The Good Men Project

The Good Men Project – a website about men that’s not sexist and heterosexist, for single men and fathers.  Check it out.  Here’s their about:

First, we’re try­ing to make the world a bet­ter place. Seri­ously. In that pur­suit, we give 25 per­cent of our prof­its to orga­ni­za­tions that help at-risk boys.

Sec­ond, we’re try­ing to rede­fine what a men’s mag­a­zine can be. Sure, we write about sports. Yes, we write about sex (although we do it with­out sell­ing sex). But unlike so many other men’s mag­a­zines, we don’t patron­ize or car­i­ca­tur­ize our audi­ence. We try to bring out the best in men, and we do that by pro­duc­ing con­tent that chal­lenges men to think deeply—and to talk about the things they don’t usu­ally talk about.

With a name like the Good Men Project, some folks assume that we’re going to tell men how to be good. This assump­tion has led at least one media critic to sug­gest that we might be a “con­ser­v­a­tive culty thing.” Oth­ers have called us “fem­i­nists” because, we sus­pect, we cel­e­brate, pub­lish, and appear to be very pop­u­lar with women. (Ms. Mag­a­zine said we are “what enlight­ened mas­culin­ity might look like in the 20th century.”)

We sup­pose we are a dif­fi­cult mag­a­zine to cat­e­go­rize, and that’s exactly how we like it. We’re not inter­ested in telling men how they should go about liv­ing their lives, nor are we intent on pro­mot­ing a cer­tain “image” of mas­culin­ity. We’re inter­ested instead in cre­at­ing a com­mu­nity where men (and the women who love us) can talk openly and hon­estly about their lives.

 

And here’s one of the many great articles from the website about Peggy Orenstein’s new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter:

Men and the Sexualization of Young Girls by Hugo Schwyzer

Encour­ag­ing princess culture—however innocently—contributes to the sex­u­al­iza­tion of girls. Men can be part of the solu­tion to the ‘princess prob­lem.’

This may sur­prise the read­ers of the Good Men Project Mag­a­zine, but we’re part of a prob­lem: the princess problem.

More and more experts rec­og­nize that “princess cul­ture” does great harm to girls. I don’t know how many GMPM read­ers also read Red­book, but it’s worth check­ing out this story: “Lit­tle Girls Gone Wild: Why Daugh­ters Are Act­ing Too Sexy, Too Soon.” In it, Peggy Oren­stein (the author of the new and impor­tant Cin­derella Ate My Daugh­ter: Dis­patches From the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Cul­ture), makes the case that a lot of the pre­ma­turely sexy behav­ior and dress we’ve all noticed is actu­ally rooted in some­thing we think is very inno­cent: the world of princesses.

You may balk—what’s sexy about a lit­tle girl in a pink princess cos­tume? But sexy, as it turns out, is not the same thing as sex­u­al­ized. Sex­u­al­iza­tion is not just impos­ing sex­u­al­ity on chil­dren before they’re ready and view­ing girls as sex­ual objects, but also valu­ing a girl for her appear­ance over her other attrib­utes. “Princesses are just a phase,” Oren­stein writes, but they mark a girl’s “first foray into the main­stream cul­ture. … And what was the first thing that cul­ture told her about being a girl? Not that she was com­pe­tent, strong, cre­ative, or smart, but that every lit­tle girl wants—or should want—to be the Fairest of Them All.”

This may be true, but how is it our prob­lem as men? Many—maybe even most of you who are read­ing this—don’t have daugh­ters. A lot of you aren’t dads at all. Whether you think lit­tle girls dressed up as Snow White are cute or not, what does the prob­lem Oren­stein describes have to do with you?

Well, for starters almost every man has—or will have—a lit­tle girl in his life. If not a daugh­ter then a niece, a lit­tle cousin, your buddy’s kid, your son’s friend from play­group. And if you care about the well-being of these girls, this issue of princess cul­ture and sex­u­al­iza­tion mat­ters to you. The bad news is, you may be part of the prob­lem; the good news is, you can be part of the solution.

