It has been an exhausting week.
It may seem disingenuous to say this now, but I was genuinely surprised by the response to my resignation from Good Men Project. I didn’t intend for it to be terribly well-publicized; I figured that bowing out while everyone was in the midst of holiday frenzy would mean the story (such as it was) would get lost.
Lisa Hickey, the Good Men Project Magazine publisher wrote a lengthy response to my resignation today. In it, she focuses on the core values of the site and its founder, Tom Matlack — and shares her perspective on what led to my resignation. She writes that she takes “100-percent responsibility for the fact that Hugo resigned”, which seems a bit unfair to both Tom and to me. I made the decision to resign and she accepted it at once. It was clear, by that point, that this was the best for all concerned.
Resignations (or firings) happen all the time in print and online journalism. They happen for a host of issues, but not infrequently over issues of politics and philosophy. That’s normal. The first time it happened, many years ago, I resigned from the writing staff of Christians for Biblical Equality. I shared CBE’s passion for egalitarian faith, but didn’t share their view that genital sexuality should only be expressed in heterosexual marriage. I chose to step aside as my continued presence on that staff would be interpreted as support for CBE’s stance on sex. I had a lovely email exchange with the head of the organization, and that was that. (This was before Twitter and Facebook allowed for extensive publicizing of resignations). The point is simple: these sorts of public disagreements which end in resignation or termination are common and even healthy.
I had reservations from the start about Good Men Project (as some of my early criticisms of the site will attest, see here and here). I also found much about the site to be exciting, and was happy to join. I certainly didn’t expect everyone to march in lock-step agreement, and was encouraged by the willingness of both Tom and Lisa to tolerate discussion and disagreement. Lisa backed me to the hilt time and again. I was — and remain — publicly grateful for that support.
But then came the events of the past week, which don’t need extensive rehashing. And after my post was published and then taken down within minutes, I had no choice as I see it but to offer my resignation. The alacrity with which it was accepted suggests it was not entirely unwelcome.
If that seems rash, let me add that in a brief email exchange prior to my resignation, Tom wrote “I would suggest you confine your GMP posts to first person pieces. If you want to talk about your lesbian wife or your potential child that is fine, but not gender theory.” I have no problem writing about my past (though it does tend to get me in trouble), but I don’t aspire to be a third-rate serial memoirist. I teach gender studies; Tom was, as I read it, telling me I couldn’t write about the things about which I am most passionate.
According to Lisa, Tom’s reaction to my resignation was one word: “onward.” I read those words, and under my breath uttered a quiet “amen, brother.” And I wish Tom Matlack, Lisa Hickey, and the entire GMP team nothing but the best.
Let me finish by saying that I struggle to be, as Lisa says, a feminist to my core. Not because of some slavish devotion to women, or some strange pathology of self-loathing, or because it’s a groovy way to pick up chicks. I am a feminist because I see feminism as an extraordinary vehicle for human liberation for women… and men. I wrote about that in 2007, and I’ll end this post with a quote. Perhaps it will explain both why I joined GMP, and why I needed to leave this week.
I am a feminist because I see organized feminism as one of the great vehicles for social justice and personal transformation. I am a feminist because I want to see a world in which both men and women are free to become complete people. When we shut down women’s anger, women’s desire, women’s impetuousness — we create half-people. When we shut down men’s tenderness, men’s vulnerability, men’s empathy — we create half-people. Half people alternately long for a partner to complete them, and resent the hell out of those partners for being able to do for them what they could not do for themselves. It makes for a pretty miserable existence, characterized by the strange and odious way in which men and women simultaneously long for and loathe each other. That’s not nature, that’s a social construct that needs to be dismantled.
I’m a feminist because I want to create a world where men and women alike can realize their potential; I’m a feminist because I believe that our potential is not directed or confined by our chromosomes or our secondary sex organs. My penis and my Y chromosome do not destine me to be unreliable, predatory, and emotionally inarticulate. My wife’s uterus and her estrogen do not limit the horizons of her professional or athletic ambition. Feminism is, as we’ve all heard, the radical notion that women are people. But it’s also the radical notion that men are people too, complete human beings, with the same range of emotions and the same capacity for empathy and self-control as any woman.