If I am going to encourage and equip those good at being men to be good men, I first need to demonstrate there is a problem to be solved. So what is the problem?
I came across this quote recently from Douglas Wilson, author of the 2001 book Future Men:
We live in a feminist and effeminate culture. Because of this, at best, as a people we are uneasy with masculinity, and with increasing regularity, whenever it manages to appear somehow, we call for someone to do something about it.
The fact women, whom I respect and admire, reacted to the article on Facebook, kind of proved the point! 😉 Increasingly, it seems, when masculinity is on display, anywhere other than in sport, it is derided and dismissed. To support such displays, someone’s ire is raised and offence is taken, so the perpetrator must be silenced.
If it is true we have become a feminist and effeminate culture, this is because the tide of culture has turned against men. Why has this happened?
Women believe themselves to be an oppressed group. At various times across human history, they have had good reason to believe this: restricted to the home, unable to vote, given lesser pay and limited opportunities for promotion, etc. In a free, democratic society, women have every right to voice and fight for political and cultural changes toward gender equality.
However, instead of promoting equality, some of those in support of women have engineered a backlash against men. It is as Mark Sayers argued,
The world is complex and humans are sinful, so we need to be careful going forward that in our reaction against the injustices of the past, we don’t create new ones in the future.
Just a couple of examples will suffice.
Are Fathers Neglecting Their Children During COVID-19?
Jessica Grose, writing for The New York Times, in her article “‘They Go to Mommy First'”, reported on researchers who speculated that “‘when a child needs help, they go to mommy first’, and over days and weeks, that has a cumulative, undermining effect” during this pandemic on a mother’s capacity to work from home.
While it is unquestionably unfortunate a mother’s work from home is undermined during this season, is it really a bad thing young children tend to reach for their mother first? Isn’t this only natural?
Emma Freire, writing for IntellectualTakeout, but it best in her response:
COVID-19 has thrown into relief many of the challenges faced by working mothers. The New York Times could have focused on any of these. Why not place blame on politicians’ decisions to close schools and daycares? The science is clear that children are very unlikely to transmit the virus. Or why didn’t they call out the modern economy which makes it so hard for mothers to stay home or work part-time?
Simple. Those things don’t fit our feminist cultural narrative. Women are encouraged to think of themselves as victims, and their oppressors are their own husbands and children.
Both men and women, fathers and mothers, are being challenged during this pandemic. Why throw fuel on the fire of gender inequality by suggesting men are neglecting their parental or spousal duties when another explanation is equally valid and more helpful? Women are disadvantaged, certainly, but so too are men, albeit in perhaps different ways?
Do Men Hate Women?
My next example is noted by Cory Clark and Bo Winegard, in their Quilette article “The Myth of Pervasive Misogyny“:
Many feminists and progressives argue that the West is plagued by pervasive misogyny. In fact, this claim is made with such frequency, and is so rarely challenged, that it has become part of the Left’s catechism of victimhood, repeated by rote without a second thought. The only real question is how powerful and pernicious the misogyny is. Real-world data, however, suggest a different narrative, complicated by the fact that men have worse outcomes in many domains. For example, they are much more likely to be incarcerated, to be shot by the police, to be a victim of violent crime, to be homeless, to commit suicide, and to die on the job or in combat than women. Furthermore, they have a shorter life expectancy and are less likely to be college educated than women. Although these (and similar) data can be reconciled with the pervasive misogyny theory, they should at least give pause to the open-minded. The best data from contemporary social science tell a rather different story and suggest that the very persistence of the pervasive misogyny narrative is itself a manifestation of the opposite: society is largely biased in favour of women.
It is simply too simplistic to argue men hate women, when there are so many complicating factors influencing the dynamics between men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and children. All of us are disadvantaged when women cannot be women and men cannot be men.
Is Masculinity Toxic?
My final example, for now, stems from the American Psychological Association’s “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men”, published in August 2018. As Raj Puri, writing for MercatorNet notes:
According to the intelligentsia, many, if not most, males today are diseased. The etiology of this illness is prolonged exposure to the toxic substance of traditional masculinity. No one is safe. The substance is everywhere, embedded in our traditions and media, and has been for generations. There is an epidemic of emotionally stunted barbarians contaminating our society, stomping and swaggering, boasting and berating, grunting and groping. The scourge of toxic masculinity must be eradicated for our civilization to have any hope of a humane existence.
Fortunately, this isn’t true. Unfortunately, too many believe it is. […] the crisis in the real world is that by associating masculine ideals with a pathological hypermasculinity, we are losing the true value of mature masculinity, and suffering the consequences.
