About Us: History of Division 51

Below is an archival reprint of the Division 51 Presidential Address given by Fredric E. Rabinowitz, Ph.D. to celebrate the division's 10th anniversary on August 19, 2005 at the APA convention:

 

It is an honor and pleasure to be addressing you today as the tenth President of Division 51, The Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity.  I want to acknowledge the support and trust that this division has placed in me to lead, facilitate, and continue a tradition that begun in 1995 under the leadership of Ron Levant, who was followed by Gary Brooks, Glenn Good, Mark Kiselica, Michael Andronico, James Dean, Sam Cochran, Corey Habben, and John Robertson in the role of President of the division. 

In celebrating our ten-year anniversary as a division, I would love to share with you some of the highlights that have marked our impact on APA, the world at large, and those who identify with our mission. First, let me read the mission statement that was created by a small group of men and women and ratified ten years ago.

 

“The Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity (SPSMM) promotes the critical study of how gender shapes and constricts men’s lives, and is committed to an enhancement of men’s capacity to experience their full human potential. SPSMM endeavors to erode constraining definitions of masculinity which historically have inhibited men’s development, their capacity to form meaningful relationships, and have contributed to the oppression of other people. SPSMM acknowledges its historical debt to feminist-inspired scholarship on gender, and commits itself to the support of groups such as women, gays, lesbians and people of color that have been uniquely oppressed by the gender/class/race system. SPSMM vigorously contends that the empowerment of all persons beyond narrow and restrictive gender role definitions leads to the highest level of functioning in individual women and men, to the most healthy interactions between the genders, and to the richest relationships between them.”

 

This mission statement is as relevant today as it was in 1995 and maybe more so given the shifting cultural tides toward a more simplistic and fundamentalist vision of the world and the role of men and women within it.  Exposing the cultural and psychological binds of masculinity is one of the tools that we have to make our lives and those we affect safer, more equitable, and more humane.  For ten years, the division has been supporting research, legislation, education, and psychological practices that positively impact men and boys and the women and children in these men’s lives.  Knowing the history of our division helps those who become a part of our group understand where we have been and how the foundations were built.  I have looked through our archival collection of SPSMM Bulletins and chosen a sampling of highlights from each year of the division’s existence.   I will conclude this address with my sense of where we still need to go.

 

After much debate about the name and its goals, The Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity became Division 51 of the American Psychological Association in 1995.  There were 774 charter members, eighteen of whom were grandfathered in as fellows.  Ron Levant was elected the first President and Gary Brooks the President-elect.  A uniquely designed slate of candidates for the Board of Directors ensured diversity in leadership and the support of the APA Council, which was concerned that the men’s division might conflict with divisions on women, ethnic minorities, and GLBT.  The first board of directors voted in included Marty Wong in the ethnic minority slate, James Harrison in the GLBT slate, Lenore Walker in the women’s slate, and James O’Neil as the at-large member.  Larry Morris was the first secretary, David Lutz, the first treasurer, Neil Massoth, the first Bulletin Editor, and Corey Habben, the first student affiliate representative.  With much energy and politicking behind the scenes, the division was birthed.  Ron Levant and William Pollack’s edited landmark book “A New Psychology of Men” was published and would help define the division’s emphasis on a positive and liberating vision of masculinity.  Brooks and Levant led an all men’s retreat (that had been started earlier as a part of the midwinter meeting of several divisions in 1992) to accompany the midwinter board meeting.  The retreat ran parallel to the retreat for Division 35, the Psychology of Women, with an inter-gender dialogue emerging in a combined format at the end.  Emotional support and powerful gender related insights have made the retreat a highlight at each year’s midwinter into the present.  Neil Massoth, as editor of the SPSMM Bulletin, began a tradition of having special focus sections illuminate the division 51 readership.  Marty Wong was one of the first guest editors of the Special Focus Section with a series of articles on Shame, Rage, and Malevolence in Men.

 

In the summer of 1997, the APA Council fully recognized Division 51 with permanent status.  The division showed it had staying power and membership support while it had been on its two-year candidacy status.  Highlights included Gary Brooks, the division’s president and some other division 51 members protesting the opening of the film “People vs. Larry Flynt” in San Francisco because of its blatant objectification of women.  Taleb Khairallah was the guest editor of the SFS on Culture and Masculinity; James O’Neil and Glenn Good were the guest editors on the SFS Gender Role Conflict: Personal Reflections and Overview of Recent Research, and Roy Scrivner was the guest editor for the SFS on Gay and Bisexual Men.

