“Onward”: a final note on leaving the Good Men Project

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.

30 thoughts on ““Onward”: a final note on leaving the Good Men Project

  1. Hey, You can’t have that word “Onward” that’s ours!

    Just kidding Hugo — I hope that means that even in these difficult times we are truly still together in spirit, on some level.

    All of this reminds me that way we are trying to do is quite difficult. Really hard. You, me, The Good Men Project, feminism, all of what everyone is doing around these initiatives. We are all trying to do something meaningful, and to do it in the best way that we know how.

    There is so very much I appreciate about you — as a person, about your contributions to Good Men Project. You got me to see things about myself I never thought I’d see. You challenged me to be better, to think differently, to be more open-minded, and I hope that in some small way, we did the same for you. I enjoyed working with you as a person, as a teammate, as a writer.

    I am absolutely certain that our paths will cross again, that some of what we’ve all be hoping to accomplish will show up as success. And I’m sure that your words will echo in the hearts of many at Good Men Project for a long time to come.

    With gratitude and thanks for all, Lisa

  2. Thanks, Lisa. You did make me a better writer, and make me think again. Sometimes, I remember the line attributed to Cromwell “I implore you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible ye may be wrong.” There is a kind of healthy second-guessing that sites like GMP do encourage among their writers. I appreciated that and leave the richer for it.

    Cheers.

  3. For people who identify themselves as feminists, I have a suggestion: get rid of catch-phrases such as ‘patriarchy’ and ‘privilege’. I can see that being useful in the 1970′s.

    n o t a n y m o r e

    I can relate to kyriarchy and intersectionalism, but you gotta get rid of that ancient nonsense from a time long ago.

    • Does that mean you don’t thing privilege is a ‘thing’ anymore? Like Sellafield, you can change a name, but the underlying concept remains – as does the thing it represents.

          • See, I don’t buy that. The facts don’t speak for themselves. Blessings that are the result of one’s ancestor’s hard work is nothing to be ashamed about, which is what you are saying. I say this is false and wrong-headed.

      • The above suggestion (which I agree with) assumes that men also suffer oppression and women also enjoy privilege within TGRs. If you disagree with that then it doesn’t make much sense.

  4. Hugo – as usual you write from a very limited personal perceptive.

    Tom used “Onward”, not about your resignation, but about the GMP. Lisa made that clear, and she made it clear it’s a message Tom uses all the time. You do not make that clear, and make it revolve around yourself.

    “Later that night, Tom sent me one of his **favorite** one-word emails.”

    Lisa did set it against a time line of events and personalized it too, with reference to many people and the work they were all involved in with the evolution of GMP.

    Maybe you are unaware of the repeated message because you did not have Lisa’s responsibilities and oversight? Co-founding is one thing, running quite another.

  5. Thank you, Hugo, for being you…which is to be continually questioning and evolving….to feel true empathy for those who are powerless and silent is true strength indeed….In the past I have stood up and spoken out against stuff that was controversial and offensive (i.e., flame war in the opinion column of my college newspaper at my Seven Sisters school)….I look back and sometimes I think why didn’t I just ignore it (“The issue is a dead horse…”) and move on…but obviously, it’s not…I was finally speaking up, not out loud but in writing, which was a big first step for me…At the time I was in an abusive, coercive, and very confusing relationship with a much older man…you would think that a girl who went to an elite specialized (formerly all girls) high school and then to a Seven Sisters (now coed) school that I would be a staunch feminist in every aspect of my life and that I wouldn’t experience sexual harassment by my classmates or my professors and that life would be fair and beautiful with green grass and rainbows in the scenic distance….I have overlooked so much stuff…But, in truth, every day I see unfair treatment of women and girls…Every day I step out my front door something happens….Even inside my house, I have been insulted or slighted by things people have said….It wasn’t until recently I stopped blaming myself for the bad things that people said or did….The bad things that they said can be called misogyny or racism….if I was 6′ tall and blue-eyed and all cool-looking like Viggo Mortensen (my crush), I wouldn’t receive such abuse…So I realized it’s not really about me, it’s about the negative things these people feel about women/girls/Asians in general and that I was just a convenient punching bag….Thank you for sticking up for the underdog and pointing stuff out….Viggo probably doesn’t know even a fraction of what goes on in my life; he’s in a cool surfer West Coast world, which I would love to be a part of, but I know I can’t….

  6. You are well rid of a site where people think/pretend we live in a post-feminist world and who are allergic to analysis, self- or otherwise.

