The Bad-Man Hype

How did we go from ignoring the bad things men do to talking about them all the time? Victoria Medgyesi explores the cultural—and personal—cost of ignoring the obvious.


It took the 14-year old son of a friend to point out the obvious. “I don’t see many good stories about men,” he said, browsing through a newspaper.

“So how does that make you feel?” I asked.

“Not very good,” he replied, as he flipped through pages filled with stories about pedophiliac priests, teenage boys who kill, financial swindlers, sadistic dictators, pimps, homophobic politicians who sleep with men, soldiers who rape, online sexual predators, serial killers, boyfriends who batter, celebrities who cheat, men who kidnap and imprison kids, and fathers who molest, kill, or abandon their families.

Prior to his not-so-innocent remark, I hadn’t thought much about how the daily barrage of negativity affects the way men and boys feel about themselves—and about other men. Neither had I asked how such sensationalized stories affect the way women and girls relate to fathers and sons, friends and lovers, husbands, teachers, colleagues, or to any man or boy they pass on the street. And that’s when it occurred to me. I was so used to mucking around in the “bad man hype” that I couldn’t see the dirt clinging to my boots. I soon discovered I wasn’t alone. So far have the scales tipped in the negative direction that many people laughed when told them I was looking for “good stories about men.”

“Are there any?” was a typical reply. It made sense. After all, the negative news comes at such a furious pace we barely notice when one horrific tale ends and another begins.

Though men clearly do plenty of bad and stupid things, has our global quest for truth and justice caused us to automatically expect the worst from them? Could the non-stop negativity in fact be contributing to the very behaviors we’d like to see eradicated?

The barriers to asking that question—let alone discussing it—are huge.

Cultural inertia is strong impediment to progress. The media clings to the tried and true—even if it’s usually far from the truth. Men are typecast as bad, silly, or incompetent. Who hasn’t laughed at the dumb dad or the dimwit boss featured on television? In advertisements, these guys can be found cluelessly pitchingeverything from frozen pies to detergent. Films and electronic games make the most of male-induced gore. The same is true for news and opinion shows. So, is the stereotype setting the commercial tone—or vice versa? Given the onslaught of negativity, could some men simply be living up to the message?

Maybe you’re thinking, “You’re talking about entertainment. I can tell the difference between that and real life. It doesn’t affect the way I think or feel about men.” Don’t bet on it. While it’s no longer necessary to prove that stereotypes such as “blacks are lazy” and “women are bitches” are harmful, it’s not necessarily the case when it comes to stereotypes about men. Most stand without comment, and we seldom ask why.

Over the past fifty years, we’ve gone from ignoring many of the bad things men do to talking about them all the time. So why aren’t we talking more about how this “shift” affects both genders?

For one thing, many men are in denial. “Nah, stereotypes don’t affect me,” they say, perhaps believing that personal power, education, money, or skin color will protect them from the fallout. Others get it. “Does a fish notice it’s swimming in water?” a male friend told me. “For men, these stereotypes have always been there. We just keep paddling around the deep end trying to survive.”

The truth is, stereotypes respect no one. If one in a group is suspect, all are. The stakes rise when gender stereotyping is paired with additional cultural baggage related to a person’s ethnicity, sexual preference, age, or disability.

So, where does this leave us? How do we change? We know stereotypes are wrong, but—damn it—somebody’s to blame for this all this bad stuff, right? What if we looked at it this way: It’s not because of women, men, religion, parents, feminism, the government, or the media that we’re in this position. It’s because of society’s attraction to violent, titillating, bizarre stories sparked by incident, fueled by myth, and spread by endless repetition.

For things to shift, both sexes need the willingness to see the advantage in moving beyond the stereotype. Doing so could be as simple as telling a few good stories. It’s a small act, but one with extreme personal power. Not stories about men who are always good, but kick-ass stories about men where a moral choice had to be made, and the real-life choice was the right one.

But are we ready to let go of the stereotypical big, bad wolf? In today’s “brand focused” marketplace, are we willing to expand the list of attributes that cling to men to include more competent (and, dare I say it, good) behaviors and strengths?

Doing so requires a belief in this fundamental truth: Though men aren’t saints, nor are they universally sinners. Like women, they aren’t necessary good at everything they do, but neither are they bad on every critical level. And though men and women don’t necessarily feel negatively toward the men in their everyday lives, they still to varying degrees fear and make fun of men in general. Sometimes they don’t know why, or even that they’re doing it.

