The Unmanly Bitterness of the Manosphere
[cross posted from the DarwinCatholic blog]
Sin has the tendency to inspire sin. The abused becomes the abuser, the person who believes himself oppressed begins to take on all the least likeable characteristics of his oppressor.
This has always been struck me with particular force when I’ve stumbled across the writings of the “manosphere”, a region of the internets in which men wail about how in the post-feminist age women are all money hungry cheaters with inflated senses of entitlement. The solution to this is, allegedly, to use to the rules of “game” to dominate women by proving the practitioners to be “alpha males”. A highly technical process with all rigor of a pseudoscience behind it (perhaps some enterprising gamester can introduce the taking women’s head measurements into the process) practitioners council each other on how to deliver “negs” (negative compliments) which will cut women down to size by informing them of their SMV (sexual market value). Then once the women feels like she needs to pursue since she isn’t being pursued, she melts when given “kino escalation” (he touches her).
You get the idea. I always get the sense of a couple rather mangy looking lions hanging around outside the pride talking about how they’re really more alpha than the lion who actually has all the mates and cubs. For all the acronyms and specialized terminology, you can tell that these boys’ manes are more than half weave.
As with most wrongheaded worldviews, there are some insights buried in there. The Sex-in-the-City feminist manifesto “from now on, we’re going to have sex like men” (which in feminist speak apparently means without thought or commitment) is most certainly something which has managed to make a lot of women (and men) unhappy — potentially for life. Once having correctly diagnosed this as seriously messed up, however, the manosphere solution appears to be that men should retaliate by turning into a bunch of whiny Carrie Bradshaws themselves. A group of guys supposedly outraged by the fact that many modern women demand special treatment and aren’t interested in marriage spend their time whining about how mean girls are and generally advocating an approach to dealing with women that seems guaranteed to make them singularly unattractive marriage material.
Betty Duffy wrote a moderately good piece on this whole mess over at Patheos, cutting through all this sex war silliness with the eminently Christian point that the sexes are created to be complimentary, not in competition. The answer to the war between the sexes proposed by secular feminism is not, “No, we will dominate you,” but rather Christ’s description of marriage which looks all the way back to the Genesis account of the creation of man:
“Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”
They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss [her]?”
He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” (Matthew 19: 4-9)
Interestingly, this got quite a backlash even in highly traditional 1st century Israel:
[His] disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”
He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” (Matthew 19: 10-12)
The internet being what it is, Betty’s post soon attracted the ire of manosphere inhabitants, including one “Dalrock”, who wrote an airily dismissive counterblast:
New commenter thule222 shared a link the other day to a blog post on the “balanced”* “religion and spirituality” site Patheos by Elizabeth Duffy titled Complementarity, Not Competition. I’m alarmed at the emotionalism of Ms. Duffy’s post along with the lack of intellectual rigor it displays. It contains a number of vague statements, a quote from the Pope about how some men are bad and others are good, and a picture of a man who appears to be taking the risk of launching a new business venture. After reading the post several times, my best take on what she is trying to get across is Shame on you if you read (or write) blogs in the manosphere. She could of course have had another point in mind entirely. Instead of my take on her blog post, she may have actually meant I like pizza. Her lack of specific assertions backed up by facts and logical argument makes this impossible to know. This is tricky business, and I’ve learned recently that you can’t take a woman’s own written claims as indicating her own opinion. It could even be the case that I need to tell her what she meant before she can decide if she will or will not back up her own assertions.
Now, with an opening like that, you might think that you’re going to get a thorough evisceration of Betty’s post. You might think that you’ll see clearly reasoned arguments, citations of evidence, etc. After the huffing and puffing, however, the post turns out to be a rather glancing blow. Mostly, the post wanders off into Dalrock’s musings about how he thinks women are not capable of behaving like adults (adult men, one presumes) but want to be taken seriously anyway.
Aside from being about a general sense of unhappiness, feminism at its core is a rejection of the patriarchal view that women at times behave like children, and a deep desire of women to be taken seriously. With this in mind, I can only assume that Ms. Duffy very much wants us to take her seriously when she tells men not to take women too seriously.