    I am thinking of the Yes song “Onward.” Yes, a band of men who managed to be socially, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually available, carrying on what the “hippy trippy” movement started and the Left sometimes lost. The “you” here could be anything, a lover, yourself, humanity, God.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVBsjFqVQXE

    Contained in everything I do
    There’s a love, I feel for you
    Proclaimed in everything I write
    You’re the light
    Burning, brightly
    Onward through the night
    Onward through the night
    Onward through the night of my life

    Displayed in all the things I see
    There’s a love you show to me
    Portrayed in all the things you say
    You’re the day
    Leading the way
    Onward through the night
    Onward through the night
    Onward through the night of my life

    Onward through the night
    Onward through the night
    Onward through the night of my life

  7. I’m a radical feminist because I want the male boot off my neck, I want freedom from male oppression, and I want a world where women determine everything, and males just leave us to our own devices. I’m a feminist because I hate the oppression of men, I want my freedom, and I’m willing to fight for it. That’s why I’m a feminist. I don’t give a damn what men do as long as they get the heck out of our way, and let us do the work of sisterhood free of their porn, their rape, their wars, their arrogance, their boring voices. I want feminism so all women can speak out loud, so that we can let our anger explode at the horror that is male tryanny. I want a country, a state, a city, my neighborhood park male free! That’s what I want.

    • How are you oppressed when everything around you, the roof that keeps the rain off of you, the electricity which you depend on, the food that you eat – literally everything – is brought to you by men?

      • Control of resources is fundamental to oppression. If “literally everything” is brought by men (an unbelievably arrogant and ignorant statement all by itself), that alone is oppression. Whoever has holds the power to refuse to give; to manipulate; to coerce; and to abuse those that are not so privileged.

        • You’re confusing collective ownership with individual ownership. Men are not a monolith. They compete with each other for control over resources. Women meanwhile benefit from that setup as they are recipients of much of the resources that men control.
          Of course not all women benefit but that is where women compete with one another. Such is nature. There are always winners and losers. Gender has very little to do with it.

    • Then why don’t you go to a remote island or land and found your own society?
      Why stay here complaining about the inadequacy of men while quietly benefiting from their accomplishments every day hour of your life?
      Or why don’t you just grow up!

  8. Hugo quoted himself saying:
    ‘ 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. ‘

    Yes. and when we shut down men’s anger, men’s desire, men’s impetuous, when we shut down women’s tenderness, women’s empathy (I think women’s vulnerability is the one thing that is rarely shut down) we create half-people.

    Hugo seems to think that feminism is in charge of deciding which gender norms are in place and which need challenging. I challenge that.

    • Hugo doesn’t tell women to shut down their tenderness, vulnerability or empathy. He doesn’t tell men to shut down their anger, desire or impetuousness.

      What he does do is question why we often encourage those to an extreme which is not healthy for the individual and to the exclusion of the “roles” assigned to the other gender. Women who are required to be tender, vulnerable, empathic, to their own detriment and beyond what they want to be are not “free” to be themselves. Same for men who are only praised for anger, desire or impetuousness.

      • what I am saying is that men are NOT praised for their anger, desire or impetuousness.

        Look at the feminist discourse of ‘rape culture’ – that is punishing men’s ‘desire’ and ‘anger’ and sexuality by turning all men into potential rapists.

        Why are the prisons full of men? is that a ‘celebration’ of men’s anger or a punishment for it?

        I think you are being incredibly disingenuous here.

        • “Turning all men into potential rapists” is the most disingenuous thing said in this discussion. No one is doing that.

          I suppose you are talking about the FACT that men who seem normal can be rapists, and women are well aware of this FACT and often act in ways that don’t assume that all men are GOOD MEN when in a situation where that man could RAPE them.

          Men are praised for their anger when they overthrow bad governments, protect the helpless, rail against cruelty and injustice. So should women. Men should not be praised for their anger against those they have power over, especially when they pretend that those people are tyrants. Nor should women be.

          Men are praised for their desire when they express it in a loving or at least respectful context. So should women. Men should not be praised for their desire when they express it to people who don’t want it and can’t escape it, or when they express it in a demeaning way.

          Men are praised for their impetuousness when they do something amazingly creative, different, unexpected, joyous, and beautiful. So should women. They should not be praised for being impetuous when such impetuousness is rooted in lack of concern for anyone but themselves. Same for women.

          Seeing a pattern yet?

        • Prisons are full of men because, statistically speaking, men tend to be more prone to violent acts. Without getting into the question of whether there’s a biological or social basis to male aggression (and I lean heavily toward the constructionist position and do not believe male violence is biologically determined), are you honestly denying that most violent acts are committed by men?

    • Quiet Riot Grrrl, I’ve seen your writings in other places as well, and you straw man feminism like there’s no tomorrow. It’s truly a waste of time to have a discussion with someone that misrepresents one’s views.

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  10. Lisa Finley says:

    “All of this reminds me that way we are trying to do is quite difficult. Really hard. You, me, The Good Men Project, feminism, all of what everyone is doing around these initiatives. We are all trying to do something meaningful, and to do it in the best way that we know how. ”

    No, Lisa. According to several discussions we’ve had, you’re trying to run a business and that project tops a frank and open discussion of ideas regarding sexuality and gender. Ideas that do not meet with the approval of your editors (to wit, prostitution is not evil and should be legalized, there’s no such thing as “porn addiction”) will be censored, particularly if argued in an adamant and artiuculate fashion.

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