Let’s Talk About Men and Shame

Shame Photo by bmente

Chris M. Anderson tackles the rather large question of how we as a society go about talking about masculinity without shame.

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A question about “shaming” men. Ok – so this has been coming up a LOT lately, and I want to understand it. A fair number of people are calling us out lately for “shaming” men. I am putting the word in quotes because the word confuses me. And I’d like your help figuring it out.

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Lisa Hickey – aka the big cheese round these parts — posted an open question on the GMP writers Facebook page recently about whether people think GMP is a site that “shames” men and/or masculinity. (By the way, if you are a GMP contributor and you are not a part of that group – feel free to visit: Facebook Groups: GoodMenProjectWriters). Ultimately the major question that we seem to struggle with here is, “Is there actually something inherently wrong with men, and/or masculinity itself?”

There are two core attitudes at war in this debate. One side feels that masculinity has been given a bad rap and is out to “reclaim” it as it were. The other identifies masculinity with beer chugging, boob staring, and sexual obsessions that are inherently unhealthy and counter to what is required to building a just, civil, and respectful society.

Neither side is completely right, or completely wrong, in my opinion. Should a man feel guilty about lasciviously ogling pictures of bikini clad women (or rugged and half-clothed men if that’s your cup of tea)? No, but at the same time he shouldn’t allow that activity to dominate how he interacts with real people in the real world. I should not permit my lust to justify treating anyone (male or female) as nothing more than a sack of flesh that exists to satisfy my needs. The question ultimately comes down to whether there is such a thing as a socially responsible, sexually sensitive, and essentially masculine man? Or does a modern man have to trade in some part of their sexual appetite in order to be considered a “good” man?

Attempts to answer that question inevitably lead to a vicious paradox. Modern, liberal, and socially conscious people want a lifestyle that embraces a certain degree of sexual freedom and that shuns the Puritanical constraints of former times. Sexual liberation was supposed to free us from the degrading social norms that kept women in the kitchen and rewarded philandering and powerful men for being pigs. (We hate Don Draper.) But what has happened in the past 30 years? Some would say that we have regressed morally. And when you look at the shockingly high numbers of women and men that are victims of sexual violence, it can be hard to argue against that perspective. But is that really true? Are men behaving more badly than before? (We love Don Draper.)

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Men have evolved to be what we are—an often infuriating blend of lustful impulse and emotional sensitivity. Fostering a “healthier” masculinity starts with understanding that masculinity itself isn’t a bad thing, it is what we are.

It’s a fairly common presumption that males are, by and large, easily distracted by anything that has to do with sex. Given the popularity of columns here at GMP that include “sex” in the title, and the profundity of boobs, butts, and cleavage surrounding us in all other forms of media, there seems little reason to debate the point. But does modern, stereotypical “male” media really reinforce and encourage dangerous and harmful kinds of sexist behavior in men (and accordingly permissive attitudes in women)? I’m somewhat dubious of that claim, especially when much of stereotypically “female” media is just as “sex” obsessed as their “male” media counterparts. Like it or not, we may simply be stuck with this paradox between sex and reason. Our sexuality is a primal, animalistic part of our selves, one that does not always play by the nice, rational rules that we want to establish for our society.

But this is not a satisfactory answer for those who earnestly believe that there are social ills that require fixing, and for whom outdated masculine norms and patriarchal social structure lie at the root of all wrong. There’s plenty of things that obviously cry out for change. I’m not at all saying that we have to tolerate sexual violence simply because we are not pure rational creatures. But neither can we expect that demonizing masculinity or male sexuality will improve the social condition and the behavior of men and boys en masse.

But that’s precisely the tact that many in the modern men’s movement have taken. In response to which, an increasingly loud and emphatic “Men’s Right’s Movement” (MRM) has come to the fore in an attempt to discredit what they see as an unwarranted attack on maleness. There are certainly justifiable objections to much of the “man-bashing” that many people see in the social changes made possible by the rise of modern feminist theory. To name one example, it’s virtually impossible in many communities for male survivors of sexual and domestic violence to get any assistance and protection at all. But GMP is not, and will never become, a bastion of Men’s Right’s theory in response. (For more info on the MRM and it’s more outrageous attitudes, see R. Tod Kelley’s piece recently published in the Daily Beast).

