Why Should WA Have a Men's Commission? What Would It Do?
Washington State is considering a House Bill to create a Men's Commission. Why would a commission to look at issues that impact boys and men be a good thing? What would a Men's Commission do? How can you support it?
Washington could become the first state in the US to have a commission for boys and men. It's an idea whose time has come. (Several states are currently working on putting forward bills like the one being considered in WA.)
I've worked in areas of mental health advocacy for men for many years and it's been clear that there has been a big empathy gap when it comes to issues that negatively impact males compared to those that impact females. Lately I'm seeing encouraging signs that people are more ready to care about boys and men.
There are lots of reasons why people tend to look the other way when it comes to problems that men and boys are dealing with, but for the most part they aren't good reasons.
If you have trouble caring about men, maybe you can care about boys and male youth. If you have trouble caring about boys and male youth, maybe you can care about the females that are hurt by males who are hurting.
Clearly, men are hurting. And there has not been concerted effort to figure out why men are hurting and what can be done about it. We can change that.
A Washington State Men's Commission would "serve as a focal point in state government to better identify, measure, and minimize disparate and disproportionate outcomes for boys, male youth, and men."
A Men's Commission would not work in isolation and it would not take anything away from other groups. A key part of the commission mandate would be to "promote a collaborative effort between the men's commission, women's commission, LGBTQ commission, human rights commission, and minority commissions to achieve equal opportunity for all Washington residents."
[Throughout this post, anything in quotations comes directly from the words of the bill to establish the Men's Commission, HB 1917 - 2021-2022.]
What's In This Post
|How to Support the WA State Men's Commission HB 1917 - 2021-2022|
|WHAT WE NEED RIGHT NOW|
|How to Contact the State Government & Tribal Relations Committee|
|How to Contact the Bill Co-Sponsors|
|How to Ask Your Representative to Support HB 1917|
|Section 1 of HB 1917: Why We Need a Men's Commission|
|A Men's Commission Would Parallel the Existing Women’s Commission|
|Twice as Many Males are Homeless Compared to Females|
|Men Use More Drugs and Overdose More Often than Women|
|The Vast Majority of People Incarcerated are Male|
|Boys Drop Out of School at Higher Rate Than Girls|
|Twice as Many Boys Have ADHD Compared to Girls|
|There is a Shortage of Male Teachers|
|3/4 of Suicides are by Males|
|Males are Underrepresented in Nursing and Social Work Fields|
|Vast Majority of Workplace Injuries and Deaths are Male|
|Kids Would Benefit From More Time With Their Father|
|Sections 2, 3 & 4 of HB 1917: Duties of the Men's Commission|
[If you notice that I have made an error in any of the information contained in this post, please scroll down to the bottom and leave a comment so I can make a correction. Thanks.]
How to Support the WA State Men's Commission HB 1917 - 2021-2022
In later sections of this post, I'm going to tell you lots more about why it's a good idea for Washington to be the first state in the US to have a Men's Commission, and how the proposed commission will function, but I also want to let you know how easy it is to voice your support for the commission.
We need your voice to be added to those that are letting State Representatives know that they should vote for helping boys, male youth, and men.
WHAT WE NEED RIGHT NOW
The bill to establish a WA State Men's Commission has been submitted to the State Government & Tribal Relations Committee.
The Chairperson of that committee, Representative Javier Valdez (D), will decide by Tuesday, Jan 26th whether the bill will be taken up for consideration.
We need people to reach out to Rep. Valdez and other committee members to encourage acceptance of the bill (HB 1917 - 2021-2022) for public input and discussion.
I'll provide ways to contact Rep. Valdez and other committee members below.
Additionally, it can be helpful for you to encourage other legislators (i.e. your Representative) to contact Rep. Valdez with their support of the bill. Simple instructions to discover who your Representative is and how to contact them are supplied below.
I know from experience as a liberal working in the arena of advocacy for men that it may be easier to get Republican support for the bill, but it is important that we also get Democratic support. If you are a liberal, it may be particularly helpful for Democratic Representatives and Senators to hear that someone who aligns with their party wants them to support the bill.
How to Contact the State Government & Tribal Relations Committee
You can email or call members of the State Government & Tribal Relations Committee asking them to "Please bring up HB 1917 establishing a Men's Commission for a public hearing in the State Government and Tribal Relations Committee."
