Why aren’t I talking about race, class, etc?
Have you ever tried living as a man in our society and found yourself emotionally dysfunctional, unable to live up to an impossible standard of masculinity, and struggling to even articulate why you feel so broken?
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But wait, there’s more! Call now and you can get the good feeling of doing the right thing for women and nonbinary folks. Just don’t ask anyone to recognize or thank you for your efforts, because you don’t deserve a gold star for being a decent human being.
With all these benefits, you’d have to be crazy not to get in on this one-time offer! Just Venmo me $50 with the words “emotional labor” somewhere in the description to get started with your very own Online Feminism training course today.
This roast isn’t about academic feminism. It isn’t about corporate mainstream feminism, either. This is online feminism–the feminism that people regularly encounter on social media. The kind that kids encounter first, before learning about any of the other kinds, and the kind the manosphere likes to shove in everyone’s faces to gain converts.
Let’s take a long, hard look at what that gender equality movement looks like on the ground.
You Can’t Sit With Us
I’m sorry, did I say gender equality? How dare I attack women in this way.
“The reason we name “women” in feminism is because women are the class oppressed by men,” writes Megan Murphy for the Feminist Current. “We aren’t seeking equality with men, we are seeking an end to male power and to gender, in and of itself.”
“What these male feminists fail to realize,” writes Nian Hu for the Harvard Crimson, “is that, as men, they will always be oppressors…Feminism is not supposed to be palatable to men; it is supposed to be threatening.”
“Feminism will be rendered meaningless if it both placates and includes men,” Julia Bindel agrees. “We need men to be feminist allies, anti-sexist, and pro-feminist. We do not need men to colonise feminism for their own benefit.”
(If the idea that all men are personally irredeemable feels a little like gender essentialism to you, well done! Bindel and Murphy are both dreadful transphobes. Big CW on both those links)
Alienating half the population does not seem, to me, like the best strategy. Beyond that, though: what kind of world are feminists like this hoping to achieve? Where do men fit in?
Nowhere good, that’s where.
A Man’s Place is in the Dumpster
Megan Murphy’s rabid screed comes to us courtesy of ancient Twitter drama involving actor Matt McGorry, a man who went to the trouble of attempting feminism when he could have saved a lot of time by smearing himself in honey and wandering off in search of bears.
Behold, the first of McGorry’s many sins:
This post, which includes the dictionary definition of feminism and an endorsement, inspired an outpouring of seething rage from feminist Twitter. “We’re all for male allies and everything, but don’t act like you invented feminism,” carped Lena Finkel. “If you’re just learning about feminist rhetoric, no matter what gender you are, shut up and listen. It’s time to read, learn, and synthesize.”
McGorry took the advice. He encouraged others to do the same by taking pictures of himself holding books about social justice and gushing about how much he learned from reading them.
Wrong! In “I Was A Thirsty Male Feminist For A Day And It Was Exhausting,” Buzzfeed editor Ryan Broderick spent an entire article mocking McGorry for “taking advantage of a social movement to try to ‘earn a cookie’.” Broderick’s list of problematic McGorry behavior included: “1. Pose with some socially conscious literature.”; “4. Record dramatic videos” (about the carceral state! What a monster!); and “9. Pose shirtless with a book” (“The New Jim Crow,” a wonderful book by a Black woman).
“Most of the things [McGorry has] done to “fight for gender equality” were just give lip-service to feminism on social media and in interviews,” wrote Rafaella Gunz in a piece about McGorry’s release of a T-shirt to raise money for NARAL. “If you’re a male feminist, ask yourself: are you a feminist because you truly want to help end oppressive systems, or are you claiming this title for attention and praise?”
The scandal goes on, but you get the idea.
To be fair, mainstream media loved McGorry’s turn to feminism. In the wolverine pits of the Very Online, however, McGorry served as a favorite feminist target from 2015 to 2017: an era infamous for having no other social justice problems whatsoever.
These kinds of attacks send a very specific message to men just learning about feminism. “Even if you try your hardest, it will never be good enough and we will always hate you.”
Speaking of which…
How to be a Good Male Ally
If talking about, and raising money for, social justice causes is self-serving and counterproductive, what should male feminists do instead?
One approved way to help the cause, apparently, is to do what the Buzzfeed editor did in the aforementioned “thirsty male feminist” listicle: publicly tear down other male feminists. After all, what better way to embrace feminism than to embody one of the most wretched female tropes out there?
A male feminist could also, I suppose, castigate himself publicly, surrender all influence, and vanish without a trace. But what kind of wretched, shame-poisoned masochistic husk of a man would ever willingly agree to such a bargain?
Meet Garry Leech.
Leech was a leftist independent journalist who spent decades reporting from the front lines of conflicts in Latin America caused by the “War on Drugs,” oil companies, and US foreign policy generally. He wrote several books and hundreds of articles that drew worldwide attention to the bloody results of global capitalism.
In 2019, at the age of 59, Leech penned his final article: “Old White Men Like Me Need to Shut Up and Step Aside.”
“While older progressive white males, with the best intentions, often speak out in solidarity with marginalized populations, their voices are still the voices of privileged white males. Therefore, it’s not only older conservative white males who need to shut up and step aside, it’s ALL older white men. And that includes me.”
