David Gilmore in his expertly crafted study of masculinity, Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity (1992), points out that manhood is nearly ubiquitous in the cultures of the world. Very early on in his book, Gilmore introduces us to the Fox Indians, one of the aboriginal peoples of North America, whose word for manhood translates into English as “the Big Impossible.” Anyone involved in discussions of manhood would do well to remember this fact. With this in mind I undertook a reading of The Good Men Project, a collection of thirty-one essays written by “a broad range of men – rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight, urban, rural, famous, [and] ordinary” (from the back cover).
If anyone has had the displeasure of sitting through a gender studies course in contemporary academe, he may be familiar with a kind of class that is run as a sort of self-help group, where mostly young women trade stories of victimhood at the hands of the patriarchy amid rage and tears, while the two or three silent young men in class sweat profusely in their chairs. Luckily for us The Good Men Project is not like one of these classes. While a few of the stories delve into that weepy emotionalism, for the most part these essays have, as another reviewer put quite succinctly, “balls.” The men who wrote these essays are not trying to burden us with their problems or to saturate us with their emotions, but to give us snapshots from the stories of their lives, some of which are able to deliver a devastating emotional payload precisely because of their reserve and dignity. These stories break the great male silence and allow us to start our own analysis.
From New Male Studies: An International Journal - Vol. 2, Issue 1, 2013, pp. 78-81.