Tag Archives: Good Men Project

The Perils of Bad Titles (and poorly thought out analogies)

I take full responsibility for the kerfuffle I caused last week with my Role/Reboot latest. It was not my most sensitive or thoughtful work and I did some harm where I meant to only raise questions.

I often think that flipping pronouns is a useful way of analyzing the role that gender is playing in media coverage. We’ve looked at examples before, like coverage of Marissa Mayer or a story about a teenage heart throb’s virginity.

Last week, fed up with the excessive victim blaming that goes into coverage of high-profile sexual assault cases, like the recent piece on Hobart Williams and Smith, or Steubenville, I wrote an essay exploring what happens when we flip pronouns on the victims and imagine these cases if young men were raped instead of young women. Would we still say an 11-year-old boy “lured” men like a “spider,” as we did in Cleveland, TX? Would the “Princeton Mom” still say it’s “all on him” if a male college student was too drunk to prevent his rape? I don’t think we would, and I still think that there’s value in exploring how language can expose bias.


But, I made a few mistakes. The biggest one was the title, which I suggested and my editor confirmed: “If Straight Men Were Raped: How Pronouns Change the Conversation About Victim Blaming.*” Do you see the problem? I kind of can’t believe I missed it. Of course straight men are raped. This is not a hypothetical, fantastical suggestion; straight men are raped by other men. In fact, as was pointed out by several readers, although women are assaulted far more frequently, one of the key reasons male victims don’t come forward (i.e. one of the reasons we have so many fewer media examples to refer to), is precisely because the stigmas on male victims are unique.

I did not intend to write an essay on those particular stigmas, as I don’t feel equipped or educated enough to do so. But I also did not intend to belittle or shame straight men that have been raped, nor to downplay the equally-horrible but differently-shaped reactions that those survivors get. Here are a few responses that better articulate the issue:

“A LOT of rape of men by men is disregarded because people think he must’ve given off some sort of “gay” thing that made him seem to want it. There are different ways in which male survivors have their rapes and SAs denied, mostly via homophobia. And god help you find support if you actually are GBT or Q. Obviously we know there are serious issues with GBTQ men who are sexually assaulted. I’d bet pretty much nobody is marginalized when it comes to sexual assault more than LGBTQ populations in general.” – from Joanna Schroeder, Good Men Project

“But where you say that you are merely trying to highlight inappropriate use of gendered language around victims, I contend that you are doing to male victims the very thing you are fighting against – namely grossly distorting and dismissing the realities that we live under. In effect, you are throwing male victims under the bus in order to make a point about female victims that no one in their right mind would argue against.” – From Chris Anderson, MaleSurvivors.org

I hope that the content of the article makes clear that I believe all victims deserve respect and that no one, of any gender or sexual orientation, should be shamed, stigmatized, ostracized, or blamed, for their assault. I also hope that Chris and Joanna’s responses help illuminate some subtleties that I missed in my first pass.


*We changed the title later to “If Straight Men Were Raped As Often As Women….” – Better, but not great.

Related Post: “After donation regret” and other rape analogies

Related Post: Using pronoun-flipping on Serena Williams’ Steubenville comments.


Filed under Gender, Media, Republished!

Unwelcome Boners, Cuddlers, Ex-BFs

Remember The Guy Friends podcast? I profiled The Guy Friends creators Josh Nalven, Aaron Horton and Kate Dries this week for The Good Men Project. The podcast is all about frank talk on relationships, sex, gender, dating, etc, so it seems a great fit for the GMP.

I listened in on a taping in which we covered unwanted erections, those who just want to cuddle, radio host Delilah and some serious real talk about going after what you want. Post-taping, we chatted about their radio and non-radio influences, what they want to bring to the podcast scene, and Kate’s choices for excellent musical accompaniment.

Related Post: My GMP profile of porn star James Deen.

Related Post: My GMP profile of social worker Anthony Di Vittorio.

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Filed under Art, Chicago, Gender, Media, Republished!, Sex

What is My Body For? How Title IX Change My Life and Other Dramatic Statements

Last week was the fortieth anniversary of Title IX. All of you ladies with pictures of yourselves at age 5 in dress-length jerseys picking your nose out on a soccer field or softball diamond know what I’m talking about.