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Sadly, the one thing that unites both sides of the debate of whether men are inherently good or bad is that they usually turn to the rhetoric of shame and blame in an attempt to discredit their opponents. Anyone who uses shame as a tool for promoting social change profoundly misunderstands the destructive power of shame. Shame is a tool that bullies and predators use to shred the souls of their victims. How can any movement that seeks to lift people up justify methods that do nothing more than tear people down? Ultimately, I believe what we want to promote is healing, not harm. Is a drunken frat boy really going to change his ways because an “enlightened” soul has come to his campus to speak on the ills of modern masculinity? So long as the kegs are flowing at the tailgate parties, I doubt it very much. But more than that – why is it so hard to get some crusaders for sexual and social justice to see that that frat boy might himself be a victim who might be drinking to excess precisely because it is so hard for him to get the help that, were he a woman, might (and I stress might) be more readily supplied?

Men have evolved to be what we are—an often infuriating blend of lustful impulse and emotional sensitivity. Fostering a “healthier” masculinity starts with understanding that masculinity itself isn’t a bad thing, it is what we are. We should be finding better ways to hold men (and women) accountable for the harm they cause and reward them for the good they do, that’s ultimately what GMP and the discussions fostered here are working towards.

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Photo: bmente / flickr

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About Christopher M. Anderson

Christopher M. Anderson is the Executive Director of MaleSurvivor the leading not-for-profit organization committed to preventing, healing, and eliminating all forms of sexual victimization of boys and men through support, treatment, research, education, advocacy, and activism.

You can follow him on twitter via @chander2nyc and email him at canderson (at) malesurvivor (dot) org

You are not alone. It was not your fault. Healing is possible.

Comments

  1. How about just kill off the cultural remnants of the victorian era’s cultural reformation of morality? That idea that women are inherently nicer,sweeter and more moral than men are in their basic natures…….It boxes in both men and women, women get the polar opposites of the “good” girl or the fallen woman, men get the manly uncaring role or the polar opposite of questioning if they are really a man or some variant of pansy/wimp/mama’s boy/woman. Neither of those prejudices have a place in the modern world.

    • This may well be controversial, but I think it should be said: the Good Men Project is already a Men’s Rights Advocate platform (an MRA) in the term’s most basic definition. I’ve read numerous articles now that more or less line up with some of the same ideologies as MRMs by advocating rights for fathers or men in general, or criticizing how many feminist organizations have taken up the matter (like shared parenting, for one.)

      The problem is that MRM / MRA is a tainted label, similar to how many view the name ‘Feminism’ itself. Both can mean very different things and encompass different, even conflicting ideologies or implementations of policy. A few months ago some of the MRA’s leading Youtubers (all women) led a movement to call out what they viewed as the portions of the MRM that is deserving of the movement’s common criticism, notably the Pickup Artists with some overlap of Men Go Their Own Way.

  2. Hi Christopher
    Thank’s for the link to this article
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/10/20/the-masculine-mystique-inside-the-men-s-rights-movement-mrm.html

    ✺”comes from the MRM belief that men are already largely slaves, even if they don’t know it yet

    About Hembling:
    When he’s accused of being overly paranoid for recommending that men secretly record phone conversations with anyone they are likely to have sex with……
    Hembling says he would no longer bother to do so. “I don’t give a flying f**k about [it]” he writes “If I encounter a rape in progress, what am I going to do, stop it? No, I’m going to walk around it.”

    Other sites, such as Return of Kings, somehow manage to peg the practice of picking up women at bars as a key element in the struggle for men’s civil rights……

    MRM writer Matt Forney penned the now-infamous treatise entitled “The Necessity of Domestic Violence,” in which he declared that women “should be terrorized by men; it’s the only thing that makes them behave better than chimps.” Zed the Zen Priest, the MRM pioneer described by AV4M as “a warrior in the battle for sanity” caused a ruckus on the Internet last month by suggesting that if you see a four-year-old girl drowning, you should let her drown lest she grow into a woman and, perhaps, a feminist.”✺

    Reading this article sent chills down my spine.
    Do theses guys cooperate with white supremacy groups ? The hatred is similar and the hate of woman is similar as well.

