Mark Greene explains why Feminism (or any ideology) is not a large enough container to hold the Good Men Project.
Tom Matlack published a powerful article about his goals for the Good Men Project titled Why Being a Good Man Is Not a Feminist Issue. Tom speaks in very moving ways about the healing dialogues that happen when men speak to men from the heart about their lives. He talks about a particular journey that men can choose to take; of telling their private and powerful stories and the transformations that this can put into motion.
Tom is not saying feminism is bad. What he is saying is that feminism (or any ideology) is not a large enough container to hold the Good Men Project. Nor does it hold the key to interpreting what happens here.
Tom is right about that.
What Tom founded the Good Men Project to do, is happening. A vast range of men are telling their stories. Each time a man reads one of them, the narrative circuit from one man to another is complete. The story is passed on, the potential for personal and social change is made wonderfully possible.
But other things are happening as well. The most obvious is that various folks are getting into some pretty heated ideological debates. The process gets messy and binary.
Which is always the first thing that happens on the net, right? It seems predetermined that we should speak from our political or ideological identities. It’s a public space and that how we talk in public spaces, right? So we go binary and label each other as liberals and conservatives. Up pop words like feminazi and rapist. And we craft endless comments tearing down the other person’s point of view, pausing occasionally to scan their responses, parsing for the trigger words that start our keyboards flying anew. And this shows us both the immense power and the dreadful limitations of politically charged ideological conversations.
Tom didn’t found his site so we could rhetorically kick each others’ asses back to the stone age. And thank god, this is not the only thing that is happening here. There are powerful quiet moments of connection occurring as men and women tell their sometimes hilarious and sometimes harrowing personal stories.
Which is what Tom witnessed in his AA meetings in South Boston years ago. Another person’s personal story is always unique. It doesn’t fit neatly into any ideological frame you could possibly imagine for it. And if you seek to make it fit a political or ideological frame, you strip it of its nuance and its essential meaning. In fact, you cease to hear the story at all. But, if you let that story reach you, you may see something new in yourself and in that person.
The fact is, we argue enough in this binary culture we call America. We need a new way of listening. We need to intentionally decouple ourselves from our ideologies. Otherwise, we will quash the fully human stories that can not flourish in filtered or ideologically driven spaces. When we decide to set aside our filters, we listen openly to the stories others bring. We locate the interpersonal bridges that create understanding and change in ourselves and others. Even if, at first glance, these bridges seem to be coming from unfamiliar or antithetical sources.
Listening without our ideological filters, is a way of listening that is more powerful and more relational. But in order to do this, we have to choose to be curious about what the other person is saying, instead of jumping to conclusions based on the political or ideological filters we all carry. Then if we need to speak into an issue that is raised or a concern we have, we can come from a more fully human place. We can bring a tone and a way of speaking that acknowledges we are responsible for what the conversation is creating.
Tom is seeking to create a space where Men’s stories get told. He, like all of us, carries his ideological baggage. But his belief in the transformational power of stories is right on the money. And if we can all just dump our baggage (at least occasionally) and share our stories, we’ll make change that will startle the world.