♦◊♦

Thank­fully, most men aren’t sex­u­ally attracted to pre­pu­bes­cent girls. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a very strong response when we see a 6-year-old dressed up as cute as can be. For men, com­pli­ment­ing older girls and women for their looks is often sex­u­ally charged and likely to get you in trou­ble. But as fathers, uncles, and oth­ers notice, lit­tle girls of princess age rarely have the same cau­tion and sus­pi­cion about older men as their older sis­ters. Often trans­par­ent in their eager­ness for atten­tion and val­i­da­tion, they light up at praise. And no com­pli­ment is eas­ier to give than “You’re so pretty.”

Five-year-olds in princess cos­tumes are cute. But the prob­lem is that the com­pli­ments we give as fathers, uncles, and coaches have an impact on the self-esteem of lit­tle girls. As they grow up, they real­ize quickly (cer­tainly by age 8 or 9) that Cin­derella cos­tumes won’t cut it any­more. If they want to sus­tain the same level of atten­tion that they had when they were adorable first-graders, they’re going to need to employ a dif­fer­ent strat­egy: sex­i­ness. And that sex­i­ness gets our atten­tion all over again.

Wait a minute, you’re think­ing. I don’t leer at 10-year-olds in miniskirts. I don’t tell my niece that she’s hot. I wish girls would wait longer to be sexy! How am I part of this problem?

As Oren­stein and oth­ers point out, lit­tle girls take their cues about what is desir­able by look­ing at how boys and men respond to older girls and women. The father who lav­ishes ado­ra­tion on “Daddy’s lit­tle princess” but ogles high school cheer­lead­ers is send­ing his daugh­ter a clear mes­sage. The mes­sage is that the princess phase won’t last much longer, and if you want to grasp and hold adult male atten­tion, you need to be sexy.

This sex­i­ness has very lit­tle to do with sex, and every­thing to do with the crav­ing for val­i­da­tion and atten­tion. While all chil­dren want affir­ma­tion, princess cul­ture teaches lit­tle girls to get that approval through their looks. Lit­tle girls learn quickly what “works” to elicit ado­ra­tion from mom and dad, as well as from teach­ers, uncles, aunts, and other adults. Soon—much too soon—they notice that older girls and women get val­i­da­tion for a par­tic­u­lar kind of dress, a par­tic­u­lar kind of behav­ior. They watch their fathers’ eyes, they fol­low their uncles’ gaze. They lis­ten to what these men they love say when they see “hot” young women on tele­vi­sion or on the street. And they learn how to be from what they hear and see.

♦◊♦

This doesn’t mean that good dads shouldn’t let their daugh­ters dress up as princesses. It doesn’t mean that good dads, good big broth­ers, and good uncles should never, ever tell a lit­tle girl that she looks “cute” or “beau­ti­ful.” It does mean that those good grown men need to make sure that they’re also giv­ing her plenty of com­pli­ments that focus on her other qual­i­ties, like her intel­li­gence, her kind­ness, or her ath­leti­cism. But some­thing else mat­ters just as much: how we look at and talk about other girls and women.

Too many men do every­thing they can to pro­tect adored daugh­ters, nieces, and lit­tle sisters—while mak­ing lit­tle attempt to dis­guise their long­ing for other young women who aren’t all that much older than the child they cher­ish. Girls who are raised to see com­pli­ments as cur­rency quickly learn that if they want to keep their praise flow­ing in, they’ll need to do more to “earn” it. And too often, they learn exactly how to earn it from by lis­ten­ing to the words and fol­low­ing the eyes of the men they love and trust most.

 

1 Comment

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One response to “The Good Men Project

  1. Cooper Fleishman

    Thanks for the shoutout!

    Coop/GMP

    Like

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