    • Tom Brechlin says:

      Hello Iben, you said “Zed the Zen Priest, the MRM pioneer described by AV4M as “a warrior in the battle for sanity” …help me out here, can you direct me to this? Much appreciated, thanks

      • Tom Brechlin says:

        Iben, never mind, I found it and read Elams interview from 2010. Appears that Zen and Elam don’t exactly have a warm and fuzzy relationship. But one thing that I couldn’t find is where exactly Zen said what he did. Maybe you could help me out with that?

        • Hi Tom

          Sorry , I can not tell you that. All I did was to copy and past quotes from the article in The Daily Beast . The author of the article will help you, I am sure.

          I know many of the issues of MRA fight for needs to be discussed and taken seriously in society , but hate speak is not the way to create social change, unless you see terrorism as an ideal for change. And we have lots of terrorists in this world, some shoot girls in the head to make them shut up.

          • Mr Supertypo says:

            ok, but as a future advice, be careful in believing any info whos not possible to verify pronto. I am astonishing skeptical about this. I have never met a MRA who claims to kill all women, or let them die. Yes maybe in a ironical manner a la kill all men, from some feminist but no more.

            Its to easy to take few quotes out of context and use them as evidence that group X is evil. And this is hardly any news we see this malevolent behavior constantly in political debates, religious, social issues etc. So be careful, and this isnt even specific for you, but for everybody.

            • This seems to be the main premise of a lot of the MRM.

              I am not convinced they hate women en masse. But I think they talk in no worse a way than feminists have over the years – and yet feminism is tolerated, while when the MRM engages in the same kinds of behaviours, it’s evidence that it is entirely corrupt and is an evil to be quashed.

              Sometimes this is intentional, to highlight double standards. I can recall Paul Elam on a few occasions posting “watch them take this bit out of context” before saying something particularly outrageous that he states he doesn’t agree with – and lo and behold, he’s usually right.

              In many cases I think feminism engages in much worse behaviour than the MRM. Show me MRMs acting like the Cry Me A River feminist at that university protest against a men’s right’s group discussing male suicides. Show me MRMs blockading groups that have a right to assemble in the way some feminists have done.

              I think it probably would be best though for statements on the MRM to be shyed away from here – if it’s just going to be restatement of the same hypocritical dissembling and smear campaign played elsewhere. Better off not to say anything at all than to play that game.

  3. @Iben,

    Hi Iben!

    I really do not know much about the MRM movement. People have indicated to me that it tends towards being rather misogynist in nature. This really hurts some of there valid points, especially how men are treated in the family court system.

    I never really embraced any of the ‘new’ man babble….etc. I always believed in treated people (men and women) with love, kindness, and compassion. Just being a very warm and friendly human being towards others.

    We Americans are rather shallow, both from a social consciousness level as well as intellectually. Hence, the fad culture here in America. We obsess over silly celebrities, yet don’t both to learn anything about the world economy. How many American can tel you the exchange rate for the dollar/yen or dollar/Euro? Few. Sad.

    Men and women are DIFFERENT Iben. We live in an environment that for some weird reason wants to preach sameness. People all over the world differ culturally. It is difference that gives the world true strength. Because, in these differences are strengths, not weakness. One should seek to extract and embrace what is best from each. Her in lies the true strength of being different.

    I think women have over reached here in America as far as trying to tell men how to live, act, and behave. Men need to cast off much of what has been put out here for their consumption by women (and men) over the past few decades. That does NOT mean we should go backwards.

    RATHER, IT SUGGEST THAT MEN NEED TO PURSUE A THIRD ROAD (as the Chinese did in the 1980s). We can still make progress. However, we need an alternative to MRM and the feminist view (which is really a farce) of men.

    • Hi Jules
      I hope you are well.

      And you are right. There must be a third way.
      But I do not understand what this article author means when he say:
      ✺”The question ultimately comes
      down to whether there is such a thing as a socially responsible, sexually sensitive, and essentially masculine man? Or does a modern man have to trade in some part of their sexual appetite in order to
      be considered a “good” man?”✺
      If Steven that wrote the article called “Why Are Men so Obsessed With Sex?” Is right , then we can discuss how men express their sexuality without calling this shaming of men and men’s sexuality,

      As a girl growing up and as woman I have experienced many men’s expression of their sexually as trouble, so I refuse to say the expression we see of ALL men’s sexuality today as an healthy expression of human sexually. Some men are decent ,some are not. Some are not healthy or normal sexually.

