The Good Men Project

I met with Lisa Hickey this past week, who is a reader and commenter on this blog. Always great to put the face with the name. She is the CEO and publisher of the Good Men Project.

We walked about a lot of things before she headed off to Philly to meet with a group to talk about men and behavior. I do believe that most men (and women) want to be decent human beings particularly in these times where women are finally feeling comfortable enough to call bad behavior out but it is not always the case.

Amplifying conversations among men about self-awareness is behind Lisa’s mission. It is one that not many are having so I give her huge applause.

We all know that behavior is a toss-up between nurture and nature. Nurture can come from not only the people around you but also from how we are approached and talked to in all settings. Nature is skin deep.

I told Lisa a story that I think about from time to time. When Josh was 8 or maybe 9 he went to a friend’s house for the weekend where they played a game involving plastic guns loaded with yellow pellets hunting each other down. He called me to ask if he could buy a gun to participate. Not a fan of the gun but a fan of the phone call, I said of course and appreciate the ask.

Fast forward summer is upon us. Josh is interested in buying some guns to have his friends over to play the game. We were roomies that summer while his sisters were in camp so I gave him a budget to stick to and he researched, figured it out and bought the goods. Little did I know that $50 buys an arsenal.

We kept all the guns in a big basket by the door. What I always found fascinating that over the course of the summer, every male that walked into the door, be it a 3-year-old or a 70-year-old went directly to that basket and picked up a gun. Not one female.

Nature? Perhaps. Men need to have conversations about their worlds as much as women are having today. We need to talk together and we need to understand and learn from each other today, more than ever.

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    I don’t have an opinion on nature vs nurture.I do believe that the only avenue are nuanced, inclusive conversations as the way forward.

    1. Gotham Gal


    2. lisa hickey

      One of the things I spoke about at the conference in Philly was how there are some people actively trying to shut down those nuanced, inclusive conversations. Glad you are helping to make those happen.

      1. awaldstein

        I am not doing enough but in all things to drive change inclusiveness is the answer.I try. I do believe in this. I have been fortunate in my life and career to work with super powerful original women from the very beginning and that shaped my beliefs from the very beginning.

        1. lisa hickey

          I have seen you try and appreciate it.

      2. LE

        there are some people actively trying to shut down those nuanced, inclusive conversationsWho are these people and what are their reasons for doing so in your opinion?

        1. Gotham Gal


        2. lisa hickey

          There are people who either do not believe men still hold power or believe it but they don’t want to give up that power. Men still hold the power but feel powerless. As Joanne points out, that causes anger.It is probably more people than you think. We have created systems for social change based on how people in the Civil Rights Movement approached change — that you look at your Active Allies, Passive Allies, Neutrals, Passive Opposition and Active Opposition. The Active Opposition are the ones trying to shut it down. I gave a talk at this conversation at a conference that was basically “A 10 year look at The Good Men Project, troll by troll.” It talked about all the ways people were trying to shut down the conversation, from attacking my credibility, calling me names and slurs, calling for my removal as CEO, calling our company “too girly”, doxing people, etc. Most of the time the attackers were blatant about the fact that they were doing it because I was a woman. But the talk had its intended effect—people in the audience told me they could actually *see* systemic sexism and the imbalance of power in ways they never had before.

  2. pointsnfigures… read your post, saw this on twitter. the tweet made me laugh. We have two daughters and I can’t imagine them doing this at that age.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Hilarious. Absolutely not!

  3. jason wright

    I tend to think that types of nurture amplify types of nature, and visa versa. Right and wrong combinations lead to good and bad outcomes.Perhaps the basket ‘experiment’ could be revived, substituting guns for a series of various other objects to see what happens.

  4. lisa hickey

    Thanks for the shout out Joanne!I love to meet someone I’ve known only online—just to find they are exactly the same in real life. I truly felt like I was just re-connecting with a longtime friend instead of meeting someone new. It speaks to the authenticity of this blog.That story you told about the guns has stayed with me. I can picture it. We do talk about this very thing on The Good Men Project — one of our top posts of all times is “Let Him Play With Dolls” which talks about how the almost unconscious ways we socialize boys and girls into gender roles can have a profound effect on their lives. Rigid gender roles are harmful to both women and men, and that is what we are trying to change. Sexism is still seeped into our society. A systemic problem must be solved systemically. Your work with women entrepreneurs helps solve it one way, our conversation about the changing roles of men helps in a different way.I’m not sure how much change can occur in a lifetime, but I’m going to try to stick around as long as possible to find out.Great meeting you Joanne, and thanks again for all.*

  5. JLM

    .There is nothing wrong with our male children that requires them to play with dolls or be reluctant to reach for a plastic gun in order to become and live as “good men.”What is wrong is the abdication of the role of raising young boys into men by those who used to embrace the job while allowing the definition of manliness to drift without their steadying hand. As fathers, we must define manliness. As exemplars, we must live that definition.A father and a mother raise a boy to be a man. It is a duty imposed upon them when they brought that boy into the world. It is a sacred duty. They are the original font of responsibility. It does not happen by accident. It happens in a certain way that has the parents’ fingerprints all over them.The first issue is to define what “manliness” is. If you can define what a man is, then you can train toward that real life test. This is the greatest current failure of our society — the abdication of the definition of what it means to be a man. In this void, the boy is allowed to find his own definition.Parents, teachers, coaches, religious leaders, Scout leaders, mentors — all have/had their role.Parents are distracted. Teachers are distant and fearful of employing discipline. Coaches are afraid. Religious leaders are in many instances non-existent because parents no longer raise their children inside a church. The Boy Scouts lost their gender identity. Mentors are virtually non-existent.What this has done is to dilute the effort and to abdicate the duty to raise unformed boys into manly men allowing secular forces and drifting values to provide instruction in loco parentis. If a parent does not erect, define, impose guardrails, define manly behavior, then a permissive society will do it.If a parent allows a boy to play video games that worship violence, then a child will believe that to be acceptable behavior. If movies objectify women as sexual objects, as appliances to gratify lust — guess what? Your boys will follow the path of least resistance, arriving at their manhood with no counter argument to what we have allowed them to be exposed to.As society becomes progressively more permissive, as the message becomes more garbled, as the forces of evil become more obvious and ambitious, our duty as parents becomes the sole bulwark to ensure we raise men from boys.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  6. SFG

    I remember taking my daughter to a swimming hole when she was about 8 with a group of friends. The gaggle of boys were all exploring, “hunting” and playing independently. While the gaggle of girls were a close circle in the water, chatting with one another.Classic boy verus girl stuff. Yes, nature.