Hugo Schwyzer wants us to have a good-faith discussion, and points out a place he thinks we could have done better.
As a regular writer for Good Men Project (as well as editor of the Sex & Gender section), I’m in the difficult position of disagreeing profoundly with the founder of this site. That’s not new; I disagreed with Tom about his views on feminism before, even before I joined GMP. But this Twitter latest exchange he’s had with some great feminist writers (Jennifer Pozner and Amanda Marcotte) troubled me a great deal.
Even before this discussion, there’s been a lot of writing here (and elsewhere) about a “gender war.” The idea that men are “under attack” by women, feminists in particular, has been repeated uncritically. Even the title “the wrath of the feminists” reinforces the tired old trope of women’s rights activists as humorless harridans attacking well-meaning men. A familiar tack develops: man says something patently offensive, woman pushes back, man throws up his hands and feigns dismay at her “tone”, wondering what he did wrong “this time.”
I joined GMP knowing that it was not an explicitly feminist site. From the start, the writing here has reflected a wide variety of ideological views, some of which border on the reactionary and many on the overtly anti-feminist. That’s fine; I’m genuinely proud of what Tom Matlack and publisher Lisa Hickey have done to foster an open platform for a variety of views about masculinity. That willingness to present so many divergent voices is one of our greatest strengths.
But I don’t think there’s any room for dismissing or belittling one’s interlocutors, which is what I think has been done quite explicitly with the title “The Wrath of the Feminists.” There’s a long tradition in men’s writing of trying to defuse women’s anger. Legitimate criticism is called “man-bashing”, even though in real life there are no incidences of feminists physically assaulting anti-feminist men. The goal, intentional or not, seems to be to marginalize anyone who dares take what men say seriously enough to push back against it. You don’t want to be one of those scary feminists, do you?
I’m angry that a serious discussion got framed as “the wrath of the feminists,” a convenient way of absolving Tom of any responsibility for stoking this conflict. Obviously, in this discussion, I’m with Jenn Pozner, Shira Tarrant and Amanda Marcotte, long-time friends and allies in the struggle for gender justice. But even if I weren’t, I’d be frustrated at the way in which their thoughtful criticisms get dismissed as typical feminist overreaction.
We can and should disagree about what makes a “good man.” But I think we all have an obligation to take criticism seriously. One of the most pernicious aspects of the “myth of male weakness” is that men can’t handle being confronted with women’s anger. We either run away literally or figuratively, disconnecting with the television, the bottle, the computer screen. But we’re not little boys who will physically lash out in rage when challenged, nor can we be so fearful that we avoid the discussion by mocking those with whom we disagree.
“The Wrath of the Feminists” is a deeply unfair framing of good-faith discussion, and as a writer and editor for GMP, I want to publicly disassociate myself from it.
Image: uniraneal / Flickr