Tom Matlack knows why he started The Good Men Project. Now he’d like to know: Why are you here?
It is beginning to feel, at times, like The Good Men Project has a bit of the Occupy Movement in us in the sense that we all know this is important, but we each have a different reason why. And, as a result, our list of demands can easily come into direct conflict.
I had my own reasons for starting The Good Men Project. I have said many times it was purely selfish: I wanted an excuse to learn from inspiring men from completely different backgrounds what being a good man meant to them. And I have been rewarded a thousand times over, men of color, men in prison, men at war, women who became men, gay men, straight men, swingers. You name it, I have been moved and changed by the stories shared as part of our movement.
But the debate remains, and for good reason, what is the real mission of The Good Men Project?
I got two emails this week from well-known writers, both of whom did not want to leave comments and even share their words. I suppose that in a world where manhood is up for grabs, and the fear of reprisal is great, the truth is sometimes hard to say out in the open.
Nevertheless I am sharing them here in hopes that you will reflect on what it is that you value about what we are attempting here, what is right about our mission, and what you’d like to see more of.
I sometimes feel odd trying to go with the flow of contemporary masculinity. One must, to a certain extent. But I am a defector from what I see as a bankrupt ideology. I overdosed on the whole world of football and its thinly veiled celebration of war and its occult rapist ethics. It is not only at Penn State that it constitutes a cult.
Anyway, I value The Good Men Project for many reasons, not least of which is its willingness to try to meet men where they are and encourage us to ask questions and work out the answers provisionally in our lives. I call myself a feminist because the work of that second wave of feminists was crucial to me in coming to understand the structures of abusive power. But that word has been poisoned (even for young women!) and the earnest mens’ magazines that came out of that feminist revolution end up reaching only their faithful, preaching to the choir and all that. So thank you for your work, that’s really all I was trying to say.
And here is the second one:
I watched the GMP documentary again this evening and was reminded of how–and why–I was drawn to the GMP to begin with. It was because it was nice to hear real men’s stories from actual men, for a change, instead of from women, or shrinks, or talk show hosts, and how moving the documentary actually is–and why.
It just seems to me that if men want to hear what’s wrong with them, especially from women, there is an entire array of magazines and other venues for just that purpose. Sometimes, I think, men are actually OK just as they are, and the one thing they need to work on is the ability to tell and articulate their own stories about the challenges they face as men in their lives after a lifetime of being sneered at, in one way or another, or called ‘whiners’ for articulating them. From the first time a little boy falls down and is told not to cry, to learning how to endure pain and suppress his feelings as an adolescent, the message is “shut up and take it.” Taking it is one thing–shutting up is quite another.
I guess I just never really saw the GMP as a place where there would be a such regular dosage of chastisement for being male. I’m sure I’m not the only guy on the site that groans a little when he reads on the GMP how much work he has to do to “fix” himself, or who isn’t all that interested in constantly hearing about how incredibly well off men are because of their “privilege” (and I can tell you that the much-vaunted “male privilege” looks very different to someone who grew up as a skinny, feminine gay boy to whom “male privilege” was entirely withheld) either in articles or in the letters section–though it’s great that readers express their views so freely.
But as I’ve said before, I know exactly what the response would be if male readers of a site called “The Good Womyn’s Project” too to the letters section to explain to the women how they could “improve” themselves, or be “better women.”