As a cell biologist, teacher, school administrator, and most recently, a psychotherapist, Moshe Rozdzial has actively sought positions which have allowed him to serve his community concerning a wide range of causes. But it was the birth of his son some 16 years ago that prompted him to change the lives and relations of men through the organization NOMAS. Growing up in the '60s and '70s, Rozdzial experienced a fairly typical father/son relationship while simultaneously being exposed to the destructiveness of the Vietnam War. These experiences prompted him to question the foundations of masculinity in our society and attempt to create a network in which men could learn to move outside the roles traditionally carved for them. NOMAS is a pro-feminist, gay-affirmative, anti-racist organization that seeks to enhance men's lives through workshops and eduation. Rozdzial is co-organizer of NOMAS's Silver Anniversary Conference on Men and Masculinity being held in Colorado Springs later this month.
How would you define masculininty? What I get when we talk about redefining masculinity or gender equality, people think that we're trying to make masculinity and femininity neutral. That's not what NOMAS is about. I want to redefine masculinity as humanity. The way masculinity is constructed in this culture, in Western patriarchal culture, is that men are placed into a certain box, the "masculinity box," and there are a certain set of characteristics which are only allowed for men. The fact that men have to be non-emotional, that men have to be the providers, the aggressors and competitive, that men have to be the ones that fight the wars, are very constricted aspects of our whole total human experience.
So essentially, NOMAS is trying to free humans from constricting roles, both male and female ... And that's why we are pro-feminist. That's the gift that feminism has given to men and our movement; that's where our roots are. What feminism said to women is that women have choices. ... As a men's movement that is pro-feminist we're saying the same things to men -- that men have choices, and that those choices are liberating, those choices will enhance men's lives.
Has our culture's vision of the "ideal man" changed in the past years? I think that our image of masculinity has changed post-Vietnam War when there was a reaction to violence. I think as our culture is becoming more and more aware of sexual and domestic abuse, that putting things out in the open about what's going on in this society is creating change. I think there is a backlash, that there is always fear of change.
Is there room for the John Waynes and Robert Mitchums of this world? Personally, I would not want to get rid of any aspects of positive humanity. I think our human characteristics are on a wide continuum. ... Men can have a full expression of their humanity, just like women. And if for some men that expression is John Wayne and Robert Mitchum, then wonderful, but not to constrict men who want to be like Harvey Fierstein or RuPaul.
The NOMAS Conference, 25 Years of Changing Men: History, Progress, and Opportunities, will be held at the Colorado College August 10-13, featuring a wide array of speakers, performers, and workshops. For more information, visit www.nomas.org or call 303/666-7043.