In my last post, I discussed some of the common flaws shared by pop feminism and the manosphere, hoping to illustrate that these groups and the causes they support are not as dissimilar as they might appear. Today, however, I want to look at a phenomenon that seems to occur solely in the manosphere: an apparent obsession with social collapse. As before, I’d like to point out that this isn’t something that occurs throughout the men’s rights movement, but rather seems to be solely confined to easy-access, opinion based media about men’s rights (i.e. the aforementioned manosphere). Also I do apologise if this comes across as a biased criticism – I would have loved to compare this phenomenon in both the manosphere and in pop feminism, but since I can’t find any evidence of its existence in the latter that wasn’t really an option. Anyway, let’s roll.
Many writers and commenters in the manosphere seem to think that feminism and the ‘feminisation’ of Western society (especially the U.S.) is leading us towards some kind of societal apocalypse. I can’t find any universal consensus on what exactly it is about feminism that’s inviting such doom. In fact I’ve seen people blame pretty much everything: single mothers, divorce, abortion, contraception, the loss of the traditional family unit, destruction of traditional gender roles, female promiscuity, anti-discrimination laws, affirmative action, a lack of respect for traditional masculinity, and the apparent overall ‘pussy-whipping’ of society. However, one thing that is almost always agreed upon is that feminists are foolishly upsetting the natural order, and that their self-important meddling is fostering a social collapse that will teach both the architects and victims of the feminism a well-deserved lesson.
Now I realise that when something you don’t like is happening around you and it’s out of your control, it’s not uncommon to view it as a crisis. I also get that for most humans who are feeling angry or aggrieved, the idea of their so-called enemies receiving comeuppance through their own folly is a tempting vision. So yes, in some ways I can understand why some people believe that feminism will soon bring the society is has so distorted crashing down upon its own head. But there’s nothing to stop an idea from being both tempting and ridiculous, and this one is definitely both.
For starters, nobody seems able to agree on exactly how this crisis will start. This is hardly surprising given the great diversity and loosely organised nature of the manosphere; it’s not like there’s some kind of central hive that will one day send out the signal that it’s time to rise up. No-one really seems too bothered by this, however – they just know that one day the call will come, and when it does they will answer. While social upheaval is hardly a meticulously planned process, it’s a little difficult to give credence to a revolution that doesn’t know how or why it’s going to start, or who is going to start it. It’s rather similar to those ultra-conservatives in America who insist on hoarding guns in preparation for the day when they’ll have to rise up against a corrupt government; they have no idea how, when or why they’ll have to fight back, but by golly they’ll be ready when the call goes out!
But let’s for one moment entertain the possibility that somehow, someone manages to successfully get the anti-feminist revolutionary ball rolling. What then? Who will be the driving force behind this armageddon, and what exactly will they be doing? Once again, nobody seems to be super keen on specifics. In my experience, discussions consist almost solely of people insisting that “One day they’ll be sorry!” in an astonishing variety of ways. Occasionally I’ve comes across someone with a slightly more concrete idea of what the incoming apocalypse looks like – I’d say overall the scenarios fall into three main categories. And while these visions of social armageddon are certainly interesting, it’s also not difficult to think up some very basic reasons why they wouldn’t be very successful. For instance…
Apocalypse 1 – The Rampage: The ‘beta’ males of American society, so long held hostage by meaningless jobs and sexless, emasculating relationships, will rise up in a tidal wave of rage and go on a general spree of looting/violence/rape/all of the above. The feminist puppet masters and their dupes will be frightened into submission when they see how powerless they are in the face of widespread male anger.
This little gem came from a commenter on Return of Kings a few weeks ago. The most obvious problem with this one is that the idea of every man who’s unhappy with his job or his relationship (or lack thereof) spontaneously uniting and going on a pillaging excursion is, frankly, rather stupid. A very generous estimate would be a few hundred thousand people at most. Which leaves absolutely everyone else in society to oppose this revolution at a personal level. Even if we accept the thoroughly inaccurate idea that females would be incapable of defending themselves at all, that still leaves millions of men who would probably rather help protect their wives, children, mothers, sisters and friends from harm than join some kind of senseless riot. Add to that a federal government which has the world’s largest and most powerful military, and the chances of this particular scenario coming off successfully are looking pretty slim.
Apocalypse 2 – The Exodus: The ‘alpha’ males of society, recognising that there’s no reason for them to buy into the conventional goals of wives, families and mundane job security, will distance themselves as much as possible from mainstream society. They will forgo relationships, not earn more than they need to survive, possibly even move overseas to more ‘traditional’ environments. Once society is deprived of its most successful and valuable members, it will slowly collapse and/or ‘naturally’ gravitate back towards traditional gender roles.
This is quite a common one, a slightly more extreme version of the MGTOW philosophy. While it’s decidedly less batty than the first scenario, it’s probably still not gonna fly. In the first place, I doubt that men would opt out of society in significant enough numbers to make this a social crisis. While there are certainly issues of inequality which affect most men, those who feel aggrieved enough to totally opt out of society fall into the minority (albeit a very vocal one). Even if men did decide to eschew marriage and long-term relationships with women, would they be willing to give up their ties to their families? What if they have children that they value more than their own needs, as many fathers do – should they still only earn what they need to survive? And while I’m sure many of us have fantasised about moving overseas and starting a whole new life, how many of us – male or female – would be willing to say goodbye to all our family and friends just so we could teach society a lesson? The biggest problem with this idea is that it requires men to behave as though they are both selfish and lonely; to value their own agency more than they value other people, and to be content with avoiding all close relationships except those with other like-minded men. Some men may be willing to make that choice, but I’d bet my life that most would not. And aside from that, how arrogant does a person have to be to think that if ‘alpha males’ like them suddenly withdraw themselves from society, everyone else will just slump to the ground like dead bumblebees? This is not ‘Atlas Shrugged’, and these men are not an army of gender-conscious John Galts – if they opted out of mainstream society, then society would just continue without them because nobody is that damn important. There are only a handful of people in this world who are wealthy and powerful enough that their withdrawal from society would cause a problem; and frankly, they’re doing so well under the current system that they have no reason to distance themselves from it. Everyone else is replaceable as far as society is concerned, including self-nominated ‘alpha’ males – and even if they weren’t, there simply aren’t enough of them to make their exodus even a nuisance, let alone an armageddon.
