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Good Is Good: Are Men Really Stupid?

Friday, May 04, 2012


Tom Matlack is the former CFO of the Providence Journal and is the founder of The Good Men Project, a non-profit charitable corporation based in Rhode Island and dedicated to helping organizations that provide educational, social, financial, and legal support to men and boys at risk.

I promised myself I wasn’t going to write another one of these shallow response pieces. Stay strong, I told myself.  This is about goodness not evil.  I’d written about the Wall Street Journal headline bemoaning the lack of good men. How many times had I counter-punched the Atlantic cover story announcing the end of men?

Sometimes I feel like a politician truly attempting to talk about the issues only to get sucked back into responding to negative attack ads. But I was done with that.  Too tired. Too sick of some women picking a gender fight just for sport.

Then last night I had trouble sleeping. Out of sheer desperation I decided to check out the headlines on Google News. There’s a war winding down in Afghanistan, the Euro is in trouble again and the Red Sox were in danger of actually winning a game the last time I checked.

Right there at the top of the news feed, from CNN, was the story that I had been trying to ignore. “Are Men Stupid?” the headline screamed.  My stomach sank.  I knew I’d have to go check it out.  See what woman wrote it and whether or not she went all the way back to Biblical times or used the Edwards trial to launch through the list of sex addicts from Tiger to JFK.

I looked to the byline for some glimmer of hope:

Editor’s note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer/correspondent, she is the author of “The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television.”

Maybe, just maybe Frida would use some common sense and not throw all men under the bus. So I started reading.

Are men stupid? How else can we explain the endless parade of otherwise successful individuals, who by all appearances seem intelligent and competent, and yet risk destroying their careers and their personal lives over the chance to have a sexual escapade?

Not a promising start, I admit. But let’s give the world affairs columnist a chance to dig herself out of the hole of gender stereotyping. But after the required slam of Edwards and the Secret Service we get this:

The pageant of legacy-killing misjudgment includes a president, several might-have-been presidents, a few governors, a World Bank director, a former Dutch prime minister, an Israeli president and one of the top golfers of all time. And that is only a partial list.

How to explain it?

The question has baffled women, mostly, since Biblical times.

Oh, Frida really? We are going to say that women have been baffled by men’s stupidity (no qualifier, no handful of guys, no out for real life heros and saints) since Biblical times? This is not going well at all.

From there we get more on Edwards, the Secret Service, and a riveting discussion of Clinton, Spitzer, Tiger, Sanford, Weiner, Republican Christopher Lee, DSK, and  former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers.

Really, girlfriend that’s all you got? By my count that is somewhere around a dozen guys. I think there are over 3 billion men alive today. Someone a lot smarter than I am would have to calculate how many men have been alive since the Bible was written, as you are going after not just guys today but dead guys too back to the beginning of time.

Finally we get to primary causes, according to the CNN expert on manhood.

Some try to explain it as biology, testosterone’s fault, they say. Others blame complex psychological needs. “The appeal of hookers lies in the temporary psychic relief they supply to men struggling with conflicts about guilt and responsibility,” wrote psychologist Michael Bader.

But I believe the common denominator, the proximate cause of the irrational behavior, is arrogance; the belief by some powerful men that they can get away with it. That the world is still their unchallenged domain, as it was years ago, when few people knew about a president bringing women to the White House to have sex, as John F. Kennedy did, or pressuring his secretary to yield to sexual advances, as was common. It is willful ignorance that the world has changed.

So it used to be the case that all men were pigs but now that the world won’t let us get away with that our stupidity lies in our denial that we will get caught and can’t, like JFK, sleep with the secretary without consequence.

Hmm. I have spoken to thousands of men in the course of working on The Good Men Project and none of them brought that up. What I heard most was the desire to figure out how to be good fathers and good husbands and good men.

Frida, if I published a piece that announced ALL WOMEN ARE GOLD-DIGGERS  would that be fair to Mother Teresa or Hilary Clinton or the CEO of Pepsi? Similarly how does a headline announcing the stupidity of men show respect for Julio Medina or Michael Kamber, both of whom are heroic men we have profiled here at GMP?

I mean I am sure I could come up with a list of a dozen very well known female gold diggers. But to try to generalize from that sample to ALL women would be silly.  And frankly miss the aspirational point of what I love and admire about women, ones in my life and the ones in public life who I pay attention to.

What do you admire about men, Frida? Why focus on what you perceive as the stupidity of the few rather than the brilliance or courage or big-heartedness of the many?

I’ve said it before but I guess I have to say it again: the idea that men are stupid sex-crazed idiots is just as much of a perversion as the incidents that fill our news. We can focus on the sexual misdeeds of a few or the good deeds of the many men in our country and around the world.  It’s really our choice. But having some woman write yet another indictment of men as a species is just not helpful to anyone. Most especially women.

Let’s talk about goodness rather than badness for a change. Please.

For more of Tom's works, as well as other pieces on related topics, go to The Good Men Project Magazine online, here.


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