The Good Men Project is “a glimpse of what enlightened masculinity might look like in the 21st century.” It gets 5 million visitors a month. Most of the voices are — naturally — male.
But Westport writer and storyteller Ina Chadwick recently posted a very powerful story. Called “A Father’s Legacy of Power and Powerlessness,” it’s not easy to read — but on this Father’s Day, it’s well worth your time.
Here are the 1st 2 paragraphs:
When my father drove dead drunk up the Bronx River Parkway with his hat pulled over his eyes, while the passengers trembled with fear that if expressed aloud enraged him even further, my sister and I grasped each other and whimpered. My grandmother sobbed and begged for mercy in Yiddish.
If my mother shouted, “Nat, you’re a drunk,” with whatever slight vision he had left from beneath the brim of his fedora, he threatened to pull the hat over his whole face, and then jerk the wheel just to show my mother he was in charge.
The tagline for the Good Men Project is “the conversation no one else is having.”
And driving that conversation is a Westport man.
The 5-year-old website reaches 6 million men (and women) a month. Many of them learn from — and are inspired by — Tom Fiffer. He’s an executive editor, and contributes regularly on subjects like his passion: emotional domestic abuse.
It’s not easy to write about. But — like the entire site — Tom sheds light on what masculinity means in the 21st century.
Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, he had what he calls a “normal” childhood. But when Tom was 9, his father dropped dead of a heart attack. “That changed things emotionally,” Tom says. “Including my sense of fatherhood.”
He graduated from Yale, earned a master’s in creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago, then worked for Random House for 5 years and a data-based information company for 20.
Last January, he was downsized. He’d written for the Good Men Project since 2012 — he heard about it from fellow Westport Ina Chadwick — at the same time he was blogging on his own creation, Tom Aplomb.
Meanwhile, he was working through a divorce, after 15 years of marriage.
Shortly after being laid off, Tom was hired as GMP’s ethics editor. He wrote several articles a week, and worked with some of the site’s 900 writers.
In June he was named executive editor. He still writes, but is also responsible for filling daily content, and strategy.
The Good Men Project’s goal is to provide positive masculine role models. As a divorced father raising and nurturing 2 boys, Tom makes sure his voice is heard.
“A lot of men are involved in unhealthy relationships,” he says. “But they don’t recognize it. It’s important to get the message to men — and women — that a lot of destructive behavior doesn’t have to happen.”
His stories resonate with hundreds of thousands of readers. When someone tells Tom “That was my life!” or “We were just talking about that last night!” he realizes the power of his words.
While he does not bring Westport specifically into his writing, he knows that domestic violence — particularly the emotional component — happens everywhere. “I’m well aware that not everyone here lives fully happy lives,” he says.
A local organization that he plans to reference soon is Culture of Respect. The Westport-based group focuses on sexual assault prevention efforts at colleges — and aims much of its efforts on men.
That’s important to the Good Men Project. These days, Tom says, men are thinking more about “what it means to be a great husband, partner or father” than money or sports.
More men too “see feminism not as a threat, but as something that’s good for everyone.”
Thanks — in part — to Tom Fiffer, one of the real Good Men.
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