Which brings me back to the day my young friend pointed out how much “bad stuff” he saw in the paper. As I sat there taking in the enormity of his comment, I knew I could let the moment pass, or I could give him something to hold on to. And so I told him a story from my own life:

Many years ago, a man saved my life at great risk to his own. He didn’t have to, he just did. I was headed south from Mexico City toward the Guatemalan border when the rickety bus we were riding in came to a shuddering stop in the middle of the night. The bus was hours behind schedule to begin with now here we were—stuck in the middle of a tropical jungle. Any kind of help, I was told, wouldn’t come before dawn.

Most of the passengers were farmers traveling with crates of chickens and baskets filled with goods from the market. (Someone even brought a goat.) On a better day, I would have thought it high adventure. But that day, I was sick and my fever was beginning to spike. All I wanted was to get to my destination—a small fishing village on the coast.

The truth is, I probably shouldn’t have been on that bus at all. When I told some locals I met along the way where I was going, they tried to convince me this “milk run” was a bad idea. There were banditos along the way, and they said the market for American women wasn’t just a rumor. It was reality. Besides, they argued, there were more direct routes, and more reliable buses. “No matter what happens, don’t leave the bus until you get where you’re going,” they yelled as I waved goodbye. Even so, when the bus stalled, all that registered as an immediate danger were the blood-sucking bugs.

During the early hours of the trip, I’d spent time talking to a music student from the Universidad in Mexico City. He had thick, black hair that fell to the middle of his back, something you didn’t see much on local boys. He was headed home to visit his family, and he told me breakdowns on this route were nothing new. “You can come with me or you can stay here by yourself,” he said as he stepped off the bus and headed—along with everyone else—up a narrow path that cut through the tangled growth. A few minutes later, we came to a clearing with a small shed at the far perimeter.

I was traveling light, with just a small daypack and a bedroll. “You sleep against the shed,” the student said. He rolled his blanket out beside mine and we settled in. Sick and feverish, the roaring in my ears intensified with the sounds of the night. I had no idea how much time passed before I felt his body pressing down on mine, felt the heavy mass of his hair as it covered my face, felt the sweat from his body seep into mine. I wanted to throw him off—fight back—but I willed myself not to move. Surrounded as I was by strangers who had no reason to come to my aid, to be raped or killed seemed the obvious outcome. I asked only that my fear render me unconscious and keep me there until dawn—or until whatever was going to happen, happened.

The next thing I knew the sun was up. I sat up and looked around, and it was not a peaceful scene. Scattered about were the remains of the baskets. Some of the chickens, now free of their crates, pecked at the dirt in search of a meal. God knows what happened to the goat. Most of the farmers had moved their blankets into the shade. The student lay on his beside me, his eyes on mine.

Only then did I look down. My clothes hadn’t been touched. I had not been raped. I was alive. I was still on my blanket on that small piece of dirt in front of the rough wooden shed in some unknown—but very beautiful—spot the jungle.

“I was worried they would find you and take you and kill me for hiding you,” the student said quietly. “I was scared.” The banditos had come; banditos with machetes looking to replenish their supplies and whatever else they could find.

Slowly, I also came to realize this young man saved my life. He did so with his body and his veil of long hair; in his act of spontaneous bravery, he had risked his own life. He didn’t have to do it. He just did. Another bus arrived a few hours later, and we went on our way.

“Wow, that was something,” my young friend said when I’d finished the story. He was clearly impressed.

“You see,” I told him, “men do good things. It’s as simple as that.

Have a good story about men? Dare to tell it.

About Victoria Medgyesi

Writer and speaker Victoria Medgyesi challenges the assumptions behind negative stereotypes, and the hidden cost to both men and women of not doing so, in “The Bad-Man Hype.” As a journalist, her groundbreaking coverage of how stereotypes impact people with disabilities earned numerous awards. Visit her website and share your stories here.


