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September 27, 2010 8:21 PM   Subscribe

The Good Men Project: "What makes us different? Oh, just a few things: We talk about sex without “selling sex.” We publish daddy bloggers, Army Lieutenants, and a transgender FTM who wants desperately to be a good man. We celebrate women (which may be why we’ve been so popular with them), and we publish women. We talk about fathers and sons without resorting to predictable clichés. We publish compelling features about the death penalty, adolescence, teen suicide, and addiction... Can a men’s magazine that doesn't caricaturize men prosper? Do men want to read about what it means to be a good man?"
posted by ocherdraco (64 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Can a men’s magazine that doesn't caricaturize men prosper?

I sure as hell hope so.

Thanks for posting this. It looks like it's going to go on my ongoing must-read list.
posted by zarq at 8:31 PM on September 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Love the idea, and I'll dig into the articles, but FOUR Pat Tillman articles on the front page?
posted by Lukenlogs at 8:38 PM on September 27, 2010


As if.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:42 PM on September 27, 2010


Hope, hope. I hope.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:42 PM on September 27, 2010


Can a men’s magazine that doesn't caricaturize men prosper?

Maybe, although it can't be a good time for launching a new magazine (which is probably why this doesn't seem to be a magazine, but a web site.)

Do men want to read about what it means to be a good man?

Hell no.
posted by ecurtz at 8:53 PM on September 27, 2010


I read a couple of the articles, and I feel like it's one half Mens' Health and one half Maxim, with a surprise born-again twist hidden where I can't quite see it. But maybe that's not fair -- I think I have that feeling because I mostly hear that language of revaluing men and fatherhood these days from evangelical circles; the days of Iron John drums in the wood seems well over and why not commodify sensitive masculinity for the new century?

So I think it's a neat idea and I'll probably keep reading it; I wish them all the luck; and I still have that nagging feeling that the other shoe will drop if I can find the right angle to look from.
posted by Forktine at 9:02 PM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is great. (A men's magazine that acknowledges FTM fellas?! fantastic.) Thanks a lot for posting.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 9:03 PM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


The article on peoples' attitudes towards pornography was well-written and showed a wide variety of thoughtful comments from people in a variety of industries.

The problem is that a lot of those industries were entertainment-related and a good chunk of them seem to be based in California. It was a good read; I just hope they reach out a little further in future surveys.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:08 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry but leading your FPA with a stagefull of scantily-clad porn stars in pink, and the byline "Tom Matlack talked to men and women all across the country about pornography.." still counts as selling sex.
posted by clarknova at 9:26 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not terribly objectionable. There are some nice things in here, and there are some annoying things in here. I figure most ezines (can we still call them that?) are going to be like that.

They're still making some normative claims about what it means to be a Man, though. Not heteronormative, which is great! Claims about masculinity nonetheless. I'm having a hard enough time figuring out how to be a Good Person. If I have to worry about what it means to be a Good Woman, a Good Brunette, a Good Bisexual, a Good Shoe Size 7 (US)-- it's just too much.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 9:28 PM on September 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


I haven't read enough of it to judge it in any comprehensive way. I'm glad to see they have a foundation to help other organizations that help "at-risk boys and men."

Frankly, I don't really feel the need for a magazine like this. The whole thing seems very earnest and good-natured. And if they have intelligent articles and can reach more people with their "man" theme than they would have otherwise, more power to 'em.

But like Forktine, I start wondering what the real motivation is, when people talk about the need to revalue or reconceptualize men or "manhood." I don't know why we need to revalue men as men, as opposed to just valuing everyone as people. I do think you could make a good argument that men are devalued as men, and that this is a problem. (Of course, you could also make a good argument that women are devalued as women -- the two aren't mutually exclusive, since society isn't a zero-sum game.)

But why is the solution to create a whole magazine by men, for men, about men? For instance, any issue having to do with the criminal justice system will especially affect men, since almost all criminal defendants are men. That is worth pointing out. It shouldn't be taboo to say: hey, here's something that places a disproportionate burden on men. But do we really need a whole men's magazine to make observations like that? Is even as obviously man-related an issue as crime going to be illuminated by looking at it through a prism of "manhood"?

