Apocalypse When?

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.

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10 thoughts on “Apocalypse When?

  1. 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.

    For a lot of manosphere fruit loops, those are bugs, not features. Many if not most of them hate non-whites and gays as much as they hate women.There are a few blacks and gays in the ‘sphere (Obsidian, Jack Donovan, etc.) but generally that scene too big on tolerance and all that stuff.

    Otherwise, fantastic entry and I co-sign most of it. From what I understand of the economy, the real big trouble in the next few years will be social security payments (at least in the U.S). Manospherians claim it’s women’s fault because women live longer than men and thus get most of the SS money. They don’t take into account that the life expectancy gap for men compared to women has been lessening for some time (the link refers to England, but the same applies to the U.S.). If these trends continue, and I don’t see why they wouldn’t, women won’t make up the majority of SS “gimmiedats” (as the Manospherians call them) for that much longer.

      • Wow that’s really interesting about SS payments, I didn’t know that was such a big issue in the U.S. I’m from Australia though so that might explain it (or maybe it’s just my tiny woman’s brain letting me down as usual :P) Blaming women for living longer is a new one on me too – what do they expect them to do, run off a cliff like lemmings so they stop burdening the economy with their existence? Though I guess as the life expectancy gap lessens the nutters of the manosphere will have to find something new to complain about.

        Also you’re dead on about the lack of tolerance in the manosphere in general. On a lot of sites it seems like they’re not so much about “men’s rights” as they are about “rights for people exactly like us”. They think the only people who are people are the ones who look and think like them – everyone else is just encroaching on their natural rights (i.e. privilege). Though I think I understand it a bit better since I read Michael Kimmel’s latest book, ‘Angry White Men’. He basically explains that these guys, in the U.S. at least, were brought up believing in the American Dream as a kind of framework for their entire lives. They thought that if they worked hard and played by the rules and were the heroes of their own lives, they’d be rewarded with upward mobility and a good marriage with a good woman and the white picket fence and all that. But because the economy is fucked and the American Dream is hopelessly outdated, these guys aren’t getting what they grew up believing they deserved. But because raging at those above them would undermine the value of that upward mobility, they kick downwards at women and gays and minorities and people who are still even less powerful than they are. They believe that America has always been a meritocracy, and that by being given advantages like affirmative action and scholarships these ‘others’ are cheating the system. What they don’t realise is that the system has historically been rigged to allow people like them more freedom and influence than anyone else, and that the advantages given to people who aren’t them are designed to correct that imbalance. They think they’ve been fighting fair the whole time, but really the deck’s been stacked in their favour – but nobody wants to admit that they didn’t earn the good things in their life.

        Which is not to say that men don’t suffer or face disadvantages, because they do, even straight white men. But my point is that this indiscriminate hatred of anyone who isn’t like them often springs from this deep sense of injustice, that society promised them something and they followed all the rules but now they’re not getting what they deserve. Which is kinda sad, and I wish there was a simple way to help these guys understand how and why the world has changed and that their rage and confusion is misdirected. Of course some people are just hateful douchecanoes, but hopefully they’re in the minority. Thanks for reading and commenting, my fledgling creativity appreciates it!

  2. I enjoyed this thoughtful post because I intellectually disagree with it. I have developed a rudimentary thesis that argues that the Anglo-American “empire” is undergoing the same long (centuries) term process of social decay that befell the Roman Empire.

    Hope you don’t mind a heretic dropping by.

    Cheers.

    • Not at all! I love hearing from people who disagree with my views as much as from people who share them 🙂 I’d be interested to hear more about this thesis of yours? I’m not American but my fiance is and he often says he wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S. pretty much collapses into smaller and more fragmented groups of states in the not-too-distant future. If it is heading for collapse, why do you think that is? Thanks for reading, I look forward to some good debates!

      • I agree with your fiancé. My first book should be out in a month or two. I wrote it for a popular (and not academic audience), and my test reader reviews have been highly encouraging. It lays the groundwork for a unified construct of gender narcissism. In the planned sequel, I intend to use this construct as the means to unify the late Christopher Lasch’s work “The Culture of Narcissism” with Edward Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.”

        In other words, what befell Rome was a process of narcissistic decay, just as we are now experiencing.

        At its core, I argue that ideological/radical/gender feminism is a gender narcissistic subset of what Lasch was writing about. I’ve found the thesis to be quite successful in explaining all aspects of what feminism has become. Despite how it portrays itself, feminism is not about rights and equality and justice.

        It has a decidedly sinister aspect at its core.