  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    Mark. Clearly, that’s not the norm. As Peggy Noonan said, the guy who punched the shark–and was killed–to save his wife doesn’t get nearly the applause a Woody Allen type would get for a humorous reflection on not punching the shark.
    And I didn’t say it should be the norm. I said that if we give these guys universal approbation, it becomes the norm and there are some guys who are afraid of such a standard. You could get killed.
    And, as a culture, we get to choose our norm. Some think self-sacrifice is a minimum standard in such situations. Others don’t.
    My own feeling is that, if I thought quickly enough, I’d do it. I’ve done several things which could have gone wrong and gotten me killed, but which went right. But I knew the risks going in. So I think I would, given sufficient mental acuity to assess the situation.
    Given that, if I failed, I’d reproach myself, and I would reproach anybody else who bailed. Like the guy who got hold of himself halfway home as you mentioned. I think–I hope–he’s an object of fascination like any deformed part of nature. Not a valid behavior choice.

    • Perhaps you should read the comments section of those types of articles and see just how many people think it IS the norm. The expectation of what a “real man” is… and how few actually rail against that view.

      Let me ask you… WHY doesn’t the guy punching the shark to save his wife get as much of an applause as the Woody Allen humorous reflection? Perhaps it’s because what the guy did is what was expected of him, and isn’t seen as anything special?

      And while it bothers me to think that this is what is expected of men (but what makes a woman something incredibly special? so much for equality), it likewise bothers me the idea that these people’s should sacrifices, their risks, should be ignored as if they were everyday actions and expectations. Or as if they were some horrible thing to have done. What those people did was special. It was dangerous, but they did it anyways for the potential to save another’s life. They should be recognized as doing something out of the ordinary, and the current system of seeing it as the norm, and your system of ignoring it to avoid becoming the norm… nether of these works for me.

  2. Here’s one that just showed up in the newspaper–abc-news-topstories.html

    There are also the 4 men who died protecting women in the recent batman shooting.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      Ref the Batman shooting: IIRC, the guys did not receive universal approbation. Problem is…if they did good, that’s the standard. And who wants to live up to that standard? You could be killed!

      • I will agree that the guys did not receive universal approbation, and I think that’s the problem. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging when men do heroic stuff, as a sign of man’s potential. But I will agree with you that it has become the standard. An expectation. A man is expected to use his body as a shield to save the life of a woman. We’re told “that’s what a real man does”. The irony being that those who say that’s what it means to be a real man are often the same ones that say men are all Schrodinger’s rapist. It’s not wrong to recognize people for their heroic actions. For their self sacrifice that THEY choose to make. But it is wrong to pretend that’s the norm, the expectation. After all, if that’s just the everyday expectation, what does one need to do to be a hero? For a women, it’s pointing a finger at an alleged rapist. But a man… even giving away his life for another is only what’s expected.

        So I partially agree and partially disagree with what I interpret as your position. Sad part is, the guy who ran out of the theater and left his girlfriend behind got more attention than the 4 men who died saving other peoples lives.

  3. Mark Neil says:

    I’ve seen it often, and not sure who to attribute the quote to, but it is said “a society that treats it’s men despicably will inevitably raise despicable men”.

    This has come about as a result of attempts to level the playing field for women. Tear men down in order to raise women up. I know many feminists will take offense to this, but I point to Dworkin and her assertions about men, male sexuality, and heterosexual sex. This isn’t an assertion that all feminists are like this, only that some feminists took this route and it has stuck. Add to that the resistance to the idea that men can be discriminated against, or victims of some kind of systemic negativity, and you have a scenario where men are reflected on poorly and aren’t able to raise attention to it without being called whiners, humorless, misogynists or “afraid of losing their privilege”.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    “dare” to tell the story? That implies there’s some risk. Don’t think so.

    I suppose the cumulative effect of the cumulative effect is inescapable, but most men I know or know of don’t pay any attention. Oh, they know it exists. But it’s meaningless to them. Since nobody they know is dumb and evil, or if they are, there are other men who take care of business, it’s meaningless as to having an effect on them.
    Except to muse that the advertisers work very hard and spend a great deal of money to appeal to a specific target market. And who’s supposed to be buying the stuff marketed in the dumb-guy ads? Got to wonder about that.

  5. Hype? I don’t really find it hype at all. Although yes, news is generally negative, I didn’t need the news to have my life experience filled with bad men. And most of them were not friends, or any other closer relationship than stranger.
    People abuse power when they have it. Nothing is more powerful right now than a straight, white, cis-male (passing or actually).
    Mash that up however you want it, take out the white, the straight, whatever. We live in a patriarchy.