I've heard men who I consider intelligent and thoughtful say things like, "I've learned to redefine my notion of masculinity." My reaction is always: why do you need your life to be guided by a "notion of masculinity" at all? Why isn't it good enough to think about people as people? This is partly just my taste and personality, but I'm not really interested in reading article after article about men and manliness. I don't think the world needs a better notion of manliness -- I'd prefer that we just stop caring about manliness, move on from all rigid gender notions (new or old), and try to think sensibly about the world.
posted by John Cohen at 9:31 PM on September 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


On post-view, what Made of Star Stuff said much more succinctly.
posted by John Cohen at 9:31 PM on September 27, 2010


those are some of the shortest damn feature stories I've ever seen. TLDR-phobic?
posted by warbaby at 9:40 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


They're still making some normative claims about what it means to be a Man, though.
This.

While it's cool to see someone presenting an alternative to the Stereos, Mojitos And Tits™ vision of manhood, and it's good for som rah-rah stick-it-to-the-jerks boosterism seeing them turn the normative gun on the other guys for a change, it runs into the same problems long term.

A lot of the things that we consider 'profoundly flawed' were the virtues of past generations; that's not an attempt to throw up my hands and run to relativism, but an honest acknowledgement of the trickiness of the pursuit of that thing we call Good. At its best, it can be a refuge for articles that would be uncomfortable in Maxim. At its worst, it will simply feed the idea that what we are like is what virtue is.
posted by verb at 9:46 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I want to like the site. I'm a liberal guy raised under feminism. I hate it though. I don't know why. I just do. In fact hate is no strong enough, I loathe it with the fire of a thousand suns.
posted by humanfont at 10:16 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe part of the problem is their title, which seems like it's trying to turn into a meme: "good men." It reminds me of the "brights" movement. It can be off-putting when a bunch of people who you're not necessarily familiar with at all come along and take the attitude of: "We're such good people! Don't you want to be good people like us?"
posted by John Cohen at 10:22 PM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


with a surprise born-again twist hidden where I can't quite see it.

That was my feeling too. I'm not sure what it was exactly that made me suspect a christian perspective: maybe the slight moralizing of the "good" of the title, maybe a lack of sophistication I associate with evangelism, or too much earnestness?

But mostly I found myself unengaged.
posted by acheekymonkey at 10:28 PM on September 27, 2010


Their discussion about porn included this quote (among many, both pro and con):
The hysteria around pornography is just not useful. A good bit about it is an ugly side-effect of the negative part of modern feminism; unattractive women who can’t get what they want, and instead of doing the logical thing, doing the best with what they have, they demonize male sexuality.
Kind of not helping, there.
posted by jokeefe at 12:07 AM on September 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Reminds me of the guys who went to organizing meetings for Take Back the Night so they could get laid.
posted by bardic at 12:10 AM on September 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's not earnestness, it's complacency.

From a literary perspective, I'd much prefer to read about what makes a "good man" from a writer who wanted actually to say interesting things about existing society instead of setting up yet another happy unobtainable ideal. Who would they have published in the past, Billy Graham or Hunter S Thompson? Bill Cosby or Malcolm X? Criticism to work has to be, well, critical.
Do men want to read about what it means to be a good man?
It's one of the fundamental questions of Christianity of all denominational varieties, and the ur-text of the whole question is the New Testament, so it's not surprising that everybody's reading a born-again vibe in the zine. Can you be saved, and how? is the centre around which it looks like the universe of the authors turns. Bad men can become good, homophobes can find friendly gay friends, sinners repent, pilgrims progress, that's how the universe works.

Personally as a Catholic raised irreligious bloke, the general exigesis I'm more familiar with is that being a Good Man requires so much relentless intellectual and spiritual effort even the prospect of thinking about what it requires should scare you, and you should be immediately suspicious about anyone who claims Goodness---they're probably a damn liar.

