Getting at the Root of the Problem: Announcing a joint discussion for 2012!
“The Good Men Project is a glimpse of what enlightened masculinity might look like in the 21st century,” the press raved when we launched. Finally, “a cerebral, new media alternative” to glossy men’s magazines. In fact, The Good Men Project is not so much a magazine as a social movement. We are fostering a national discussion centered around modern manhood and the question, “What does it mean to be a good man”?
I am all about the Good Men Project. I love Good Men. I love the mission behind this movement (see above). But… over the past week, there have been a series of posts that… caught me off guard.
These posts were all in response to this one over at Forbes: Why We Need To Stop Bemoaning The End Of Men
It’s not that I don’t agree with the surface arguments in any of these posts – the idea that we shouldn’t use gender lines to make arguments, well, period. That helping women helps men and helping men helps women. That there are so many people out there who want equality, who want are fighting so hard for it. That inflammatory language doesn’t get us anywhere and often hurts people. Etc.
But. Underneath all of that awesomesauce… Only Hugo’s post made full sense to me. In all the others… In all honesty? They made me feel depressed. And disillusioned. Feelings I know the posts didn’t want to perpetuate – and these feelings were not about specifics in the writing, but what is underneath those words. The dark underbelly.
And then, of course, the comments. Oh sweet baby jesus the comments.
I asked my good friend Simone, from Will Somebody Read A Book Please?, to check out the posts, too. As I’ve said before, she’s my rational friend check-in when I feel like I’m wandering off my rocker. Plus, her background is in gender studies, cultural narratives, national memory, and all that good theoretical stuff.
She had the same reaction.
See… We can have the knee-jerk reaction of “wha….??” to the GMP posts, and we can have the “%$@#*&(@*!!!!” reaction to some of the comments. We can disappear (and perhaps did to some extent) for extended periods of time into reactionary diatribes, ranting about statistics or personal experience, or trying to pick apart someone else for the sake of argument.
I don’t think either Simone or I are afraid of that challenge.
Two problems: One, I, for one, ain’t got the time. I just don’t. As much as my blood is all a-boil over some of the things said, and as much as I love to argue, I have incredibly pressing deadlines that are not going to stand for that. I actually kinda wish that were different.
And two – maybe more importantly – neither Simone nor I think those kind of arguments are actually helpful. They don’t get at the root of the problem. They don’t engage on the level where true education and enlightenment happens. They merely talk at the surface, try to win arguments… and, most damagingly, they pit people against one another, people who might otherwise be in agreement.
We need to engage the underlying narratives that we all use, but rarely see; these superficial arguments don’t work to make any change there. That is where we will actually learn something; we NEED to start operating on that level.
I’m not saying Simone and I are the ones that’re gonna edjumakate y’all; we think we can learn something too. Other people, even those whose comments gave us an angry, have valid experiences and views. We can learn something from how they see the world, and how these narratives play out for them. About how people understand gender, sexuality – male and female – and our roles in society. Our views aren’t not the only ones, but we can’t really learn anything from anyone else if we spend our time shouting at each other from soap boxes, trying to prove one another wrong.
These are real, serious issues with roots that run very deep. So deep, it’s hard to get down there. As such, it became apparent as Simone and I discussed how to respond, that we couldn’t do it, not to the depth we wanted to, in one quick, albeit timely, post.
And we wanted to respond to these posts. I know GMP has many writers, and many things to say, but we felt we couldn’t let these particular ones go without discussing those deep, dark narratives. Because my impression is that the GMP wants to engage at this deeper level. Because my impression is that the GMP wants to avoid perpetuating narratives and wants to be about education and enlightenment and discussion. Because that’s the point.
So, to ring in the New Year, Simone & I are going to run a 4 (5, 6?) week series dealing with the different narratives we saw at work not only in the GMP posts but running through the comments and responses. We’re gonna try to touch on the bigger questions.
What we really can’t wait for? Is the discussion that transpires and to hear your thoughts! Please let us know if you want to be involved!
Nikki & Simone.
PS Speaking of the GMP, I posted over there today! Check it out here: Why Are So Many Good Men Accepting of Rape Culture? Yep, pretty serious shiz – and it’s generating some interesting discussion (why, yes, I have already been called a “biggot”). If you have time to check it out, I’d love to hear what you think!