Apocalypse 3 – Bankruptcy: The single mothers who depend on welfare will eventually become such a drain on the U.S. economy that it will collapse, forcing a social restructure featuring – you guessed it – traditional gender roles.
I can’t tell if this is the most or least insane idea of them all. Now I understand nothing about the economy so I won’t try to dismantle this from a financial viewpoint. But even I realise that it’s not as simple as ‘This group of people is living off money they haven’t earned so everything is going to be bad”. Judging by its incomprehensible nature I can only assume that the economy is a very complex thing, and so the actions of one not-very-powerful group of people hardly seem likely to bring the whole thing crashing down. On one level, this scenario is nothing more than a rather sad attempt to villify single mothers (apparently just calling them immoral is so last season). But on another level it’s one of the less ludicrous scenarios I’ve come across, because there’s no doubt at all that wealth distribution in America is absolutely fucked. It’s pretty screwy the world over, actually – as this recent report by Oxfam demonstrates, a ridiculously small number of people control a hideously large proportion of the world’s wealth, and the amount of income they receive has increased steadily in the last 30 years. So my point is not that an economic collapse isn’t going to happen (GFC anyone? No?) The point is that if/when it does happen, it’s not going to be because single mothers are on welfare. That’s why I think this idea is so stupid – how can anyone look at all the economic bullshit happening in America today, and reach the conclusion that people on welfare are the problem? What about stagnant wages? Or the fact that the average worker in America needs to work for over a month to earn what a CEO earns in one hour? (Also seriously click on that last link because it’s one of the best and scariest short videos you’ll ever see.) The economic problems of America are genuine, but blaming a relatively poor and non-influential group just harms everyone except those who are already benefitting unfairly from a broken system. Surely these very real and serious concerns pose far more of a threat to social stability than any amount of welfare-dependent single mothers ever could.
As fun as it is to pick apart a nonsensical vision of social doom, these apocalyptic scenarios make me rather sad. Not because they’re going to happen, but because some people seem to want them to happen so badly. They’d rather see Western society collapse than continue the way that it’s going – and in many ways it’s not even going that badly! We have comforts, advantages and resources that our ancestors – and indeed many people in developing countries – could only dream of. People of colour and ethnic minorities are arguably closer to equality and better protected from discrimination than they have ever been. LGBTQ people are being increasingly accepted and are freer to express their love and identities than ever before. Medicine makes our lives longer, and technology makes them easier – we have no fear of famine or disease, wild animals or conquest by our neighbours. Naturally there are problems, but in case nobody’s noticed there are always problems! In the past century alone we’ve survived two World Wars, the Spanish Influenza, the Holocaust or Shoah, an escalating nuclear conflict, the collapse of the Soviet Empire, 9/11 and the War on Terror, the legalisation of gay marriage, the end of state-sanctioned racial discrimination, plus God only knows how many natural disasters – and this is just a fraction of what people throughout the world have suffered in recent history. Humans survive. Societies survive. We may not keep calm but we do carry on, it’s what we’ve always done, and changing gender roles are not going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Discrimination and injustice affects men as well as women, but dreaming of armageddon and a return to the good old days doesn’t help anyone. The more a person sits around hoping that one day they’ll be proved right in their negativity, the less they’re doing to actually make life better for anyone else, let alone themselves. We’re lucky enough that our degenerate, doomed, feminised Western allows us the freedom to vote, to protest, to agitate and start petitions, to form non-governmental agencies, to create online communities of like-minded people actually trying to change something about the world, rather than just tear it down. Surely investing energy into any of these avenues would be better and more helpful. If you don’t think legislation changes anything then make it personal; join a community or mentoring program like Mentoring to Manhood that provides guidance for boys and young men, or help out with a support group for men affected by divorce, depression or substance abuse. Hell, just go out with a friend who’s having a hard time and actually talk to him – the single most destructive thing about traditional masculinity is that it discourages men from showing vulnerability. I hate saying it because sincerity gives me a rash, but you really do have to be the change you want to see in the world.
When you feel powerless and disenfranchised, it’s understandable to want to smash the whole thing to pieces and start all over again in a society that’s better and fairer to you. But the crash isn’t coming, at least not in the way or for the reasons that these members of the manosphere imagine. And I may be stretching a point here, but it’s my belief that traditional gender roles won’t be making a comeback anytime soon. As one-time feminist and now MRA Warren Farrell points out in his book The Myth of Male Power, traditional gender roles are an anachronism in modern society. They evolved out of the need to protect the human species – but our species is no longer under threat, and the roles the once defined each gender have become dysfunctional. Which is not to say that we all have to give up our sense of masculinity or femininity, because we don’t if we don’t want to. It just means that if we don’t want to define ourselves and our behaviours by what has traditionally been considered ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’, we don’t have to do that either. And we should not have others impose such behaviours and definitions upon us when there is no need for them. Our society has evolved to the point where most people no longer need to spend their lives trying to ensure basic survival; it’s about time our expectations and definitions of gender moved on too.