If you like, you can add why you think that Washingtonians would benefit from having a Men's Commission or why you support the bill. Your message can be short.
If any of these representatives are in your district that is doubly good, but it is helpful to contact them even if they are not your representative.
It may be helpful to send each a separate email rather than a bulk email to all. (Bulk emails tend to go into junk folders.) You can copy and paste your first email to send to others just changing who you are addressing.
Rep Javier Valdez (D), Chair
|(206) 905-8739||46, Lake City, Kenmore area|
|Rep. Debra Lekanoff (D), Vice Chair||Debra.Lekanoff@leg.wa.gov||(360) 419-5266||40, Bellingham area|
|Rep. Mike Volz (R), Ranking Minority Member||Mike.Volz@leg.wa.gov||(509) 456-2750||6, Spokane area|
|Rep. Jim Walsh (R), Assistant Ranking Minority Member||Jim.Walsh@leg.wa.gov||(360) 485-0547||19, Long Beach, Longview, area|
|Rep. Laurie Dolan (D)||Laurie.Dolan@leg.wa.gov||(360) 786-7940||
22, Olympia area
|Rep. Jenny Graham (R), also co-sponsor of the bill||Jenny.Graham@leg.wa.gov||(509) 960-5393||6th, Spokane area|
|Rep. Mia Gregerson (D)||Mia.Gregerson@leg.wa.gov||(253) 981-6278||33rd, Kent, Des Moines, area|
How to Contact the Bill Co-Sponsors
Four Representatives have co-sponsored the bill to establish a Men's Commission. It can be helpful if you contact them to express your appreciation and encourage them to work on getting the committee to accept the bill for discussion.
As with the committee members, it may be preferable to send individual emails rather than a bulk email to all the co-sponsors since bulk emails tend to end up in the junk folder.
Rep. Mary Dye (R), author of the bill
|(564) 888-2380||9th, Pullman, Othello, Ritzville area|
|Rep. Jenny Graham (R), also committee member||Jenny.Graham@leg.wa.gov||(509) 960-5393||6th, Spokane area|
|Rep. Gina Mosbrucker (R)||Gina.McCabe@leg.wa.gov||(360) 786-7856||14th, S Central WA, Yakima Indian Res|
|Rep. Tom Dent (R)||Tom.Dent@leg.wa.gov||(509) 941-2346||13th, Ellensburg, Moses Lake area|
How to Ask Your Representative to Support HB 1917
The WA State Legislature makes it very easy to get more information about the Men's Commission Bill and quickly encourage house members to support the bill. (In this first phase, that means encouraging them to ask the House State Government & Tribal Relations Committee to take up the bill for discussion.)
The graphic below helps you get the lay of the land on the Men's Commission Bill's webpage.
You don't need to know who your district Representative is or what district you live in. All you need to know is your address.
From the bill's page, you can find out who your Representative is and quickly send them a message of support for the establishment of a commission to help boys, male youth, and men.
Section 1 of HB 1917: Why We Need a Men's Commission
The first section of the bill explains why Washingtonians would benefit from the establishment of a commission for boys, male youth, and men.
"The legislature finds that a clearer picture of gender-based disparities can be provided when data is disaggregated by gender, in addition to other factors such as race and ethnicity.
Data, when disaggregated by gender, has shown that boys, male youth, and men experience a breadth of gender-based disparities.
The legislature finds it necessary, equitable, and inclusive to establish a Washington state men's commission tasked with addressing these gender-based disparities and advocating for the well-being of Washington's boys, male youth, and men."
In excerpts from the bill below, most sections with bullet points represent me summarizing the wording of the bill. Click here to see the full text of HB 1917.
A Men's Commission Would Parallel the Existing Women’s Commission
"In 2018, the Washington state women's commission was created to improve the well-being of women. . . The legislature finds that to achieve equal opportunity for all residents of the state, it is critical to also raise awareness of the many challenges faced by boys, male youth, and men, which lead to disproportionate outcomes experienced by that population.
Males experience disproportionate outcomes in areas such as:
domestic relations and family law matters, and
Twice as Many Males are Homeless Compared to Females
"The national alliance to end homelessness found that homelessness in America is largely a gendered phenomenon.
In the 2018 point-in-time count for Washington, 69 percent of individuals experiencing homelessness were male and 31 percent were female.