      Some are obsessed with sex just like Steve describes in his article. I do not see this obsession as healthy sexuality . And when some men defend their porn use with argument that porn only show what men dream of sexually then I refuse to belive men’s sexually are like that.
      If it is , then give me celibay for the rest of my life.
      So this article is unclear. The author could ask for more men with healthy sexually. To have a huge appite for sex is not in itself a sign of healthy sexuality.
      But I withdraw from this thread.
      .

  4. “Why is it so hard to see that the frat boy might himself be a victim who might be drinking excess precisely because it is hard for him to get help…”

    That sentence right there is what I love about about the controversial back and forth that goes on at this site…Love Lisa Hickey! (Enjoy the ING Marathon!)….Over the decades, I (and my husband) have befriended such “frat boys”…but ultimately, it is true…you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink….certain people hold certain attitudes and you cannot change that…all you can do is walk away if you feel what they are doing to themselves and their families is dangerous….

    Our last friend (long-time x 2 decades) that we have had to break up with kept lying to our faces about what was going on inside his house of horror (despite what several of us saw with our own eyes)….I can see how easy it is to love an abuser when he wears a congenial mask…but eventually over time the mask falls off and you see the real disturbed and depressed person underneath (deprived childhood with violent authoritarian father who died when he was 7 years old and left 7 sons to fend for themselves)….anyway, we have tried to open our arms and our homes to such people but we got majorly burned in the process…I keep a healthy distance from people…it is just frightening to see people rip off the masks they wear over the years and see the real scary seething person underneath….so many people lie about who they are to you initially….

    GMP is a great site that helps me to understand the real man underneath…I see so much puzzling behavior …..it is so confusing!

    • “Why is it so hard to see that the frat boy might himself be a victim who might be drinking excess precisely because it is hard for him to get help…”

      Because he’s a white man, and everyone knows that white men can NEVER be labeled a victim. Obviously! (read the above heavily drenched in sarcasm).

  5. I doubt it very much. But more than that – why is it so hard to get some crusaders for sexual and social justice to see that that frat boy might himself be a victim who might be drinking to excess precisely because it is so hard for him to get the help that, were he a woman, might (and I stress might) be more readily supplied?
    I think this is a core question.

    A lot of the “changes” and “challenges” put towards those frat boy are usually based on the presumption that he just embraced a masculinity that thinks of women as notches on one’s belt to verify his masculinity.

    I think what gets lost is that maybe he’s embracing this damaging masculinity as a system of support at a time when he was hurt and injured and there was nowhere else to turn to for help.

    As for the mention of the MRM I think their point is being proven rather subtly. For the longest time they were ignored but now they are gaining traction. Most of the coverage I see on them from is highly negative (and often based almost entirely on feminist commentary about MRAs) and runs completely counter to the “try to find the good” style of criticism that feminists are so quick to call for when people speak negatively about them.

    With that in mind let me ask:
    But GMP is not, and will never become, a bastion of Men’s Right’s theory in response. (For more info on the MRM and it’s more outrageous attitudes, see R. Tod Kelley’s piece recently published in the Daily Beast).
    Why shouldn’t it? Are you worried that GMP would become a wretched hive of scum and villainy? Are you worried that if GMP were to become such a place others would instantly because harsh and unfair towards it (and I can tell you for a fact that this is a possibility)? What I’m getting at is that it may not be too far out of the way of an idea for GMP to because the positive change in MRM theory that so many call for.

    Or are you saying this as in you don’t want to get into an ideology v ideology battle or some other reason?

  6. I’m a little confused by the idea that men having sexual desire is inherently bad or something about which they should feel shame.

    We need to divorce the idea of masculinity/men from sex and recognize that both sexes experience desire–and that’s okay! Are we under the impression that women don’t shamelessly ogle men? Because… we do! I’m not convinced that silent ogling that doesn’t result in violence or hostile accosting of the ogled is a problem. Why should anyone–man or woman–feel badly about appreciating the physicality of another human being? No, we don’t want to value anyone solely on that basis, but there’s nothing wrong with recognizing beauty/strength/sex appeal, etc. in another person.

