Forgive me if I have been a bit slow on my reading from A Voice For Men given the uproar just before the holidays. I did, however, finally get around to reading “An Open Letter to Tom Matlack” written by a 40 year-old divorced mother of three who goes by the pen name GirlWritesWhat on her blog “Owning Your Shit”. The author begins, “I understand, I really do” and then continues on, in part:
“I’ve come to discover over my years of reading about gender issues that there really is no fury like a feminist scorned. I’ve learned a lot about human instinct in my 41 years on this planet, enough to know that the women and men who are most ruled by their instincts find a comforting ideology in feminism. The male feminist is chivalry incarnate, and the female feminist is a woman’s instinctive self-interest rendered down to its purest elixir. This marriage of male self-sacrifice and female self-interest in an age of total female liberation is social nihilism. It is a critical mass of troglodytic instinct sufficient to deny objective reality and steer humanity down a very dark path.
When you started the Good Men Project, you believed you were demonstrating your devotion to a set of ideals and the group that represents them. Now you’ve learned what your devotion was worth to them. Like a homeless man, you put your foot wrong and were cut loose, you’ve become a lifeboat rower with no arms, a broken cog in their machine, and it’s time to throw you away.”
The letter is accompanied by the video (below) by “John the Other” who is managing editor of Voice For Men.
Of course I got another letter recently, hard copy, from 71-year-old former professor Larry Daloz in which he told me:
“I have struggled over the years to hold the center and reach for a new, deeper understanding of what it means to be a man for the twenty-first century. I read your book and discovered your website not long ago and was both gripped by the power of many of the pieces and struck especially by your articulate and courageous recent effort to maintain your integrity in the midst of harsh criticism from both sides. The hardest thing of all, I think, is to acknowledge the radical truth of the Other even as we hold our own with full integrity.”
With Larry’s words in mind I would say to John the Other and Girl Writes What thank you. Thank you for the attention and the thought and the passion. I share the goal of supporting men.
On the issue of rape culture I obviously got myself into plenty of hot water by resisting the belief that all men should be treated as rapists until proven otherwise and only men can prevent rape. We’ve obviously been focussed on the plight of male victims of sexual abuse recently from my CNN column on the change in the Justice Department’s definition of rape to include men to “I’ve Got the T-Shirt and the Trauma Response to Go With It” to my buddy who was the first to come forward in the Boston priest scandal going public.
None of which is to minimize the sexual abuse of women. Only to say that we get the point loud and clear than men are victims all too often. And male victims deserve our attention and sympathy just as much as female victims do. No sexual abuse is okay. There is no pecking order when it comes to those who are abused. We all, men and women, need to work together to put a stop to abuse, no matter what the gender of the victim.
Where we differ is on the blanket statements about feminism. Don’t get me wrong I have indeed taken my body blows from men and women who call themselves feminists. That I will grant you. But that doesn’t mean that I think it fair to throw the folks who have held me down and beaten me in the same pot with those who might also call themselves feminists but who believe, as did my mom for that matter, that the goal is equality. As Professor Daloz put so well: We can be equal without obliterating all distinctions between men as a class and women as a class.
In the end I am quickly coming to the point of view that “feminism” is a label that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. So to say that all feminists believe that all men are rapists really isn’t that helpful. What is more helpful is to say that anyone who thinks all men are rapists is being grossly unfair and sexist.
It’s probably no accident that we seem to have gained a number of evangelists who would call themselves MRAs and lost some evangelists who would call themselves feminists. The conversation before the holidays was challenging on all sides and in the end we took a stand that personal attacks could only go so far before we had to call a time out (we did ultimately publish the piece that Hugo resigned over but after a cooling off period).
But as I have written more than once at least from my point of view there is no litmus test to be part of the Good Men Project community other than having an interest in talking about manhood, a willingness to explore topics from a first person perspective, and some amount of civility. There are still plenty of women involved in our community, from our CEO to evangelists to readers and commenters. People who call themselves feminists are welcome. As are folks who have a strong MRA orientation. And Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Inmates, Soldiers, Pacifists, and all sexual orientations, races, and creeds.
No one is excluded from the conversation about what it means to be a good man.
I am sure that won’t satisfy those for whom dogma is more important that individual stories of men doing inspirational things, sometimes in the face of great suffering. But truly the Good Men Project was never intended to be a platform to espouse any particular dogma. It was founded as a way to begin a conversation.