Why Do These Wimps Need Their Own Magazine?

Tom Matlack responds to comments on a recent story about the Good Men Project Magazine that appeared in the Boston Globe.

Squeezed between the headlines, “Job Market Appears to Lose Steam” and “HP’s Chief Steps Down After Harassment Probe,” the Boston Globe ran a story about our fledgling enterprise titled, “A New Read on Masculinity” on the cover of its business section a few days ago.

Good Men Project Magazine Publisher Lisa Hickey, Editor Benoit Denizet-Lewis, and I stood proudly on the roof of our office building—like an unlikely rock band posing for an album cover—with the Boston skyline in the background.

(For some reason I’m holding a chair in the photo—after seeing it, several of my college friends emailed to remind me that I am not allowed to have furniture in high places, since being dubbed “The Couch” in college. If you must know why, please buy our book and read my essay, “Crash & Learn.”)

Neither the photo, nor the article, was the least bit controversial—but you wouldn’t know it by reading the comments. (By the way, the article gets one thing wrong. We do write about sports and sex—we just do it differently than other men’s magazines.)

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The comments started out stupid, but innocuous: “Sex and sports will always be more interesting than ‘when do I start calling myself a man?’ essays. Oh, and by the way…if you wrote that piece, the answer is: not yet.”

Another commenter wrote: “A story about a normal man playing in a gay men’s softball league? Puleeze!”

Okay—standard homophobic, idiotic comment.

But then they began to piss me off. “I think the editor’s name in the picture says it all: Benoit Denizet-Lewis,” wrote another. “This is the de-masculinization of the American man. 20 Yeas [sic] ago his name would have been Ben Lewis. I would entitle [sic] the magazine, Men Who Act and Think Like Women. Men are supposed to ignore and repress their feelings…be strong, tough it out, brush it off, and go have a beer. We express emotion through sports. What’s going to happen when all these kids with hyphenated names start marrying?”

What small-minded Neanderthals would come up with that? Really—is it some kind of joke? (For the record, twenty years ago, Benoit’s name was Benoit Denizet-Lewis.)

We publish everything from far right- to far left-wing men’s stories about what it means to be a man in modern America—and that is the response?

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And the inanity just kept coming…

The Good Men Project is the wrong name. The Sensitive Metrosexual Project is more like it. How about, The Sensitve Whimpy [sic] Guy Project. Don’t try and redefine our gender, we’re quite happy with it as it was.”

And much, much more:

“Don’t need a psychiatrist, I can solve my own problems. That’s what men used to do before they became helpless, insufferable puddles like yourself. Go have a good cry, you’ll feel better.”

“I don’t get the photos. Are they the result of a photographer trying to be creative or possibly visual documentation of a far more nefarious polyamorous incident that occurred minutes earlier?”

“I thought the Promise Keepers cornered this market back in the ‘90s? They filled a stadium or two with men all proclaiming their ‘masculinity.’ It was the gayest thing I have ever seen.”

“When I need advice on masculinity from two metrosexuals who don’t know enough to tuck in their shirts they’ll be the first to know. I wouldn’t hold my breath. I get so tired of hearing this ‘men need to express their feelings’ crap. 90% of it is an excuse for whining. My father grew up in the Depression, went to WWII, and was pretty much the model of the regular guy. We’ve never had a problem expressing thoughts, feelings, or love as he approaches the end of his life. It doesn’t have to be a drama coached by some woman’s vision of what is the way we should express ourselves. Didn’t this crap die with Robert Bly?”

“Why do these wimps need their own magazine? Just send them subscriptions to Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day and Family Circle magazines…along with Cosmopolitan!”

“To quote John Hannah, they should put him in a skirt! These guys need to grow a pair.”

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I’m not going to bother breaking down all this nonsense (a tucked shirt is a prerequisite for manliness?); the good thing about mindless online comments is they tend to bring out some thoughtful readers who see them for what they are. While the majority of the comments on this fluff piece about a men’s magazine hoping to do more than sell suits and cologne were of the variety above, two of my favorite comments put things in perspective.