Because some men express their masculinity in extreme and anti-social ways, then all men are bad and so is masculinity itself? Nothing could be further from the truth! One study assessed over 27,000 men from eight different countries and found the following:
Men’s perceptions of masculinity differed substantially from stereotypes in the literature. Men reported that being seen as honourable, self-reliant, and respected by friends were important determinants of self-perceived masculinity. … For quality of life, factors that men deemed of significant importance included good health, harmonious family life, and a good relationship with their wife/partner.
Men express their masculinity differently from each other. We all know good men, good husbands, and good fathers. Men contribute to society in many ways and at different levels. To suggest masculinity itself is “toxic” is to set up a straw man-argument: Attack masculinity by defining it according to its most extreme and negative representatives, as if all men are masculine necessarily in this way. As Michael Salter, writing for The Atlantic notes,
When people use [the term “toxic masculinity”], they tend to diagnose the problem of masculine aggression and entitlement as a cultural or spiritual illness —something that has infected today’s men and leads them to reproachable acts. But toxic masculinity itself is not a cause. Over the past 30 years, as the concept has morphed and changed, it has served more as a barometer for the gender politics of its day —and as an arrow toward the subtler, shifting causes of violence and sexism.
From these few examples, I hope you can appreciate better why I believe the tide of culture is against men. Maybe not everywhere, among everyone. If true anywhere, though, there are consequences.
Are There Consequences for an Anti-Male Culture?
Now do not accuse me of being a misogynist because I’m not. Nor do I think all women everywhere are engaged in a backlash against men. However, that this anti-male attitude is evident especially in popular culture, the dominant form of influence or “soft power”, is now increasing the dysfunction in relating between men and women.
The most significant consequence is men are acceding their roles and shirking their responsibilities. Boys are no longer encouraged nor are being raised to be the pro-social men our society needs. Jeff Minick, writing for IntellectualTakeout, summarises aspects of the problem this way:
The women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s stressed equality of opportunity in education and the workplace. Young women were encouraged to go to college, win a degree, take their place in the workplace, and break the glass ceiling.
All well and good.
Unfortunately, this quest for equality has taken a different turn. Our popular culture —movies, television, children’s books— has demeaned men while elevating women, an indoctrination begun in pre-school. One small example: pick up almost any of the Berenstain Bear books, aimed at kids three to seven years of age, and you’ll find Mama Bear portrayed as flawless and wise, Papa Bear as a doofus. This propaganda occurs in movie theatres and in television shows where Dad is a guy too dumb to change a light bulb; in the media; in textbooks attacking the “patriarchy”; and in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. More recently, some teachers and commentators go so far as to preach toxic masculinity, as if manhood was a piece of poisonous waste. We are raising our girls to be aggressive and independent; we are raising our boys to be… well, more like girls.
I understand the reasons why women would raise their voices and act for change against legitimate instances of gender inequality in society, of which there have been many. I applaud and join them. However, let the goal remain equality for both sexes.
For my part, I will seek to encourage and equip those good at being men to be good men, to assume their roles and meet their responsibilities with conviction and purpose. One way we can do this is by thinking long and hard about our response to the continuing crisis of an anti-male culture.
How Should Men Respond?
Prior to preparing this article, I was only distantly aware of a new movement that has arisen called MGTOW or “Men Going Their Own Way”.
MGTOW is an anti-feminist, misogynist, mostly online community advocating for men to separate themselves from women and from a society which they believe has been destroyed by feminism. The community is a part of the manosphere, a collection of anti-feminist websites and online communities that also includes the men’s rights movement, incels, and pickup artists. Like other manosphere communities, the MGTOW community overlaps with the alt-right and white supremacist movements, and it has been implicated in online harassment of women.(en.wikipedia.org)
Those aligning themselves with MGTOW are unabashedly acceding their roles and shirking their responsibilities, and have no qualms about their choice. They challenge the notion they have any male roles or responsibilities at all (I will address the subject of male roles and responsibilities in a future article).
While I can understand the disaffection and estrangement some boys and men feel toward women and society generally, we are not victims! Aggression and separation will make it impossible for a MGTOW-aligned male to ever find a woman who challenges his preconceptions. So too will his stance make it impossible for women with an anti-male disposition to find any evidence to the contrary.
Is there a better response? I believe so.
I, for one, take my view on the matter from the Bible, from such passages as this from The Book of Genesis:
Then God said, “Let us make Man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”(GENESIS 1:26–27)
So God created Man in his own image;
he created him in the image of God;
he created them male and female.
This passage makes clear humankind is made up of two genders. It is only together that we fulfil our roles and meet our responsibilities. It is only together that we each become our best selves.
Men need women as much as women need men. If the tide of culture has turned against men this is because men have acceded their roles and shirked their responsibilities. Women have every right and reason to cry out and advocate for change. Both women and men should value gender equality because it is for the common good.
With this website, I want to encourage and equip those good at being men to be good men. Only then will we be able to present to women and society a better view of men and manhood than the extreme, anti-social stereotype would suggest all men to be.