      • You wrote a book? That’s so awesome, congratulations! I’ve never heard of Lasch’s work, but the concept of narcissistic decay in our society actually sounds pretty spot on. I think Western/Anglo society has become extraordinarily self-obsessed, there’s almost a “cult of personality” like those generated by Stalin etc, except that the personality one worships is one’s own. So many people view themselves as “individuals” and are intent on pursuing their own happiness, rather than as people who are part of a community. Not that we should all give to the commune or not care about our own happiness and emotional needs. But personally I don’t think happiness ought to be an end goal in itself, it’s supposed to be a by-product of a healthy existence and that includes doing things for the benefit of others. The fact that so many people seem able to at least convince themselves that they are happy whilst living very self-focused lives is, I think, an indication of widespread social narcissism.

        I’d be very interested to hear what you think it is about feminism that encourages this culture, because I’ve always thought it was more due to the capitalistic and increasingly consumer-driven nature of Western society. To me it seems that we’re constantly encouraged to compete with each other for work and money, but then we’re told that we’re special and unique and we “deserve” a certain quality of life, so we should buy a whole bunch of crap we don’t really need to ensure we have such a life. I can kind of see how feminism would tie in to that; there can definitely be a focus on the personal satisfaction of women with their own lives, rather than on increasing equality and social justice for all. Though I would suggest that this is the product of a particular kind of feminism, mostly pop-feminism and/or feminism based around the narrative of middle class white women (like myself). This very evening, in fact, I came across this really interesting article about how high profile and economically secure women are essentially hijacking feminism and distorting its goals.

        http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/03/201332510121757700.html

        For many women of different racial and economic backgrounds, the focus of feminism is still very much to achieve social justice and reach some very basic goals; job security, decent wages, safe and affordable child care etc, and to reach them for everyone, not just themselves. And I feel the attainment of goals like this would probably benefit men as well as women, which is why I have so much more support for this kind of feminism. It’s actually about improving people’s lives on a widespread and practical scale, not about allowing women who are already privileged because of their race, class, sexual orientation and lack of disability to ‘have it all’.

      • What a great reply—thanks for taking the time to capture these thoughts. This was very telling: “I think Western/Anglo society has become extraordinarily self-obsessed, …” Now think to the article that you linked to. Wasn’t it extraordinarily self-obsessed with women, as the author is (presumably) a feminist? I would say that this is characteristic of virtually all feminist academic work. Thus, one might infer gender narcissism to be at play with feminist academics.

        Interestingly, the University of Ottawa’s Professor of English Janice Fiamengo is a former feminist who now actively writes and speaks out against the movement. (Obviously, Janice is not a narcissist.) She identifies its false scholarship, which the gender narcissism angle explains. Janice has read my manuscript, and likes both it and its gender narcissism thesis.

        Would you like to read it? No cost, no strings, no expectations. It would give us a common frame of reference for future discussions. Test readers are telling me it’s a gripping read. No worries if you’re not interested or don’t have time.

        I like much of what you say, although I will disagree with what feminism actually seeks to achieve versus what it purports to seek to achieve. This discrepancy is explained by narcissism. It has a pathological need to corrupt the truth.

  3. Hi! Sorry for the delayed reply, busy weekend. I’d absolutely love to read your book, thank you! Are you sure you don’t mind? I’m not a proper writer or anything so I don’t know how useful any feedback from me would be. But if you’re cool with it then I’m absolutely down for it 🙂

    Also I think I get what you’re saying about feminism being based in gender narcissism. I had to think about it for a while, but it kind of clicked when I read another Al Jazeera article about the discrimination faced by men of colour, basically explaining that the stereotypes and prejudice they face are as much about them being men as it is about them not being white. I think feminism IS very narcissistic in that discussion about gender discrimination are always framed as something that happens to women, and more particularly white women. There are issues and prejudices that women of non-white backgrounds face, which are definitely sidelined in mainstream feminism. But I find it even more telling that issues of gender discrimination as faced by men of colour are pretty much not discussed at all. Whenever we hear that a man of colour has been stopped-and-searched by police, or baselessly suspected of terrorist associations, we assume it’s because of his race and not his gender. But the fact is that stereotypes of other races as criminal or threatening are almost entirely confined to men and not women. Would Trayvon Martin have been shot by George Zimmerman if he was female? Almost certainly not – it was because he was a black MALE that he was deemed a threat by his killer. Which is not to say that white men don’t also face discrimination, but I guess it seems more surprising when it comes to men of colour because discrimination is so widespread and obvious and well-documented, and yet it’s always viewed as a question of race and not gender. So yes, I think feminism can be incredibly ego-centric in that it’s a “by women, for women” movement. Which is, y’know, fine, except when you hear statements like “Feminism is for everyone”. And I used to agree with statements like that, but now that I’m actually writing and thinking regularly about feminism I’m coming to realise that it can be a very self-focused and sometimes exclusionary movement, which doesn’t really live up to its purported goal of creating equality for everyone.

    Thanks again for offering to let me read your book, I’m really excited!

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