A reader with the handle “Da-Caveman” wrote to reassure me, “As a caveman…my first instinct is to be negative and scoff at men exploring areas that are uncomfortable to us cavemen. When my wife buys me a new shirt…I immediately do not like it…it makes me uncomfortable…When I hear new music…I generally do not like it…it takes time for cavemen to become comfortable with new things. The thunder you hear in the distance is the sound of all the educated, hardworking women that can make a living just as easy as us cavemen. The world is a changing…but we still have football. Keep up the good work, Tom, and keep dragging us out of our caves.”

And another contributed a tragic thought, adding a horrific personal experience and sarcastically equating it to the mindset of all the commenters that had gone before: “Growing up, my father would beat up my mother regularly. When the cops where called they would say, ‘Just keep it down and at home’ and then they would leave. Oh for those good ole days when a man was a man and a woman knew her place. Sigh!”

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I would like to think that the negative comments were all written by the same miserable person, but they weren’t. There were forty-seven comments by more than thirty readers, most of whom participated in the onslaught of negativity.

Several of our contributors responded, but new readers jumped in to talk about “growing a pair,” hyphenated names, and metrosexuals. Globe business reporter Johnny Diaz innocuously described our magazine and our mission in the most general terms, yet more than three quarters of the comments were harshly negative.

From the very beginning, I said that ten percent of men will “get” the Good Men Project right away, ten percent will never get it, and eighty percent will need convincing. The trolls on Boston.com, obviously, are among the ten percent who never will. But this magazine is for the other ninety percent. They don’t come in particular sizes or shapes, ethnicities or political parties, sexual orientation or home states.

They are men like me and Benoit—the men I’ve met who fought in the war in Iraq or did hard time in Sing Sing. They’re Hall of Fame athletes and homeless, teenage fathers, unemployed guys and investment bankers, stay-at-home dads and those suffering through the loss of a child.

They’re men who just got married and guys who just got divorced. They’re men who are struggling to be good—men who want to be better fathers, sons, and husbands.

They’re men who don’t equate strength and toughness with ignorance and repression. They’re men who would prefer not to go through life as miserable jerks—and from what I’ve seen, they’re everywhere. Well, almost everywhere.

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In September, 2009, Tom Matlack, together with James Houghton and Larry Bean, published an anthology of stories about defining moments in men’s lives — The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood. It was how the The Good Men Project first began. Want to buy the book? Click here. Want to learn more? Here you go.

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About Tom Matlack

Tom Matlack is the co-founder of The Good Men Project. He has a 18-year-old daughter and 16- and 7-year-old sons. His wife, Elena, is the love of his life. Follow him on Twitter @TMatlack.

Comments

  1. It’s just like my mother used to tell me when dealing with ‘namecallers’, ‘bullies’ and general miscreants in grade school. These were the guys that wanted to make life for me, one of the smartest, fastest runner, but physically smallest in the class hell.

    “Ignore them, they’re only doing that to get a rise out of you”

    Jr. High came and with it a growth spurt, think a 5’9″ 7th grader with full moustache. A brief reprieve, as others short past me to 6′ and onwards, but that advice stayed with me and is even useful some 30 years later.

    Bullies and the new 21st century term for them ‘haters’ will always be in your life. It’s the well grounded man that knows how to neutralize and deal with them in their life that is the better for it.

    This is not justification for their behavior, just rising to the challenge, like you have to do in many aspects of your life.

    I like what the folks over at ‘The Art of Manliness’ are doing too. They dredge up things from the past, that still have relevance to men today.

    There was a lot wrong with the ‘traditional manhood’ model of the past. However, if you really peeled the onion back on our heroes and men who made a difference then (and now), you notice that many of the leaders, successful men and role models were well rounded, adjusted, treated women and others with respect, and had enough humility to realize they could always learn from others.

    I also liked “The Last Lecture’ by Dr. Randy Pausch (a shining example of a life well lived and how a nurturing Father can affect his child) and the ‘The Kind Father’ by Calvin Sandborn.

    My Father was *nothing* like the one in the book, but reading about his whole journey and perspective really helps me remember to be ‘kind’ to my children, and ‘kind’ to my wife. With all the influences from the outside world, time demands and pressure from the job, it’s something I struggle with often.

  2. Mo Fogarty says:

    I like being here at the still-early stages of this project. The nay-sayers showed up within minutes of your first post, which is a dang shame. Feels like being flipped off in traffic by someone leaning on their horn. Pointless expression of formless rage. Here’s to a bright future of more considered expression and a truly transforming dialogue!