Parents think sports are important because they foster teamwork, sportsmanship, dedication yada yada yada. And they are, of course. But for girls, there’s the added and essential benefit of formalizing the idea that your body is awesome because it can do things, instead of just awesome for looking nice to other people. This is the subject of the Title IX appreciation essay I wrote this week for The Good Men Project:

Also, if you haven’t seen this outstanding Nike ad with Lisa Leslie and Diana Taurasi and some adorable and badass little girls, watch it right now.

Related Post: I will not be joining your gym.

Related Post: Don’t take my picture! Come on, you’re at the beach!


Filed under Advertising, Body Image, Education, Gender, Media, Politics, Republished!, Sports

MA Reconsiders Custody Bias

I have tangled with the Men’s Rights movement before, usually in the comments section of my Good Men Project articles. The most frustrating thing about that crew, besides their vitriolic hate speech towards feminists and the occasional personal insult, is that sometimes they are right.

There are gender biases that cut in all directions, and I don’t think it’s fair for feminists to argue that women always get the brunt of it. Most of the time? Yes (especially in these last trying months). But are there are occasions where men get screwed based on sex-based prejudice? Yes. Should we rectify those as well? Absolutely.

Massachusetts is putting together a task force to reconsider its child custody laws. From the Boston Globe:

“Advocates for custody reform aren’t going away; they are among the loudest and most persistent constituencies to lobby state government today. Their passion bespeaks a genuine need to examine the workings of family courts, and to determine whether some complaints about bias have merit. And while some shared-parenting advocates won’t be satisfied with anything less than joint custody in all cases, others have suggested smaller changes in law and practice that are worthy of discussion. These include tweaks in the language used in domestic relations cases – such as replacing the term “visitation’’ with “parenting time’’ – and changes in the restraining-order process that would encourage more healthy contact between parents and children.”

As the child of a less-than-amicable divorce but a successful joint-custody arrangement, I have strong feelings on the subject. I think the presumptive default should be joint custody, and then you work from there. I don’t think that one situation fits all families (and thus I would not be in favor of a mandated arrangement), but I do believe we need to begin with the assumption that both parents have equal access to and engagement with their children.

Part of my feminism is ceding the assumption that women are “naturally” better parents. Our culture favors caregiving for women and breadwinning for men in a myriad of de facto and de jure ways. We need to fix the legal double standards (i.e .provide parental leave across the board), and we need work to scrub the prejudice from judicial discretion as well. Beginning from a place of equality seems like a good start.

Do women request full custody more often then men? Yes. Will you still likely end up with more custody arrangements that favor the mother, probably yes. But, you will also end up with fewer disenfranchised fathers, and fewer “every other weekend” models, and fewer kids that view their dads as glorified babysitters instead of engaged parents.  Using gender as the launching point for a conversation about custody is unfair to dads, reinforces stereotypes about men and parenting, and deprives kids of seeing their fathers as primary caregivers.

Related Post: Dads in advertising.

Related Post: Dads, daughters and body image.


Filed under Family, Gender

In Defense of Hugo

To the average person, the recent blow-up about Hugo Schwyzer’s feminist involvement has registered on the pop culture spectrum somewhere below what I had for breakfast. But, if you run in the Facebook and Twitter circles I run in, the drama seems to never cease. In a nutshell, a number of feminist blogs (and Facebook groups) have decided that, for a variety of reasons, he should be disqualified from discussing, advocating, writing, and teaching about feminism and women’s history. Read his thoughts on the subject here.

There’s a difference between pointing out structural inequality and discrimination and giving voice to personal pain, discomfort, or injustice.

I can write a paper about housing discrimination in Chicago, or the Civil Rights movement, or Gwendolyn Brooks, or explore the political, sociological, cultural histories of race and racial discrimination. I can’t, however, write about the experience of being discriminated against for being black, nor can I claim to understand the implications of such an experience.

I would be wary of any male feminists who began sentences with phrases like:

Women feel like…

Women should feel like…

Women think that…

Women act like….

I would find such overgeneralization and presumption offensive and belittling, regardless of the intentions of the speaker. That is not, nor has ever been, the attitude I have read in Hugo’s writings at Jezebel and the Good Men Project. That some feminists are suggesting that Hugo’s gender, complicated history with addiction, or what they perceive as self-aggrandizing style disqualifies him from the conversation does not jibe well with what I want from feminist discourse.

