[Ed note: This is, as the title would imply, very Inside Baseball: BLOG FIGHT! edition. Sorry, I do know better, but I couldn't help it].
So here’s the thing about the Good Men Project: I really want them to be good. I do. I was an early promoter of their work, linking to them here and on Twitter. They had some great early writers, and interesting (if male-centric, given their mission) feminist analysis. And my brand of feminism is firmly in the camp of, “breaking down gender stereotypes is good for men too, and I hope more men will do the work amongst themselves to further the goals of gender equality.” And lo, I thought the GMP was doing that.
Then things started to change.
I stopped reading the GMP after their head honcho, Tom Matlack, went after feminist media activist Jenn Pozner, Kate Harding, Amanda Marcotte and other feminist writers who dared question him (really politely and generously, in the beginning) about a gender-essentialist piece he posted on GMP. You can read the full Twitter convo here, which Matlack helpfully characterized as “the wrath of the feminists.”
That wasn’t the first sign that GMP was increasingly becoming hostile to women. It certainly hasn’t been the last.
In the beginning, GMP included work from a variety of feminist writers. But over the past year and a half, all of the feminist writers have all left — every single one. From what I understand, they left either because of the Matlack/feminist-twitter thing, or they left because the comments were so overrun by men’s rights activists that there was no point in continuing to exhaust themselves trying to change the views of active misogynists. They weren’t supported. The misogynist voices were allowed to continue, and eventually they ran out nearly all of the gender-egalitarian and progressive ones, in the comments and in the freelance staff. Pretty soon the misogynist voices were the GMP’s readership. They were who the writers catered to.
MRAs aren’t just feminist boogeymen. They are legitimately hateful, threatening and violent men. I’m not going to get into detail in public about this one, but these are people who have directly threatened me many times over, in many different ways. Many of them have been arrested or convicted on domestic violence complaints, and many of them have shown a propensity to use violence to solve their problems. I get into stupid internet fights all the time. I get called names every day. The MRAs who actively work together to use violence to intimidate, injure and kill women? When my name is on their lips, they are some of the few people who legitimately scare me (and for what it’s worth, the Southern Poverty Law Center agrees).
So yes, it is concerning to me that the GMP has allowed itself to become an MRA-friendly space. That is not a space that I trust or that I think is acting in the interests of women or men. That is not a space that I think is at all safe for any women, even the ones who bend over backwards to try to please men who hate women, or who brand those men “nice guys.”
I did a brief look through GMP’s archives the other day, and I didn’t recognize one name that had any credibility in the feminist blogospere or the lefty-sphere generally. As far as I can tell, they offer close to zero race and class analysis. Anyone who was writing intelligently about gender seems to have fled. What’s left are mostly men with chips on their shoulders, MRAs, and women who write about “women stuff” but have no background at all in feminist work, gender studies academia or the feminist internet. As someone who has been writing on the feminist internet for a lot of years now, that’s odd — almost every other political site that leans even a little left has the occasional feminist writer or two who cut her teeth in Internet Femistan, or is at least familiar because she’s written smart things about women and has built connections and bridges with feminist writers. No, not all feminist-minded writers get along, and no, we don’t always see things the same way, and yes, there are many many women who are amazing writers and thinkers and who do great work but who aren’t well-known or widely recognized.
But that wasn’t what was happening at GMP. When I read what the non-MRA, supposedly feminist-leaning writers were writing, I was taken aback. It wasn’t just that they didn’t use the right language or that we had different views on things. It was that they fundamentally didn’t get it. And not in a “we see things differently” kind of way, but in a “they have no idea what the views even ARE” kind of way.
I’m not opposed to learning out loud. I have learned, in public, many times over. I have written about things that I wasn’t very well-versed in and gotten thoroughly schooled. But as an adult woman and someone who actually does take my credibility and my work seriously, I research what I write before I write it. I look up the relevant statistics. I read the available academic literature. I take a look at what other people are saying, and when it doesn’t fit into my preconceptions or assumptions, I adjust my viewpoint and my arguments accordingly.
That doesn’t mean I’m always right. I am wrong plenty of the time. And on a lot of things I still think I’m right even if much of my audience, or some of my audience, thinks I’m wrong. There is almost nothing I have ever written that I’m proud of that didn’t have a good chunk of detractors — whether those detractors were right-wing misogynists or fellow feminists. That’s part of the game. That’s the entire point of writing about ideas in public space. It’s not just to win followers — it’s to debate and expand and push and, in a social justice movement, to unify behind certain goals and take multi-pronged approaches to achieving them.
I haven’t always handled things perfectly (or even approaching “well”) when I’ve made a mistake. I’ve been writing in this space for almost eight years. I’ve written almost 5,000 pieces here. I am sure if I looked through our archives, there would be hundreds of posts I would take back if I could. But the times I really stepped in shit, I did make an effort to think to myself, “Where is this criticism coming from? People don’t usually get this upset just because they’re bored. What are their objections, and how many of them do I think have merit?” Now, I think there have been myriad times when objections to my posts or arguments are simply differences in worldview, or when I think the objections are entirely groundless. But there have been other times when I’ve been able to take a step back and say, ok, I am feeling really defensive and upset right now, but I also think this criticism is coming from a place of being shocked that I would write something that the reader found incredibly offensive, and does their argument have legs?”
Often it doesn’t. But often it does. Often it’s somewhere in the middle and I’m not really the best judge of that, because there are few arguments or positions that are always 100% right or 100% wrong.
So I try to have a relatively consistent worldview that’s premised on the idea that all human beings deserve rights and respect and integrity, and back up my views with evidence, and move my opinions on how best to achieve that as I learn more. And when I step in shit, I try to clean it up and not do it again.
