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Reimagining Masculinity

[1]7,851 words

Editor’s Note:

The following essay is from Jack Donovan’s No Man’s Land, a free e-book available for download in HTML, Kindle, and PDF formats from his website here [2]. I hope you’ll agree that it is too good to give away for free [3].

“A beast of prey tamed and in captivity—every zoological garden can furnish examples—is mutilated, world-sick, inwardly dead. Some of them voluntarily hunger-strike when they are captured. Herbivores give up nothing in being domesticated.” — Oswald Spengler, Man and Technics

Today, many people would consider it cruel to place an animal in an enclosure that is drastically different from its natural habitat. We design our zoos and aquariums and terrariums to simulate natural conditions as best we can. Enthusiastic hobbyists spend small fortunes attempting to create miniature facsimiles of the natural world. This is to “please” their captive fauna. Although many suppose that the animal would be “happier” in the wild, insofar as animals experience “happiness,” most seem to believe that animals are dumb enough to be tricked into being reasonably content in a half-assed knock-off of the ecosystem they were snatched from. So we spruce up a small glass box with coral to make it feel like the ocean, or hang a garland of palm leaves and call it the jungle. Most animals really aren’t that bright, so maybe it is just as well for Mr. Fish to swim around the ceramic pirate ship so long as he is reasonably safe and his belly is full.

Getting men, especially young men, to adapt to the confines and limitations of civilized society has always been a bit of a challenge. Virile restlessness, athleticism and competitiveness have been trained and tamed by sports and games throughout history. Gaming has provided the shoemaker and bricklayer with the feel of conflict, danger and war in peaceful, prosperous times. People always assumed that men were drawn to certain kinds of activities, and that providing some sort of release valve for natural male aggression was healthy. It made men happy to do the things they wanted to do, and ways were found for men to exert their virility constructively—or with minimal destruction.

For most men, even “civilized” work was more challenging and demanded more physical exertion than it does now. Work was goal oriented; it required skill and practical know-how. It provided a tangible, personal and immediate sense of purpose. Farming, blacksmithing, and building can all easily be framed as symbolic struggles against nature. Work felt more like aggression and the exertion of will. On our continuum of masculinity, work was more direct and engaging, less removed from the primal struggle for survival.

The industrial revolution pulled men away from physically and mentally engaging trades and replaced those trades with simple jobs and tasks which required little skill or thought. Increasingly, work felt like submission. Sports become more popular and important than ever before. Hobbies like woodworking and hunting and various outdoor activities were promoted as manly pursuits. Men bought pulp magazines filled with lurid tales of exotic adventures they knew they’d never have. Men marveled at strongmen, then weightlifters, then bodybuilders. With decreased opportunities for virile action, men were increasingly drawn to opportunities for virile display. Masculinity became increasingly vicarious, virtual and symbolic.

The transition to a service and “knowledge work” economy made things worse for men. The cubicle felt even less like active, aggressive work. Some men are particularly suited to it, or they manage to channel their energy elsewhere, but the “jobs of the future” leave a lot of men inwardly dead. The modern workplace often feels like a fishbowl without so much as a ceramic pirate ship to swim around. If anything, these days it’s a bunch of pink plastic flowers. If you accept the possibility that men and boys, like the males of most other large animals, have in general a different nature and a different set of reproductive interests than the female of the species, it is not difficult to see why the modern, post-feminist world has men “underperforming.”

Unfortunately, when those in the media talk about men in the 21st century, the questions they ask and the answers they offer usually stink of false naiveté. Like the female reporter who, with a straight face, asked actor Charlie Sheen why he liked to have sex with porn stars, the media remains purposefully and self righteously clueless about the nature of men.

Feminists claimed the moral high ground, appealing to men’s sense of fairness. They convinced men to help them reorganize society and eliminate the notion that males and females should have different sex roles and responsibilities. Men, perhaps egotistically, agreed that The Way of Men was better, and that it was unfair to prevent women from achieving their full potential in the way that men conceptualized both achievement and potential. Western wealth and technology made this social transformation possible. Manly virtues were neutered and simply became “virtues”— though the Latin root vir means “man.” To make women feel equal and encourage them to achieve in the public realm, men were encouraged to change the way they talked about manhood. Strength, courage and honor were de-sexed and reinterpreted in more relative terms. To be inclusive, people invented different “kinds” of strength, courage and honor, so that the weakest boy or the meekest girl could somehow feel strong, courageous or honorable. As part of this massive self-esteem building project for women, the idea of “emotional intelligence” was introduced and promoted, thought it was never really taken seriously. To explain women’s historical lack of achievement, men as a sex were cast as mere bullies. The achievements of history’s great men were reconsidered and judged according to standards determined by feminist ideology. Noble institutions and social clubs for men that encouraged civic responsibility and “moral masculinity” were renounced as exclusive and patriarchal, or forcibly integrated and rendered impotent and unrecognizable.

Women appropriated everything they wanted from thousands of years of male culture, and men cobbled together a collective identity from what was left—benign macho posturing, fart jokes and beer. Now that imported or micro-brewed “craft” beer is becoming the new wine, and female politicians pose with guns and run around telling folks to “man up,” I’m afraid all that men will have left is fart jokes. This is troubling to me because—despite the persistent efforts of flatulent friends—I still don’t find fart jokes all that funny, much less a desirable basis for my “gender identity.”