In the meantime, back to re-reading Norman Mailer's collected works. If anyone needs me I'll be drinking scotch with the ghosts of Richard Burton (the Victorian one), Sam Peckinpah and Governor Bligh. That's if TE Lawrence will shut that fucking bike off
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:11 AM on September 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


It's more important to be a good person than to be a good man. I'm not sure there is such a thing as a man. Or a woman. Our bodies are not our minds, though our minds shape our bodies. I dunno. I'm drunk. Carry on.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:46 AM on September 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the fawning article about Sarah Palin kind of put me off.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:41 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe part of the problem is their title, which seems like it's trying to turn into a meme: "good men."

This.

I mean what if there was an Internet magazine called "The articulate black man project." It would be pretty obvious why that would be offensive. There is, of course, an image that men are supposedly required to look up to, but like women, like *people* we XY's are pretty diverse and would like to be judged as, and related to as, people.
posted by xetere at 3:01 AM on September 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Or as Frank said on Lost: "In my experience, the people who go out of their way to tell you they're the good guys are the bad guys."
posted by condour75 at 3:05 AM on September 28, 2010


They're starting a "national" conversation about what it means to be a good man? So, only Americans are welcome to take part? What a bizarre way to describe something which is on the internet in 2010.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:59 AM on September 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just realized what this reminds me of. It reminds me of seeing The Vagina Monologues.

I kept thinking: "OK, I get it! You're women! You have vaginas! You're proud of it! And you want the world to hear loud and clear about the new kind of woman you are! Or something! Can I go now?"

By the same token, looking at this website, I keep thinking: "OK, I get it -- you're men! You're manly! (But in a good way!) You're proud of it, and you want the world to hear loud and clear about the new kind of man you are!"

Now, I saw The Vagina Monologues for a theatre class in college. One of my classmates saw the play 3 times that semester, even though we were only required to see it once. It seemed to make a big, positive impact on her. I have to respect that.

But that doesn't change my experience of the play. I felt like it was aimed at someone who was vaguely repressed and needed to be woken up and liberated. Well, I went to the play having no doubt that women should be as sexually free as men, so I went away with the same views I already had. If the play got an audience to care about say, female genital mutilation, when they wouldn't have otherwise thought about the issue, I have to give them credit, just as I have to give this website credit if it uses the "man" hook to get more people to care about capital punishment or teenage suicide.

For those audiences, the gender/genital angle might add value to the discussion of the serious issue. But for me, it takes away value, because I'm wasting part of my time hearing/reading about men! men! men! or women! women! women!. I'd rather skip the gender-based celebration/rumination and just think about whatever the actual issue is.
posted by John Cohen at 5:38 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not everyone is as far along the "we're all just people" spectrum as the rest of us.

A lot of people still think in terms of traditional gender roles (even if they've grudgingly accepted that "chicks can do stuff now"). I think a project like this might reach the big swath of guys who think of themselves as "MEN" and help expand their notion of masculinity to include things like FTM, and not being afraid of LGBT people; whereas a "there's no men or women, gender roles are wrong so just be a good person" message would fall on deaf ears. I'm not saying that message is wrong (I happen to agree with it), but you need to nudge people along the track to get there, and this is the kind of thing that might do it.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 6:11 AM on September 28, 2010


I think a project like this might reach the big swath of guys who think of themselves as "MEN" and help expand their notion of masculinity to include things like FTM ... you need to nudge people along the track to get there, and this is the kind of thing that might do it.

That's an interesting idea, but it's not completely obvious to me that that's a worthwhile tradeoff. As far as that example, it depends which you care more about: reducing the amount of gendered commentary in the world, or increasing awareness of FTMs. Personally, I care more about reducing the amount of gendered commentary in the world.

