The name is a problem: The Good Men Project. A good man, whatever one's perspective on the difficulties in finding one, is a good thing. The man who proclaims the distinction? Less so. Smacks of a certain diffident arrogance, this, a common enough characteristic among the gender: insecurity in need of passive-aggressive assurance. The good man who calls himself a Good Man is not really sure he is good, yet is unwilling to concede the point. He craves recognition but is too proud to ask for it.Tom Matlack, founder of the website the Good Men Project, may or may not be a good man — he calls himself a "work in progress" — but he is a wealthy one. Crude as that observation may be, money, which counts in all walks of life, counts for a lot in media. Publications, print or electronic, are almost always the province of wealthy men or women content to lose money in the pursuit of a very specific something: wish fulfillment, respect, revenge, attention, approval, compensation, power (less of that to go 'round these days), the redress of some existential or vainglorious wound. Matlack, a successful venture capitalist, has sunk some $500,000 into the GMP, and helped raise nearly as much from his wealthy friends and colleagues. Hardly significant money for someone of his affluence, but substantial enough for an endeavor unrelated to his profession, and in an industry guaranteed to lower the bank balances of even the needful rich. Since Matlack launched the GMP in 2010, it has received notices — favorable and otherwise — from publications such as The Atlantic, Salon, Slate, Cosmo, Huffington Post, Jezebel, and others. Billing itself as "not so much a magazine as a social movement," its more than 1,200, mostly unpaid, contributors — "evangelists" in the GMP parlance — have cranked out approximately 15,000 posts about subjects ranging from parenthood to rape culture to the men's rights movement, many of them by Matlack, who, until publicly and bitterly distancing himself from his site in April, was both its primary voice and controversy-stoking lightning rod. Even the posts he didn't condone — like the one a GMP editor wrote that implied that drugs and alcohol, as opposed to sexually criminal men, were largely to blame for rape — he chose not to condemn. During his time on the site, Matlack posted a staggering volume of articles, on every conceivable topic: details of his alcoholic fall and recovery, his failed first marriage, the loss and reclamation of his children, why men die younger than women and what men should do about it, gun violence, sex trafficking, rape, "male lust" — "is male lust a rainbow of colors, stifled by our discomfort with the male need for sexual encounter?" — sports, war, "psychic angst," feminism, the death of the American dream, people he happened to meet, things he watched on television, and, of course, his views on good manhood — "Hug Your Kids Today," "Are Men Needy? No Men are Good!" "What Makes Dudes Cry?" — plus many, many — seriously, many — more. Navigating this dizzying range of subjects, you begin to wonder if perhaps you have discovered Matlack's something, his particular need or existential wound. This insatiable determination to share, to expound, impress, lead, cajole, atone, and instruct: Is it only to be expected of a high-function, always-on-the-clock, type-A corporate killer at play in the unbounded fields of his pet project? Where does that energy go without that pet project at his disposal? Is he a dude-visionary, salvaging workable male archetypes from the debunked, discarded, and disgraced slag heap of the old machismo? Or is he an addict, happily in possession of a new thirst that can never be slaked? Matlack lives in Brookline, just outside Boston, in a rangy red brick Tudor that seems too big for its corner lot. On a chilly April morning, he answers the door dressed in tan jeans, a green fleece that appears sturdy enough for use in the woods, and wool-lined moccasins. It's a Sunday and he looks tired as he invites me in, accepting my offer of a handshake with one beefy, calloused hand — a by-product, I would learn, of his stint as captain of the Wesleyan University rowing team. He is a still-athletic looking man pushing 50, tall and muscular and imposing, with those mitt-like paws, a craggy and weathered face, fatigued blue eyes, and a guarded smile that reveals a set of unusually large teeth. He settles us down to talk in the living room, which he says had been decorated by his second wife, Elena, who had taken an interest in interior decoration in her spare time away from the charity work she does for kids. She's not here, and neither are his children. The two teenagers from his first marriage have mostly lived with his ex-wife (the eldest is now in college), and his 8-year-old son with his current wife is at church. Matlack slumps into an easy chair, his large frame collapsing into a surprisingly self-conscious hunch, as he waits for me to ask him just where the hell does he get off with a name like the Good Men Project. "Let's start at the beginning," I say. "Yeah, excellent."
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