In 1974, feminist Janet Satzman Chaftez imagined a utopia where androgyny replaced gender role stereotypes. She hoped that, perhaps by the year 2000, people would move beyond perceiving themselves as being either masculine or feminine, and instead see themselves as merely being human.[1] [4] It is a theme in much of feminist writing that men and women must discover a common humanity and abandon old ideas about the sexes.

However, in the case of women, this has consistently been a case of saying one thing and doing another. Only men are expected to see the world in gender-neutral terms. Women organize consistently as a group to advocate for women’s interests. Even as they have fought for inclusion in every realm once reserved for men, they have created an entire subculture catering specifically to women. As I write this, there is a women’s film festival going on in my town. There are women’s gyms, and a dizzying number of women’s health and health advocacy organizations. Women have their own magazines, television channels, websites, bookstores, and so on. There is, as Hanna Rosin mentioned, a “traveling sisterhood” of women helping each other as women—not merely as human beings. Women are acting collectively in their own interests as a sex.

Women have not abandoned their sexual identities, they have expanded them. Whereas men are told that they can no longer do the things they used to do, and are asked to repudiate their heritage as males, women are told to embrace their past, to keep doing everything that they’ve always done—and do more!

A common bumper sticker reads:

“Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.”

It should read:

Feminism is the radical notion that men should do whatever women say, so that women can do whatever the hell they want.

The androgynous feminism of Chaftez has in practice become a feminism that sells women strength and power, but permits them to maintain a distinct sexual identity and organize to advance their own interests as a sex. We have not become simply “human”—we still recognize ourselves as men and women, even in 2011. Chaftez acknowledged that feminism posed a threat to men, because the change would entail, “a loss of many concrete prerogatives.”[2] [4] She was right about that. By any straightforward measure, feminism required men to progressively transfer power to women. If advances in technology and global exchange had been slower, this transfer might have been more orderly and even-handed. However, in Chaftez’s lifetime, economic and technological changes happened so rapidly that women were able to capitalize on them and transform the workplace and the social terrain to their liking at once, while men were left standing with their dicks in their hands.

Guy Garcia hopes that this failure to adapt will liberate men—that, broken by economic and social change, men will remake themselves in the shadow of Amazonian triumph. At the Burning Man festival, he wondered “What better way to welcome the resplendent return of the Goddess than with the symbolic immolation of the male?”[3] [4] Garcia wrapped up The Decline of Men with the story of Gerald Levin, who was the architect of the disastrous AOL/Time Warner merger in 2000. When the merger failed, a reeling Levin started talking about bringing “the poetry” back into life during an interview with Lou Dobbs. Levin was approached by a much younger woman who wanted him to invest in a boutique wellness clinic catering to celebrities other high profile clients. Eventually, he left his wife of 32 years for his new business partner.[4] [4] Levin moved to California, where he now serves as the Managing Director of the Moonview Santuary. The Moonview Sanctuary specializes in New Age therapy and holistic healing, and Levin has said it is now his mission to “break down male culture.”[5] [4]

The dubious notion that humans once roamed the earth in peaceful, goddess-worshiping matriarchal tribes offered a way for feminists and pacifists to reimagine a masculinity completely unlike the strength and aggression based masculinity that has been a relative constant throughout history. If people were once “naturally” peaceful, then all we know of human HIStory could be reframed as an aberration—a fever of male violence that swept over all people in every land. If people were once “naturally” peaceful, then feminism could be reframed as a return to the natural order of things, instead of a departure from nature. Evolutionary biologists Wrangham and Peterson convincingly argued that,

 “It is good to dream, but sober, waking rationality suggests that if we start with ancestors like chimpanzees and end up with modern humans building walls and fighting platforms, the 5-million-year-long-trail to our modern selves was lined, along its full stretch, by a male aggression that structured our ancestors’ social lives and technology and minds.”[6] [4]

 It is most likely that men, armed with greater upper body and overall strength, have used that strength to assert their own reproductive interests over the interests of women and other men in predictable and familiar patterns over and over again. Any other conclusion requires magical thinking.

Eco-pacifist Sam Keen also believed in a peaceful, matriarchal prehistory, and many of the ideas presented in his 1991 New York Times Bestseller Fire in the Belly rest on the assumption that the ideas we have about masculinity were shaped by a “warfare system” which followed agricultural development.[7] [4] However, like Wrangham and Peterson, archaeologist Lawrence Keeley concluded in his grim catalog of pre-historic violence, War Before Civilization, that the notion of a pacified past is, “incompatible with the most relevant ethnographic and archaeological evidence.”[8] [4] If calls for a return to a feminine system are based on a peaceful pre-history that never was, then there is nothing to return to.

While some radical feminists, queer theorists, transgendered persons and others have argued for the eradication of gender stereotypes and a move beyond perceiving people as being either masculine or feminine, the fact remains that biologically speaking about half of humans are male and the other half female. Most people seem to be willing to accept the idea that males and females are at least somewhat different. Men and women still maintain and prefer distinct sexual identities.

Indeed, much of the 21st Century triumphalism about the rise of women and “The End of Men” acknowledges differences between the sexes and celebrates a distinct female identity.

The new way of women downplays the importance of physical differences between the sexes and praises women for their communication skills, their ability to multitask and their preferences for social coalition building and non-violent conflict resolution. The new way of women celebrates female empowerment and the importance of women in shaping history, and chronicles their rise to prominence as a peaceful overcoming of oppression, guided by a desire for justice and equality. Women are taught to take pride in womanhood, and they expect to be able to do just about anything their heart desires.