I do think you've summed up what's really going on with this site and why so many of us are having a reaction along the lines of "Oh, I guess that's good ... but wait a minute, something about this is really off." It's still an open question to me whether a site like this is a net plus.
posted by John Cohen at 6:17 AM on September 28, 2010


I've started looking into buying not just run of the mill clothing, but fine clothing (and it's shocking to me how it mutates my outward image of just this aging geek into this aging distinguished gentleman geek), and this kind of site is sort of harmonizing with that theme for me.

Thanks.
posted by kalessin at 6:18 AM on September 28, 2010


I think a project like this might reach the big swath of guys who think of themselves as "MEN" and help expand their notion of masculinity to include things like FTM ... you need to nudge people along the track to get there, and this is the kind of thing that might do it.

I don't think that guy-guys are going to read something called the "good man project." A little rebranding, to call it "Dude" or "Macksum" or "Men's Wealth" or something, might get them a lot further with their (presumed) target audience. Because the articles that I read were ok -- not brilliant, but far better than I had expected -- and their overall approach seems solid, except for the title.
posted by Forktine at 6:55 AM on September 28, 2010


To say a word in counterpoint to those who object to the notion of a "good man" as opposed to a "good person," I'd like to point out that the modern left has a tendency, in some quarters, to demonize the very concept of masculinity. A lot of valuable effort is being expended to define positive concepts of what it means to be a woman and a girl, and I have no objection to that. (And by the way, I rarely hear about anyone on the left objecting to defining positive female ideals.) On top of that, there are plenty of valid criticisms to be leveled at certain aspects of traditional gender roles.

But just as it's important for young women to have a positive notion of what it means to be female, the same thing is important for young men and their gender, as well. These days, the notion of masculinity is occasionally demonized and usually trivialized. What's left is being redefined in the worst venues (Maxim, etc.) to mean something that is puerile, shallow and completely self-absorbed. You may think that we can discard notions of "masculinity" and even "gender" as we stride to a more enlightened future...but you'd be wrong. Even if that is something that is one day obtainable, we're certainly not there yet. In the meantime, boys need to learn how to mature into men of quality, and these shouldn't be dirty words. Right now, if we're not teaching them about a worthwhile concept of what it means to be a man, then they're learning one from beer commercials and lad mags.
posted by Edgewise at 7:12 AM on September 28, 2010 [11 favorites]


Well, I went to the play having no doubt that women should be as sexually free as men, so I went away with the same views I already had.

The play isn't about being 'sexually free', it's about the ways in which women's bodies are frequently described as shameful, dirty objects (or a mere tool) when they should be a source of joy for the owner. It's a problem so pervasive and taken for granted that a lot of people don't notice it until it's pointed out. For some people, as you've seen, it's cathartic, and for others it's more of a "Huh, I hadn't noticed it before but that's pretty messed up". Others are so discomfited by the topic that they dismiss it before they can absorb anything from it.

You're probably right that for some people, this men's magazine will be a revelation, while for others it'll be a bit ho-hum.

But expanding the definitions of masculinity and femininity so that they encompass just about anything is also a good way of reducing gendered commentary - the fuzzier the terms are, the harder it is to use them to exclude or hurt anyone, and the less necessary they become.

That said, I don't think that's what's happening with this magazine. There's a lot of old-fashioned ideas about what it means to be a man in there. Gays and FTM transexuals are allowed to join the club, as long as they want to be in a long-term committed relationship. It's assumed that being a father is one of the most important goals for a man. The commenters mention how much they like the emphasis on traditional values. It's not really a diverse view, in that you have to toe the emotional line to get away with looking or acting differently.

The foundation running it is targeting at-risk boys and men. I can see where a traditional family life would be a good goal for many of those dudes, but it's not the only way to turn your life around.
posted by harriet vane at 7:23 AM on September 28, 2010


I've heard men who I consider intelligent and thoughtful say things like, "I've learned to redefine my notion of masculinity." My reaction is always: why do you need your life to be guided by a "notion of masculinity" at all? Why isn't it good enough to think about people as people?