 

In 1998, APA approved funding for a Division 51 journal.  David Lisak was appointed the first Editor of Psychology of Men and Masculinity with its initial publication date set for January 2000.  We mourned the loss of Roy Scrivner, one of the founding members of the division and a powerful voice for the gay and lesbian community, who died of colon cancer.  Special Focus Sections of the Bulletin included:  Male Compartmentalization with guest editor Denise Twohey, Men’s Support Groups with guest editor John Colleti, Men and Depression with guest editor Sam Cochran, HIV and AIDS with guest editor Kurt DeBord, and Men in Relationships with guest editor David Lutz.  Jim Mahalik took over the editorship of the SPSMM Bulletin from Neil Massoth.  Pollack and Levant struck again with another landmark book entitled “New Psychotherapy for Men” that featured prominent division 51 clinicians with a new psychology of men perspective.

 

During the 1998-99 years, Mark Kiselica took over the presidency after elected President Neil Massoth had to resign due to his cancer treatment.  Neil successfully won his battle and has continued to provide inspiration to all of us with his tenacity and health.  Mark emphasized the positive elements of masculinity during his presidential year.  Special focus sections included: Contemporary Perspectives on Men and Health with guest editor Rod Hetzel; Military Veterans in Context: Men, Masculinity, and the VA with guest editor Gary Brooks; and Men and Cancer with guest editor Don McCreary.  In the outside world, division fellow William Pollack became the national spokesperson for understanding boys with his book “Real Boys” following the tragedy at Columbine High School.  Mark Kiselica and Andy Horne edited the “Handbook of Counseling Boys and Adolescent Males.” Chris Kilmartin and John Lynch published the “Pain behind the Mask” and Gary Brooks released his newest book  “A New Psychotherapy for Traditional Men.”  The division promoted its first pre-convention continuing education workshops at the Boston convention featuring programs on male depression led by Chris Kilmartin and John Lynch; the treatment of male survivors of abuse led by David Lisak and Larry Morris; Men’s empowerment through connection led by Joel Eichler and Edward Yeats; and a new psychotherapy for traditional men led by Gary Brooks.

The first issue of the journal “Psychology of Men and Masculinity” was published in January 2000.  The SPSMM list-serve became so popular with non-psychologists surfing the net with various political agendas that it moved from an open to a closed list.  Special focus sections in the Bulletin included: Women’s Voices in Division 51 edited by Roberta Nutt; Male Violence and Thinking about Violence Prevention edited by Ron Levant; Taking an International Perspective on Men and Masculinity edited by Jim Mahalik; and The Black Male: Major Psychological Challenges edited by Joseph White.  Sam Cochran and Fred Rabinowitz released their book “Men and Depression: Clinical and Empirical Perspectives.” Ed Tejerian had his book “Male to Male: Sexual Feeling Across the Boundary of Identity” published.  I would be remiss to not mention the dedicated work of Larry Beer who finally got the Division 51 Cookbook published, a project that was five years in the making.

 

In January of 2001, Division 51 joined Division 17, 35, 44, and 45 at the first multicultural midwinter conference in Santa Barbara where we had our business meeting and retreat. In the summer of 2001 division 51 members Mike Andronico, Ive Eicken, Vic Frazeo, and Neil Massoth provided free psychological consultation at an inner city Washington D.C. mental health clinic and soup kitchen.  The attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11 of the same year changed our world forever.  The heroic response by police and firefighters brought back to light the masculine qualities of sacrifice and bravery.  Division 51 member Warren Speilberg worked with New York City firefighters to deal with the grief and emotional impact of the trauma on their lives.  He wrote about his experience in the Bulletin in an article called “The firefighter, the ghost, and the psychologist.”  U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan chasing the oppressive Taliban from power and into hiding in the mountains.  Division 51 President-elect Corey Habben, doing contract psychological services for the army, began to see the first casualties of the war at Walter Reed Hospital.  The Bulletin’s special focus sections for the year included: New Directions for the Study of Men’s Ways of Relating with guest editor Vicki Putz; The Essential Father with guest editor Steven Abell; and Male Body Image and the Adonis Complex with guest editor Roberto Olvardia.

 

In 2002, President Sam Cochran laid out a strategic plan for the division emphasizing increased mentoring, more collaboration with other divisions, more high profile projects, and better marketing of the division that is being followed to this day.  Ray Fowler retired and Norman Anderson became APA’s Chief Executive Officer.  The SPSMM Bulletin had its final paper edition before going all electronic in the fall of 2002.  Rob Rando helped transition the Bulletin onto the Division 51 website.  Special Focus Sections included: Critical Dialogues Between Gay and Straight men with guest editors Doug Haldeman and Gary Brooks; Encountering Men in Prison with guest editors Scot Boespflug, Kwesi Dunston, and Francisco Sanchez;  Men’s Subjective Experience : Expanding Definitions of Masculinity with guest editors Ed Tejirian and Greg Van Hyfte; and Innovative Forms of Therapy with Men with guest editor Holly Sweet.  Glenn Good and Gary Brooks released their extensive two volume book “The New Handbook of Psychotherapy and Counseling with Men” utilizing the talent of many of division 51’s clinicians and APA published Fred Rabinowitz and Sam Cochran’s book “Deepening Psychotherapy with Men.”