Women have demanded and been granted the right to have their finger on the nuclear button and the unchecked power to destroy the nuclear family. How can we not be alarmed at the thought that they might not have the capacity to keep their emotions in check?
I don’t know if it’s his emotions that are out of check or merely his prose writing ability, but Dalrock never seems to be able to come around to any kind of a point, though he has a lot to say. Much of it, curiously, seems to have virtually nothing to do with Betty’s post:
The first feminists felt (and many women still do feel) that they needed to keep their emotions in check and perform up to high male standards in order to blaze the trail for other women. However, they either never figured out how to transfer this ethos to the larger population of women or never really intended to deliver on this promise. What has made this much worse is newer generations of feminists don’t consider themselves feminists, they consider themselves traditional conservatives. This gives us women who have post grad degrees in women’s studies who also expect men to at times afford adult women the understanding and protection granted to an eight year old.
From this, we can learn that Dalrock thinks feminists are devilishly clever, and that he really likes to link to his own posts, but what objection he has to Betty’s description of how relations between men and women (and marriage in particular) should be complementary rather than competitive is unclear. We get a rant about how feminists have ruined everything, but the connection of those paragraphs to his (never clearly stated) objection to Betty’s post is tenuous at best. Near the end, he tries to tie it all together:
For her part Ms. Duffy appears to absolve herself of any responsibility for the great harms of feminism while both defending it and enjoying the benefits of it. At one point she uses standard feminist language to shame men who raise concerns about it (emphasis mine):
There is a corner of the internet known as the “manosphere.” In a backlash to perceived cultural bias against men due to the mainstreaming of feminist principles, some men, feeling oppressed and trampled into submission by strong women…
Elsewhere in the post she writes:
The married portion of the manosphere has gained traction among some Christian and Catholic men, who—perhaps raised in broken homes—are looking for male role models as they strive to build a marriage and a family that will last.
Not only does she ridicule and belittle those who voice concerns with the immense damage caused by feminism without seriously addressing the actual issues, in the subtitle of her post she washes her hands of any responsibility for the harms of feminism. In truly childish form, if there are any negative outcomes to the changes women have demanded she decides that it must be men who are to blame:
For feminism to have gained a foothold, men had to collude with it, and it has been in their interest to do so; this leaves the message of the manosphere ringing hollow.
Yes, that’s the end of the post (except for a footnote). It goes out with more a whimper than a bang, and one never really is clear what the author’s substantive critique of Betty’s post is. Perhaps the key issue here is that Dalrock is so busy defending the honor of the manosphere and describing the evils of feminism that he doesn’t really seem to ever grasp what Betty is saying with the quote that he chooses to end his response with. She is not saying, as he claims she is, that “if there are any negative outcomes to the changes women have demanded she decides that it must be men who are to blame”. Far from it. Rather, Betty points out that the blame for the moral and societal breakdown is shared. Feminist thinkers latched onto divorce, sex outside of marriage, abortion and contraception as means to allow women to enjoy “equality” with men in society and the workplace, and to free themselves from “oppressive” moral and social structures. Sex takes two, however, and it clearly was not the case that men were all saying, “Whoa there! Let’s not break up this great social order we’ve got. If you sleep around for fifteen years before you feel like getting married, things aren’t going to work out so well!” (And, come to that, the idea that marriage was oppressive and people should all go try the Sex In The City life arguably wouldn’t have been so salable if a certain portion of men and women hadn’t labored to make their marriages convincingly oppressive.) Our society got messed up (in the particular way our society is — in a fallen world all societies are messed up in one way or another) through the sins of both men and women, and it’s certainly not going to get healed if all the members of one sex sit around saying, “No, you shape up first!”
If there’s a dark amusement in all this, it’s that there’s a symmetry between the feminist and “manosphere” views of the world: In the first, men are at fault for everything and they need to be cut down to size and tamed so that women can lead full and fulfilling lives. In the latter, feminists are at fault for everything, and they need to be similarly tamed so that men can be happier. In both views, dominance is the necessary prerequisite for happiness and fulfillment.
In point of fact, gender struggle is no more likely to lead to a happy society (or a happy marriage) than is class struggle to lead to a happy society. Even if the “manosphere” has been right in identifying a few of society’s problems, its one-sided solutions and antagonistic attitude provides no answers to them.