The Good Men Project has really stepped in some shit here, with the initial “My friend is a rapist but he’s a good guy because the girl he raped was kind of a slut sending him mixed messages” post by Alyssa Royse. They knew they stepped in shit. Instead of trying to clean it up, they rolled around in it. They doubled down with the follow-up anonymous piece by an admitted rapist with no plans of stopping, and the follow-up to that of the GMP justifying its decision to post the rapists’ piece and the ensuing MRA-fest in the comments.
And yes, I am feeding into it. I seriously considered ignoring it until I saw how many pageviews they get (and I suspect, by the way, that their writers and editors are paid by the pageview, incentivizing this kind of bullshit). Some of their writers and editors are currently complaining that I am “bullying” them and trying to take them down and destroy them. If only I had that kind of power! Just for the record, they get like 10 times the traffic Feministe does. We may have more credibility in the feminist blogosphere because they’ve chosen to repeatedly torch theirs, but we are not the Goliath here. They have an audience of men who think that the GMP is a marginally feminist, progressive site. And they’re talking to those men about rape in a way that enables sexual assault and perpetuates rape myths and rape culture. When that’s criticized, it’s a “lynch mob” led by a “troll” (me. aren’t I adorable?).
Can I just point out how stupid this all is?
It doesn’t have to be this way. If the GMP had cracked down on MRAs and supported writers who actually want to break down gender stereotypes for men, there wouldn’t be this existing lack of trust, and there would have been someone on the editorial staff who would have flagged Alyssa’s piece and said, “Uh, wait a minute.” If the feminist writers, academics and researchers who have been doing this work for a long-ass time had their concerns listened to and addressed, this would not be my third post on the GMP in a week.
Most everyone I’ve read has been like, “Yeah, those GMP pieces are messed up.” Instead of addressing those concerns at the beginning, when Alyssa’s rape apologia was published, and being like, “Shoot, you guys, we handled this poorly,” the GMP went ahead and threw gas on the fire by publishing a rapist. And then they tossed a whole propane tank on there and wrote two posts about how they were so correct in publishing a rapist. Now they’re positioning themselves as the victims of the internet hate machine. A handful of GMP writers and supporters circled the wagons, accusing anyone who criticizes them of being “terrorists” who have launched a “lynch mob.” For criticizing Alyssa, Joanna Schroeder and the GMP’s decision to give an active rapist the cover of anonymity, I am a “crazy psycho bitch” and a “bully.”
Now Joanna Schroeder is in the comment section of GMP attempting to discredit the most comprehensive academic study of rape to date, simply because it doesn’t fit into her narrative du jour. Think about that: She is trying to undermine the very study that gives us the most information about why rapists rape and how to stop them. And she’s doing this because she thinks her method of anti-rape activism — publishing anonymous first-hand accounts of rapists and telling women not to send mixed messages to nice guys — is better. And Alyssa Royse is up on social media doing the same thing.
They have energy and attention. They are using it to try to discredit feminist work and promote the voices of rapists. They are using it to essentially say that their half-baked theories about why rapists rape, based on this one guy who Alyssa really likes and is really a decent dude, are probably more accurate than the consensus of decades of scientific and sociological inquiry.
Chew on that one.
To Alyssa, Joanna and the Good Men Project: You have stepped in some shit. The fact that you are choosing to double and triple and quadruple down? That’s not good. I understand you’re upset and feeling defensive. Believe me I have been there, and I am no stranger to digging myself deeper into a big ol’ shit pile. So take it from someone who knows: Take a step back. Take a look around. Who agrees with you here, and who doesn’t? As far as I can tell, the people who agree with you are either (1) your friends, who even then only seem to kinda-sorta agree to a point, and (2) relatively misogynist dudes who want very badly to believe that there’s lots of gray area when it comes to rape and the victim is partially responsible. Read the comments on your website. Read the comments on this one. Who doesn’t agree with you? Basically every single feminist activist who has done anti-rape or gender-equality work for more than fifteen minutes.
Chew on that one.
You’ve made it clear that you think I’m a psycho-bitch lynching-mobbing bully, so take me out of the picture for a moment. Are there any other neutral parties — people whose work you have long admired, who you think are right about most things, but who aren’t friends or colleagues — who are behind you on this? Who agree with you whole-heartedly?
Maybe there are. And look, we clearly have very different worldviews, so I won’t presume to know whose views you take seriously and whose you don’t. But think about it.
And to the Good Men Project: I had such high hopes for you. I do think there is still much value in creating a space for men to break down gender stereotypes and to explore modern masculinity. But why does that have to come at the expense of women? Why does that have to come at the expense of me and my safety? Why is publishing the viewpoint of a rapist — protecting that rapist by hiding his identity — more valuable than looking at the actual evidence on why men commit rape? Why is the response to “Why are you doing this when we have some pretty good evidence in response to your question?” an an attempt to undermine the evidence? Why are you so sure that the rape theories you came up with a few days ago are more legit than the work and body of knowledge and data and scholarship accumulated over the past several decades?
Just… think about it.
To the rest of us: Unless the GMP is willing to show some major change (replace Matlack, ban MRAs, don’t publish pieces by admitted serial rapists), let’s avoid reading them. Let’s avoid reading anyone who cross-promotes with them. Let’s avoid reading their writers on any other websites. If they want to be MRA-ville, more power to ‘em. But they don’t get the cover of feminism or progressivism anymore.
For the record, I do hope they change. I don’t think they will, but I would absolutely love to be surprised.