A safe space for men, or a hotbed of misogyny?
By AlexStanton, Staff Writer
Ever since the start of the 21st century, the advancement we’ve made as a society in terms of overall tolerance and acceptance is phenomenal. Same sex marriage is on its way to becoming legal in the Western world; unisex and gender inclusive bathrooms are being discussed more and more; and claims of sexual assault are taken a bit more seriously than they were 10 or 15 years ago. We still have quite a ways to go, but overall with the new millennium came a much more level playing field, particularly in terms of gender and sexuality. Men—along with white people—are generally accepted as the privileged class of society.
That isn’t to say there aren’t people out there fighting for the interests of men. There are many, and the best word to describe the groups’ set of publications is “manosphere” (a portmanteau of “blogosphere” and “man”). Said activists aren’t quite a dime a dozen, but they exist, and the Internet has given them the means to touch base with one another and fight for common interests. In the past few years, more than ever, the mainstream has started to catch the wind of these increasingly vocal groups of men. Since a lot of the discussion that happens on these websites is—for better or worse—centred around women, the manosphere as a whole has been described as “the boys’ locker room of the Internet.”
Although they are all distinct from one another in subtle ways, the blogs that form the manosphere are almost always focussed on one of two topics: men’s rights—activists who believe feminism has started to negatively affect men—and Pick-Up Artist (PUA) theory, which is an upfront, no-nonsense approach to courting women. Both groups, as well as the many blogs that make them up, have been subject to copious ire and criticism, mostly from feminists.
The history of the modern day Men’s Rights Movement (MRM) can be traced as far back as the heyday of second wave feminism. In fact, many early men’s rights activists such as Warren Farrell, were feminists before or during their activism for the interests of men. The movement gained quite a bit of traction once the Internet allowed the instantaneous sharing of common ideals. With that came much more attention; some of the attention was positive, coming from young men who had their eyes opened by what they read. Most of the attention, though, wasn’t positive.
A big part of the MRM has to do with how law treats men compared to women. This includes child custody laws, paternity fraud, domestic violence, and false rape accusations, among others. An offshoot of the most well-known MRM blog, A Voice for Men, is dedicated to naming and shaming women who allegedly lied about sexual assault. According to a study in the United States conducted in 2008 referred to as the “making a difference” study, the rate of false rape accusations is 6.8 per cent of all claims. In cases of domestic violence, divorce, and child custody, it is widely believed by the MRM that women are treated much more fairly than men by the court of law. The manosphere has also created an acronym for men who avoid what they see as the very shoddy risk-reward factor of marriage or a longterm relationship: MGTOW (men going their own way).
The Southern Poverty Law Centre, a civil rights group based out of the southern US, has acknowledged that there are “legitimate and sometimes disturbing complaints about the treatment of men.” This acknowledgement, however, didn’t take away from what they saw as valid complaints coated with bitter misogyny, and it certainly didn’t stop them from deeming a large part of the manosphere—including but certainly not limited to A Voice for Men and Reddit forums—as “woman hating websites” in the spring of 2012.
The other most well-known manosphere philosophy relates to the seduction community and the PUAs that frequent them—men who study the art of seducing women and have a specific mindset and technique about seduction that they see as foolproof compared to “wining and dining.” In the late-2000s, the seduction community consisted of a small subset of message boards like the Attraction Forums, which were run by the self-proclaimed masters of getting laid, such as Erik “Mystery” Von Markovik.
Within a few years, the PUA subculture became a cash cow, with young men—living in a time where women have never been more liberated—getting whatever tools they needed to thrive with women in the 21st century. PUA commentators and critics of feminism refer to PUA technique as incredibly varied and “amoral,” relying on science and theories of evolution and gender relations to put together their method of attracting women.
Critics definitely see eye-to-eye with PUAs on the amorality point; Strategic Lothario, a PUA and author, has been shunned by his readers for his manipulative, questionable methods and attitude towards women in general. Critics also see some of their language (e.g. LMR = Last Minute Resistance, referring to the apparent phenomenon of women revoking consent to sex immediately before the deed) as distasteful at best, promoting assault and rape at worst, and commonly misogynistic. PUAs, on the other hand, argue that pick-up techniques are seen as manipulative because they level the playing field; society considers women to be the “gate keepers” of sex, and any advantages men can make, they should. They also promote bodybuilding, self-confidence, and self-reliance.
Although it’s safe to say media has a point with much of their criticism, occasionally the criticisms are misguided. Take the case of Elliot Rodger of California, a man in his early 20s whose hatred of women led to murder. Media stated that the alleged killer frequented PUA websites, and that was the catalyst for the crime he ended up committing. As it turns out though, the websites that Rodger frequented were actually anti-PUA; while Rodger was a staunch misogynist who blamed women for what he saw as his shortcomings as a man, he had just as much hatred for the “jocks and popular kids” who he saw as undeserving of female attention.
The question is whether men who fight for their rights have a legitimate reason, or if it all boils down to an anti-feminist agenda. There is no doubt that the manosphere has inspired misogyny—whether it’s from the average forum member, or A Voice for Men owner Paul Elam, who proposed “punch a bitch” day in one of his pieces; yet, looking at some of the posts, there’s no doubt that there are some well-intentioned men who are fighting for the legitimate reasons, be it advancement of men in certain areas of society or advancement of themselves, their self-esteem, and their social life.
In any case, for better or worse, they’re loud, proud, and here to stay.