The Good Men Project

Quick post, because I’ve got 80-plus pages of reading to do before 9:05am tomorrow and it’s already late into the evening and aw shoot looks like another night of homework into the early-a.m. But I want to share this, as any of my friends who’ve spoken to me in person within the last month can probably attest. A friend of mine recently shared a link to a website called The Good Men Project, a site hosting a series of articles on gender, family, masculinity, femininity, lifestyle, and many, many more topics.

The Project, obviously, is primarily about men, but it’s certainly not only “for men” — men and women alike contribute to and comment on the site’s offerings.

I clicked on the link to the article my friend posted, then kept clicking from there, eventually perusing articles from nearly every category on The Good Men Project.

Because this stuff is freaking. Fascinating.

I didn’t really get interested in gender issues until my first semester of college. I didn’t consider myself a feminist, because the image of “feminist” I had in my head was one of Angry Woman determined to fend for herself at all costs and turn all gender roles upside-down, justified or otherwise, in the name of equality. I, on the other hand, had no real problem with my expectations (or lack thereof) as a woman. I was comfortable with accepting or rejecting “stereotypic” female roles as I chose, but felt no great pressure to have to fit into any of them. And, on the flip side, I had few qualms about joining the guys in their “boyish” activities. The biggest sex hang-up I remember happened during a childhood road trip, when I developed a raging (but temporary) jealousy of my male counterpart’s ability to simply pee out the car door while I had to choose between making a stall for myself out of the car doors and squatting (humiliating) or waiting until the next rest stop (excruciating).

I was, I now realize, hugely blessed by peers, teachers and family members who encouraged me to live as I pleased, based not on my status as a female, but on my desires as a person.

But not everyone — male or female — has been that lucky. Or even if they have, there’s still a whole other side of sex and gender that any single person will never get to experience or understand first-hand. And that’s why discussions like the ones on The Good Men Project are important.

Because being aware of those expectations, whether you personally feel them or not, is an extremely useful means of better understanding your world and yourself. And because realizing the opposite sex experiences the same types of pressures and insecurities as you do is hugely (and in my case, almost embarrassingly) enlightening.

Some of the articles from the Project are specifically about the gender discussion. Others hit on topics not limited to gender at all. Each article is interesting, thoughtful and, I think, pretty important.

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned from articles on The Good Men Project is that most issues don’t come down to “male problems” or “female problems.” They come down to human problems. The “male” quest for strength and the “female” quest for beauty, for example, both come out of much larger, shared quests for admiration, affirmation and respect. Realizing this has affected my understanding of (and, I hope, my interactions with) the people around me significantly.

Not every article on The Good Men Project has won me over to its individual argument, but every single article I’ve read so far has made me think, and think hard. Some of my favorites are below. Read them when you get the chance, and let me know what you think! AND, if anyone knows of a good women-focused counterpart to (equivalent of?) The Good Men Project, please share it. If this site has proven so useful, I’m sure an additional one can only help.

(Upon a quick Google search, I just discovered there is a goodwomenproject.com. I’ll peruse it and see what’s up.)

The Good Men Project: Annica’s Picks

I Blow Dry My Son’s Hair

If Gender Is a Performance, I’ll Take the Part of a Female, Please

The Male Body: Repulsive or Beautiful?

‘Knight in Shining Armor’ Syndrome

I Am a Female Nerd. Apparently.

Roommate Angst and Genuine Posts

Wow.

Twenty-nine days between posts.

I’m clearly really good at this blog thing.

But I’m here now, and I got here through one of writers’ most tried-and-true tricks: stealing someone else’s ideas. Excuse me, taking inspiration from someone else’s ideas. My roommate recently updated her blog by revamping it, essentially saying she wanted to create an online persona that’s more the person she sees herself as rather than the person she sees herself as consciously trying to portray to others. (Her exact and much more eloquent words can be found over at thingsmegansays.wordpress.com.)

I think her goal is a great one, and I’m really interested to see where it goes. But I was also very surprised when I heard her talk about her feeling like the things she’s put online in the past weren’t representative of the “real” her. Because as someone who, I think, sees the “real” her quite often, I thought the things she said around friends and the things she said online sounded a lot alike.

But as the creator of the things she put forth, my roommate felt there was a disconnect, and that’s quite important. Although those around her saw her online ramblings as an extension of her (real) persona, she felt they weren’t genuine.

What, then, is the nature of genuineness?

I started thinking about the things I share in person and online when all this came up, and realized I tend to think about the way I talk about myself and my life as a work of nonfiction. It’s completely genuine, in that every word is true and reflects things I really think. But hey, it’s also edited, and for good reason. No one wants to hear the rambly bits, and no one needs to hear rougher parts, at least not in casual conversation (or casual posts).

Is an edited version of the truth still the truth? Is someone who calculates what they do and don’t share about themselves still genuine?

I’d argue yes, they are. Because knowing what is and isn’t worth sharing is very different from conscious manipulation. Manipulation still happens, as a side effect of an edited truth, but an ability to focus on what’s relevant to the matter at hand doesn’t mean the speaker is a liar. It means you’re going to have to talk to them a lot to get their whole story, maybe, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Also, to what extent does the way people perceive us—or the way people start to perceive us, based on our own efforts—affect who we are? In the case of my roommate, I see her as an interesting, thoughtful person because the things she shares are interesting and thoughtful. And to be totally honest, I don’t care if she’s actively trying to be interesting and thoughtful or if she just comes out that way by virtue of who she is. Even if you’re just faking it until you make it, you have to be able to fake it in the first place, and that counts for a lot, as far as I’m concerned.

But I also recognize that if the person doing the sharing feels like the perception others have of her is a fake one, something is off.

Chuck Klosterman talks a lot about this in a fantastic book called Eating the Dinosaur, a series of essays about pop culture. The question of sincerity vs. entertainment is at the heart of most of those essays. It’s a great read, and now I find myself wanting to revisit it to remember what he said about the topic. (He’s also a great example of being meaningful, genuine and entertaining all at once. You can’t write in-depth essays about ABBA, the Unabomber and Garth Brooks unless you actually care about what you’re saying.)

I still have no problem with editing one’s thoughts and words when sharing with others, but I’m becoming a lot more aware of the motivations behind them.