I have been following The Good Men Project for at least a few years now and find myself regularly impressed with insightful, thoughtful articles. Indeed, the majority of these articles are perfect examples of how feminism is for both women and men and of how feminism is about giving specific attention to issues of gender and all of the gazillion related topics. Articles also regularly address the importance of relationships, being an effective parent, poverty, and much, much more.
Additionally, on its About page, The Good Men Project recognizes that “good” is inherently problematic and subjective. “Good” to one person, time, or place could be very “bad” to another.
Indeed, in the last decade there has been a positive revolutionary (after all, revolutionary is not automatically positive) shift toward recognizing that “good men” come in all shapes, sizes, genders, sexualities, individual differences, etc., etc. Even the very word “men,” then, becomes problematic. (See “Women” and “Men,” Part I – Hidden Power of Words Series, #15 for comments on related issues.)
The idea of there even being “males” is a social construction. At what age does someone become a “man”? Why are “boys” left out? Who is a “man”?
“Man” includes, in theory, roughly 50 percent of the population. But, too, we know from biological, psychological, and sociological studies that all of the world’s contemporary definitions of “male” that involve levels of testosterone, the presence of a penis instead of a vagina (or both reproductive parts), XY instead of XX chromosomes, and facial and chest hair with puberty, for example, are deeply problematic, subjective, and simply inaccurate measures. One’s sex (biology), like one’s gender (presentation of sex), are constantly changing cultural constructions. Like sexual orientation, sex exists on a spectrum.
According to the Intersex Society of North America, taken collectively 1 out of every 100 people do not fit some of the most basic, strict definitions of male and female. This doesn’t even count differing levels of testosterone or estrogen that come later in life, for instance. Or that females serving in the army, temporarily have much higher levels of testosterone. Most accurately then, there are as many “sexes” as there are humans or everyone is an altered female. One thing is for sure: sex cannot be determined with any certainty at birth or even later in life.
Articles on The Good Men Project would further service everyone if authors frequently recognized, in their topics or diction, the complexity of calling anyone a man (or a woman).
Moreover, one thing that regularly frustrates me with articles on The Good Men Project is that they are entirely too heteronormative and cisnormative. Not everyone is heterosexual. Not everyone was born a man and identifies and presents themselves in ways stereotypically called “male.” (I was explaining to my students yesterday in a lesson on second wave feminism that dresses and makeup and high heals are not automatically for women; they are gendered as being for women.) Part of my job as a blogger, scholar, educator, and activist, is to advocate for full inclusion.
The Good Men Project is by no means overtly homophobic. It has many great articles such as this one about a gay dad or this one about two (straight) men falling in love. Nonetheless, there is plenty of room for authors to address more issues for and about men outside of the heteronormative and/or cisnormative framework.
Authors for The Good Men Project could frequently avoid people feeling articles are exclusionary of gay, bi, or trans folks (and even polygamous/polyamorous folks) with a few subtle changes. For example, by including a variety of pictures. In article, after article the picture illustrating the topic includes a White man and a White woman. Why not have two or three images in each article and more diversity in how people in images are racialized? Not every image needs to show the full range of diversity possible, but pictures matter –they communicate as much or more than the written word.
In other cases, a few adjustments in diction would result in an entirely more inclusive article. For just one example, in this article, the author describes mistakes men (i.e., people) make when they are in a relationship with a woman. This article gives the impression that male/female relationships are the only ones which exist and that everyone is easily defined as a male or female. This is something I have seen too often in articles on The Good Men Project. Authors seemingly have very good intentions, but simple adjustments, such as using he/she or alternating between he and she or using non-gendered pronouns, would help more readers feel welcomed, even if these feelings are mainly unconscious. This one is a great example. And this one.
In summary, good people would all do well to constantly remember that “men” are complicated and are all unique individuals.
Sex, gender, and sexuality are mere social constructions.
The more our rhetoric recognizes this, the more open and inclusive everyone will be.
[Updated March 4, 2016, please see Sex biology redefined: Genes don’t indicate binary sexes]