Why does the field of social work remain gender neutral today?
The field of social work primarily works with social problem and a way to work with them so they are not so dominating and devastating in a person’s life. Here it is necessary to talk to the person who has a problem and would like some manner of help in order to understand what has developed in this person’s life to produce the problems. Almost all social problems are coupled with a crisis in the person’s life. The way the social problem develops is that the person often does not have family, close friends, or a social network with whom the person can talk with so as to alleviate or help the crisis that this person is in. Thus allowing the crisis to develop into a full-blown social problem. There are many people who have a major or a minor crisis in their lives, but if the person has a responsive family, a good and caring employment network or a series of friends with whom the person can talk with and relate to, this is usually a good start preventing the development of the crisis into a social problem which can be a major block in one’s life and personal development. Today there are primarily men who have large and complicated social problems that they have had for many years and do not know how to go further in their lives. There are, of course, also women with social problems, but the majority are men, and here I refer to a major portion of the world. There is not much difference between the percentages of men who have social problems in the counties of the western world. We can refer to all kinds of social problem from crime, to unemployment, to sickness and economic difficulties. The absolute major portions of these people are men. It is possible to say that up around 80 % are men, whether we are referring to those with a crime record, those in jails or just those who have a minor problem of unemployment or drug use. The major portion are men. And this being the case the most logical and intelligent thing to do would be to try to find a connection between them being men and their social problems. There is a wealth of literature, mostly in English, regarding this connection between masculinity and men who have social problems. There is also a great deal of literature regarding the connection between masculinity and the existence of social problems, but also literature regarding the connection between race, economic background, educational training and family background and the existence of social problems. It is incredibly clear that those who are in jails today are in this category, i.e. men, who come from poor families and poor communities, with little or no education and a history of failure or problems in their lives. But almost the entire field of social work is based on an understanding of the person who has a problem as not having a gender, i.e. the field of social work is gender neutral. This amazes me the more I read, the more research I do, and the more teaching I do to social work students on the undergraduate and the graduate level. On Monday, May 13th, I am presenting two presentations at a conference reporting on the completion of a new research project regarding how to get more men to apply and attend schools of social work. This research does not involve the actual curriculum of social work training, but an attempt to attract more men to a university education in social work where there are today about 85 % women. Again this percentage of women students in a school of social work is about the same around the world, only with some minor variations. But beyond the attraction of men to the field of social work, which will be a revolution for the work in the schools, as well as for the nature of classroom discussions and research projects performed by the students during the course of their training. This is to say, that the debate and discussions regarding the field of social work, where there are both men and women involved, will potentially be a much more dynamic and realistic experience for both the teachers and the students in the course. My experience in teaching a seminar in "social work with men” for the last 10 years is that a gender approach to social work is a virtual eye opener for the students, as they gradually discover some of the hidden aspects of being a man, which many men hide and do not talk about or reveal. Many of these tribulations of being a "real man” can be some of the aspects which contribute to a crisis and the eventual rise of a social problem. Some of the aspects which are contributive to men having social problems and which many women social workers and social work students do not know about, or do not recognize that these aspects could be part of the impetus from the crisis to developing a social problem, have to with men trying to be men. A well-known researcher has written that "the biggest problem that men have is being men” because along this road are there many requirements and demands that many men fail to or cannon live up to. Men are generally silent about their own problems, men do not cry and men do not usually tell their football team mates about the crisis that they are in the middle of. This goes over the head of many women social workers working out of a gender neutral perspective as these women use their own personal history and friends to help them understand the problems men have and why they cannot work with these problems and tell their best friends about them in order to solicit their assistance. I have taught many, many classes with mostly women who have never, never thought about masculinity as being the reason or the seed to the generation of a social problem. In order to develop itself further the entire field of social work has to develop a significant gender specific approach to working with men as well as women who have social problems.