The problem with the new way of women is that it relies on a transfer of power and opportunity from men, and if this power exchange is to last, men will have to be taught to downgrade their expectations, even as women are taught to expect the world. The new way of women called for a new way of men. Many have attempted to reimagine masculinity in a way that repudiates the old, violent patriarchal “myths” about men, and provides a more peaceful and sexually egalitarian vision of manhood that is compatible with what women want for themselves.

The mythopoetic men’s movement attempted to do this in the 1980s and early 1990s. In Iron John, poet Robert Bly tapped into folklore and tried help men get in touch with the “wild man.” Iron John contained some truthful observations, and it got media attention when it was published in 1990. Feminists saw it as a kind of resurgent sexism and mocked it ruthlessly. In 1995, Micheal Kimmel edited a collection of essays titled The Politics of Manhood: Profeminist Men respond to the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement (And the Mythopoetic Leaders Answer. Most of the essays were criticisms of Iron John. The profeminists accused Bly and company of everything from homophobia to male hysteria.[9] [4]

Had they given Bly a fair read, they would have seen that his “wild man” was really quite tame. Bly’s wild way was explicitly meant to exist in harmony with the feminist project. While it was incompatible with the sci-fi unitard androgyny of Chaftez’s utopian feminism, Bly’s ethos was a response to the way feminism had actually played out on the ground.

Bly stated in his response to profeminist men that it was important for men to “stand up and speak about the pain that millions of women feel” and that as a father he wanted his daughters to have “a fair chance.” He also denied charges that he or any of the mythopoetic men had any interest in reestablishing patriarchy, and even went on to say that the “destructive essence of patriarchy . . . moves to kill the young masculine.”[10] [4] Like other feminists and many men’s rights activists, he believed that patriarchy hurts most men, too.

In Iron John, Bly wrote reverently about the power of the feminine in both myth and reality. His main concern was that men had grown softer and gentler, but that they had “not become more free”[11] [4] because in the wake of feminist advances many young men spent their lives working to please their mothers, girlfriends and wives—while women were working to assert their power at home and at work. He blamed the Industrial revolution for separating boys from their fathers, creating a generation of males who learned “feeling primarily from the mother” and learned to see manhood from the feminine point of view, and found themselves afraid or suspicious of their own masculinity.[12] [4] This observation was astute, and this is likely to be the case for the increasing number of young men who are raised by single mothers. Men have always learned how to be men from older men, and Bly believed that as boys became increasingly distant from their fathers and grandfathers and other potentially positive mentors, they grew up unsure of themselves and uncomfortable in their own skin. His adapted myth of the “wild man” (an ancient, hairy, mysterious woodland mentor) was meant to help men deal with their primal nature and face the challenges of modernity with resolve, but never cruelty.[13] [4]

[5]Bly understood some of the problems men and boys were facing as they stood in the rubble of patriarchy, looking up to rising women. However, his solutions were forced and his New Agey tone had limited appeal. The idea of grown men going out into the woods to sit in drum circles, read poetry and talk about their feelings was cringe-worthy. It also seemed spoiled and self indulgent. But the biggest problem with Bly’s reimagining of masculinity was that it lacked balls.

Bly wrote of swords and battle, but his battles were the bloodless cartoon fantasies of the most innocent inner child, not the real, bloody conflicts of men. His use of myth was selectively biased in this direction. He cites Homer often and gives King Arthur as an example of a “male mother,”[14] [4] but passes over the prominent themes of bloodlust and honor-seeking in the Iliad and the lurid orgies of smiting and beheading that peppered Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur. Bly advocates the cultivation of an inner warrior but belittles the men whose job it is to make war as mere “soldiers.” Bly’s new age “inner warrior” was told to assert himself, but he could only do so with words. He couldn’t back it up. He was impotent.

In Bly’s own words:

If a culture does not deal with the warrior energy—take it up consciously, discipline it, honor it—it will turn up outside in the form of street gangs, wife beating, drug violence, brutality to children, and aimless murder.

One major task of contemporary men is to reimagine, now that the images of eternal warrior and outward warrior no longer provide the model, the value of the warrior in relationships, in literary studies, in thought, in emotion.[15] [4]

Bly’s “inner warrior” never makes war, and can only survive in a state where he is protected from men who are prepared to use violence against other violent men. The world is still a violent place, and the inner warrior would be a joke—and a helpless target—in the ghetto or the Third World. Bly speaks from a pampered Western upper middle class perspective, where people devote their time to “literary studies” and “relationships.” The inner warrior attempts to make use of the vocabulary and the virtues that have characterized masculinity throughout history. Without the real world rationales for strength, courage and honor, he is left with a bunch of melodramatic metaphors for a mundane reality.

Sam Keen also attempted to reimagine masculinity by appropriating the language of violent masculinity for disarmed men. In Fire In The Belly, he told men to reject the “myth of war” and to become “fierce gentlemen.” Keen’s fierce gentleman really had nothing to distinguish himself from a fierce gentlewoman. His virtues were Wonder, Empathy, a Heartful Mind, Moral Outrage, Right Livelihood, Enjoyment, Friendship, Communion, Husbanding and Wildness.[16] [4] None of these are particularly bad values, but they aren’t gendered concepts and they have nothing in particular to do with any historical sense of manhood. Feminists, to whom Keen genuflected numerous times, have been in the moral outrage business for years.