“From now on, when I am asked to write a book, a book chapter, or an article, or I’m invited to participate in a media interview about political, social or economic issues, I will politely decline and recommend someone from a marginalized population as a more appropriate option.”
Where to even begin with this horseshit.
Leech’s years of experience, writing talent, and–yes–white male privilege put him in an incredible position to advocate for social justice. But that privilege comes from the way society views him: it is not his to give away. He cannot simply hand those things off to someone from a marginalized population and have the world treat them with the same respect and seriousness they treated him without changing everything about how the world works. This defection serves only to eliminate a powerful advocate for change and weaken the cause.
Today’s so-called leftist movements have a terrible penchant for tearing down their strongest and best-positioned advocates. There is something profoundly revolting–and very anti-leftist–about an ideology that demands this kind of self-immolation from its adherents. Why would we recreate the same damn hierarchical structures we pretend to fight, but with the positions reversed?
This is not social justice. This is sickness disguised as a solution.
An Actual Solution
Leftism is for everyone.
Leftism is for everyone.
If your leftism is not for everyone, it’s not leftism and get the fuck out.
Let’s talk about gender equality.
If you took an axe to the human soul and split it in two, you would end up with something like masculinity and femininity. Neither half is bad–both contain valuable attributes. It is absence that renders both masculinity and femininity toxic. Isolated from each other, they become two different methods for producing profoundly broken people.
Gender equality reunites these two shattered halves into a complete whole so that everyone can enjoy the full human experience. Masculine ambition and feminine nurturing. Masculine competition and feminine cooperation. Masculine endurance and feminine sweetness. All of it. For everyone. Whatever parts speak to you, without judgment or castigation.
Some people will, on balance, express more stereotypically masculine traits. Others will veer towards the feminine. Everyone will be able to embrace aspects of both. Gender equality allows each person to decide for themselves, rather than find themselves forced into one of two arbitrary boxes ill-suited for any human being.
The future is not female. The future has no gender.
The future is for everyone.
How We Get There
Systemic change requires a mass movement
A mass movement requires cultural shifts
Cultural shifts require individual effort over time.
Here are a few ways to do that:
1. Present the Benefits
Patriarchy oppresses women. It’s central to the way things work, incredibly harmful, and should not be ignored. The best way to convince someone to change, however, is to explain how that change benefits them.
Women's Studies professor Hugo Schwyzer does a great job of advocating gender equality as a way for men to both stop the exploitation of women and to live a better, happier life. “Like virtually all those who teach gender studies, I go to great lengths to distinguish between the Great Crime of patriarchy and the complicity of individual men,” he says. “[Shame] is soul-corroding, because the person suffering from shame comes to believe in his innate worthlessness.
Instead, he encourages men to take responsibility for changing themselves:
“Responsibility means giving up the excuse of biology or culture to explain behavior that hurts, demeans, or exploits others…It means recovering the capacity for self-reflection, empathy, and articulate self-expression that we suppressed as boys in order to fit in with the other guys…
If we’re not willing to do that work because we think it’s too difficult—or not worth doing—then we’re shirking the charge to grow up and become fully human.”
2. Become Emotionally Literate
They say identifying the problem is half the solution, but I’m pretty sure they’re liars. It is tremendously difficult to unlearn a lifetime of shame around having emotions and fear of expressing them in public.
Melanie Hamlett, author of the explosively popular article “Men Have No Friends and Women Bear the Burden,” has a few ideas for how men can learn these skills. Individual therapy tops her list, but she recognizes that not everyone can afford it. Group therapy tends to be cheaper, albeit stigmatized. Self-help books are cheaper still and readily available.
(Which, by the way, is why the left needs to stop ceding the entire market for male self-help books to the far right)
The coolest thing about Hamlett’s article–at last to me–is the story of a man who decided to form a “men’s group,” where men could talk about male issues and emotions with each other in a non-judgmental and confidential space. With practice and the help of an online manual, group members became better at expressing emotion and eventually used that knowledge to form more robust emotional connections with people outside the group as well.
It takes a lot of emotional vulnerability to found a group like that. But one of masculinity’s most admirable attributes is courage, so use that courage to do it anyway. You can form these groups on college campuses, in your neighborhood, online–any location where men exist. Form them within leftist circles or outside of them. Create meetups. Promote them on social media. Do the hard, rewarding work of attending and learning better ways to be.
If charlatans like Jordan Peterson can get men together to talk about their feelings (albeit in an incredibly self-destructive way), so can the gender equality movement.
3. Spread The World
None of us can change culture all by ourselves. But if we all advance these ideas whenever we can, we can normalize them and pull culture in a better direction. If the far right can normalize once-taboo ideas, so can we.
Big or small, we can all do something. Gently push back when your neighbor tells his son that boys don’t cry. Dare to talk about your feelings with other men. Grab lunch with your redpilled cousin. Start a men’s group. Share an article (hint hint). Write your own article. Tell so-called “feminists” who say men have no place in feminism to fuck off, then redirect their audience toward actual gender equality. Join an activism group. Start an activism group.
You get the idea.
It won’t happen overnight. Success is not guaranteed. But we have one advantage over both the manosphere and the online feminists. We can actually solve the problem.
A better world is possible.
Let’s get to it.
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