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20 Things I Love About ... People

In response to claims that the site is too hard on men or sees male goodness as something to be achieved rather than something men simply have, Good Men Project contributor Neely Steinberg posts a list of "20 Things I Love About Men."

As an exercise in validating the inherent goodness of masculinity, the list falls flat to me. Nearly everything on the list is something that I would say I love about women -- women donate to charity, and look deeply into their children's eyes, for example. A few I would be hesitant about simply because they're things that women are unjustly pressured by our culture to do. So I would love a woman who "go[es] off to work every day and then come[s] home after long work hours to share in the housework and child-rearing," but I would also love a woman who stands up to the cultural expectation that she must do that simply because she's a woman, especially when she's partnered with a man who won't do likewise.

A few make little sense to me either in their original form or turned around to apply to women. Take "I love when a man makes us feel like women." I'm not sure how exactly I would make a woman feel like a woman (at least in a positive way -- I'm sure I could do a bunch of sexist stuff to her to remind her of her female status in a bad way). I could do things to make her feel like she's occupying a traditionally feminine role, like buying her dresses and paying for her dinner -- but then I think of one of my ex-girlfriends, who would have slapped me for doing any of that stuff but was no less a woman for it. And really, "respecting people's preferred gender expression" is something everyone should be doing for everyone else.

I think the difficulty of constructing this sort of list goes to the heart of the angst a lot of men feel about the dissolution of traditional gender roles. They're hardly dissolved at the moment, but our culture is clearly moving away from having two quite separate and therefore mutually dependent gender roles. Numerous times I've heard men say "If women can now do everything men can do, then why do we need men anymore?" But I think we need to get away from attaching importance to the category "men" (as opposed to individual men). After all, brown eyed people can do everything that blue eyed people can (thanks to contact lenses and CGI, they can even play blue-eyed characters in movies). But that doesn't mean we blue eyed people should worry about becoming obsolete. I don't want my value to come from being a representative of a particular category, I want it to come from who I personally am (which may include how I inhabit various categories).