In his 1996 magnum opus, Manhood in America, Micheal Kimmel hypocritically employed the script of traditional strength-based masculinity to shame Bly and Keen in his chapter on “Wimps, Whiners and Weekend Warriors.”[17] [4] Their attempts to nurture some meaningful connection to the myth and history of men—however carefully edited, pacified and conciliatory to feminists in spirit—were still perceived as too much of a threat to the agendas of feminist activists and academics. As an alternative, Kimmel offered what he called a “democratic manhood.” He defined this as “a gender politics of inclusion, of standing up against injustice based on difference,” and suggested that men should embrace feminism, gay liberation, and multiculturalism as a blue-print for the reconstruction of masculinity.[18] [4] Kimmel decorates his democratic manhood with a sense of struggle against adversity and vague feel of heroism, but calling this “manhood” is a crass and condescending manipulation. Kimmel’s profeminist man is a no-man. His masculinity is defined by the rejection of traditional definitions of masculinity, save for its reliance on a narrative of self-sacrifice. This democratic no-man must renounce his own sense of identity and devote his energies to helping others attain a “sure and confident” sense of themselves and “their rightful share of the sun.”[19] [4] He must commit himself to selfless toil on behalf of others, and he must do so without question or complaint. Kimmel assures men that somehow, by giving up the struggle to “prove manhood,” men will finally be free, and be able to “breathe a collective sigh of relief.”

If proving manhood is no longer necessary, what will motivate males to strive to prove that they are “democratic men?” Relieved of all but the most high-minded, abstract and legally optional expectations, what is to stop men from collectively putting their feet up, breathing a sigh of relief, and doing . . . as little as possible?

The pacified, “reimagined” masculinities of Garcia, Bly, Keen and Kimmel all require men to deny their own interests. The only carrots they dangle for men are obscure and philosophical, and therefore naturally have a very limited appeal. Garcia, Bly, Keen and Kimmel have nothing to say to the man who is looking for a way to better his own circumstances or make his own way in the material world.

Sensing that men are pacing their concrete cages, the reimaginers of masculinity have attempted to redecorate man’s pound with questing narratives and talk of wildness. But a spiritual journey is just a story about thinking. You don’t actually go anywhere. The inner warrior never knows what it means to face death head on, or to see the life leave the eyes of his vanquished foe. His victories are petty and his defeats are trivial. The weekend initiate to manhood never feels the earth on his knees, the urgency of hunger or the warmth of fresh blood on his forehead. And the man who denies his own will to power so that others may thrive makes himself a slave.

Kimmel and other feminists frequently goad men who reject feminism and cosmopolitan values by accusing them of escapism and retreat. But the ascetic masculinity that feminists promote requires a retreat inward—guided by a near-religious and open-ended commitment to helping women, gays and racial minorities achieve their own goals. Feminist and pacifists ask men to live passive lives of restraint and self-discipline. There have always been priests and monks and self-flagellators who got off on self denial. A certain kind of man, usually an intellectual, will find this lifestyle to his taste. Men generally seem to appreciate the obsessive fortitude required for internal as well as external battles. Abstinence has its own momentum, and tends to impart a sense of superiority over those who give in to primal appetites. But Kimmel and the others are blind solipsists if they believe a majority of men will ever become equally passionate about their pet projects, or that all men will be equally willing to put aside their own interests indefinitely.

Equality can’t demand that one group restrain itself so that the other group can prosper and do whatever it wants. “Equality,” if such a thing were even possible, would at least theoretically offer everyone the same opportunity to act in their own best interests as individuals, with limited interference from others.

However, like Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General from Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron,” organized feminists consistently demand a measurable equality of outcome. It has not been enough for women to gain an equality of opportunity.[20] [4] If enough women aren’t involved in sports or the sciences or if women aren’t equally represented as generals and captains of industry, feminists demand that resources be diverted away from programs that help men, and advocate for programs that encourage women. Since the success of such programs can only be measured by the success of women in the desired area (whether they are succeeding or not) any self-interested bureaucrat who wants to please his or her superiors had better have the numbers to prove men and women are equal every which way. The net effect in such scenarios always a soft discrimination against men. The hypocrisy of feminists when it comes to “equality seeking” efforts is evident from their apparent disinterest in rolling back programs which have made women more successful than men in a given field of endeavor, and in their vocal resistance to starting programs that help men in areas where men are lagging. The “equality” script is employed by women when it serves their interests, but many take a more punitive tone when it comes to lifting the bags of birdshot from the necks of men. After all, men deserve their handicaps for oppressing women. Men born in the wake of second wave feminism are punished for the supposed sins of their long dead forefathers.

Although profeminists from Keen to Kimmel attribute women with the noblest and most innocent equality-seeking aims, the truth is that women are neither good nor evil. They are simply female primates, who, like the male of the species, will band together and skew things to their liking if given the opportunity. Women are ascendant, and they have no intention of making any changes that might compromise their advancements. They will err on the side of caution and make sure they are always a little more equal than men whenever it really counts. Not because women are evil, but because they will serve their own interests first.

There’s a concept within the “men’s movement” known as “Men Going Their Own Way” (MGTOW). It is a feminist concept in the sense that the MGTOW manifesto generally acknowledges the rights of women to vote and do what they want and does not seek to reestablish patriarchy. The MGTOW movement more or less encourages men to serve their own immediate interests and to do whatever they want, too. It is a decentralized movement that advises men to work against feminist laws that favor women or unfairly penalize men.[21] [4] The basic idea is simply, “you go your way, and I’ll go mine.”