 

In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq.  Ron Levant, our first division 51 President, ran for the Presidency of APA.  Sam Cochran took over the editorship of the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity.  Michael Addis and Jim Mahalik wrote the lead article in the January, 2003 American Psychologist  “Men, Masculinity, and the Contexts of Help Seeking.” Special Focus sections in the Bulletin included: Measuring Masculinity with guest editor Andrew Smiler; Mentoring Students Interested in Men and Masculinity with guest editor Matt Englar-Carlson; and Men, Masculinity, and the Movies with guest editor David Shepard.   Ron Levant was voted in as APA President-elect in 2004.  Division 51 board member Michael Mobley received a significant CODAPAR grant for cultural diversity forums that included a strong masculinity component.  The division 51 board considered at its midwinter meeting in Kansas City in 2004 a possible name change to “Psychology of Boys and Men” or “Psychology of Men and Masculinities” but in the end,  it was decided to keep our original divisional name.  Special focus sections for the Bulletin included East meets West: Reflections on Masculinity and Faith with guest editor Rod Hetzel; Kaleidoscopic Images of Diversity Among Men with guest editor Michael Mobley; and Teaching of Psychology with guest editor James O’Neil.  The division under the leadership of John Robertson added student members to the board of directors.  K. Bryant Smalley, Jennifer Lane, David Tager,  and Nick Larma became the first students to hold these non-voting positions in our history.  Division 51 member A.J. Franklin’s book “From Brotherhood to Manhood: Working with African American Men” was published, as was John Robinson’s book “Diversity in Human Interactions: The Tapestry of America.”  APA also released Mark Steven’s video of working with men in therapy.  Sadly, we lost masculinity scholar Loren Frankel in a car accident at the end of 2004.  The graduate student research award has been renamed for Loren and will be presented to our most promising graduate students in coming years.

 

In 2005, APA funded the Boys and Men guidelines project, with a goal of writing a document that will help psychologists and mental health professionals around the world work more effectively with boys and men in therapeutic, educational, and community settings.  This year our journal PMM increased from two to four publications per year.  Holly Sweet was the guest editor of the special focus section “The Women of Division 51” and Denise Twohey was the guest editor of a special focus section on “Men and Disability.” John Robertson, Mark Kiselica, Marty Heesacker, and Andy Horne have been consulting with PBS on the documentary “Country Boys” that depicts the lives of young men dealing with being fathers.  Aaron Rochlen has been working with the “Real Men, Real Depression” project sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health.

 

While this represents only a fraction of the scholarship and activities of our short ten year history, it is important to see what has been accomplished and acknowledge the division 51 members who have contributed to the dialogue and research on men and masculinity.  Our past will help us build the future.  From my vantage point I see that the division needs to continue to move forward on several fronts.  We need to remain a voice of scientific and practical information to the media about men especially in an era where the exploitation and simplification of the differences between men and women is commonplace.   Our journal PMM has become the major scientific resource for psychologists studying masculinity and male gender issues.  This means that we in the division need to nurture and mentor our graduate students to do gender research and become professionals with a focus in men’s studies.  While I believe we have been open and welcoming to student affiliates and new professionals, we need to make sure that we are intentional in this endeavor to ensure a healthy future for the Society.  We need to make sure our research moves beyond mainly Caucasian college samples and to more diverse populations. 

 

The focus of psychology of masculinity needs to continue to be expanded and integrated with research on men of color, men from various cultures, men with disabilities, and gay, bisexual, and transgendered men.  Our division needs to be both empathic of men’s struggles and critical of the limited version of masculinity promoted by the media and society.  Our division should be at the forefront of researching and influencing men’s health practices, including issues of male depression, steroid use, addiction, and aging.  We need to continue to be the source of research and innovative clinical findings on psychotherapy with boys and men.  Our division must also act in a social advocacy role for men who are struggling with being partners, students, workers, and fathers.  We are still at the very beginning of constructing a new psychology of men that is based on well-developed theoretical constructs and solid research findings.

Sometimes I am a bit distressed at the uphill struggle of changing masculinity man by man and as a society, but as Arlo Guthrie said during his rendition of his father’s song ‘This land is your land,’ “one person can make a difference.” If you touch one individual through teaching, mentoring, parenting, counseling, or just being a good person, you can initiate some change in the world.  Our division may only be ten years old, but we have begun to influence and impact a world that really needs our help.  Let’s keep the momentum going and celebrate our progress so far.