  6. Men are also victims of domestic violence but the world thinks that such thing does not exist, I request everyone suffering such abuse to come out and let the world know what you are going through as silently suffering will not solve the problem but only make it worse. –

  7. I have also noted that the media is full of male hating articles. They have stooped so low that similar actions by both the gender are reported differently, they praise women for doing a particular act while criticize men for doing same thing –

  8. raindizzle says:

    Here is an article I read on Jezebel a few weeks ago. It is about a research study that paints a picture somewhat contrary to what the author and many commenters seem to feel is the case:

    • Cecil Westervelt says:

      Your standards for research are very low, as are your requirements for what qualifies as a reliable source.

      • PsyConomics says:

        Here is a link to the fulltext PDF:

        Yeah, the article was reported on Jezebel, but despite such a handicap the science seems ok. The type of social communications explored in the article is not my field of study, but the authors do a good job of laying out the theoretical framework of what they’re trying to investigate.

        The biggest problem is that it doesn’t look to be randomly controlled in that they did not “assign” certain amounts of TV watching to people. Depending on the social theory involved this isn’t an entirely damning observation since one can control for a lot of social factors (socio-economic status, race, etc.) that might cause noise. This does mean that the research is not “conclusive,” but it might be enough to give us a rather strong warning/concern, especially if we see similar observations all over the place.

    • So all boys are white now?

  9. dragnet says:

    “How did we go from ignoring the bad things men do to talking about them all the time?”

    There was never a time in human history where the “bad things men do” were ignored.

  10. Thank you so much for this article! I wish I had more to say, but you basically wrote all of it!

  11. Transhuman says:

    I choose not to define myself as a “good man”, because all too often it can be translated as “man who does things that only benefit women”. If women describe me as a “bad man” because of that, so be it.

    Better to be hated for what you are then loved for what you are not.

  12. Just by way of perspective, isn’t MOST of the news about bad things happening, whether men are responsible or not? It’s not like the newspaper combines stories about evil men making the world worse and wonderful women making the world better.

    • You haven’t seen much news, then, have you?

      It’s usually pretty obvious. They’ll cover a disaster like Haiti and follow the men helping out saying “this creates an open opportunity for rapists and pedophiles, so the situation is still very dangerous.”

      Then they’ll cover a story about a woman getting a promotion, and talk about “The brilliance of this woman to overcome the challenges of modern womanhood.” Or better yet, they’ll laugh at castration, or give comments like “so have the statistics finally shown that women are smarter?”

      And as I recall, there was a story about some hero in Iraq, but the story was interrupted by Hillary Clinton losing her shoe while walking up the stairs to work.

      • Probably because… it is a challenge for a woman to develop a career, especially in a corporate sense or any other largely male-dominated area since not long ago, at least in the U.S., women were expected greatly to stay home and tend to the house and children only, whether or not they wanted to get married into such a life.

        And nearly 100% of rapists are males. It is already happening at such a large scale, it is so common, even though it’s illegal. So imagine putting a natural disaster or other catastrophe that puts life into more chaos, people take advantage of it. So it’s an actual reality.

        • Mark Neil says:

          You’re clearly not familiar with the CDC’s study on intimate partner and sexual violence if you’re going to assert that rape is nearly 100% male committed. It is simply that rape committed by men is the only rape that matters to our society.

          As to your first paragraph, you are creating an excuse for the outcomes, trying to justifying it. But that is not the same as it not happening. You may be OK with society browbeating men, but that’s part of the problem.

        • female on male rape is a difficult one to gauge because it is often under-reported and/or not seen legally as rape.

          According to a study that I cannot find but I will link to it when I do, If you count being forced, or coerced (under the influence of drugs, underage ect) to penetrate another person as rape, women make up about 40% of rape cases.

          This does suggest that rape is not as one sided as society of even feminists make it out to be and yes I will link to the study when I find it but so far I have only found articles mentioning it.

          • I do take back what I said about feminists, Many feminists writers do believe it is rape and are drawing attention to it.

        • “And nearly 100% of rapists are males. It is already happening at such a large scale, it is so common, even though it’s illegal. So imagine putting a natural disaster or other catastrophe that puts life into more chaos, people take advantage of it. So it’s an actual reality.”
          So the fact that a small portion of men are rapists (because remember just because most rapes are committed by men that doesn’t mean most men are not rapists) justifies whitewashing out men who are actually doing some good and offering aid?