While relatively few men would recognize the MGTOW acronym, it is true that many young men are “going their own way.” And that’s exactly what feminists like Rosin, Kimmel, Garcia, Romano, Doupkil, Gabler and Hymowitz have been fretting about. While there will always be exceptions—the ascetics and the passive, herbivorous[22] [4] “bonobo” boys—young men who were raised by women, processed through a feminist-friendly educational system, who see that women probably have better prospects than they do, and who have been relieved of the responsibilities associated with patriarchy see no reason to toil to help women get the things they want, especially in a society that aspires to “equality” between the sexes. As Rosin and others trumpet a future where girls are for the first time more desirable than boys, they must see the gall in asking men to get excited about speeding the plow.

Young men are becoming cynical and distrustful of a system that is designed to favor everyone but them. Scolding lectures from the agents of diversity culture that tell young men they are simply reacting to a loss of “privilege” certainly don’t inspire them to invest in a future where they have even less “privilege”—especially if it seems likely that this future will “privilege” everybody else.

Young men who see no reason to invest in the future are doing what they always do—they’re thinking short term and taking whatever they can get in the present.

[6]Mark Simpson coined the term “metrosexual” in a 1994 essay, “Here Come the Mirror Men,” to describe a rising male narcissism evident from consumer trends in Western nations. These men, too, were “going their own way”—working out, shopping for fashionable clothes and grooming themselves to attract women (or men) by virtue of their appearances instead of their virility, their accomplishments or their ability to provide economically. Simpson has mused that these “mirror men” were more likely to be in love with themselves than with a woman. [23] [7]

These young men have discovered that good grooming and the appearance of affluence is not all they need to get laid. Pick up artists and advocates of “game” like the pseudonymous authors of the popular blog Citizen Renegade (now “Heartiste”) advise men to take advantage of evolutionary psychology and appear to be “alpha”—a primal group leader—when dealing with women. Game advocates say that a man can run game inside a marriage or a long term relationship, but they generally take a dim view of a married man’s chances for well-being and fulfillment—especially financial well-being and sexual fulfillment.[24] [4] Game as a sexual strategy seems to be geared toward providing short term gratification for men and women, but also avoiding long term misery. As my colleague W. F. Price at The Spearhead has written, there are no more wives—or at least there are very few. Young women no longer grow up preparing for everyday married life, they grow up planning their careers, their wardrobes and their gauzy, frosted Cinderella fantasy weddings.[25] [4]

There have also been changes in the sexual economy that satisfy the short-term sexual interests of young men. As Tiger noted, available contraception changed almost everything. Women hold more cards in terms of long-term options. Young men know that a pregnant woman can choose to abort or not without input from him, and she can demand child support if she chooses to keep her baby. If he has chosen to make the long-term investment in a family, he knows that a woman—women initiate the majority of divorces—may leave him and demand child support at any time. But when it comes to getting short-term sexual gratification, so long as birth control is employed, “the market ‘price’ of sex is currently very low.”[26] [4] In the past, premarital sex had high social costs (especially for women) and the social costs of out-of-wedlock birth were even higher. However, now that premarital sex has become a norm, contraceptives are widely available, and young women are more likely to be financially successful or self-sufficient, they can afford to demand less long term commitment from men in return for sex. If they demand more, there are other girls who will demand less, and they will be priced out of the market. According to a recent article in Slate, this is exactly what is happening, especially on college campuses where there are more females than males. These young women are “are more negative about campus men, hold more negative views of their relationships, go on fewer dates, are less likely to have a boyfriend, and receive less commitment in exchange for sex.” A National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health showed that sex was happening sooner in relationships, and that 30% of young men’s relationships, “involve no romance at all: no wooing, no dates, no nothing.”[27] [4]

Michael Kimmel noted similar campus trends in his book, Guyland. He blamed the boys for the fact that the girls have gone wild—“hooking up” promiscuously instead of dating, because that’s what the boys want. It is interesting that even as Kimmel claimed young women have the world on the string, he more or less admitted that they are so desperate for male attention that they’ll gladly debauch themselves for it. Kimmel validated the alpha vs. beta worldview of “game” theorists when he wrote:

Women sustain Guyland because Guyland seems to be populated by Rhett Butlers, and they are much cooler than the Ashley Wilkeses of the college campus—the guys who study hard, are considerate of their feelings, and listen to them. Those guys are a bit nerdy, good friendship material, but they don’t take your breath away.[28] [4]

The actions and the unrehearsed words of women reveal that they want something other than what they say they want. When women get the fair-minded, negotiating, household-chore-sharing men that feminists say they want, they mock them as “kitchen bitches” and divorce them, as Sandra Tsing Loh did in a piece of comically unrefined misandry she wrote for The Atlantic about her own decision to divorce. She mused about a bonobo solution to marriage wherein “the men/husbands/boyfriends come in once or twice a week to build shelves, prepare that bouillabaisse, or provide sex.”[29] [4] Hanna Rosin of “The End of Men” fame responded to the piece with a few confessions about her own husband, who she worried had usurped her in the kitchen by becoming a fine cook who enjoyed cooking for his family. Her feminist solution was to throw a cookbook across the room and “storm” upstairs. Now she rushes home from work to make dinner before her husband can, presumably, so she can feel more like a woman. And her husband, she said, simply “got the message” and “ceded some of the territory” back to her.[30] [4]

As things have shaken out in the aftermath of the sexual revolution, men are better able to assert their interests in short-term relationships, and women are better able to assert their interests in long term relationships. This is a familiar comic theme in film and television—men frustrate women by avoiding “commitment” (to a relationship) as long as they can, and women panic as their biological clocks tick and their viability in the sexual marketplace declines.

