Dear NASW:

Men in social work, especially white men, are clearly feeling unwelcome. In fact, they are facing a hostile environment. They are being blamed for the world’s problems simply for being male. Here’s a quote from research by 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!”

This denigration of men and boys by social work and the social work educational system must stop immediately. Singling out any birth group by both race and sex as being negative is racist and sexist and profoundly turns its back on the social work code of ethics. This is a serious breach.

The world has seen this sort of prejudice and hatefulness before.

In the 20th century, in the words of sociologist Joyce Ladner, “Blacks were defined as the perpetrators and creators of social pathology and not as its victims.” As Ladner documents in her book The Death of White Sociology the view was promoted by the general public, the media, and even by academic research which tried to portray blacks as inferior to whites and responsible for our social ills. Evidence that showed blacks as being victimized was intentionally withheld as was any evidence showing blacks were superior to whites. Blacks were portrayed globally in a very poor light. Fast forward to the 21st century and you can see the very same dynamic but the names have changed. Now it is men who are seen as the perpetrators and creators of social pathology and not as its victims. It is men who are blamed, men whose hardships are intentionally hidden, men who are portrayed in a very poor light. Social work is a major player in pushing this agenda. Just look at the social work textbooks and see how men are portrayed in a negative light and their hardships are not mentioned. It is claimed through such ideas as toxic masculinity and very negative stereotypes of men in general. The male students participating in the research of Hyde and Deal were very clear in stating that their experience at social work school was that they were being blamed for the world’s problems simply because they were men.

The prejudice towards men exists in both social work education and in social work practice. The hardships and emotional pain of men and boys are routinely ignored in social work practice. Male victims of domestic violence are an afterthought as are male victims of suicide or males who have been genitally mutilated. Men are seen as the problem, not as a group that deserves compassion and choice.

This needs to stop and it needs to stop quickly. Every social worker and every social work school needs to evaluate their practices and textbooks and those that are found to foster this hatred need to be immediately addressed. Professors, supervisors and line social workers need to be monitored and those who show a hatefulness towards men need to be disciplined. Those who refuse to change need to be let go.

The problem now in social work is extensive and systemic. The “good ol boy” network is now a good ol girl network run by both men and women. The system is so rigid and hateful that people are afraid to challenge this hatred or to even stand up for the needs of men. We need to move to a place were we find love for both men and women.

Tom Golden, LCSW

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