    Aside from the sexual desire question, masculinity in and of itself shouldn’t be used to shame anyone. Rather it is something from which men especially, but everyone generally, needs to be freed. It’s not healthy or productive to subject men to some fluctuating ideal of what a “man” is supposed to be, feel, or do. Men are men, period. There is no standard for being a man, just as there is no standard for being a woman. the shackles of masculinity and femininity are unproductive and hurtful. What we need is standards for *people* without regard for biological sex. Beyond the standard for being a good human, people should be free to evolve and grow into whomever they desire to be.

    • Are we under the impression that women don’t shamelessly ogle men? Because… we do! I’m not convinced that silent ogling that doesn’t result in violence or hostile accosting of the ogled is a problem. Why should anyone–man or woman–feel badly about appreciating the physicality of another human being?

      Well, that definitely gets criticised here. A recent comment thread had some readers and contributors pushing a standard of “just don’t make her uncomfortable”.

      The problem here being that “uncomfortable” is pretty subjective.

  7. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    One of the reasons I started posting here (and wrote a couple of articles here) is that I experienced a few of the “Why are your still beating your wife?” (exaggeration) articles, and wanted to respond. These were particularly strong in the days of Hugo, and usually had a chorus of female voices appended that said, “Yeah, why?” Such things as age differential dating, scoping women for their sexual attractiveness, and so on became fair game, somewhat unfairly, I believed. I thought, though, that the typical MRM approach (men suffer too, or even more) was wrong, and that we should emphasize what was good about men. Although I was an egalitarian ex-hippy and radical who marched for NOW and many other causes, I was also proud of the fact that I’d become a man by going through some of the rituals: fights, military, work, marriage, parenthood, self-improvement through martial arts and education. I believed enough of the Mailer/Hemingway idea that manhood had to be constructed by striving against one’s weaknesses to implement it. I still don’t think that’s wrong. Man are in a position to help themselves and others by protection and stewardship. The character they learn through physical courage is useful. I don’t think they’re going to disappear anytime soon.

  8. Luke Davis says:

    I started posting here because by and large the articles here are of value to men having problems and this is one of very few places I saw this happening. Truthfully I don’t read the men shaming articles. I have enough of my own issues without taking on the entire male stereotype.

    I don’t rape women, hit them, abuse them, have a problem with them as my boss, with them earning more then I do or being more intelligent than I am and I don’t do these things to men either. I’m trying to make my own way in this world and it’s hard enough without taking on feeling ashamed for something I have never done.

  9. I’m not on Facebook, but I’m glad that Lisa Hickey (aka “big cheese” at GMP) was open enough to post the question. Here’s my answer:

    Yes, there is definitely a culture of needlessly shaming men, and yes GMP has definitely drunk the kool-aid. And it’s not just the dear departed Hugo. It’s the unwarranted departure of Tom Matlack after criticism from some fairly rabid feminists (like Roseanne Barr) – something that reminds me more of a scene out of Animal House than anything else – and I read his recent interview in Buzzfeed.

    It’s articles that attempt to define standards for masculinity – in thought, word and action, that are entirely arbitrary rather than clearly based on a philosophical approach to ethics and morality.

    Need examples? Just go back and look at all the articles in the past month or two that assert men SHOULD BE like this and SHOULDN’T be like that. Subtract out the ones that are obviously true, from an ethics standpoint – such as rapey is bad, not supporting your children is bad, sexually harrassing women is bad, etc.

    And then see what you have left.

    See how many articles are pushing, prodding, poking at men to think like this, talk like that, dress like this, behave like that. See how many articles start from the premise that men generally are sub-standard creatures who need to be instructed on “what it takes to date me”, or other such condescending nonsense from women.

    And then do a couple of gender flips, and think how FEW articles like that you’d read in Jezebel, or XOJane, or any of the other publications dedicated to empowering women to become the unique individuals they each want to be.

    So yes – het men are being kicked around like soccer balls all over the intertubes – and GMP is more a part of the problem than a part of the solution.

    So here are a couple of clues for the GMP editors on how to uplevel your own consciousness, and the consciousness of this publication:

    1. Be EXTREMELY critical of any article that has a “shoulds and oughts” editorial spin to it. “Shoulds and oughts” are, by definition, shaming tactics. In transactional analysis, when yo speak to someone in that way, you are talking in parent-child mode, rather than adult-adult mode.