    Thanks for being here.

  3. Did you just call me a WIMP? Seriously…these pendejos have nothing better to do than spread hate and ignorance. The Good Men Project Magazine is a wonderful outlet for men like myself who want to stress the importance of fatherhood. As a child from a father-absent home in the public housing projects with seven siblings and a mother who barely spoke English, I thought life sucked. When I became a dad barely out of my teens, I knew that I wanted to be involved in my son’s life. I didn’t want my son to experience the same things I’ve been through. It’s not a secret that father-absence is a major problem in this country. But in case you didn’t know, there are nearly 25 million father-absent children in the U.S. and it may not be the sexiest subject to discuss, but it’s important that we don’t ignore the serious implications such as incarceration, high school dropout, substance abuse, emotional and behavioral problems. As a proud father of two, professional boxing inspector, author, and police commissioner, I strongly believe this magazine provides the perfect platform to discuss some of these vital issues of modern men. I am proud to stand alongside men and women who do not care about race, gender, sexuality or religious backgrounds because at the end of the day…we are all in this journey of life together. Adelante! Peace

  4. As men we need support in being men. For decades if not centuries we have taken our cues on how to be a man from a society that were limiting us just as it was limiting women. Women started breaking out decades ago. It is about time we did.

    I understand when you are ‘in control’ there is less reason to change the system or yourself. It is great to see we are realizing that the old ways restricted us as much as women.

    I wish you all the best. Thank you for doing this!

  5. The majority of your comments may have been negative but I don’t think the majority of the world thinks you’re wrong. I think the lousy remarks are more the mindset of the typical online commenter, many of whom have never been listened to before and just can’t believe they get to say something nasty about EVERYTHING. Bullies emboldened by the anonymity the internet offers.

    Also, don’t assume only men are this negative. I once had to join Cafemom.com as a research project and I cannot believe how brutal and nasty the moms on there are. MOMs, for god’s sake. Who CAN you count on to be kind? We could all use a big dose of civility and I think that’s what you’re trying to say.

    I also just took a personal development workshop and it was heartbreaking how many young men are struggling to have good relationships with their girlfriends, wives and children. For every cheeseball who flames you, I believe there are 10 decent guys who are quietly delighted you’re here.

    Good luck!

  6. Note all the comments. Great attention for the magazine. Thank you, close-minded ones, for drawing more readers to the evolution of mankind.

  7. Great article, knuckle dragging comments.

    For most of my life, I have been raised by women. My mother and my aunt and my sister. These were strong women who raised my brother and myself to be typical men. Strong, tough, resilient. It wasn’t until I had my first serious relationship that I learned that men could be vulnerable and not give up their masculinity.

    These commenters are just going to keep dragging their knuckles through the rest of their lives. They will never know the simple joy of just being able to exist in a space where they don’t need to scream their “manliness” every second of every day. You can cry when your emotions get the better of you and still be a man. The ones who need to “grow a set” are the ones who can’t.

  8. Tim Abrahamsen says:

    I would be careful to not automatically gainsay the comments to the article. Sure, there are internet trolls who spew hate speech at everything, and I completely agree that many of them are simply expressing their fear at the changing world around them. But maybe there’s something we can all learn from this.

    I’m 26 years old, and very interested in men’s issues. I think discussion, the kind that goes on here, is vital. But I also think we need something more, and maybe those commenters where hitting on that. If all we do is talk about these things, yes, we get lots of good out of it, but we don’t get everything we need. I think this biggest thing men in this generation need is something to DO. Like Chuck Palahniuk says in Fight Club:

    “We don’t have a great war in our generation, or a great depression, but we do, we have a great war of the spirit. We have a great revolution against the culture. The great depression is our lives. We have a spiritual depression.”

    Perhaps it’s foolish to say so, but lots of times I envy the men who fought in World War II. They had a challenge that was of the utmost importance, that required every ounce of strength they had, and they rose to meet that challenge to save the world. I think there’s something there that is a fundamental desire of every man. But nowadays we don’t have anything like that: men are adrift, purposeless, and we grapple with our increasing obsolescence every day. We are collectively like an aging superhero, who at one point was called on to protect those he loved, but now comes to the sad realization that the world no longer needs him. And what the commenters to that article heard (which is different than what you *said*, but still worth considering), and what we’re getting nowadays from all sides of society, seems to be that we men need to give up those desires that are so core to who we are, that such desires are the realm of misogynists, jocks, and man-boys, and that if only men were more like women than the world would be a better place.