As young men, especially young men in disadvantaged socio-economic groups, have invested less effort in education and become less interested in pursuing the kinds of careers that lead to affluence in a global economy, and as the kinds of work many men enjoy has been degraded or exported to countries where labor is cheap, recycled calls to “reimagine masculinity” have become increasingly desperate.

Anti-rape and anti-violence activists like Jackson Katz have been talking for years about the “macho paradox” [31] [4]and telling young men how it perpetuates violence against women.[32] [4] The National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS) traces its roots to the 1970s. It counts “unlearning aggressiveness” and “un-learning large parts of the male role” among its basic tenets[33] [4], and states in its principles[34] [4] that “men can live as happier and more fulfilled human beings by challenging the old-fashioned rules of masculinity.” “Reimagining masculinity” has also been a theme in the men’s movement for some time.

As men struggled after the crash of the early 21st century real estate boom with the insult of fewer construction jobs adding to the injury of outsourced manufacturing, previously ignored calls to address the “crisis in masculinity” were finally being heard by a wider audience. In 2010, a Foundation for Male Studies[35] [4] was formed in an attempt to create university programs to study the male condition. Its early promotional content seemed to echo concerns from both the men’s rights and the pro-feminist communities that males are more likely to go to prison, commit suicide, or avoid seeking medical treatment. Many prominent men’s rights activists, in agreement with the feminists they identify as enemies—as well as Bly and Keen before them—now believe that “masculinity has, as it relates to modern realities, corrupt, oppressive and destructive elements that need to change.”[36] [4] Some are positioning men as a new minority[37] [4] group, a new social identity group asserting its interests by competing for a place at the grievance table alongside other sexual, ethnic, racial and religious identity groups.

Feminists have no intention of allowing men to compete fairly with women as a grievance group, and some have turned their pleas for men to “reimagine masculinity” into an impatient command for men to “man up.” Men are being told that they had better get out of their funk and abandon their “musty scripts” of masculinity in a hurry, because the globalist, feminist future isn’t waiting for them any longer. Women are moving up, and if men need to do “girly jobs” to help women make ends meet or become stay-at-home dads to pick up a successful working mom’s slack, then feminists say that’s just how it’s going to have to be. Men had better tie on their aprons and learn to like it.

The hypocrisy of feminists telling men to “man up” is that it invokes the same ancient masculine archetypes that all those who have tried to “reimagine masculinity” have been trying to put to bed. They are ham-handedly trying to tap into the power of the very same “male culture” that they want to break down. They are telling men to prove their masculinity, after saying that men should no longer have to do that. They are selling men liberation from the “man code”[38] [4] and then telling men how they must behave to be considered “good men.”

In effect, feminists are now saying that a man must be strong, courageous and even heroic in his willingness to sacrifice his own interests for the good of the tribe. From the mouths of feminists, this is crass and manipulative. Males may be faltering in educational achievement, but they’re not dumb. Men in the past have made great sacrifices for honor and glory and the esteem of their male peers—not to mention rewards of booty and women. Feminists want men to shame and abandon the bold manhood of their forefathers for a pat on the head and the privilege of being called kitchen bitches.

The reimaginers of masculinity have failed to connect with mainstream men, and they are destined to fail so long as they refuse to deal with men as self-interested individuals. Their reimagined models of masculinity will fail to inspire the majority of men so long as they actively reject the natural primacy of strength in the male hierarchy of virtues.

Osama bin Laden famously remarked that “when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.” [39] [4]

All of these “reimagined masculinities” are weak horses.

Calling yourself a wild man does not make you wild, and everyone knows it.

Pacifist “fierce gentlemen” and “democratic men” are restricted to talking tough—they can say whatever they want because they don’t have to back it up. Tough talkers and civilized blowhards of both sexes can speak their mind with impunity only in a lawful society secured by the threat of violence from armed men (and women). If manliness can be reduced to “assertiveness,” as Harvey Mansfield asserted, then he was right to say that Margaret Thatcher was a manly woman.[40] [4]

If “manning up” means taking whatever job you can get to support your family or changing diapers or doing whatever women want you to do, why call it “manning up” at all? Why not just call it “being responsible” or “being obedient?” Writer Amada Hess was correct when she observed that Doupkil and Romano’s calls to “reimagine masculinity” merely re-codified masculinity as “personhood.”[41] [4]

Reimagining masculinity is a self-esteem building project for impotent men, and an impotence-building project for men with self-esteem.

[8]To maintain any kind of civilization, men have to give up a certain amount of their personal sovereignty. The Romans used the fasces as a symbol of the collected power of men—a bundle of rods strapped to an axe, wielded by the state. Men agree to surrender some autonomy to the state for the promise of security and order. The state provides a means for men to resolve their disputes and replaces the nasty, brutish and unpredictable violence of total chaos with an orderly dispensation of collective violence. The state becomes the axe.

However, as the state grows, it requires ever greater sacrifices of personal power to maintain order. Men make these sacrifices reluctantly, until over time the state gains enough power to demand and do whatever it wants, with or without the majority mandate of men. Today, our leaders openly mock men who are unwilling to give the state complete control over life and death.[42] [4]

The desire to reimagine masculinity is a symptom of enslavement. Men have given virtually all of their power to the state. Many European countries have disarmed their citizens, and men are at the mercy of states that claim to act in their collective best interests. Even a century ago, men gathered in the streets to violently overthrow corrupt governments. Today, most Americans couldn’t conceive of doing more than holding a candlelight vigil. Many western men have given up sole proprietorships and crafts and other activities that offer the satisfaction of willed agency and traded this kind of fulfillment for comfortable but unfulfilling busywork jobs at large corporations where men are merely ants and women make perkier workers. As women gain political and financial influence, men are giving up their sovereignty at home, becoming mere peasants to capricious, emasculating queens who can call upon the axe of the state the moment they feel challenged or threatened. A mere whisper from a woman can place a man in shackles and force him to either confess or prove that he is innocent of even the pettiest charges.