First of all I agree with you that the idea of reading a magazine entirely dedicated to this topic is not really appealing, but I do think it's at least a topic that deserves to be talked about. Gender norms are mostly an artificial social construct, but that's not a reason to dismiss them outright. If people with blue eyes were treated differently their whole lives, expected to date people with green eyes, expected to do different things with their lives and feel differently about the world, you couldn't just suddenly announce "Let's all forget about all of this eye color bullshit and realize that we're all just people."

The mere fact that it affects so many people in so many ways makes it important. Even if I personally could get rid of all of the possible baggage that the idea of masculinity has introduced into my life over the years, the rest of the world is still going to be carrying those ideals and assumptions in one way or another. Which is not to say that the masculine ideal has been some negative oppressive force that rules my life, it's just that I wouldn't be who I am and feel the way I do about being a man if I had grew up in some alternate universe where there is no major distinction between men and women. So when in a world where men and women are treated differently and gender norms exist, I think it makes sense for individual people to evaluate those differences and norms without having to reject the whole concept and pretend that they don't exist.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:26 AM on September 28, 2010


I was amused to see that, as a commenter there points out, the comments on the FTM article (which is largely about shaving and how it reflect the author's understanding of his masculinity) consist almost entirely of people bickering about badger brushes and straight razors.
posted by heyforfour at 7:28 AM on September 28, 2010


I mean what if there was an Internet magazine called "The articulate black man project." It would be pretty obvious why that would be offensive.

I dunno. What if it's a website by black guys aimed @ a black male audience? Is that offensive? Do I even get a vote?

There is, of course, an image that men are supposedly required to look up to...

I think the title is less about the image of masculinity per se than it is about the reality that there are "bad men" out there, they do most of the violent bad things that go on in society, and they get a lot (if not most of) the media coverage. This website chooses to highlight the opposite, hence the title.

but like women, like *people* we XY's are pretty diverse and would like to be judged as, and related to as, people.

The "Neither man nor woman, but person" angle is a meme that some people are pushing. Not all of us buy into it.

It also comes across as whinging about "I'm not a bad guy, I should be judged on my own merits and not presumed to be a bad guy simple because I'm a man". And whinging is unmanly.

I am Schrödinger’s Rapist. Not all "people" are, but us men are. This is the reality of things.

My first impression of the website was that it's far too Phil Donahue in tone for my tastes, and the one article on exercise I could find was about a guy crying after his first trip to the gym.

But as Schrödinger’s Rapist who still aspires to set his compass by the dictum What would Henry Rollins do?, I find myself rooting for (if not reading) this website.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:38 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


The main gist of Confessions of a Recovering Homophobe seems to be that sexual orientation is a lot more about falling in love than about sexual attraction, which struck me as a bit sappy. I get why people are getting weird vibes this site, anyway. Just the title font is giving me a fingernails on a chalkboard feeling.
posted by DoktorFaustus at 7:47 AM on September 28, 2010


If Captain Haddock is a member of the set of "Good Men" then I'm OK with it.
posted by warbaby at 8:00 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


honestly, I think the most troubling thing about this is probably just the whole manifesto thing. and that's not all that bad, either. I think a bunch of people have brought up some legitimate concerns about the idea of them sort of defining a "good man," and the pressures that come with that. and that's a legit concern. but mostly, it looks like they're just writing human interest pieces about stuff you don't see a lot of in other men's magazines. a poet who loves aquateen hunger force? awesome. stories about faith next to stories about men in the porn industry? great. I like the variety, I like the inclusion. Time will tell if these guys are really working to improve people's lives, but so far it seems pretty decent to me.
posted by shmegegge at 8:18 AM on September 28, 2010


I'm trying to find some clear image of what defines a "good man" according to this mag. Similarly, what "bad man" traits are they trying to avoid? I can't figure out what image of masculinity they're trying to sell.
posted by rocket88 at 8:25 AM on September 28, 2010


The play isn't about being 'sexually free', it's about the ways in which women's bodies are frequently described as shameful, dirty objects (or a mere tool) when they should be a source of joy for the owner.