    Again, SOMETIMES that is warranted. But if it’s not 100% clear that it is, throw the article in the trash. Don’t tell men how to hug women in church, don’t tell men they should never compliment a woman, don’t tell men they should treat their wives like horses and act like horse whisperers, don’t tell men they shouldn’t wear a Trilby hat.

    I’m calling SHENANIGANS on all of that sort of stuff – and say that it belongs in the Bad Yente Project, not the Good Men Project.

    2. Rather than PREACHING and TEACHING, tell FIRST PERSON stories. That was Tom’s really good idea, which he borrowed from his experience in AA, hearing people tell their own first person stories about their own journey to sobriety, and spiritual, mental and emotional health. Tom’s idea was that men who’d gone through their own evolution – their own growing up – would tell their own first person stories. And that is BY FAR the best way to encourage other men to become good MEN, rather than good BOYS.

    3. Stop with the gender essentialism already. The plain fact is, that as BOTH men and women take the evolutionary journey to TRUE adulthood, and become more conscious and less unconscious, their thoughts, feelings, needs and desires CONVERGE and become CONGRUENT and ORTHOGONAL to a great degree. The psychological differences between MATURE men and MATURE women are very small. Between IMMATURE men and IMMATURE women the differences are HUGE.

    So stop playing to the peanut gallery and publishing clickbait. Stop accepting articles that emphasize the differences between men and women that exist simply because of immaturity. Once again, MATURE men aren’t horse whisperers, and MATURE women aren’t horses. MATURE men aren’t pathetically simple, and MATURE women aren’t hopelessly complex. Maturity and consciousness cleans up about 99% of all that garbage.

    And stop – just stop – publishing articles that say or imply that the responsibility for making things work in the hetero-normative world are anything other than equally shared between the sexes. Building intimacy is a joint venture – period.

    4. Go for QUALITY over QUANTITY. There are plenty of websites that are click whores. They’ll publish anything and everything – and the more outrageous the better – because MONEY.

    Don’t do that. Have integrity. Remember your mission in the world. You’d do better to publish one fifth of the articles with five times as much consciousness in their content, really. And (once again) you don’t have to be preachy – or even teachy. Storytelling is powerful – and inspiring.

    You can ask people (and yes, that includes the non-men kind of people) to tell their stories of how they became BETTER men, and BETTER women, and built BETTER relationships, and became BETTER employees and EMPLOYERS, and BETTER citizens (of community, country and world). Ask ‘em to tell their stories in the first person. Invite them to share their faults, fears and failures, as well as their hopes, dreams, visions. Invite them to talk about their wants and their needs – as well as their feelings.

    But have them do it ALL in the first person, without trying to generalize their own story to anyone else.

    You’d have a much, much better GMP if you did that. In fact, you might REALLY wise up after a year or two or five of this, and end up renaming it The Good PEOPLE Project – which is really where we all need to evolve to, to get over this current crappy period that men and women are apparently so stuck in.

    My two cents, for Lisa, Noah and company. As they say in the 12 Step rooms – take what you want, and leave the rest.

  10. Theorema Egregium says:

    As far as I am aware on GMP shaming mostly does not take place by ideas but by the words they are put into.

    I get the vibe that those advice articles are usually written in earnest and with an idea of compassion and honest advice behind them, but they often SOUND differently. The FACTS are alright (or at least lend themselves to sensible, rational discussion), but the WORDS are frequently condescending, snidely, shaming, sarcastic, snarky, cynical or arrogant.

    It is not even entirely the GMP’s fault, because all throughout western culture it seems to be the custom to talk to men as if we were unruly, thick-headed, incurable little children prone to temper tantrums. Like you can’t give us good advice in a reasonable, compassionate mature way, but have to pummel and shame it into our stupid thick dinosaur heads until at last we see the error of our beastly ways.

    Why is that? One reason is probably that many authors here have not done their homework as much as they should, and are still reproducing harmful patriarchal stereotypes in their heads and on their keyboards.

    • Theorema Egregium says:

      There’s a second possible reason too, which I put in a seperate post for fear of not having it “cleared” for publication.

