Why Rudd’s five types of men are damaging to the understanding of both men and women.
I’ve taken an increasing interest in The Good Men Project lately. I find many refreshing posts there, and it’s clear how it targets different audiences. Sometimes it targets college guys, sometimes queer people, yoga practitioners, and sometimes, such as with Chuck Rudd’s Five Types of Men You Will Meet, it seems directed towards firm believers in the game. So when I criticize Rudd, I don’t see him as representing the project overall. I think it’s clear that this project is not about distilling the one type of man that constitutes the good man, but rather about showing an array of good men.
That said, I’d like to turn my attention to Rudd’s article, which to me personally has been the most objectionable part of the project to date. Chuck’s intentions may be good enough – that is to say that there is in fact a kind of man that trumps the bad boy. In Rudd’s view agency is the primary good that men ought to display in order to become attractive. To prove this he brushes against “science” which supports his statement, only to jump on the stereotyping bandwagon and lump men together in five different groups.
Understanding, control, and diversity
There is, unfortunately, such a thing as a reductive approach to science. In other words, a way of approaching science as something that ought to make the world easier to understand and control. But this approach starts from the perspective that we ought to strip away all that we can and construct the world as if it was a simple schematic of straightforward causality. When constructing any kind of scientific study, there are many difficult philosophical choices with which we have to wrestle in the first place, and some of them will be difficult to defend no matter what we choose to keep (and choose to remove). The nameless science to which Rudd points somewhat halfheartedly (without any sort of reference) has most certainly done most of what I’ve outlined above. It’s governed by a goal to postulate something about “what women want.” This is, no doubt, an unfortunate case of reductionism, as “women” is not really “women” in this case. “Women” is, in fact, one middle-of-the-road woman. This woman then goes on to find people more or less attractive on a sliding scale. Essentially, this type of study says that your outlook on life–religiously, sexually, politically and otherwise; what you value, your upbringing, your socioeconomic status, your genes (even though postmodernists don’t like to venture into that whole area)—doesn’t matter. You are a woman, and so you like men according to the Chuck Rudd top five list.
This constructs a “normal” woman that men start to perceive as a real person, who could actually be out there. And this woman can be attracted to you if you adhere to a certain set of guidelines. What it does not do is propose that a Swedish single mom in her forties, a well-off Latin American businesswoman, and a retired gender studies professor will essentially not be bothered about all their differences and in the end seek out this “agentic alpha male.” At the end of the day, everybody wants George Clooney.
The next noteworthy (and objectionable) bit of Rudd’s article is where he touches on the value of control. Being in control is somehow an antidote to pretty much everything scary in this fuzzy world. But what is control? How do you insert yourself into that position? And what happens to the people around you? These are essentially questions not addressed by Rudd, so I cannot guess what he actually means. What I can do is reason about the possibilities of control, its effects, and its affects (as affect is the bottom line in Rudd’s article). Portraying control as something valuable is a way to approach life in terms of mastery. It’s about dominance. In science, control goes together with the idea of mastering “nature” and forcing it into submission. In relation to other people, control often signifies the same thing. Control is not the same thing as being calm, cool, and composed. It is not because you control the external reality that you can keep yourself together. Rather, I’d argue that keeping it together is to have worked on your self—self-artistry—in order to bear facing the difficult, mysterious, challenging, and ever-changing realities of being human.
The effect of trying to assert control over situations or people, is again reducing women (in this case) into people who are essentially only interested in a submissive role. I’m not denying that there are such women; it’s just that honestly I’ve hardly ever met any. It is indeed a dangerous assertion to claim that this is what all women want: to hand over control or have it taken from them by someone more assertive. To further claim that this is the basis of creating affect in your partner (to be) is, in my view, to both negate the fuzzy complexity of reality and also to negate the possibility of being both a good man and also an attractive man.
Photo by stevendepolo