          And that’s the problem.

          I watch a lot of crime documentaries (so the channel Investigation Discovery is a new drug to me) and something I’ve noticed is that if one man attacks a woman and there are 5 men that take part in helping her its that one man that becomes the representation of all men.

          Sure you can say its because he is the one that did the bad thing that even required those other men to help in the first place but if that is the case then name me any other group of people where it would even be considered proper to hold up the criminal subset as representation of the whole.

          So its more than what is “actual reality”. If it were that then the men that are doing the helping would be the ones held up as examples of what men are like. But time and against they are not and instead the criminals are held up as representation of men.

    • Mark Neil says:

      Just by way of perspective, did you notice her article wasn’t limited to the news, but of how men are portrayed in all the various media?

  13. Eirene Faust says:

    @Henry, this is all very anecdotal evidence you’re presenting, and I don’t much see the use of it to this discussion. There is plenty of literature to suggest that all-female boarding schools, for instance, are also more egalitarian and actually much more masculine. Also, your assertion that women “prefer men who are more stereotypically male” runs contrary to evidence that women prefer feminine qualities in their mates. There are certainly differences between men and women, but proving which are nature and which are nurture is so complicated as to be typically futile.

    This is a fascinating article, though I do think the truth is more complicated than you’re describing (of course– this is just one article!). I think there are really just as many good stereotypes about men as bad ones; it’s just that because men in general have been (and are being) brought to task over sexism, men are insecure, and are both sheepish about their manliness and feel the need to assert it. There are plenty of Dumb Dads on TV– Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin, the guy from Knocked Up, etc– who are patiently cared for by their attractive, perfect wives. However, who actually gets to be the better CHARACTER? Who is funnier and more memorable? That is worth just as much, and the answer is, inevitably the men; the women aren’t nearly as funny unless they are the butt of the jokes. The women get to be perfect, but not interesting.

    It’s akin to the current trend in action movies where the woman is very capable and it’s made a show of, and the man is, initially, weak, a nerd, awkward, antisocial, etc. etc.. However, throughout the movie the man is “reformed,” typically by caring for the woman, and ends up kicking all the ass and (more often than not) saving the woman’s life. (This happens with portrayals of white people, too; see Dances With Wolves, Avatar, ad nauseum.)

    This is both a deceptively good stereotype and a deceptively bad one. It’s double-edged for men, because it reinforces insecurities that they are not allowed to deal with often enough in our current climate. Historically, societies have defined masculinity as everything femininity is not– whatever femininity might be. If men are strong, women are weak. If men write poetry, women are not sensitive enough to be capable of it. If men are civilized, women are irrational and have out of control sex drives that must be contained. Etc., etc. What needs to happen is men need to be able to get over it and be people, but how can they do that when they’re being told that they must be masculine on one hand and that masculinity is bad on the other? It’s tug of war, and they’re the rope.

    • Cecil Westervelt says:

      You just spent a few hundred words pigeonholing men, calling them inferior, decrying the evils they commit. You deny and argue against anything that might speak not highly, but just non-negatively of men. In short you presented males as less than human, and then proceed to say “What needs to happen is men need to be able to get over it and be people”

      • Actually, this person is talking about the messages men receive. They did not say “men need to get over it and be people”, but rather that is the sort of message they get in current media. They are in fact, being sensitive to the double-edged sword that men can face

  14. Rick Browning says:

    Thanks for an interesting article Victoria…. I never really thought about “hype” that way before. It may have something to do with the fact that news in general, not just news about men, is generally negative. What is that about? It just seems train wrecks are more captivating than flowers…

    • Mark Neil says:

      While this is true, there are trends that the news tends to follow that you will likely start to notice once made aware of it. You will find that stories about positive actions will ether refer to the women who did the positive thing, or the [insert job title here]. Rarely will you see an article about the men who did good. You’ll likewise see a similar thing with victims of tragedies. When a mine collapses and kills dozens of MEN (as happened recently), you will hear reports of the [miners] buried, the [victims] who died, and the [people] injured. Alternatively, you will often see articles specifying women (and children), such as “a raid on XXX building resulted in 24 deaths, including XX women and children” (thus letting you know of the important deaths, and that men, the unidentified gender, was the correct ones to die.