      As far as I am aware, the GMP grew out of feminist circles and thinking and indeed has a feminist publisher. This puts in my mind a comparison with the vircorious party’s peace negotiation delegation after a major war. Say, for example, the French delegation at Versailles 1919:

      Those politicians kind of wanted to give the vanquished nations a break, help them rebuild in a new, peaceful way, take the militarism out of the system, pave the way to a bright future. But at the same time, they had their own constituencies in the back, who had suffered direly in the war and who, they knew, demanded payback. In the end it was a question of treating the defeated countries harshly (against their better judgement) or lose the support of their own peoples. They chose the former and brought the hammer down.

      I feel that in a very small scale a similar thing is happening with the GMP. The idea of paving a bright, egalitarian, dignified future for both men and women is certainly here. But their feminist friends in their back keep reminding how women have suffered and keep suffering, so talking to men also has to include that element of reparations — which expresses itself as shaming.

    • Theorema Egregium says:

      That being said, there are extremely good articles here too. In fact I am often determined to hate an essay after seeing the title, but then find myself admitting that actually like it a lot.

      For example, the recent piece http://goodmenproject.com/the-good-life/why-we-as-women-need-to-ease-up-on-men/ (Tamara Star) is a great example. And Noah Brand has lots of text which are truly excellent, e.g. http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/brand-men-must-be-needed-because-we-cant-be-wanted/

      In other words, things are not so bad as they seem. There is hope. Strengthen the positive!

  11. I think there’s a reason why two articles GMP posted recently struck me as not only unique, but positive.

    It’s because they took the same generalising “hey, you should probably do this” tone with women that is so often directed at men – and didn’t care too much about factoring all the relative experience of women.

    I think the reason why I am for this is because of how I relate to the current dialogue on gender issues. I get so tired of the constant accusations of misogyny over disagreements on how to approach equality, or after defending my own gender against a generalisation.

    And I don’t think I can see any way round this but to have enough women (or feminists at least, but that is a predominantly female populated movement) FEEL what this feels like. Day in, day out. You’re going to call me a misogynist for disagreeing with my take on equality? Ok, then next time you don’t relate to our issues in the way we feel like, you’re going to find me calling you a misandrist. It is perfectly consistent, for one – and if it sticks in your craw? Yes. Good. Learn from that.

  12. Something else I’ve been meaning to say – and this one is positive this time, I promise. It’s a compliment sandwich in the truest sense, seeing as we name sandwiches by their filling ;)

    You do have a good number of writers who approach troublesome issues like the Friend Zone / Nice Guys / PUA from a much better perspective. Instead of focusing on the manifestations of these behaviours that result in assholeish behaviour, they try and analyse what causes these behaviours. Funnily enough, the answer is a lot more complex than “oh well, they must just be privileged sexist males scared of losing their privilege / being entitled / etc.”

    Bringing sympathy, empathy and insight into the mix improves the quality of discussion on these topics no end, instead of immediately playing the misogynist/entitled/privileged/sexist flashcards straight off the bat. Speaking for myself, I think Noah Brand is singularly good at this sympathetic approach.

    • Bringing sympathy, empathy and insight into the mix improves the quality of discussion on these topics no end, instead of immediately playing the misogynist/entitled/privileged/sexist flashcards straight off the bat. Speaking for myself, I think Noah Brand is singularly good at this sympathetic approach.
      Agreed. I think one thing that definintely contributes to the shaming of men (and other groups) is the mad rush to pull out the flash cards you mention. There are problems with the usage of those words:

      1. They have SOME legitimate uses: Yes there is a such thing has hatred of women and there are way in which the system benefits men over women.

      2. They have built in defenses that create logical loops. How many times have you see something to the effect of, “If you don’t agree that ____ is misogynist then that makes you a misogynist.”? Basically a declaration that if you don’t agree with that on a topic it somehow proves they are right. Because they have some legitimate uses that is used as a defense to justify its use in all sorts of places.

      3. Selective definitions: I know I’m not the only person that has seen the rather convenient way sexism has been redefined so that suddenly women can’t be sexist. Also the denial of the very existence of misandry (often by defining it in a very different way than what most MRAs define it as and then saying it doesn’t exist).

      Its gotten to the point where the very lingo that was once used to describe the situations that we are in have become so poisoned that they actually hinder the conversation around addressing those situations.