Huh? When you say the play is about how a vagina "should be a source of joy for the owner," that is exactly what I mean by "sexually free." What you're describing is the same thing I was referring to. You just chose different (more) words to say it. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
posted by John Cohen at 8:27 AM on September 28, 2010


First of all I agree with you that the idea of reading a magazine entirely dedicated to this topic is not really appealing, but I do think it's at least a topic that deserves to be talked about. Gender norms are mostly an artificial social construct, but that's not a reason to dismiss them outright. If people with blue eyes were treated differently their whole lives, expected to date people with green eyes, expected to do different things with their lives and feel differently about the world, you couldn't just suddenly announce "Let's all forget about all of this eye color bullshit and realize that we're all just people."

Yes you could.
posted by John Cohen at 8:28 AM on September 28, 2010


In 1997, I visited my first porn set. The name of the movie was “Flashpoint.” It was a big budget feature.
Over the years, I’ve written about what I saw there so many times—the seven porn stars having an orgy on a fire truck in the middle of a parking lot in downtown Los Angeles under the scorching midday sun; the woodsman up the fireman’s ladder getting a blow job from the busy, busty blonde whose head bobbed like a chicken’s.
this is funny. That's Jenna Jameson, with the chicken bobbing head. It's always amazing to me to see people describing porno like an alien landscape, because it's usually the most pedestrian stuff. Flashpoint was one of porno's versions of the perennial hollywood formula drama. Firemen and manufactured drama. window dressing for the sex scenes that got people to watch the movie. It was like Backdraft with explicit sex, and it had approximately as much quality film making in it. It is as milquetoast as porno gets. So I find descriptions like this funny. It's like reading victorian adventure fiction about the civilized white man being assaulted by the savages of deepest africa. You just sort of sigh and think "well, ok. I guess you just don't really understand what you're describing. Let me go find something that does."
posted by shmegegge at 8:29 AM on September 28, 2010


although I should mention, reading back over my comment, that the rest of the article is actually pretty good. I came across more harshly than I meant to. That one passage is just funny.
posted by shmegegge at 8:30 AM on September 28, 2010


I dunno. What if it's a website by black guys aimed @ a black male audience? Is that offensive? Do I even get a vote?

It's interesting that you ask if you get a vote. Are you suggesting that women have no say in this "good men" project -- or, more broadly, in talking about how men should act? I doubt that you or many people here would suggest that. And in fact, a lot of their writers/editors are women.
posted by John Cohen at 8:30 AM on September 28, 2010


I'm getting a little nauseous at all the shiny happy postmodern "people" in here.

In 50 years, there will still be men's things and women's things. It may be possible to wash every child's brain clean of cultural gender notions. But it is not practical, thank God.
posted by General Tonic at 8:31 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


If people with blue eyes were treated differently their whole lives, expected to date people with green eyes, expected to do different things with their lives and feel differently about the world, you couldn't just suddenly announce "Let's all forget about all of this eye color bullshit and realize that we're all just people."

Yes you could.


It seems like it is much more of a gradual and deconstructive process to me. If someone was told all their lives that, say, it was gross for two blue-eyed people to have a romantic relationship, and there were laws and various other social constructs that enforced that view, they couldn't just simply decide one day to ignore the distinction. Even a rejection of the distinction would be a form of reaction against the distinction, completely unlike people who live in our society where the distinction does not exist. The only people who are completely free of such a social construct are those who are completely unaffected by it. I don't think anyone lives in a post-gender world right now because there is no such world.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:43 AM on September 28, 2010


I'm not totally comfortable with this for the same reasons as others have outlined. But masculinity is so often defined at what it isn't rather than what it is. I'm glad someone is genuinely writing about it, however imperfectly.

Derail: Funny you mention Captain Haddock but that is my halloween costume and I am basically wearing it right now.
posted by yaymukund at 8:45 AM on September 28, 2010


you couldn't just suddenly announce "Let's all forget about all of this eye color bullshit and realize that we're all just people."

Yes you could.

It seems like it is much more of a gradual and deconstructive process to me.