Of the males experiencing homelessness, 60 percent were living unsheltered; of the females experiencing homelessness, 59 percent were living unsheltered."
[NOTE: If there are more homeless men than women, and the same percentage of homeless men and women are unsheltered, that means that there are more unsheltered men than unsheltered women (60% of 69 is a larger number than 60% of 31.)
"The legislature finds that dismantling barriers and challenges that lead to homelessness, such as illicit drug use, among male youth and men is a crucial step in helping them to obtain and maintain health and economic security."
Men Use More Drugs and Overdose More Often than Women
Men are more likely than women to use almost all types of illicit drugs
Illicit drug use is more likely to result in emergency room visits or overdose deaths for men than for women
The Washington state department of health found that between 2000 and 2019:
60% of the individuals who overdosed on drugs were male, and
60% of deaths from opioid overdoses were male.
"The legislature finds that addiction is a precursor to incarceration and that a commission tasked with examining risk factors that lead to drug use among males and strategies for drug prevention is crucial to address drug addiction and break the cycle of incarceration."
The Vast Majority of People Incarcerated are Male
The legislature also finds that gender-based disparities are seen in the criminal justice system:
83% of people in Washington's city and county jails are male (2019)
94 percent of people confined in department of corrections' facilities in Washington are male (2021)
73% of youth placed in juvenile rehabilitation centers are male (2019)
"Not only are more male youth being placed in juvenile rehabilitation centers, but their average length of stay is significantly longer than it is for female youth. For residential obligations that ended during fiscal year 2020, the department of children, youth, and families reported that the average length of stay in a juvenile rehabilitation center for male youth was 351 days compared to 168 days for female youth."
"The legislature finds that a variety of risk factors and exposure to neglect and maltreatment during childhood and adolescence contribute to an increased risk of incarceration.
A 2016 systematic review of 62 prospective and longitudinal studies that looked at the association between exposure to maltreatment during childhood or adolescence and subsequent delinquent behavior found that for males, and only in part for females, maltreatment gives rise to other risk factors which are then associated with offending.
In addition, a 2008 study included in the systematic review found that neglect emerged as a strong predictor for a range of different types of crime offenses, and neglect was more influential in the pathway to delinquency for males.
The legislature finds that it is imperative to establish a commission tasked with examining risk factors commonly experienced by boys, male youth, and men and to use the information to inform policies and practices, eliminate contributing risk factors, improve outcomes for victims of maltreatment and neglect, and reduce incarceration rates for males."
Majority of Victims of Violent Crimes are Male
Males are the majority of the victims of violent crimes in Washington and accounted for 74% of homicides in the state (2020)
More than 3 out of 4 victims of homicide in the US are male (2019)
". . .data published by the Washington state patrol, as of May 2019 . . . also found that among missing Indigenous persons, nearly half are boys, male youth, or men, yet historically, male victims have not been included in legislation or public awareness campaigns."
Boys Drop Out of School at Higher Rate Than Girls
"Gender-based disparities are also found in education, where boys and male youth experience a range of inequities in K-12 education.
In 2019, the office of the superintendent of public instruction reported that male youth in Washington dropped out of high school at higher rates than female youth.
It also found that boys and male youth are suspended or expelled at higher rates than girls and female youth, which the legislature finds may result in more disruptions in their education thereby putting boys and male youth at risk of falling behind."
Twice as Many Boys Have ADHD Compared to Girls
The legislature also finds that male youth represent the majority of students with learning disabilities:
- 12.9% of boys compared to 5.6% of girls are diagnosed with ADHD (data collected between 2003 and 2011)
There is a Shortage of Male Teachers
"The legislature also finds it is important for boys, male youth, girls, and female youth to have adult men and women role models throughout their K-12 education, but Washington state is trending in the opposite direction of gender parity among teachers.
In 1996, 32 percent of teachers were male.
By 2020, that figure had dropped to 26 percent.
A 2018 evaluation of student survey data showed that students who were assigned to teachers of the same gender reported positive benefits in the areas of:
happiness in class,
feeling cared for and motivated by their teacher,
quality of student-teacher communication, and
"A men's commission tasked with examining gender-based learning needs and educating policymakers about educational tools and solutions tailored to address the specific needs of boys and male youth is necessary to ensure equity in the Washington education system."