  13. Jeff Billig says:

    On shaming men:
    Maybe it’s because I’m an old silverback who’s a couple decades past my “sensitive” male stage, but I just do not get the concept of being man-shamed by words on a website.
    When I was a child, shame was something given to me. Being Jewish, I knew it as guilt …. my Catholic friends knew it as sin. If we did something sufficiently wrong, shame on us… We felt bad. My shame was powerful and deeply personal — the seed of self-punishment that simulated morality until I learned about the golden rule and responsibility.
    Unfortunately those who gave us shame, as bad little boys, forgot to give the antidote. Or maybe that’s what religion was supposed to be. But that’s another subject.
    Over the course of my life, I learned to take responsibility for my “wrongs”, learning from them and “making them right” (one possible definition for manhood). And with that I seem to have lost my shame-ability. Am I shameless? No. It’s in there. But nobody gets to play with it unless I say so.
    Actually, I don’t believe anyone is able to shame a man. (Only children can be forced to swallow that shit). But old shame can certainly be activated (like herpes, chicken pox, or even…actually…most like cancer) if you haven’t dealt with it. If you feel shame, it’s your shame. No one is doing it to you.
    Confession. I’m an ad guy (For shame!). I know how people and businesses may try to use shame as a way to manipulate you to their agenda. It usually doesn’t work. Why? Because, in reality, for most adults it activates anger instead.
    And that’s nothing to be ashamed of. At least that’s how it seems to me.

    • Theorema Egregium says:

      Yes indeed, Jeff, I think you are right. At least in theory.

      “Actually, I don’t believe anyone is able to shame a man. (Only children can be forced to swallow that shit). But old shame can certainly be activated if you haven’t dealt with it.”
      True enough, but many of us unfortunately do not feel nearly mature (read: stable) enough to be completely impervious to tactics that worked on us when we were children. If you are, congratulations to you, but some of us are still struggling. You have it as a possible definition of manhood, and that is good, but if you were told as child that manhood was suspect, or even evil in general, you would naturally shrink away from any behaviour you might perceive as masculine. In other words, you would try to stay a child. Now to overcome this is surprisingly difficult. It works better in the movies.

      “in reality, for most adults it activates anger instead.”
      Yes, that often happens, and that’s how we get MRAs. Not a good alternative in my mind.

    • Mostly_123 says:

      “I know how people and businesses may try to use shame as a way to manipulate you to their agenda. It usually doesn’t work. Why? Because, in reality, for most adults it activates anger instead.”

      Jeff Billig, I think you’re on to something very crucial here about the activation of anger-

      There’s a difference between pursuing a goal and pursuing a method – for some people, the supposed good or ‘goal’ is simply used to justify their particular choice of method after the fact. In essence, their method IS their goal; and the justification for their method of choice is just gratuitous lip-service and moral camouflage.  

      I think many people utilize shame as a ‘method’ not because it’s a particularly effective motivator/method, but rather precisely because it does activate anger- it antagonizes. Now, antagonism has never been a particularly effective or optimal way to generate empathy, open-mindedness, or willingness to change in others, so I could never understand why some people were so willing to employ it as the first choice of tools to achieve their goals; until I came to realize that the method (antagonism) was the goal: It feels good, it feels empowering, to brow-beat others; to moralize with impunity and/or to simply antagonize under the cloak of virtue & morality.

      Voluntary ‘change’ -if this is indeed the goal- implies a certain amount of mutual (not one-way) communication, interactive persuasion, & respect of individual autonomy; that is, action that is voluntary, informed, and consensual. ‘Control’ does not- And antagonism is a form of control, not persuasion (at least, it’s not persuasion in the non-coercive sense). But some people are happier to antagonize because it gives them that sense of ‘control’ over others; which, in the end, can be far, far more gratifying than persuasion (successful or unsuccessful) ever could ever be. One can at least understand others who resort to coercion when they have found they cannot convince; but one cannot abide others who proceed from coercion as their universal default staring point because it suits them; discounting persuasion out of hand, because that method simply doesn’t appeal to them.             

      • Jeff Billig says:

        Well put. Seems everyone needs to be right. And no one needs it more than someone who feels they’ve been wronged — not only are they right but you’re wrong (shame on you). Vindictiveness and revenge are powerful stuff. Once they/you stop generalizing it, it’s functional. But when they/you can move beyond the righteous anger/fear entirely, life is good and all is possible… I tell myself.

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