True. I didn't say the process would be sudden. I said the announcement of the principle could be sudden. And stating a bold principle could be a more effective way to start a good (gradual) process than, uh, doing whatever this website thinks it's doing.

By the way, I know it's easy to caricature statements like "people are just people" as being about "a post-gender world" (burnmp3s) where we'll all "shiny happy postmodern people" (General Tonic). Yes, you can uncharitably interpret things to make them sound ridiculous/impossible. None of us are going to write a compelling dissertation on gender in this thread, but we do have a choice about whether to interpret the comments more or less charitably/reasonably.
posted by John Cohen at 8:51 AM on September 28, 2010


Yes, you can uncharitably interpret things to make them sound ridiculous/impossible. None of us are going to write a compelling dissertation on gender in this thread, but we do have a choice about whether to interpret the comments more or less charitably/reasonably.

Honestly I apologize if I'm interpreting your comments uncharitably, and I wasn't trying to misrepresent your views to prop up a strawman or anything like that. But I do think you are directly advocating a post-gender view, and are actively dismissing the discussion of gender as pointless ("I care more about reducing the amount of gendered commentary in the world" and "I'm wasting part of my time hearing/reading about men! men! men! or women! women! women!. I'd rather skip the gender-based celebration/rumination"). I think that on a practical level, we as a society are not going to get past most of our hang-ups about gender unless we think about and talk about them. So for me personally thinking about and defining a new notion of masculinity is not a pointless endeavor, even if gender roles do not have any intrinsic value above the focus they are given in society.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:13 AM on September 28, 2010


Step 1 to being taken seriously as a journal: close the goddamn comments!

Do like every print magazine and publish an edited selection of letters that actually contribute.
posted by klanawa at 9:21 AM on September 28, 2010


In 50 years, there will still be men's things and women's things. It may be possible to wash every child's brain clean of cultural gender notions. But it is not practical, thank God.

We live in a very, very gendered world (those of us living in the "Western World" anyway). It is so incredibly gendered that gender is emphasized at birth, if not before, to an extent that is just totally overwhelming.

Before I got pregnant, I was pretty sure I didn't want to find out the gender of my proto-baby on the ultrasound. I have no preference (as a smug pregnant lady) and really, does the baby need to be gendered before it's even half-done cooking in there?

And then I got pregnant. And started looking at baby stuff. Even for newborns - it's boy. girl. monkey. That's it. If you don't want pink or blue, you've got green stuff with monkeys on it. And that's fine, if you like monkeys, but I'd really prefer living in a home with humans. So, here I am, going to be finding out the gender of my baby so that I can buy it crap because capitalism demands capitulation to the gender norms from BIRTH onwards. (Note: I'm not claiming to be "oppressed" by this or anything, just slightly befuddled that this is actually necessary in life. If I really was adamant about not knowing, I'd suck it up and cover my impending babby with a whole jungle safari.)

Next time you're in a store that sells baby stuff, look around and you'll see what I'm getting at - all recent moms, and even my doctors, have agreed that there just isn't anything being made right now that's cute that's not very, very specifically gendered. Unless of course, you're a huge fan of monkeys, rubber duckies, frogs, and lime green. And nothing else.

So, to me, I can't possibly think that the idea of gender is going to go away anytime soon since we are all collectively *literally* buying stock into it from the second we spring forth from the womb. Being more expressive/expansive with gender? Awesome. Getting rid of it entirely? Highly unlikely.
posted by sonika at 9:28 AM on September 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


"We hear about the birth of a child and ask questions like, ‘What did she have? How much did it weigh?’ and ‘Does it have any hair?’ The Athabaskan Indian hear of a birth and ask, ‘Who came?’ From the beginning, there is a respect for the newborn as a full person.”
~ Lisa Delpit, Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom)

I love this quote. Have tried to keep it in mind as I've been raising my kids and (among other things,) not sink too much into classic gender role pigeonholing with them.

