First off, let’s make something clear: this isn’t about you. This is still a message for you, and I sincerely hope you read this through, but I want to be clear: this discussion, this message, this issue of “masculinity” everyone’s so concerned about, it’s not about you. I know it feels like an indirect personal attack whenever some feminist complains about the male gaze, male fantasy, toxic masculinity — you’ve heard all the popular buzzwords, no doubt – and I get how upset that probably makes you feel. These folks are clearly talking about you, right? They’re just too scared to say it to your face, hiding behind broad condemnations of “patriarchy” when in actuality they’re trying to tear you down (I’m sure it seems, anyway). I get that, I know exactly how it feels to be resented by people who don’t have the guts to just burn a bridge, say what they mean, and tell you straight up “you’re a bad person, I don’t like people like you, and you should feel bad” until it’s way too late. I get that, and I know how painful it is to feel silently rejected, to unravel a web of subtle, arguably nonexistent jabs and realize, to your horror, that all of it points to a coordinated conspiracy against you.
As weird as it may sound, feminists are not engaged in such a conspiracy. There are hundreds of thousands of words arguing the direct opposite – that there is a or “woke mob” of “third wave feminists” operating in the interests of disrupting the West, emasculating the strong, and generally making a mess of things. Convincing though they may sound in isolation, these narratives are penned by professional liars, privileged individuals who engage in rhetorical self-flagellation of their alpha status in one breath only to rope gullible saps into their faceless army of expendable NPCs in the next. Their depiction of “feminism” is a phantom designed to make themselves look more adept than they actually are, an artificial opponent made of slogans and MS paint caricatures. Unlike this effigy whose sole concern is the downfall of every individual man, real life feminists do not actually care about you.
The left is concerned with systems, dynamics, things that occur around and between individuals. Patriarchy, rather than a monolithic system of individual powerful men directing subordinate individual women, is a much grander phenomenon of discipline and control, affecting all individuals regardless of gender. Of course, patriarchy does affect different individuals differently and, by most conventional definitions, puts greater pressure on women than it does men. Women are, unfortunately, much more likely to have their bodily autonomy revoked by an expansive federal government, their freedom of association hindered by special interest groups, and, in the most brutal examples, more likely to be gunned down in the streets for protesting a self-proclaimed Morality Police. None of this is being stated to the exclusion of men, some of whom are among the victims of these flagrant abuses of power, may they too rest in power. Description of women’s struggle detracts nothing from that of men, unless we assume there are only two genders (a demonstrable falsehood) who compete for a scarcity of available attention in public discourse. In much the same way as the addition of wheelchair ramps don’t make stairs any harder to climb, discussion of the high frequency of sexual assaults against women doesn’t erase the very real prevalence of sexual assault against men. By discussing rape culture, a task that demands basic recognition of the statistical disparity between assaults against men and women respectively, both groups benefit from the resulting inquiry into the causes of sexual violence. Only in a zero-sum framework of social justice does one struggle displace another, and no legitimate feminist, leftist, or mere skeptic seriously entertains such a philosophy beyond edgy Twitter posts. Again, most of this is not about you: it’s about systems of power, patterns of behavior, and the effect of those phenomena on individuals subject to that overarching dynamic (i.e. patriarchy).
MRAs and self-styled “anti-feminists” do not care about you either, but their apathy is marginally less pronounced; these people want to use you, to control your activity and make you center your identity around being a man. The ends to which these testosterone zealots want to capitalize on your loyalty are varied, ranging from mere clout chasing to full on hate group recruitment, but they are uniform in their denial of your individuality. Fearmongering about “sexual market value,” the alleged hypergamy of females, and the supposed epidemic of single motherhood doesn’t actually make anyone better off. It reduces both men and women to cogs in a reproductive machine, devoid of any value beyond fertility and disposable income – a likely extension of the fact that the hardest “data” cited by manospherian influencers is sourced from dating apps. With regard to the struggle of the modern man, they recognize your anxiety, your crises, and your vulnerabilities in the face of a demanding status quo, but their solutions address none of the fundamental causes of those issues. This valid, real suffering has been and continues to be addressed by “the left,” whoever they are, but it’s in the manosphere’s best interest to keep you from seeking them out, to isolate you lest you succumb to genuine reason. In short, they must lie about the left, they must distort the reality of your situation, or else they risk losing you, their primary source of money and clout.
Rather than actively engaging in honest self-reflection, the manosphere encourages men to shift the blame, accusing the postmodernists and gen-z feminists of manufacturing problems to make men look bad. Projection, as described by Freud and the psychoanalysts, is an incredibly familiar defense mechanism to us all; the impulse to disown and externalize our toxicities is anything if not common, as it preserves our internal notion that we are “good” people by assigning shame to external Others. Shame, in this context, comes from the idea that men, as good people, have, in their attempt to live up to expectations of what is a “good man,” not only failed to attain good manhood, but have done great harm to others in the process. Not only has the path to virtue through identity been shaken, but those most deeply invested in masculinity are confronted with the fact that they have sold their individuality, their uniqueness, for an “alpha” status that is functionally worthless beyond the confines of the manosphere. To confront this behavior is to experience shame, hence why projection is so enticing. Of course, that doesn’t mean it solves anything. Projecting the problems of masculine ideology onto its fabricated opponents does nothing but guarantee the replication of its mistakes, dragging its adherents further into the depths of the manosphere where their suffering will be exploited and their toxicity encouraged, feeding a perpetual cycle of aggression, shame, and projection that will inevitably reproduce stochastic terror attacks, disinformation, and the continuation of patriarchy.
We, on the other hand, believe you can do better. I believe you are more than a man; I believe that you’re a person, an individual, a friend, a loved one – so many things to so many people that extend far beyond your gender, race, or class. Most importantly, I believe you are unique. No one else is like you, and once you’re gone, that’s it; no one will ever replace you – man, woman, or otherwise. You do not need masculinity to make your existence significant because you already are significant. Capitalists and the social media platforms they control will never affirm your uniqueness because complex, genuine individuality doesn’t sell; if you realize you’re valuable as you are, you won’t consume as much, watch as many hours of content, or get as angry at manufactured enemies – all of which means less money for the people at the top of the pyramid. It brings me great sadness to see you settle for less than you’re worth, and I’m just a stranger on the internet. Imagine how the people closest to you must feel.
Talk to those people, I guarantee they would love to hear from you.