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.