Barbara Jordan’s remark at a September fundraising meeting that men are structurally less compassionate than women raised the hackles of one resident of Stephenville, sixty miles west of Fort Worth. John Macchietto, a psychologist and the director of the student counseling center at Tarleton State University, likened the comment to Clayton Williams’ rape joke. Instead of relaxing and enjoying it, Macchietto let fly a press release that brought attention to the sexism in Jordan’s declaration and to an organization on whose board Macchietto serves, the National Coalition of Free Men, and he spread the word to his colleagues. One, Robert K. Smith, wrote Jordan, chiding her stance. Jordan responded with an unrepentant note. Macchietto, who is 38 years old and the divorced father of two, also dashed off a letter to Governor Ann Richards, who didn’t respond at all.
The activist group, which numbers more than a thousand nationwide, is the oldest organization in the country that deals with men’s civil rights issues. Macchietto explains that the men’s movement lags twenty years behind the women’s movement and suffers from a credibility problem: “When we complain about inequality, we are accused of whining or of being touchy.” In a recent radio interview, Macchietto was stunned when the host called him a “pansy.” The soft-spoken counselor says he is no pansy and is considering a lawsuit or a complaint to the Federal Communications Commission. The incident suggests that men have plenty to complain about. “There is a strong faction of male hate in this country,” Macchietto says, and his research shows that there are at least as many battered husbands as there are wives and that violence against men is actually condoned. “Why is it considered funny when a man takes a kick in the groin on a sitcom?” he wonders. “If a woman were struck on the breasts, everyone would be outraged.”
Macchietto has even taken up his cause with the Hallmark greeting card company, which, in the crusader’s opinion, does not care enough to send the very best. Hallmark hawks a line of cards that Macchietto says are male-bashing. One reads, “Men are scum.” On the inside it continues, “Excuse me. For a second there, I was feeling generous.” Another in the misanthropic series complains, “Men are like birthdays—the more you encounter, the more you want to scream!” Hallmark claims the cards reflect the centuries-old battle of the sexes; Macchietto contends that the card company would never dream of marketing a “Women are scum” card.
Are things any different at Tarleton State, an outpost of Texas A&M University, where championship rodeo is as popular as football? No, assures Macchietto. “There is a myth that cowboys don’t have feelings.” And his clients don’t buck the national trend of two women for every man coming in for counseling. Macchietto, who believes that the women’s movement has blamed all women’s problems on men, promises that his female clients don’t get a crash course in male rights: “All I want is for all people to be empowered—when men are liberated, women will be liberated too.”