Feminism, like any movement, is a large, ungainly, and often controversial umbrella. I have been frustrated before by women who refused the title, but believe in the ideas, but I understand that the connotations it carries (earned or not) can be hard to swallow.

My feminism is about allowing individual desires to take precedence over societally proscribed roles and assumptions. It’s about men being nurses and teachers, women being firefighters and executives, but it’s also about giving boys and girls (and men and women) the complete spectrum of ways to be successful and saying, “the world is open to you, treat it well and do with it as you will.” Being a boy, or a girl, or gay, or straight, or something that is not so easily labeled, should not determine your path or limit your options.

My feminism has room in it for people like Hugo, and also people that disagree with Hugo. It has room for argument and debate, and complicated personal histories. It has room for nuance and complexity, and empathy for the difficult decisions we all make every day.

Related Post: I don’t like places that discriminate against my friends.

Related Post: So this is why people hate feminism?


Filed under Gender, Media

Guest Post: Role-Reversal with a 17 Year Age Gap

A few weeks ago, I wrote a Good Men Project essay called “Could I Fall in Love with the Bus Driver?” It was about the intersection of gender and class, and how I was rethinking my own assumptions about what kind of “qualifications” I had for a partner. My friend Kate (who has guest posted here before), wrote a response. Turns out, these are not hypothetical questions for her:

*       *        *        *         *

I started dating Rick in the middle of my senior year in college. He was an under-employed real estate agent, stuck in the rut of the recession. He also happened to be 17 years older than me, and was divorced with a child. But he was so good-looking. And he made me laugh. I fully expected it not to go anywhere. I had plans, you see, and getting into a relationship was not in them.

You know what they say about plans, “the best laid…” Fast forward to graduation, six months later, and Rick and I were still together. He and his child met my parents that summer, and we ended up spending the holidays that year together. Soon after that, we were talking about the future, and my dreams (and my five, ten, and 20 year plans). Rick and I talked about the possibility of me moving, going to grad school, joining the Peace Corps or something else that would possibly separate us.

Rick doesn’t have a college degree, and values my education highly. He’s told me that no matter what, he stands by my decisions and I shouldn’t let him hold me back from anything. If I want to move to pursue my goals, the most likely scenario would be him coming with. This absolute support of me made me realize some things about what I wanted and needed in a partner.

As the good, middle class, well educated young woman I am, I always assumed that I would marry a middle class well educated young man, somebody my “equal” in terms of economic status and educational level. However, that type of young man, the type I dated in college, was more than willing to leave me to found their own start-up or join the Navy. I needed a partner who was instead ready to back me up, and follow me, instead of vice-versa.

It is really hard reversing gender roles. It is especially hard reversing gender roles with a 17 year age gap and a college degree difference. There were a few people who implied Rick wasn’t “good enough” for me, or “smart enough” or whatever you might imagine “enough” because of his circumstances. But those people who judge our relationship aren’t the people in it. They don’t see the back end, the unconditional support that I have from him, or even just the way he makes me giggle over the smallest things. The differences between us don’t damage our relationship, but make it stronger.

What I imagined in life was nowhere close to what I have ended up getting. Rick proposed to me a year ago, and we’re getting married sometime in the next year. So I guess I did kind of fall for the “bus driver.” The result? A wonderful, strong, fulfilling relationship with the man I am going to spend the rest of my life with. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Related Post: Kate’s guest post about Cosmo, kink, and sexual honesty.

Related Post: Kate’s guest post about people telling her she’s too skinny.


Filed under Gender, Guest Posts

Michelle Bachmann and the Politics of “Bitch”

This week on The Good Men Project I wrote about Michelle Bachmann’s appearance on Jimmy Fallon this week. As you may be aware, the in-house band (The Roots) accompanied her march on stage with an incomprehensible version of Fishbone’s “Lyin’ Ass Bitch.” I’m no fan of Bachmann’s, but I still think this crosses a line. Here’s why:

Related Post: DADT is one of those things that Bachmann and I disagree on. What if your partner deployed, and you couldn’t say I love?

Related Post: What’s in a name? Here’s my GMP post about modern naming conventions.


Filed under Gender, Media, Politics