Dear GMP: No, You May Not.
Dear Good Men Project:
You’ve reached out to me both privately and publicly to ask to republish my post Meet The Predators. I am very surprised by this, for reasons I will explain below. But I’ll cut the the chase: I am not going to give you permission to republish that or any of my work. What follows is an explanation of my reasons.
I don’t trust your good faith.
When I say “your good faith”, I realize that Good Men Project is not one person, and collective intent is something of a fiction. I have a limited ability to say who thinks what, as I don’t know any of the GMP editors personally. But I can tell you what I’ve observed and why I have my doubts.
The first reason I have my doubts about Good Men Project’s good faith is because you didn’t just discover Meet The Predators. Tom Matlack didn’t just happen across it one day. While my readership is hardly large, Meet The Predators isn’t an obscure post. It has been covered by Jezebel, Amanda Hess’s widely read Washington City Paper column The Sexist, and Feministe. It is the Yes Means Yes Blog’s most-viewed post, and on a daily basis whenever traffic for new items falls off, it pops right to the top of the statcounter again because other people keep linking to it as an important resource.
The reason it’s an important resource is not my writing. I have plenty of other posts up. The reason that Meet The Predators is an important resource is because it discusses two large (n=1000+ in each) and important research papers that studied undetected rapists in two different populations of young men. Almost all prior research on rapists is of what one might call a “clinical sample”, those who have been identified either because they’ve been caught or, more rarely, sought help on their own. There are large biases with most clinical samples, for reasons that ought to be obvious. The research I discuss in that post is virtually alone in studying rapists “in the wild” as it were, those who are not incarcerated or in treatment or both.
So how does Good Men Project know about this post and the research it popularizes? Because your readers and your critics told you about it in response to the two posts that got you folks in so much trouble. You know and I know that the two articles — Alyssa Royse’s about her friend the rapists who is a nice guy, and the rapist’s self-justification about partying and raping and not stopping — became a huge issue. You know that we know because we wrote about it here on Yes Means Yes. First I wrote something. Then Jaclyn wrote something. Then after the dust settled I made time to write something else, because I thought it was important enough to revisit. And Feministe, which was Good Men Project’s primary interlocutor in the whole kerfluffle, republished one of my posts. It’s not like you could have missed it. People pointed out Meet The Predators because it undermined the arguments in the Royse post and the rapist’s. People told you it proved you wrong. If GMP was seriously interested in what Meet The Predators said and what that research showed, that would have been a really opportune time to say, “hey, there’s a major view to the contrary of the things we just published that we’re being criticized for! Wow, hey readers, look at this very different view!”
Which brings me to the next reason I can’t put a lot of faith in your good faith. The actual response to readers pointing out the Lisak and McWhorter research in the Meet The Predators post was to try to discredit it.
This is where intent isn’t unitary. I know for certain that some of the GMP folks are fans of the Yes Means Yes Blog, which at this point effectively means of me and Jaclyn. I know because some of you have told me. Others, however, have made it really clear that they have an axe to grind. Joanna Schroeder ran with some criticisms of Meet The Predators that I thought were really poorly thought out, and I addressed them directly and debunked the would-be debunking. Joanna claimed to be acting in good faith and eschewed the personal attacks on GMP’s critics that some others made, and I hope she’s had time to think about it and realizes that her math doesn’t work and what Lisak says, and what I say about Lisak, are correct. But Joanna isn’t alone, and Alyssa Royse, who authored the first of the two infamous GMP articles, is a whole different ball of wax.
There have always been writers, including women, who see feminists as the enemy. For women in particular, there’s a space for a writer to sort of say, “I’m not like those feminists, I side with the guys.” That’s Katie Roiphe’s whole insipid career. Camille Paglia derives all of her public notoriety from saying deliberately outrageous things to piss off feminists and elicit cheers from antifeminists. It’s not really a new thing. Perhaps for some folks, it’s a pure business model, while with others it really appears to be driven by personal animus, a desire to “break down” feminists who they are … yeah, I’ll say it, jealous of. Royse made it pretty clear on her public facebook page that she had an axe to grind with “brand mane [sic]” feminists like us at Yes Means Yes and like Jill at Feministe, and wanted to “threaten their supremacy and the notions that they have built their fame on.” This can’t be news to you. We did a post on it.
