Our masculinity problem

It’s been frankly uplifting to see positive, active responses from men to the Roosh/Return of Kings international meetups. Special shout-outs go to my buddies @Megapope and @MrDuttonPeabody, who haven’t just “started saying what women have been saying for ages and expected cookies” – they’ve organised.

What happens way too often is that this kind of thing gets pigeonholed as a “women’s issue” or something only ~feminists~ are interested in (probably because we spend all our time looking for trivial things to take offence at). Or, when men do take a lead, it’s to the exclusion of women’s voices, and far too frequently becomes a massive ego trip. Not so here!

When people of all shapes and backgrounds stand together in solidarity against violence, it sends a strong clear message that violence isn’t going to be tolerated in our society. That means men standing with women and Christians standing with Muslims and cis people standing with trans people.

success baby

But … there’s a few less-good responses which often crop up in these discussions, and have done all over the place on this one: the violent (“I’m going to go down there and smash those rapists” or “they’re lucky I wasn’t around to see that”) and the sneering (“LOL they must not be very good-looking if they want to rape people!”)

Guys – because it’s usually guys – I want to say this as gently as possible, but it’s going to be difficult for you to hear. You have identified the enemy and decided to oppose him. Great. But you’re also playing right into his hands.

The Roosh/Men’s Rights/Gamergater philosophy is built around a caricature of masculinity. An idea of manhood which relies on using force and aggression to assert and maintain power. A male identity which is immensely insecure and lashes out violently at any threat to its tenuous power base.

Saying you’re going to respond to violent speech with violent acts only makes people like Roosh feel justified in their belief that all men are inherently violent creatures engaged in a struggle for dominance. There’s a whole school of thought in Men’s Rights philosophy in which the participants actively identify themselves as “betas” who are condemned by society’s “alphas” to be celibate and alone. When your response to them is about proving your point through physical aggression, you’re just proving their point.

Likewise, decrying them as “not real men” or fuckless wonders who “have to rape people because they can’t get laid” does the same thing. It buys into the idea that masculinity is a competition, where the winner – he who is the most real of Real Men – is naturally rewarded with and thus entitled to attention and sexual gratification from women. This idea is the foundation of rape culture.

Just because you’ve re-framed what a “real man” is, ever-so-slightly away from Dutch in Predator and half a step towards (original series) James Tiberius Kirk, doesn’t change the fact that you’re measuring men’s worthiness based on what an “ideal” man looks, sounds and acts like – and that worthiness is directly related to how much pussy he can get.

This is what we should say to these guys: you’re wrong. Women and men aren’t from different planets. Our relationships aren’t founded on trickery and coercion. Sex isn’t a contest. And we don’t have to prove we’re “real” men or “real” women at all. We don’t have to conform to narrow, ridiculous standards that no one can ever truly meet, and we don’t have to force other people to, either.

If you want to do that right now – or rather, tomorrow evening – there are two anti-misogyny events planned in Auckland and Welllington. Don’t come along because you want to smash someone’s head in or because it’ll earn you Feminist Ally Cred. Come along because it’s the right thing to do, to stand together with other people and say “we won’t be that kind of society”.

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