Why Men Need Feminism: Returning (briefly) to the Good Men Project

For the first time since December, I’m back at the Good Men Project to take part in a roundtable discussion about men and feminism. We’re all responding to this piece by the site’s founder, Tom Matlack: Why Being a Good Man is Not a Feminist Issue. My response: Men’s Goodness Hinges on Hearing Women’s Voices. Excerpt:

When I was first going to AA meetings in Los Angeles, I was asked to read A New Pair of Glasses, a powerful and personal commentary on the Twelve Steps by a legend in Southern California sobriety circles. The book was invaluable, and the title is instructive. Just as the tools of the program gave me a new outlook on my identity and behavior, feminism give me a radically different perspective on my masculinity. Only when I put on the “feminist glasses” could I see the ways in which my acculturation as a man had limited my potential.

Tom concludes his essay with his vision for the future of the Good Men Project. He wants it to be a space where “men can have their own stories of struggle for goodness that can be shared man-to-man in a way that changes the teller and the listener alike quite apart from what a woman or a feminist might say about that story.” It’s the updated equivalent of nailing a “No Gurlz Allowed” sign to the clubhouse door, with the grudging caveat that women are welcome as long as they affirm whatever “stories of struggle” that the male members happen to spin.

There’s an old saying in Twelve Step programs: “If you want what you’ve never had, you’ll have to do what you’ve never done.” Men have spent a long time privileging the voices of other men; there’s nothing novel about creating a space in which women’s perspectives are seen as an unwelcome distraction. If we want to be happier, if we want to be better, if we want to be different, then “us guys” need to do what we’ve never done well collectively: listen to women and include feminist perspectives in our most intimate and important conversations.

11 thoughts on “Why Men Need Feminism: Returning (briefly) to the Good Men Project

  1. I have yet to read the article or your response, so take my comment in that context. The idea of “closing up” GMP to women’s input seems dangerously close to what many of the MRA sites do.
    I agree with you that a blog at the level of GMP benefits from more input, not less. Can men have “private” areas where they talk amongst themselves? Of course. I say the same for women. However, women haven’t had the same privilege of exploring their own views/values/ideas within a patriarchal culture that prioritizes men’s values routinely/historically.
    We all lose when we don’t open ourselves up to hearing how our pov affects others.

    • ” The idea of “closing up” GMP to women’s input ”

      Nobody has suggested anything of the sort. No worries of that. It simply came down to

      “men need male only spaces to have discussions they can’t have with women around”. Tom think this applies to women too. That’s not to say it must always, or even mostly, be segregated, or that woman play not part in coming to the end result, just that sometimes, segregation is needed for exploring the more private parts of being men (and women) (Tom explains his reasoning in his article)

    • I believe Tom is mainly concerned that feminist critiques of good men are the most popular on the site and that the other stories and experiences told aren’t getting much of a response. When the most popular article is one about what some men do that is bad to women then it does seem to be a problem.

      I have a question for Hugo, what did you mean by “It’s the updated equivalent of nailing a “No Gurlz Allowed” sign to the clubhouse door, with the grudging caveat that women are welcome as long as they affirm whatever “stories of struggle” that the male members happen to spin.” and why did you use the word spin? Because it sounds like you are dismissing their experiences as propaganda and not genuine.

      The overall feeling I get from Tom is that feminism, and women should not dominate the discussion about men which seems to be happening at the GMP especially in which articles are most popular.

    • ” The idea of “closing up” GMP to women’s input seems dangerously close to what many of the MRA sites do.”

      Women are actually more prominent in the men’s movement than men are in feminism.

  2. I would hazard a guess that articles such as “Why Women Are More Often Right” may be one reason why some men are leery about being told to “listen to women and include feminist perspectives in our most intimate and important conversations”.

    Feminists, not women in general, have controlled the discourse on gender roles and even masculinity’s part for a looong time now. Both male and female sexists often use the same silencing language (e.g. “you just can’t get a date”, “just man up and deal with it”, “you’ve got no room to complain”) to stifle things said by someone with the courage to be vulnerable (albeit online).

    So I don’t think women should be excluded from such discussions, but providing a safe space online (safe against hyper-critical women AND men) seems necessary, and reasonable, to get more men to speak out about what’s bothering them.

    • Hey what’s with leaving my comment in the moderation queue? I was fairly even-handed in making my point that men who make themselves vulnerable can often be attacked from all sides.

  3. MR HUGO

    WAY is it a problem when men’s discussion shouldn’t involves prerequisite of acceptance of feminism as a voice for all women when it’s not the voice of all women?

    Feminism is an ideology that the majority of men sees as a movement by feminism advocates for the most part, men as a group for the most part are seen to be a problem to be solved with no concern about men’s problem’s or issue’s except where it relates to women’s advancement only.

  4. No real argument with what you all are saying. Having been part of several men’s groups as both member and facilitator, it’s true that topics arise and are discussed differently than in mixed groups.
    I think it was more the “exclusionary” feel of it that I was concerned with. As I said, I have no issue with men and women having their own spaces to talk, be vulnerable, examine themselves, etc. I do hold to my belief that men do this in a far different context than women are able to do, for the reasons I mentioned.

  5. Wow, he mentioned the 12 step program from AA.

    Why is this a wow moment. A couple of months ago while reading the story of hugo and the whole trying to kill his girlfriend blowup , and friend of my wifes happend to be in the room an saw what I was reading. She asked who this HUGO guy was, I showed her a couple entries written by him on GMP. Her only comment almost floored me. Remember this is a woman who knows nothing about HUGO and only read 2 or 3 articles on GMP. Her comment was “This guy is going or has gone to AA hasn’t he”. It floored me that she was able to tell this by simply reading this writing style and his way of blaming men for everything. I asked her how she knew he was or is going to AA. her response was that AA teaches people to own up to their mistakes and most if not all people who go to AA end up eventually blaming everyone for their mistakes especially those in their ‘group’ , be in white, be in male/female etc.

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