Sonika, you're absolutely right: our culture is saturated with specific imagery and gender classifications for boys and girls. Raising two of the same age at the same time can raise interesting questions, too, like 'do we do the gender color coding thing?' 'how much should we correct them in instances like this?' or 'do we separate their toys out into "boys" and "girls?"'

We don't fuss. They are who they are. Why impose?
posted by zarq at 10:02 AM on September 28, 2010


We live in a very, very gendered world (those of us living in the "Western World" anyway).

What's with this "Western World" jazz? Which non-Western matriarchal paradise are you comparing us to? I just got back from lunch where a Chinese coworker told me a story about a family he knows that had seven children, until they got a boy, in defiance of the one-child policy. They had to give away some of the girls who they couldn't support. If anything, the non-Western world seems a lot more invested in gender than the Western world.

Otherwise, I agree with what you're saying. Gender's not going anywhere, fast, no matter how much some people would like it to. Personally, I don't think it's even possible to do away with such distinctions, constructs or not.
posted by Edgewise at 10:15 AM on September 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's interesting that you ask if you get a vote. Are you suggesting that women have no say in this "good men" project -- or, more broadly, in talking about how men should act? I doubt that you or many people here would suggest that. And in fact, a lot of their writers/editors are women.

I 'm more unhesitatingly more comfortable with women expressing their ideas about "good men" than I am white men expressing their ideas about "articulate black men".

Because fundamentally, women are some of those of the hardest hit by "bad" male behavior. White men (or even half-breeds like me) are not likely to see their lives negatively affected by "inarticulate" black men.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:44 AM on September 28, 2010


adjective/-verb fail. "More unhesitatingly more"?
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:50 AM on September 28, 2010


Jeez, that whole last comment of mine chokes on it's own grammar. *FACEPALM*
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:52 AM on September 28, 2010


My magazine on this topic will be called: MENSCH

It will have nothing in it, sadly, as I have no fucking clue.
posted by everichon at 12:31 PM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like the idea of "who came?" when a baby arrives, but really, what can you say about a newborn baby other than its sex and hair and eye color? This isn't necessarily some gendering conspiracy: it's the reality that newborns don't have much personality yet. They are very different from each other if you know something about babies in terms of crying frequency (in both senses of word), and the like-- but if it's your first, how are you to know? Attributing other characteristics to a baby might be even more limiting than gender-- for example, babies labeled "crack babies" were seen as "lying" and "manipulating" when they did the same normal baby stuff that other babies did. At least gender labels apply to half the population so must have a great degree of variance to them.
posted by Maias at 2:38 PM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


. . . The Athabaskan Indian hear of a birth and ask, ‘Who came?’

Good Lord, surely that's personal in every culture, and anyway a couple can't always be sure which ti -- oh. Never mind.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:20 PM on September 28, 2010


When you say the play is about how a vagina "should be a source of joy for the owner," that is exactly what I mean by "sexually free." What you're describing is the same thing I was referring to.

Not really, no. There's more to vaginas than sex. And there's more to the play than women being proud of their vaginas "or something" - it's about vaginas symbolising a broader and unwarranted oppression and/or repression of women. This is a derail, anyway, I just thought it might help in understanding why this magazine might be more useful than you realise. Turns out that's not the case. No worries.
posted by harriet vane at 5:32 AM on September 29, 2010


I really like it and will continue to read it, even though I'm not a man.

Strangely (or not), I was there checking out their vs. Guyism infographic when I saw the reference to this post, rather than seeing this post first.
posted by batmonkey at 1:15 PM on September 29, 2010


Looks like they noticed we were talking about them.
posted by kalessin at 5:58 AM on September 30, 2010


Looks like they noticed we were talking about them.

Does this mean that I can now put "published author" on my resume?
posted by Forktine at 6:20 AM on September 30, 2010


Way late to this but what the hell. It was almost a cliche a few years back that when some distraught young man said something like, "I want to be a good man," the fed up girlfriend/wife/hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold would respond with, "Just be a man."
posted by philip-random at 9:06 AM on October 5, 2010


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