      That said, this article doesn’t restrict her position to just news. TV also presents men in the negative constantly. Men are the bumbling idiot fathers, the abusers, the rapists or, at best, the moral cop with anger issues and a savior complex. The only time a father is ever portrayed in a positive light is when he’s struggling to cope with the mothers death and raising the child on his own. When violence is committed on TV or in movies, it is against men. In the few occasions it is against women, it is the focus of the plot (who dun it or cause for revenge), or else is it against the female lead, and is intended only as a device to get her prepared to kick ass. There are exceptions, but they are exceedingly rare, and often rather unique (think asian girl killing herself against a purely defensive chris tucker in rush hour)

  15. Wonderful article. You make a great point

  16. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    This is a rich discussion, and it would be impossible to respond to everything. On the “war” comment above (men start all the wars), remember that, if there were no women, there would probably be no wars. I’m pretty sure of this because in the only two mostly male environments I’ve been in (boarding school and the Army- 60s) there were few cliques. There was hierarchy, but it was fluid, and one could get higher status through effort. When I went to public high school, cliques abounded. And the terms of competition were more irrational and unfair. More labeling. Women had and have, by the way, more deft social skills, some of them aggressive ones. (Witness the high school clique-cruelty inflcted by women. None of this really changes among adults.) Women, unlike men, are likely to invent whole-cloth information about others to get them in trouble socially. Sometimes men wax very cruel to win women or the resources that will win them, but I believe that one thing we’re not facing is how much women have to do with male aggression– sometimes as instigators, sometimes as prizes.

    In spite of feminism, which implicitly usually takes the view that men and women will change due to confrontation and education, male and female behavior is deeply ingrained, and probably sits on a biological substrate. When many men become stereotypically non-sexist, their agressive behavior goes underground and they get passive-aggressive and creepy much of the time. I can’t tell you the number of men I’ve seen trying to dominate women through faux-“feminism.” Also, women usually seem to perfer men who are more stereotypically male, in spite of protestations to the contrary.

    So, I believe that the “men are evil” stereotype is essentially a projection of the “shadow,” as Jung might have it, on men by both women, who don’t choose to see their own aggression, and tractable men, who remain very aggressive, but are hiding it from themselves and women– trying to compete for women in a new way.

    None of this is to argue that there shouldn’t be absolute social justice: equal opportunities for women, positions at the top, etc. (Recent research has shown that women are doing far better than supposed–see this month’s Harpers, e.g.) But women and men need a better understanding of who they are– naturally.

  17. There are ‘bad’ men…and ‘heroes’…and the other 99 percent of us average people who just plug along…

    Also, it occurs to me that Wall Street is mostly a male-dominated environment that doesn’t usually fall in the ‘bad” category, but should…

  18. Peter Parker says:

    A major force of perpetuating and even creating stereotypes and “exposing” and bombarding us with stories of bad men is capitalism. Men, corporations, TV stations, advertisers will say, do or report on anything that will make them money. Human nature is to be curious about everyone else, so we all eat up any stories with scandal, violence, corruption, etc. “If it bleeds, it leads” is the saying in the newsroom.
    The problem becomes when people start believing the BS in the media. Remember the saying, “Don’t believe everything you read?” Well, in our information overload age, it should be “Don’t believe 90% of what you see, read or hear” There are two sides (or more) to every story, yet usually only hear one side which doesn’t represent reality, the truth or enlighten the consumer on the issues at hand.
    If we want to stop the BS, then turn off the television, quit reading the gossip rags and stop supporting the money making media monster that we’ve created.

  19. Hello,

    I felt that I need to say something. As GenX male, I have seen a generation of women outperform men. Some statistics for you specifically in education:

    At Berkeley I was the victim of intense sexism in many of my classes, add to this the racism which I palpable felt as early as four years old when I as an American born male was asked for a Green Card in preschool, never mind my perfect English and substantial IQ.

    The reason I mention these issues, is to clarify that I there is some background to her article that bears examination. But more importantly, bad people are everywhere and bad males oppress other males as severely and even worse than females!

    Do you want to know how many times I have been attacked by other man? As many or more times than any woman. This fact is rendered especially obvious by the fact that I associate with more men in larger groups and more competitive settings than any woman.

    Add to this experience in all boys schools and other institutions. Finally I will add one more point which may not win me many admirers.