Feminists and socialists are content to entrust the state with their care, protection and employment. Chaftez admitted that make-work jobs would have to be created to facilitate her gender-neutral utopia, and she fantasized about a world without the guns that “many American males cling to” as an “expression of their virility.”[43] [4]

The reimaginers of masculinity have realized, perhaps subconsciously, that men still want to feel like men. To humor men and better acclimate them to a captive, powerless existence, the reimaginers have taken it upon themselves to decorate the cage a bit. They have attempted to provide safe narratives that offer men the feel of expressing a virtual virility without the danger it poses to the interests of women and the status quo. They have brainstormed for ways to empower men without actually giving them any real power. To pacify man, they offered him only the “mother-may-I” masculinities most compatible with the interests of women.

It is truly profound that, when the reimaginers of masculinity prepared to sell their domesticated manhoods to everyday man, even they could not imagine a way to appeal to him without resorting to coercive testing language of the male groups, the primal vocabulary of violence or by appealing to his desire to demonstrate strength, courage, mastery and a sense of honor.


[1] [9] Saltzman Chaftez, Janet. Masculine, Feminine or Human? 2nd ed. Itasca: Peacock Publishers, 1978. 221-58. Print.

[2] [10] Ibid. 246.

[3] [11] Garcia, Guy. The Decline of Men. N.p.: HarperCollins e-books. Loc. 4332. Kindle.

[4] [12] Stevenson, Seth. “The Believer.” New York Magazine. 9 July 2007. Web. 24 Feb. 2011. http [13]:// [13]nymag [13]. [13]com [13]/ [13]news [13]/ [13]features [13]/34454/ [13]

[5] [14] Garcia, Guy. The Decline of Men. N.p.: HarperCollins e-books. Loc. 4436. Kindle.

[6] [15] Wrangham, Richard, and Dale Peterson. Demonic Males : Apes and the Origins of Human Violence. New York: Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996. 172. Print.

[7] [16] Keen, Sam. Fire in the Belly. Bantam Books, 1992. 35-48, 88-111. Print.

[8] [17] Keeley, Lawrence H. War Before Civilization. Oxford University Press, 1996. 2338. Kindle.

[9] [18] Kimmel, Micheal S., ed. The Politics of Manhood : Profeminist Men Respond to the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement (And the Mythopoetic Leaders Answer). Temple University Press, 1995. Print.

[10] [19] Ibid. 272.

[11] [20] Bly, Robert. Iron John. Vintage Books. 1992. 2. Print.

[12] [21] Ibid. 25.

[13] [22] Ibid. 8.

[14] [23] Ibid. 182.

[15] [24] Ibid. 179.

[16] [25] Keen, Sam. Fire in the Belly. Bantam Books, 1992. 112-122, 152-185. Print.

[17] [26] Kimmel, Michael. Manhood in America : A Cultural History. The Free Press. 1996. 316-321. Print.

[18] [27] Ibid. 333.

[19] [28] Ibid. 334, 335.

[20] [29] Vonnegut, Kurt. “Harrison Bergeron.” National Review. 16 Nov. 1965. Web. 26 Mar. 2011. http [30]:// [30]www [30]. [30]nationalreview [30]. [30]com [30]/ [30]nroriginals [30]/? [30]q [30]= [30]MDllNmVmNGU [30]1 [30]NDVjY [30]2 [30]IzODBlMjYzNDljZTMzNzFlZjc [30]

[21] [31] “MEN GOING THEIR OWN WAY ver. 2.2.” Men For Justice. N.p., 9 May 2006. Web. 13 Mar. 2011. http [32]:// [32]menforjustice [32]. [32]net [32]/ [32]cms [32]/ [32]index [32]. [32]php [32]? [32]option [32]= [32]com [32]_ [32]content [32]& [32]task [32]= [32]view [32]& [32]id [32]=5& [32]Itemid [32]=4 [32]

[22] [33] Otagaki, Yumi. “Japan’s “herbivore” men shun corporate life, sex.” Reuters. N.p., 27 July 2009. Web. 13 Mar. 2011. http [34]:// [34]www [34]. [34]reuters [34]. [34]com [34]/ [34]article [34]/2009/07/27/ [34]us [34] [34]japan [34] [34]herbivores [34] [34]idUSTRE [34]56 [34]Q [34]0 [34]C [34]220090727 [34]

[23] [35] Simpson, Mark. “Here Come The Mirror Men.” Independent 15 Nov. 1994 [UK] . Web. 13 Mar. 2011. http [36]:// [36]www [36]. [36]marksimpson [36]. [36]com [36]/ [36]pages [36]/ [36]journalism [36]/ [36]mirror [36]_ [36]men [36]. [36]html [36]

[24] [37] Chateau. “Game And Life Trajectory.” Citizen Renegade. N.p., 24 Feb. 2011. Web. 13 Mar. 2011. http://heartiste.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/game-and-life-trajectory/ [38] (Updated link)

[25] [39] Price, W. F. “Stop Looking For a Wife: You Won’t Find One.” The Spearhead. N.p., 8 Oct. 2010. Web. 21 Mar. 2011. http [40]:// [40]www [40]. [40]the [40] [40]spearhead [40]. [40]com [40]/2010/10/08/ [40]stop [40] [40]looking [40] [40]for [40] [40]a [40] [40]wife [40] [40]you [40] [40]wont [40] [40]find [40] [40]one [40]

[26] [41] Regnerus, Mark. “Sex Is Cheap.” Slate. 25 Feb 2011. Web. 16 Mar. 2011. http [42]:// [42]www [42]. [42]slate [42]. [42]com [42]/ [42]id [42]/2286240/ [42]pagenum [42]/ [42]all [42]/# [42]p [42]2 [42]

[27] [43] Ibid.

