Brought to you by the people who make aiming high, look easy.
At The Good Men Project, we are leading conversations about men and goodness, two easy targets for cynicism. To declare a goal of discussing goodness is to be “self-burnished” by the label: an act that, Adam Gopnik warns attracts those who will attach “a low purpose to a high-minded enterprise, exposing what seems to be a mixed motive” in such an institution, because it gives a sense of high minded pleasure to do so.
The example Gopnik gives of the take down force in human nature is of the prevailing legend that National Geographic objectifies by having published, in its 125 year history, photographs of bare breasted women of color. As he points out, it’s a damned if they do, damned if they don’t situation. They can portray these women as they are, which is the point of the magazine—to bring other people’s ways of life, previously hidden by the vastness of the round Earth, into your vision—or censor them according to the very provincial perspectives the magazine exists to broaden. Do they lead or follow? They’ve taken the high road, and in fact the number of times bare breasted women have actually appeared on its pages, according to Gopnik, is a very small one. Yet the myth persists because the desire to take down those who announce themselves as hosting a “high-minded enterprise” is not peculiar to the internet.
Radical feminists very often see men’s issues as properly answering the question, How can men use their privilege to make the world a better place for women? Meanwhile, men’s rights activists can be described as seeing the world in exactly opposing terms: that feminism has pervaded every contemporary agency with power over our lives and thought, from family courts to the schools, and that men must organize and agitate for equality for ourselves and for boys, to reverse the institutional disposability of men. There are elements of truth in both perspectives, but they both are capable of missing the point in their radical viewpoints. We believe that men must be empowered in order to change the world for the better, beginning with themselves, for all life on Earth, not only for women. And both can be combative to the point of forgetting that we’re all in this together.
We are spiritual beings having a physical experience, not a numb assemblage of meat and aggression. I believe the world will be a better place when we value men’s bodies, not only for their work, but for their capacity to experience pleasure. Men play; men nurture; men pray, eat, and love. We are the equals of women, not competitors in a race, bound to win or lose; we are not one species in the dominion of the other, we are one people.
Relationships of equals demand a balance of sometimes conflicting drives: to advance one’s own goals, and to truly connect with others who have their own needs and dreams.
Not all opposing viewpoints express equally valid perspectives, a fallacy promoted by simple-minded media who prefer the binary of the crisis to the warm expanse that love and compassion afford us. “Why Loving Homosexuals Means Letting Them Marry: A Christian Perspective” (#9 this month) is not followed by a post on why loving homosexuals means sending them to reparative therapy for the same reason Scientific American is not publishing essays on why the Earth is flat. They’re publishing science that builds on the “round Earth” theory, not articles written in blatant disregard of this knowledge. You can’t achieve greater truth on the basis of lies: not on stereotypes, assumptions, good intentions, ideology, or the appearance of evenhandedness.
The Good Men Project’s purpose and intent is to show what men’s lives are like, and to lead the conversation toward making those lives better: more informed, engaged, brought in, trusted. We proceed from love: of men and of women, girls and boys. Sometimes we screw up; we take the opportunity to grow. Sometimes we’re criticized wrongly, misrepresented, misread. We keep trying, because that’s what goodness does. We keep the lines wide open to facilitate growth and positivity: this is not a closed group. It’s not a men only club. Anyone can comment, anyone can read and submit for publication, in the conversation about what it means to be a good man in the 21st century.
The Good Life began last summer as a magazine within a magazine—the lifestyle section of a progressive men’s magazine called The Good Men Project—and a home for weekly themed discussions. Since its inception, The Good Life has hosted men’s perspectives on topics as diverse as abortion and addiction, friendship and marriage, faith and body image. Recent themes have included “My First Drink” and The Ethics of Writing About Living People. The submissions represent a wide range of opinions and lived experience. You are invited to become more involved by writing for us: see the weekly calls for submissions and join the conversation.
Premium Members are invited to take these conversations a step further into video chats— real time discussions with special guests—on the issues that affect men’s lives. Last month, I spoke with Dr. Adam Sheck and a panel of GMP editors and contributors about finding meaning in your life, particularly in the second half of manhood—the years after age forty.
This month, Premium Members will be invited to join us in a panel discussion with men who are first responders and perform other hands-on service to help others in need. Come and ask your questions, and offer your perspectives. Talks are recorded and made available to everyone to watch. To participate, you have to be a member. It’s only $2 a month and you can pay by the month.
Here are the ten posts that received the most page views in April on The Good Life. Not all of them were published this month; in all cases, the number of pageviews (ppv) given in parentheses is the number received in April.
10. Average Size… for a Black Man: Penis Size, Myths, Racism, and the Patriarchy (Published Dec 24, 5,454 ppv this month)
9. Why Loving Homosexuals Means Letting Them Marry: A Christian Perspective (Published April 15, 6,321 ppv)
8. 10 Things Your Massage Therapist Wants You to Know (Published April 28, 6,452 ppv)
7. Before You Cheat, 14 Things You Need to Know (Published January 15, 6,774 ppv)
6. How Social Messages Can Make a Man a Bad Lover (Published April 6, 6,828 ppv)
5. 5 Ways Disavowing Masculinity Changed My Life (Published March 26, 7,579 ppv)
4. Lies Women Tell One Another About Men and Love (Published January 26, 8,845 ppv)
3. 5 Ways Cuddling Makes Us Healthier (Published April 21, 9,295 ppv)
2. What Is Objectification? (Published April 23, 12,647 ppv)
1. Why We Sleep Together (Published March 22, 19,370 ppvs)
Read more on The Good Life.
Image credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video/Flickr