3/4 of Suicides are by Males
"The legislature finds that gender-based disparities also exist in health care.
The center for disease control found that men suffer from a higher rate of suicide:
Between 2015 and 2019, among suicide victims in Washington between the ages of 10 and 30, four out of five were boys and male youth, and,
in 2020, among suicide victims of all age groups, three out of four were male.
"The legislature finds that a men's commission is necessary to examine the causes for the high suicide rate among males and assess best practices and solutions to reduce those rates."
Males are Underrepresented in Nursing and Social Work Fields
"The legislature finds that men experience disparities in the area of jobs and careers.
Nursing is a respected, well-paid career, but the department of health reported that of the estimated 62,394 registered nurses in Washington in 2019, only 12 percent were male.
Furthermore, social workers have a large influence over people's access to government services, however, only 16 percent of Washington's licensed social workers are men.
The legislature finds that it is important to establish a men's commission tasked with developing strategies to encourage men and male youth to consider careers in nursing and other professions where the workforce has traditionally been composed of mostly women."
Vast Majority of Workplace Injuries and Deaths are Male
Nearly 2/3 of the state workplace injuries in the private sector were experienced by men, and
men represented over 86% of workplace fatalities in the state.
"The legislature finds that a men's commission is necessary to study why current laws and practices that promote workplace safety are not working to decrease the number of workplace injuries and death.
In addition, the legislature finds that a men's commission is needed to assess the differences between men and women in similar jobs and explore ways to improve the culture and practices for jobs that are more likely to cause injury."
Kids Would Benefit From More Time With Their Father
"The legislature also finds that improvements need to be made around parenting equity and father engagement.
In 2015, the fatherhood project cited to numerous studies that found that people with actively involved father figures during childhood experience:
greater academic success,
positive social behavior in childhood,
reduced contact with the juvenile justice system,
higher levels of success in their careers and marriage, and
improved ability to handle stress as an adult.
However, the Washington state center for court research found that of the over 3,000 residential time summary reports filed with the court in 2016, only 15 percent of children were scheduled to spend more time with their father than their mother, and 21 percent were scheduled to spend equal amounts of time with both parents." [That means that 64% of kids get less time with their dad than with their mom.]
"The legislature finds that a men's commission tasked with examining obstacles that prevent a father's involvement in his children's lives and advocating for policies that reduce the chances that a father will be absent in his children's lives is necessary to achieving better short-term and long-term outcomes for all Washington youth."
The Men's Commission Would Collaborate With Other Commissions for Positive Change
"The legislature intends to promote a collaborative effort between the men's commission, women's commission, LGBTQ commission, human rights commission, and minority commissions to achieve equal opportunity for all Washington residents."
Sections 2, 3 & 4 of HB 1917: Duties of the Men's Commission
Section 2 begins with "The Washington state men's commission is In carrying out its duties under this chapter, the commission may only focus its efforts in the following five areas:
jobs, careers, and financial health;
fatherhood, family, and relationships;
physical and mental health; and
the experiences of males in the criminal justice system and other court systems.
Sections 2 and 3 then go on to describe the makeup of the commission (executive director, 9 voting members, 2 non-voting Senator members, and 2 non-voting House members) and practical working directives (how members are appointed, what serves as a quorum, etc.)
Section 4 describes the more detail for the duties of the Men's Commission including:
(a) Provide a clearinghouse for information regarding both state and federal legislation as it relates to the purpose of this chapter;
(b) Identify and define specific needs of boys, male youth, and men of all races and provide recommendations for addressing those needs in the biennial report to the legislature and governor under(c) of this subsection, and on an ongoing basis;
(c) Submit a report to the appropriate committees of the legislature and the governor every year, detailing the commission's activities;
(d) Consult with state agencies regarding the effect of agency policies, procedures, practices, laws, and administrative rules on the unique problems and needs of boys, male youth, and men. The commission shall also advise such state agencies on the development and implementation of comprehensive and coordinated policies, plans, and programs focusing on those problems and needs;
(e) Gather data and provide resource and referral information to agencies and the public in order to implement the purposes of this chapter;
(f) Hold public hearings to gather input on issues related to the unique problems and needs of men and male youth;
(g) Advocate for the removal of legal and social barriers for boys, male youth, and men.
- Ann Silvers