The Society for the Psychological Study of Masculinity and Men, Division 51, American Psychological Association
volume 10
number 4
  
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  President's Message
 

Division 51 President Larry Beer

 

Division 51 President Larry Beer

It is an honor to be writing a presidential column for SPSMM. I acknowledge the rich tradition of leadership within this division prior to the onset of my term. I feel gratitude to the many men's scholars who have articulated the philosophical underpinnings of SPSMM and those who have sacrificed many hours to establish and develop this entity now called Division 51 of the American Psychological Association. Particular thanks go to Fred Rabinowitz who preceded me in this office and who led us with integrity during the past year. In this column I will introduce myself and explain my presidential initiatives.

 

Who am I?

I am a 51-year-old man who really enjoys being a man. I’ve been married to Cindy for 21 years and together we have three children: Alyssa, a freshman in college; Danielle, a high-school sophomore; and Adam, who is a sixth-grader. My parents remain married to each other and are in pretty good health. I have three younger brothers with whom I have good connections and speak to regularly. I also have some really nice friendships with other men and with women that I cherish.

My interests include playing and following sports, reading spy novels (Nelson DeMille is my favorite author), traveling and hanging out with the family I feel so lucky to have. Also among my favorite pastimes: playing guitar around a campfire with others who like to sing old folks songs; enjoying all kinds of music, particularly early 60s songs; and going to the casino with friends and gambling within reason. I even love talking about feelings with family and friends.

Professionally, I am an independent practitioner who owns and manages Child and Family Psychological Services in Kalamazoo, Mich. I founded this practice 17 years ago and still love being a therapist to men, women, couples, teens and kids. If you’re interested in finding out more of what I do professionally, my Web site is childandfamilypsych.com.

I became a psychologist because I wanted to be a therapist. I struggled a great deal during my childhood and teenage years. I had no clue of what it meant to feel good about myself. My parents decided that I should see a therapist when I was a teen, and that experience became life-changing. Today I am able to give back some of what I was so fortunate to receive.

I am a feminist if we define feminism as equal opportunity and rights for males and females. I realize, though, that that isn't the only definition. I like to debate issues with people who try as hard to listen and understand the views of others as much as they try to explain their own. Well, that is me in a nutshell. I am very interested in hearing about any of you who are willing to tell me.

My Initiatives

There is much I would like to help the division with, but I have narrowed it down to three areas. My first initiative is to review our by-laws and revise them as need be. With a debt of gratitude to Roberta Nutt, Ron Levant and Gary Brooks, our guidelines were developed about 11 years ago in a fairly quick manner so that we could rapidly move through the process of becoming a division. It worked and there are many good things which are a part of our by-laws. However, it is time for a review to make sure they accurately reflect the ways we run our division. I have put together an all-star review committee, which I will chair. Among those who have volunteered so far are Past Presidents Ron Levant and Sam Cochran, Members-at-Large Roberta Nutt and David Whitcomb, President-Elect Mark Stevens, Secretary David Shepard and former Program Chair Matt Englar-Carlson. Others who are interested are invited to participate. David Shepard will be mailing a copy of the by-laws to all current officers; if anyone else would like a copy, please contact me or David.

Did you know that according to our current by-laws committee chairs are not given votes during board meetings and that the administrative office for our division is in our secretary's office? Do we want to keep it that way? Maybe or maybe not. I think it is time to reevaluate our by-laws as we continue moving into our second decade as a division.

My second initiative is to turn around the membership trend. Since we became a division we have lost more than 300 members and are now under 500. We are one of the smallest divisions in APA and have lost membership every year since we started. To be fair, division membership thoughout APA has decreased, but not to the degree it has within our division. Our Membership Chair, Vic Frazao, has been addressing this issue, but it is too large a task for one person. I have asked Jim Mihalik, Ron Levant and Andrew Smiler to help Vic with this important committee and I am open to others who have an interest in being a part of this crucial process.

I believe we have a great deal to offer in terms of research opportunities and our journal, which is very highly regarded both within and outside of APA (kudos to David Lisak and Sam Cochran). I believe our most valued asset, though, is ourselves and the personal connection we share with each other. Connection is what brought me here and keeps me here. Connection is what we need to offer others who would be willing to make their own special contributions to Division 51 if we can find a way to invite them.

My final initiative is about relationships – relationships between men and other men, men and women and men and themselves. We need to build bridges between men who view being male in different ways. We need to strive to understand why we feel the way we do about being male and why someone else's view is different than our own. If we understood a person's experiences it might make it easier for us to empathize with them. It doesn't mean that we need to agree with them.

I recall the buzz at an APA meeting about 10 years ago when we arranged for Robert Bly to be on a panel with Bill Pollack and others. People were wondering what it would be like to hear from two very articulate authorities who seemingly had such different viewpoints on being a man. The result was terrific. Ideas were exchanged and understanding grew. It was a respectful dialogue that in my mind remains a model for further dialogue between males with different perspectives on what it is like to be a man.

One of the foundations of this division is our relationships with women. The contributions of women to Division 51 are vast and central. We are extremely indebted to Louise Silverstein, Denise Twohey, Holly Sweet, Roberta Nutt, Michele Harway (our great treasurer), Pam Remer, Cynthia De La Fuentes, Lenore Walker and many others who have worked closely and collaboratively with us as we have evolved. They have helped us become an empathic group of men regarding women's issues. They have supported us throughout APA. We need to keep developing programs that allow for positive and kind connections between the genders. We need to keep reaching out to other female members of APA and encourage them to be a part of our division.

I’m sure I’m not the only man who has struggled at times with feeling good about himself. Even though there are more men in therapy than ever before, we need to keep finding ways to help men become happier individuals, better fathers, partners, friends and co-workers. We need to teach and encourage men and women to create emotionally safe environments so that men can communicate in the world of feelings. We need to teach men how to use their power in respectful ways toward women and other men so they can feel emotionally and physically safe.

An example of how this can happen is evident in a recent book written by Jeffrey Marx called Season of Life. In his book, Mr. Marx describes a high-school football team coached by Joe Ehrmann, a former professional football player and captain of the Baltimore Colts. Mr. Marx describes how the principles from men's psychology are being used to help shape the relationships of football players with each other and with other students of the school. I will go into more details of this book in my next column, but I encourage you to read this book. I think it describes very well what this division is all about.

So as you can see I have presented quite an agenda for Division 51 for this year. I will do all I can to guide this division as it continues to evolve as a valuable and meaningful division of the APA. Thank you in advance for your continued contributions – I look forward to working with all of you throughout the year.

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  Edited by: Christopher Kilmartin, Ph.D.