    I have been abused equally by women. Before I continue please note that my mother, who has taught me more about duty than any man, was the first Indian woman in Yale medical school. But when she left my father, she also left my brother and me to be raised in a society bereft of institutions for us.

    She left for the benefit of herself and the suffering of everyone else. Both her and my father are MDs and he was not abusive or poor. She left because she did not know how to deal with her choice of partners. There is much more I have to say, but I must go.

    Please here me out,

  20. Michelle M. says:

    Victoria, I think you are so right that men are stereotyped in our society. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard women say “typical man”. I can tell you that I work for a man in an all women’s department and we all love our boss. He is very easy going, but runs our department very efficiciently and brings so much positive energy to work everyday. He once told me he that he reaaly enjoys working with women which suprised me as an all women’s department is not always drama free as ours is. I guess we broke that stereotype!. I believe no person or group of people should be stereotyped as we are all unique Thanks for bringing this issue to our attention. Good Job!

  21. Annie D. says:

    What a refreshing piece! Long have I felt the same way. Along with David Lee, I believe the time has come for a positive change! As a mother of a beautiful baby boy, the wife of a very kind, sensitive and loving man, and the daughter of a wonderful man who continues to demonstrate virtue and perseverance, I am thankful for the blessings of having good, decent men in the world, and know that with work and action, damaging stereotypes can be changed. Thank you for this excellent site!! Keep up the good work!

  22. Tom Matlack says:

    Victoria I love this, specially the question by your 14 year old son (I have one of those too) and your story at the end. Truly my selfish reason for starting The Good Men Project was to meet men who would inspire me, who I thought were good in their own unique way. Since that time I have met many, many amazing men from NFL hall of famers to Sing Sing inmates to war correspondents. Each has shown me in a new way how to be heroic, how to be courageous, and how to be good. And as a result I have been changed for the better. That, in a nutshell, is what this whole thing is about. If I was changed, perhaps the reader can be too. Not in the same way, but in an equally important one. I am not good enough to tell anyone else how to be good, but I do know its important to ask the question and to listen to men’s stories.

  23. I read what i just wrote, and it seems whiney even to myself. And yes I do actually know that women are made fun of because they are women, but if they have the social skills, they can defend themselves more easily without sounding whiney, but I can’t think of anyway a man could put it that wouldn’t sound whiney.

  24. While there is a reality that men do “bad things” I am more interested in creating change. As a man committed to ending men’s violence against women, I know that men need to be part of the solution. I applaud highlighting men doing something good to counter the dominant story of how men behave. I want to see more example of men as active bystanders interrupt men’s violence, as role models for young men and boys on respecting women, as agents of change in their communities.

  25. When I am in social situations with my friends and their wives, humorous putdowns of men are the fairest game of all. If you know the women well enough you can give them some guff back, but it really is true that if men are made fun of for being men and a man takes offense, they totally look like a jerk. (There are exceptions, I won’t go into the racial and nationality issues when it comes to humor).

    So I sometimes wonder, if this is the norm, men are the butt of jokes about their failings and women generally aren’t, what does my son think when he hears this going on? I hope that he observes how I and most of the men I know try to take it good naturedly and not personally, but I can’t be sure he isn’t internalizing this reaction.

    I do realize that it is a little whiney to complain as an American middle class man, I do know that I have an easier road than a lot of other groups of people do. BUT THAT IS THE SITUATION IN A NUTSHELL, as a man who does pay attention to social issues, I’m left in the position that if I stick up for the group I am a member of (middle class men) I sound whiney.

    Somehow that doesn’t seem quite right as a social situation, and it seems kind of a wierd environment to raise my son in.

    • Mark Neil says:

      I find it ironic that you suggest you have an easier road than a lot of other groups while simultaneously telling us how, because of that attribute that allegedly gives you privilege, you are denied a voice or the option to defend yourself against ridicule. Now isn’t that a privilege to be envious of?

  26. Sharon, I love the idea of the story about Woman as Victim Myth! And you are right about the media selling more about focusing on the horrific. And Victoria has a point – the bad man is hyped – because that, as you say, sells newspapers.

  27. Sharon Davidoff says:

    It is easy to see both sides of this debate. Fundamentally I believe that our culture is full of male hero’s and also of bad men. They both exist. The news media sells more by focusing on the horrific, and that is a problem for anybody looking at the media as a depiction of reality. Gathering a balanced perspective is harder for a young person, so the effect on a young man of reading all the awful stories is greater than it should be. As a woman, and the mother of a daughter (not a son) I would like to see more stories about powerful and good women also. Perhaps a story about Woman as Victim Myth? But this is the wrong magazine for that!

