely many more male social work students see their school as promoting an anti-male agenda where males, especially white heterosexual males are blamed for the ills of the world. Is it any wonder that men don’t flock to social work schools?

If it is true that white males get a more negative and disparaging treatment than others it is clear that they are being prejudged based on their sex and race. This, of course, goes against every basic concept in Social Work and leaves us with the inescapable conclusion that Social Work schools that maintain this practice are both racist and sexist.

Being negatively pre-judged by sex and race must create a hostile environment for these males. Here is an quote about the all female focus groups and their harsh judgment of the men:

However, only in the all-female groups were the following caveats added: “It’s about time they experienced being silent” or “They might feel censored, but they still dominate the conversation.” When these views were shared with the mixed-gender and all-male groups (who did not generate these ideas), the female members smiled and said nothing; the male members indicated that such statements “proved” that there was hostility against them.

This seems to simply add to the hostile environment. A good case could be made for institutional bullying. It seems that there are many roadblocks that male social work students face.

All over the news in December of 2009 was a story about 50 women’s organizations who had written a letter requesting President Obama create a White House Council for Women and Girls. Note that it was “Women’s organizations.” Who was the fifth on the list of women’s organizations to sign this letter? The NASW.

Then farther down the signees you find the Council of Social Work Education.

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A government council on women and girls is a noble but incomplete idea. The solution, though, is pretty obvious. A council for men and boys. That council was an effort in which I took a personal interest.

Several years later a group of 35 top scholars, researchers, authors, and clinicians came together to create a similar proposal for a White House Council on Boys and Men. NASW was contacted to possibly support this effort. CEO Angelo McClain wrote back in response to our initial request saying he would check into things. We never heard from him again. I sent several reminders over a period of many months but he simply never responded. Nothing.

What message is NASW sending to men and boys? NASW bends over backwards to portray themselves as a women’s organization in working to help women and girls and willfully disappears when it comes to the needs of boys and men. (If you don’t think we need a White house Council for Men and Boys just have a look at the proposal.)

There is one last devastating piece to this. The prevailing theoretical framework at many social work schools is now feminism. This ideology is surrounded by a deep moat of political correctness that disallows dissent, challenge or questioning in any way.

What are the unquestionable tenets of feminism? Patriarchy and so called “toxic masculinity.” Both blame men for their own ills and the ills of the world, saddling them with a sense of original sin. The imagined culpability for that sin translates to a depravation in services and bigotry in education on every level.

There is little question in the minds of the male social work students (as seen by the above quotes) that they are being held accountable for the problems of the world. They can clearly see that seeds are planted in the minds of the students that men are the problem, men are privileged, men are greedy, me are violent, and on and on.

I can’t blame men for avoiding social work school in the least. Their needs are ignored. They are a marginalized minority and they are personally scapegoated by professionals who are supposed to educate them. It would take a brave man to venture into that sort of hateful judgment.

It would be easy (and quite justified) to push more into this very troubling aspect of social work education. There are crippling problems so deep and widespread that the challenge to correct them appears overwhelming. And we see those problems writ large in society as a whole where it concerns the lives of men and boys. Each and every one of those problems has a tangible connection to gynocentrism.

Our war dead are nearly all males. If that were any other group it would not be tolerated but since it is males, many in their teens, the response is silence. They are disposable. Our workplace deaths are 93% males. Child custody after divorce almost always means the virtual removal of one parent, more often the father. Rather than our courts seeking to restructure families through sensible plans of shared parenting, they opt for profitably ugly battles and persecution.

No one suffers more from this than the children of divorce. Fatherless children are clearly and negatively impacted by every psychosocial measure we can make of their lives. Truancy, delinquency, teen pregnancy, drug use, academic failure, violence and mental illness all skyrocket in homes where the father is largely absent.

Rather than point to the discrimination in courts and how it is ultimately damaging children, many, some social workers included, are generally more likely to sloganize the problem in terms of “deadbeat dads” and other shallow and misleading buzzwords.

Adding insult to injury men are forced to pay child support without being a frequent part of their child’s life. Fathers who failed to pay child support in Georgia now comprise 25% of the Georgia prison population.

Many of those men were unemployed and unable to find work so they have essentially been imprisoned for being poor, meaning they are 100% removed from the child’s life and guaranteed to continue their inability to provide.

It is time for me to ask you some more questions. If you are a social worker reading this information do you maintain the position that there is nothing wrong in the profession or the education system that informs and educates its members?

Do you think the social work industry isn’t affected by gynocentrism or misandry? Do you think the apparatus for teaching social work adheres to the ethics it is based on?

With all respect I have to tell you that I hope your answer is different from what I have been hearing for years. My experience is that when I offer this information to people, including fellow social workers, I hear a disturbing amount of comments like “You must hate women,” or “You are a misogynist,” or “You must be lonely/horny”, or “you are just a whining privileged white male” and so many other sexist and insensitive responses. And it is at this point when I understand that they are simply from that small southern town, immersed in a culture that can’t or won’t muster compassion for anyone but themselves.

How about you? Do you think I am a misogynist and a whiner or do you see the need for all of us as social workers to stand up for any group that is facing discrimination and hardship, even if that group is not our own? Are you willing to take a stand? Or are you just willing to operate in bigoted defiance of your ethical imperatives?

That is not meant to personally insult you but it is meant to be very direct about some very obvious problems in the profession. The problem here for me is that I have subscribed to a code of ethics that demands I be open to the needs of all human beings. That code does not allow me to block coursework on women’s issues or issues faced by African Americans or any other identifiable group for that matter.

It also does not allow me to treat men and boys any differently. Not for ideology and not for money.

In fact, by writing this series I am actually following the mandates of NASW. It is with deep sadness I note that NASW and most of its members appears to be doing the opposite. We have become, as an industry, more like the pathology and less like the cure.

It is time for that to change.

References

Hyde, C. A., and K. H. Deal. “Does Gender Matter? Male and Female Participation in Social Work Classrooms.” Affilia 18.2 (2003): 192-209. Web.

disposability – http://menaregood.com/wordpress/mice-men-and-disposability/

domestic violence – http://menaregood.com/wordpress/maryland-report-domestic-violence-and-male-victims/

longevity data http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr62/nvsr62_07.pdf

univ of md curriculum http://issuu.com/umssw/docs/2014_msw_catalog?e=8856154/8719217

education http://whitehouseboysmen.org/blog/the-proposal/the-education-of-our-sons

selective service https://www.sss.gov/FSbenefits.htm