[28] [44] Kimmel, Micheal. Guyland. 2008. HarperCollins e-books. Loc. 4447. Kindle.

[29] [45] Tsing Loh, Sandra. “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” The Atlantic July 2009. Web. 20 Mar. 2011. http [46]:// [46]www [46]. [46]theatlantic [46]. [46]com [46]/ [46]magazine [46]/ [46]archive [46]/2009/07/ [46]let [46]-8217- [46]s [46] [46]call [46] [46]the [46] [46]whole [46] [46]thing [46] [46]off [46]/7488/1/ [46]

[30] [47] Rosin, Hanna. “Rise of the Kitchen Bitch.” Slate. N.p., 15 Dec. 2009. Web. 20 Mar. 2011. http [48]:// [48]www [48]. [48]doublex [48]. [48]com [48]/ [48]section [48]/ [48]life [48]/ [48]rise [48] [48]kitchen [48] [48]bitch [48]

[31] [49] Katz, Jackson. The Macho Paradox : Why Some Men Hurt Women And How All Men Can Help. 2006. Sourcebooks, Inc. Print.

[32] [50] Katz, Jackson. Tough Guise : Violence, Media and the Crisis in Masculinity. Media Education Foundation. 1999. Video.

[33] [51] “Tenets.” nomas.org (National Organization for Men Against Sexism, official site). N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2011. http [52]:// [52]www [52]. [52]nomas [52]. [52]org [52]/ [52]tenets [52]

[34] [53] “Principles.” nomas.org (National Organization for Men Against Sexism, official site). N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2011. http [54]:// [54]www [54]. [54]nomas [54]. [54]org [54]/ [54]principles [54]

[35] [55] The Foundation for Male Studies. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2011. http [56]:// [56]www [56]. [56]malestudies [56]. [56]org [56]/ [56]index [56]. [56]html [56]

[36] [57] Elam, Paul. “The Plague of Modern Masculinity.” A Voice for Men. N.p., 17 July 2010. Web. 19 Mar. 2011. http [58]:// [58]www [58]. [58]avoiceformen [58]. [58]com [58]/2010/07/01/ [58]the [58] [58]plague [58] [58]of [58] [58]modern [58] [58]masculinity [58]/ [58]

[37] [59] Ellison, Jesse. “Are Men The New Minority?” Newsweek 29 Sept. 2010. Web. 19 Mar. 2011. http [60]:// [60]education [60]. [60]newsweek [60]. [60]com [60]/2010/09/29/ [60]the [60] [60]new [60] [60]minority [60] [60]on [60] [60]campus [60] [60]men [60]. [60]html [60]

[38] [61] Schwyzer, Hugo. “How Men’s Rights Activists Get Feminism Wrong.” The Good Men Project. N.p., 8 Mar. 2011. Web. 19 Mar. 2011. http [62]:// [62]goodmenproject [62]. [62]com [62]/ [62]ethics [62] [62]values [62]/ [62]how [62] [62]the [62] [62]mens [62] [62]rights [62] [62]activists [62] [62]get [62] [62]feminism [62] [62]wrong [62]

[39] [63] “Transcript of Osama bin Laden videotape.” CNN.com. CNN, 13 Dec. 2001. Web. 19 Mar. 2011. http [64]:// [64]articles [64]. [64]cnn [64]. [64]com [64]/2001-12-13/ [64]us [64]/ [64]tape [64]. [64]transcript [64]_1_ [64]bin [64] [64]shaykh [64] [64]al [64] [64]bahrani [64] [64]diplomatic [64] [64]language [64] [64]services [64]?_ [64]s [64]= [64]PM [64]: [64]US [64]

[40] [65] Mansfield, Harvey C. Manliness. 2006. Yale University Press.

[41] [66] Hess, Amanda. “Newsweek’s “the new macho”: It’s the new “person”!” TBD. 21 Sept. 2010. Web. 20 Mar. 2011. http [67]:// [67]www [67]. [67]tbd [67]. [67]com [67]/ [67]blogs [67]/ [67]amanda [67] [67]hess [67]/2010/09/ [67]newsweek [67] [67]s [67] [67]the [67] [67]new [67] [67]macho [67] [67]it [67] [67]s [67] [67]the [67] [67]new [67] [67]person [67]–2051. [67]html [67]

[42] [68] Kuhnhenn, Jim. “Obama says some voters are angry, bitter.” USA Today (Associated Press). 12 April 2008. Web. 26 Mar. 2011. http [69]:// [69]www [69]. [69]usatoday [69]. [69]com [69]/ [69]news [69]/ [69]topstories [69]/2008-04-11-3235435230_ [69]x [69]. [69]htm [69]

[43] [70] Saltzman Chaftez, Janet. Masculine, Feminine or Human? 2nd ed. Itasca: Peacock Publishers, 1978. 257. Print.

Source: http://www.jack-donovan.com/axis/no-mans-land/ii-%E2%80%8E%E2%80%9Creimagining-masculinity%E2%80%9D/ [71]