    So I wholly encourage you to continue with this magazine, and I think that what you’re doing is wonderful. However, I think talking about men’s issues is only the first step. The next step is action, which maybe you’re already doing (I’m new to the site). Give men not just a discussion forum, but a challenge to rally behind, and I’ll bet many former online enemies will happily enlist to join the cause.

  9. @ Tim Abrahamsen – quoting Fight Club about the dilemma of contemporary men is a tad dicey when you consider that much of the plot (other than the bipolar schizoid self-hatred thing) of the novel emulates the rise of the Brown Shirts in the Nazi Party in Germany in the 1930s. Fight Club’s first rule is to never discuss Fight Club, there is a Leader who can never be questioned (Fuehrer), and the membership are largely those invisible men who start by spitting in soup but move on to acts of terrorism–bombs and shrapnel in what the novel celebrates as “fun.” In the film, the enemy is the financial institutions–usually a code for “Jew-bankers,” and it cannot be a coincidence that Tyler Durden makes soap from rendered human fat–just as the Nazis did. The homosexual elements of Fight Club — all those sweaty, naked, hard-bodied men grappling with each other–echoes the homosexual elements in the Nazi Party that led to a purge and Hitler’s ordering the murder of Ernst Roehm. So many coincidences — well, they aren’t coincidences. That said, bear in mind that like the Nazis and the characters of Fight Club, the nay-sayers the GMF has attracted have no positive program–they just know what they hate, and lacking any ideas, they fall back on name-calling. “Metrosexual” — oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. How will I ever look in the mirror to shave again?
    Hate is not a cause behind which men should rally–but building positive role models for men and boys at risk, and doing so in ways that are life-affirming. No one loses. We begin by telling our stories because we do not have to find our identities by being against anything, or fearing what we do not know, but by seeking to become the very best men we can be.
    That ought to be enough to rally behind for anyone.

  10. Aah, the joys of anonymity. Perhaps we should refer these commentators, shining examples methinks of why this project is so important – good fathers (or other role models) make good men – to drop by and visit Newman McKay, who contributed to this project, or any of the numerous readers who daily go ‘outside the wire’ in Iraq or Afghanistan, or who go into burning buildings, deal with those who choose to ignore the laws that allow society to function – or simply do their best every day to provide for their family.

    The commentator referring to the ‘regular guy’ of a father that lived through the Depression and WWII misses the whole point, while reinforcing it at the same time – entirely too many boys have no positive role models and so this project must attempt to bridge the gap. If you have had the privilege to interact with veterans of WWII (as a serving officer in the Canadian Naval Reserve, I regularly have the opportunity to sit down over a beverage with veterans of the North Atlantic convoys) you will see that, while they rarely talk about their experiences, they will let their feelings show and they are unfailingly respectful to both ladies and the other men in the room.

    All of which is a long winded way to say, keep up the good work and don’t worry too much about the naysayers – chances are they comment equally as vitriolically (is that a word?) to sports stories.

  11. You folks are doing something praiseworthy: inspiring good-hearted men to think, share, ponder, dream and emote! Your site has quickly become one of my favs and is a nice respite from the usual ‘rockhard abs in three weeks’ articles of most men’s magazines. As for your “metrosexual-hating” critics, well isn’t obvious from their own words that they suffer enough in life, so there is no need to criticize them.

    Looking forward to more of your good men (and women) writing about men who are doing their best.

  12. I agree whole-heartedly with Joe, but I’d put it less charitably than he did. The comments section of the Globe is a sty. You know the adage: when you wrestle with pigs, you both get covered in mud — and the pigs love it.

    You’re doing important work. Get back to it.

  13. David Shackleton says:

    Hey, Tom, this is David Shackleton, editor and publisher for 14 years of Everyman: A Men’s Journal. I really understand how difficult it is to hold clear space for men’s growth and change – on one hand, you don’t want to shame men for where they are – on the other hand, you see a powerful vision of how they could be different. On the one hand, you are sensitive and compassionate, or you wouldn’t be in this work – on the other hand, you need a thick skin to deal with the comments from the stuck and insensitive.

