Justin Cascio believes there is a difference between an attack and a criticism. This is his criticism.
EDITOR’S NOTE: As Publisher, CEO, and an Editor of The Good Men Project, I was concerned with running this piece. Not because I wanted to stop the discussion, not because I wanted to dismiss Justin’s concerns, and not because I am not willing to take criticism. I disagreed with Justin’s portrayal of some of the events — 1) I did not “refuse to run Hugo’s piece” as Justin’s says below, I simply wanted to have a conversation with Hugo about it first 2) The name of another post, “The Wrath of the Feminists” came from Jenn Pozner herself — if it is “disrespectful and dismissive” it is really important that people understand that Jenn herself used it as a title to describe the twitter discussion. In fact, I talked to Jenn about it, she told me to make sure we linked back to the place she posted it and put quotes around it. But it was her title. 3) Tom did not call empathy to women “bullshit.” Justin couldn’t find the tweet, but I have since looked it up. What Tom said is that “So the only way to be a “good” man is to imagine how hard it is to be a woman? What a crock of shit.”4) I do disagree with Justin’s definitions of “criticism” vs. “attack”, as Justin correctly points out. 5) Justin is a contributor who is helping to build The Good Men Project together with us. I don’t expect him to agree with everything we do. But I do expect him to support our intentions.
But I told Justin I had concerns I wanted to discuss before running this piece, and so Justin and I talked on the phone. Justin and I disagreed on all of the above and reached an impasse. But he finally said one thing that I could rally behind. He said “This is the truth as I see it.”
One of the criticisms of Tom Matlack’s original post “Being a Dude is a Good Thing” (the post that started this all) was that some people didn’t see the world as Tom did. I do not see the world as Justin does. But he has this POV, and I’ve heard others give interpretations to the events which are similar to Justin’s.
We are not censorious. We do not shut down discussion. And one of the things I’ve learned from being at this a while is: “We can’t get at the truth until we allow people to tell us what they see.”
We have since decided to run Hugo’s original post unedited, here. Below is Justin’s post, also unedited.
There’s a storm brewing on The Good Men Project, and it’s not just the feminists and the men’s rights activists going at it in the comments again. Although both of these issues relate to The Good Men Project’s editorial policies, the matter of Tom Matlack’s public image and that of the site he founded have been cast as being about feminism, when they are really about goodness.
Hugo Schwyzer’s explanation, “Why I Resigned From The Good Men Project,” posted to his own blog, describes Tom Matlack as anti-feminist, but upon further reading, the accusation is more critical to the GMP mission. The problem has never been that Schwyzer and Matlack are men, or that they both call themselves feminists, or that like other men and feminists, they disagree with one another on occasion. I’m also a man, a feminist, and in disagreement at various times with both Hugo and Tom. And while I agreed with some of Tom’s points—that all men do not deserve to be regarded as rapists—my principal concern with his defensive stances and gaslighting in “The Wrath of the Feminists” were not that they are anti-feminist, but that they are disrespectful.
Lisa’s response to Hugo’s post, and her explanation, “So a Male Feminist and a Female Humanist Walk Into a Bar” don’t make it much clearer to me exactly why she rejected Hugo’s response. Was it that his essay was really so harmful to the brand?
The reason I started writing for the GMP was because a piece infuriated me: the author describes terrorizing his wife and small children, on a site specifically about becoming good men, and so I wrote a piece in response, in which I attack the more subtle and unexamined ways in which men bully and extort the women in their lives. It got people riled up, too; not everyone got my satirical sneer, or agreed with what I had to say about the culture of domestic violence. Undaunted, I’ve gone on to write here about being queer and trans, about children’s sexuality, and about the culture of silence around sexual abuse. These are not anodyne perspectives, and each time I’ve had a thrill of fear that maybe this time, Lisa would not accept my submission. She always has.
Why wasn’t Hugo’s gaslighting essay run without question? He does not attack Tom Matlack, founder of the GMP; he criticizes him. And maybe this is the problem Lisa and Tom are having: distinguishing the two. Even in naming it “The Wrath of the Feminists,” the editorial voice of the GMP was disrespectful and dismissive of the writers who were invited to participate in the discussion. Tom even calls empathy for women “bullshit.” His tactics throughout the conversation are derailing: tactics not befitting a good man, feminist or not.
Recently, I co-edited a section on the GMP, “Presumption of Male Guilt,” with Joanna Schroeder. When I received Tom’s submission on the topic, “Being a Dude is a Good Thing” (which is the article that kicked off the “Wraths” discussion) it originally included a phrase that I found transphobic. Although he made the change, based on his recent opening salvo in “The Wraths,” I still get the sense that the guy who wrote “Eunuchs Are Not the Answer” (and didn’t respond to my comment criticizing the conflation of gender and character) thinks that “real men” are as unlike women as possible. This is one of those times when I prefer Schwyzer’s formulation, that the opposite of a real man is a child, not a woman.
When @sjjphd criticized Tom’s introduction of whiteness to his argument about presumption of male guilt, she made a valid and very well known point about institutionalized oppression, which Tom derailed by claiming he has none of these privileges, because he was born poor. By bringing up his class as an argument in a discussion of race-based privilege, he was derailing. It also showed the work that Tom hasn’t done, because this kind of ignorance about the benefits that accrue to men, or straight people, or white people, or cisgendered or able-bodied people, is what Tom’s friend Steve Locke explained months ago on the GMP in his letter, “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race,” Locke says to his friend, in essence, Tom, we’re friends, but this work of educating you on your privilege is not the job of every person of color standing near you. There are books and lectures: this work has been *done.*
Like Locke, Schwyzer has the right to opt out of educating the straight, white, cisgender, able-bodied man who so far refuses to recognize his own privilege. Hugo’s defection has me wondering what I must say about this matter before we can go forward: about Tom, and the image of The Good Men Project, and what it means for me to be associated with them.
I’m concerned about the future of the Project. Are we here for each other, imperfect role models, or are we building a monumental substitute for one man’s personal growth? Being able to receive criticism is crucial to the work of becoming a good person. Tom Matlack can lead by example, as he did when he ran Steve Locke’s letter, by allowing this to be published on his site.
—Photo jonseidman1988 / flickr