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Getting at the Root of the Problem: Announcing a joint discussion for 2012!

December 16, 2011

“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

Forbes: What Gender War?

It’s Not the End of Men, and We Still Have Work To Do

What If They Had A Gender Way And No One Came?

Ladies, Let’s Stop Declaring War on Men

People, Let’s Stop Waging War on Each Other

Let’s Stop Asking If This Is 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 importantlyneither 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!

Thank you!

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!

22 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2011 1:44 pm

    You just keep up the Bigotry – It’s ever so useful! P^)

    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
    George Bernard Shaw

    Being unreasonable does not make you right – but It can still effect one hell of a lot of change! Some people are just natural catalysts – highly prized for the change they create.

    Can’t wait to see the future series from the dark under belly!

    • December 18, 2011 3:42 pm

      Hope you do check back and weigh in with your thoughts.

      Although – I’d say it’s not just the unreasonable who enact change!

      • January 14, 2012 7:26 pm

        Nikki – I wish there were a better way to deal with real complex issues and not get bogged down.

        I think I have found a solution, but it needs Evangelists. I needs people with vision and who can see how the solution works.

        I wrote about it over on GMP – but so far only one person has said OK. Are you woman enough to meet the challenge?

        • January 19, 2012 12:41 am

          … did you ever hear from enough people?? I am really curious to hear your thoughts!

  2. December 16, 2011 7:53 pm

    Well honestly Nikki I don’t think anyone wants the end of men. But I agree the bullshit has to go. There are so many blurred lines in between the sexes, taboo subjects and the rest.

    It’s like piling a wall up that goes on for generations.

    I like to think of myself as an evolving man, I’ve done my homework and taken the steps that reduce tension in the home. But for the rest of the world it will take time.

    The walls between gays and straights are coming down, and soon if women actually demand an equal share the walls between men and women will come down also.

    Let’s not forget these are centuries old biases, and baby steps may be required.

    But let’s face it “You’ve come a hell of a long way baby.”

    • December 18, 2011 3:44 pm

      Agreed, Bob. I don’t agree with the “end of men” argument one lil bit. It certainly generated a lot of discussion in different directions…

      Yes – it’s about enacting change in stereotypes and boundaries that are reinforced culturally and socially – but that we may not all hold as individuals… or that we would not hold if we talked about them in a different way. It is about evolving – we can move past what we’ve been “taught”…

      Looking forward to your input!

  3. Peter Houlihan permalink
    December 17, 2011 1:36 pm

    In any highly charged debate there’s going to be a few crazies, I see them on both sides. Just keep on posting and trying to learn, that’s what I do 🙂

    Incidentally, I noticed a whole load of comments, including some of mine and all of yours, had been deleted. Any idea why?

    • December 18, 2011 3:47 pm

      Oh hells bells the crazies are everywhere – you can’t avoid them, and you can’t talk with them, either. The point is to figure out which people are interested in dialogue and thinking a bit further, and how to communicate so we end up there, instead of just arguing, trying to be “right”.

      The comments are still there – just click the “older comments” at the bottom… which is unfortunate – as I feel like I need to keep saying the same thing over and over again! Plus, I’ve had a ridic busy weekend, so I wasn’t able to keep up at all, and now it’s a bit overwhelming. I do like to try and respond as much as possible…

      • December 22, 2011 6:31 pm

        Wow, they spilled over onto a new page? I was only recently made aware the website worked that way.

        Enjoy your break!

      • December 23, 2011 11:57 am

        Two pages spilled over now! Yikes!

        Enjoy your holidays, as well!

  4. December 17, 2011 2:52 pm

    Looking forward to checking out your joint venture posts!

    • December 18, 2011 3:47 pm

      Looking forward to what you have to say, lady! 😀

  5. Esme permalink
    December 19, 2011 1:31 pm

    Interesting…I am very excited to see how this plays out!

    • December 21, 2011 10:19 am

      Yes – us too! Hopefully you will leave comments with thoughts, too!

  6. December 21, 2011 6:57 am

    This is so timely. I have yet to go over and read those articles you cited but I thought I might comment on some of the things that I’ve been seeing in the media especially beginning this fall along those lines. Suddenly, with the new run of sitcoms this fall it was all about gender and how men are becoming emasculated, women are taking all the jobs and 1950’s stereotypes. Case in point, that show Whitney. I wrote a post where I touched on it but didn’t really explore why it pissed me off so much. It would take me too long in the comments but suffice it to say the feeble attempts at discussing gender in an intelligent way drive me bananas. I want to scream and shake the tv. Comedy should be intelligent. Well, that’s my opinion.

    • December 21, 2011 10:23 am

      Yep – the media is where a lot of backlash comes in, and it’s where a lot of narratives are perpetuated. If you start thinking about what ads/tv shows/etc etc etc are saying, and where they’re coming from in terms of gender, gender roles, heteronormative culture, etc – it’s really freakin’ obvious. And gets really freakin’ annoying. Sometimes I suppose ignorance is bliss…

      Of course, the blogosphere is an interesting place to see these narratives play out in how people speak to one another, what they read from other people’s text, what they take away, how they interpret things, etc.

  7. January 19, 2012 4:53 pm

    Nikki, I can’t keep up with all this great reading!! But I skimmed through several of these and then got stuck on the rape culture one. So well done. I left a comment over there and I applaud you for tackling that topic in a bold and rational way,.

    • January 20, 2012 10:21 am

      Hey, thanks! I am glad you’re enjoying… the rape culture stuff is pretty serious. I find myself getting bogged down trying to have a rational discussion with *some* people about how rape culture hurts men, but it ends up being so polarizing and it makes me sad. Plus, I don’t even realize how much that conversation starts to twist reality. Rape still happens overwhelmingly to women, and, for some reason, this cultural backlash at women is making us look at false accusations (because women are crazy, right) more than the real problem. *sadpandas*

      Well, hopefully we’ll still move forward. Thanks for reading!


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