    In my experience, there is no single answer to this conundrum, but to constantly wrestle with the issues as they come up. It looks to me like you are doing it well. If we wrestle honestly, with a solid grounding in what we hold to be true, and at the same time with a willingness to discover that we are mistaken, then I think that is the best we can do – and it is good enough. If you are on track, then there WILL be hecklers, they will be unable to stop themselves, because what you are doing is bringing up their fears.

    Keep the faith, my friend, you are looking good from here.

    David

  14. There is a men’s movement happening – but it isn’t happening on GMP.

    How many times has this site declared that something is a “men’s issue” – but it always an article about something that is actually a women’s issue. Like the article about how DV is a men’s issue – but failed to talk at all about the actual men’s issues: false allegations, male DV victims, and the shaming and silencing of men who report DV. Articles like that destroy your credibility. Today another article about abortion being a men’s issue – that completely ignores the issue of how men have no reproductive rights. We don’t even have a defense against paternity fraud.

    Then you’ve got articles by people like Schwyzer and Marcotte. I’ll admit that Schwyzer’s articles are a draw for me and many people – but not for a good reason. Its because half the time he’s immolating himself along with the whole concept of masculinity.

    You’re based in Massachusetts – where the Alimony laws were the most backwards and discriminatory in the nation. But you never wrote anything about it. There was a years long battle to reform the law, and a fair and reasonable reform was passed. But GMP paid no attention – either to the battle – or our eventual victory. How can this site claim to be a men’s issues site?

    How about the whole cultural thread from Kay Hymnowitz, and Bill Bennett and Kate Bolick about how men are opting out of marriage and should “man up”. There is a whole men’s movement response to this: marriage isn’t working for men and they are opting out. Its not that marriage is not available to them, of that they are “immature” – but that fewer men value it. But this is a thread that GMP of course missed as well.

    Instead there are the constant stream of articles about men’s loss, failure, crying. About how shallow men are, about how our sexual choices are selfish and wrong. About addiction. And about defending and supporting women’s promiscuity.

    Tom, you’re one of the more reasonable and moderate voices on this site. But even you are poisoned by this concept that men are broken and need fixing. It permeates your whole outlook. Like how you end even this article:

    “They’re men who are struggling to be good—men who want to be better fathers, sons, and husbands.
    They’re men who don’t equate strength and toughness with ignorance and repression. They’re men who would prefer not to go through life as miserable jerks”

    I’m not “struggling to be good”. I’m already a damn good person, and I’m not looking for someone to try to fix me to fit some mold of what feminists want. I know what they want – and I reject it. It is not what I want.

    You quote a bunch of cranks in the middle of your article. And I agree- they are cranks. Except in the middle you have one who actually hits the nail on the head:

    “I get so tired of hearing this ‘men need to express their feelings’ crap. 90% of it is an excuse for whining. My father grew up in the Depression, went to WWII, and was pretty much the model of the regular guy. We’ve never had a problem expressing thoughts, feelings, or love as he approaches the end of his life. It doesn’t have to be a drama coached by some woman’s vision of what is the way we should express ourselves.”

    You should meditate on that one.

  15. Transhuman says:

    They do have a point; a lot of the GMP articles seem to be how feminists and women want to define good men, rather than men talking about what it is to be men, good or otherwise. There are some articles that stand out but the majority read like a man’s version of Cosmo. I do, however, hope this will improve. My faith is not yet entirely exhausted.

  16. You are really shocked that the world is overflowing with d-bags who have nothing to add but homophobia, misogyny, and racism?

    I guess this was a reality check. That covers a lot of male population. I could’ve saved you the grief and told ya sooner.

  17. Uncle Woofie says:

    The split-second the word ‘[i]metrosexual[/i] is used, the TV game-show device know as the ‘wrong-answer buzzer’ goes off in my head for the entire comment containing that word.

  18. The Bad Man says:

    Well, they’re horrible comments and I’m proud to be a wimp but I don’t like it when anybody tries to define what it is to be a man.

    To me, those comments are just as offensive as the constant stereotyping of violent men and victim women (ie. Jacksaon Katz)

    • Uncle Woofie says:

      Amen, Chief…

      Especially when those doing the defining seem to betray going through life using “redneck math”, which is limited to the following numerical places:

      “one, two, three, many, and ass-load

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