I never really feel comfortable doing business with someone if they can’t be up front about their business model, and that applies to activism as well as money. Sort of sidling up to me as though, oh, gee, you just found a post smacks of trying to con me. It would be a lot easier to take this all seriously if you had written something like “in all the heated exchanges in December people kept referencing Meet The Predators, and now that we have some editorial distance from it we have decided that it adds important perspective, and we would like to publish it to continue developing the conversation.” That would have been a pretty transparent way to handle it. Pretending that December didn’t happen and you just stubbed your toe on this 2009 post and noticed that it was interesting? Not so much transparent.
If You Realize You Messed Up, Say So
The whole thing looks like an attempt at a secret do-over, like that whole “my friend the rapist is so nice” thing was a mistake made in the blurry night after the holiday party and you’re trying to be on your best behavior without apologizing to anyone for what you said. That’s not going to work, because when you try to just gloss over your past your critics get very invested in making sure everyone remembers that you never apologized or took responsibility. Whether it’s stepping on someone’s toe or wrecking someone’s life, when you realize you were wrong you start with “I’m sorry.”
That’s just the opener. There’s a saying that I love and often repeat, the source of which I don’t know: “An apology is a promise to change.” Jill already gave you an indication of what change would look like. She wrote : “replace Matlack, ban MRAs, don’t publish pieces by admitted serial rapists.” Let’s take these in reverse order.
Don’t publish pieces by admitted serial rapists. Actually, Jill and others were more specific in other places. Don’t publish pieces by unrepentant rapists. If a guy is a rapist, and isn’t sorry he’s a rapist, he doesn’t have any incentive to tell you how to stop rapists from raping. If you want to find out what rapists think and use it to make them stop, either ask the ones who have committed to changing if you can find any, or goad, schmooze and trick the active ones into telling you what they really think, which is which is basically what Lisak and McWhorter did by not using the word “rape.” But don’t give a guy who has raped and isn’t really sorry about it and doesn’t intend to stop a podium to shoot off his mouth and make the culture even more toxic. You really should have realized that before the first time, but if you don’t after the first time then there’s kind of no talking to you.
It’s not just a handful of obstreperous feminist bloggers who think that there ought to be standards for covering rape. For guidance from folks completely uninvolved in the whole GMP Rape Faceplant Of Ought-Twelve, I direct you to the Chicago Taskforce On Violence Against Girls and Young Women. They have a media toolkit that runs 45 pages.
Ban MRAs. Good Men Project started out recruiting some high-profile feminist talent. They left. Then you recruited replacements, who left. Then you recruited replacements for the replacements. Who left. Why do they keep leaving? Some cited the two posts, some cited essentialist things Matlack said, but the strongest recurring theme has been that it’s impossible to have a reasonable conversation in the comments at GMP because the conversations are dominated by a bunch of guys who are deeply and implacably resistant to anything feminist and dug into complaining about how hard guys have it. The truth is that the marketplace of ideas is not really any more perfect than other markets, and it can be overwhelmed by garbage, with a dedicated group shouting down and crowding out the better ideas. If you let those elements that think feminists are nasty buzzkills control the conversation, those are the readers you’ll keep and writers who want that audience are the only ones you’ll attract.
Finally, look, I just think Matlack has to go. He is personally thin-skinned. His overreaction to some pretty mild criticism led to an earlier round of feminists-vs-GMP. After this one, he published his thoughts, and thoughts were adolescent nonsense and self-aggrandizement. Some of the editorial issues with GMP — not getting privilege, letting the folks with the biggest set of entitlement issues control the terms of discourse, commitment to personal narrative at the expense of structural analysis — are likely his personal limitations writ large on the site’s personality. He’s not someone who can lead the organization forward in any direction except being dismissed by an ever-increasing number of readers.
You may be surprised because I have never refused a republication request before, and I’m saying no to GMP. You may feel attacked because I’m putting my criticisms in public, at length. Feel whatever you’re going to feel, but most of all, think. When people tell you you’re messing up, even if they are not people who you like or trust, sometimes rejecting what they tell you out-of-hand isn’t the best response. Sometimes the best response is to do the hard work of looking where you’re headed and where you want to go and recognizing that you’ve veered off-course. There’s usually a way back.