  28. Joan Bartos says:

    Since we exist in a universe, in which men start all of the wars, control almost all religions, governments and resources, and commit the majority of crimes, we really don’t have much news space left to report any good news about men or boys, do we?

    What is worse, is that women in the new media are rarely mentioned unless they are some powerful man’s wife,daughter, girlfriend, or mother.

    Look at any website that features news and about 90% of the stories are about men in power. Stories about powerful women are increasingly rare. The only “Powerful women” being written about actually have very little power -Hillary Clinton, for example).

  29. suzanne rosenwasser says:

    I wanted to add thanks for exploring the issue so thoroughly, Victoria. I will use your piece as a point of reference in our future classroom discussions.

  30. suzanne rosenwasser says:

    I watch girls out-perform boys every day in high school classrooms, a clearly changed trend in my long teaching experience. We discuss gender roles in media, in literature and in reality, concluding that knowing ourselves is the most purposeful goal.

    • I’m not surprised boys perform poorly in discussing gender roles. Boys are in the odd position of being mostly unaware of them while still under pressure to live them.

      I also think that knowing oneself as a male usually comes from real-life role-modeling rather than trying to visualize options in media, books, etc, that aren’t right there in front of them. That can be limiting or enriching, depending on the role models a boy has access to.

  31. Dianne Kennedy says:

    “We talk about [the bad things men do] all the time?” Who’s we? I’m not buying this. There are plenty of good men showcased in the culture as well. Think of that guy who jumped in front of a subway train to save a stranger; Captain Scully; all the soldiers and firemen and policemen who turn up in news stories.

    The fact is that news, to some extent necessarily, deals more with the bad things people do than the good, while in fiction, villains male and female drive plots and are often the most interesting characters.

    Unless men are being kept out of the news media, television, radio and movie industries, and positions of power in other arenas, I don’t think there’s any need to worry. And they ain’t.

    • Mark Neil says:

      That guy clearly made an impression, given have managed to identify him as simply “that guy”. But think about it for a second. If men weren’t generally seen as negative, “that guy who did a good thing” wouldn’t really be very descriptive. I don’t know who Captain Scully is.

      As to all the Soldiers, firefighters and police officers (you will never see them written as XXmen)… they are job titles, not genders. When they are reported on, they are identified by those titles, ultimately stripping them of their gender into a generic person that could theoretically be ether sex. And that’s part of the problem. When men do bad, they are men. When men do good, they are [insert job title here]. When men are victimized, they are [insert non-gendered descriptor] or reclassified as not victims (read Obama’s mandate to identify any male killed by a drone strike as a militant).

  32. Theresa says:

    Thanks, Aaron, for the insights. Stereotypes may have a grain of truth in them, but that truth may be really old. It may have been true in the past or true for certain members of certain groups, but rarely do they actually reflect present realities. As Ms. Medgyesi points out, the “bad man” hype takes away men’s humanity because it flattens out the multi-dimensional quality of men as humans. Men, and women, are never either one or the other, not all women are victims and not all men are scary.

  33. What’s your point Anne? Do you believe the hype in the media? Your cynical, contrary and coy comments strengthen the author’s view. Unless I missed your point as you missed hers, it would seem that you’re making a case for perpetuating stereotypes and fear mongering, which the media in turn further exploits.

    Since the banditos were men and there are true newspaper articles about bad men why not lump all men together? Because it creates a culture of self-fulfilled prophecies for yet another generation of young men and because it’s wrong, counter intelligent and like all stereotyping, overall unhelpful.

    Kudos to Ms. Medgyesi for opening the window and letting a bit of fresh air in.

  34. The banditos were men, right? And those newspaper stories aren’t fictional.
    I’m interested to know what detergent and frozen pie commercials featured men though, because I’ve seen maybe two ads for cleaning products that had men in them. And guess who makes the commercials.


  1. […] The media-perpetuated myth of the bad man. Interestingly, substitute the words “bad” and “aggressive” for “weak” and “victim”, and you pretty much have the media-perpetuated myth of the good woman. No one can win in this game. [The Good Men Project] […]

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