Updated: Mar 25
Masculinity – What does it mean to be masculine? This is a question I posed recently to a young man at a coffee shop, let’s call him “Adam.” Adam, about twenty, was intensely fixated on a Green Lantern graphics novel at the time. I noticed the book before I noticed Adam. It was a thick black hard covered book with tactile but smooth pages. The graphics were immersive and exploded off the page in green, black, purple, and red colors. The characters were fully fleshed out with well-drawn contorted limbs, serrated muscles, and cinematic visuals.
After staring at the book, I finally looked up at Adam and asked, “What are you reading?” My question sparked a broader discussion about superheroes, comics, and movies. “Who is your favorite superhero Adam?” I asked. He responded instantly and with a severe look on his face – “Batman.”
Adam’s passion for the Dark Knight over Green Lantern or other superheroes was seismic. Intrigued, I perked up and asked – “Why?” “Because Batman changes,” he said. As opposed to Superman for example, who is born with supernatural strength and invulnerability, he explained, Batman’s abilities were earned through hard work, suffering, and tragedy. Ironically, his human frailty makes Batman more compelling and relatable as a character in a genre dominated by demi-Gods.
“So, what does it mean to be masculine or manly?” I asked finally. Adam responded with one word – Struggle. Like Batman, being a man is to embark on a difficult journey that requires struggle, courage and hardship to achieve a meaningful change. Such a journey is now missing for most men and they know it.
Being a man is to embark on a difficult journey that requires struggle, courage and hardship to achieve a meaningful change. Such a journey is now missing for most men and they know it.
Masculinity is a transcendent ideal only fully realized when a man’s biology and his psyche align to create a higher self and a better society. Ernest Becker tells us that human beings are half-animal and half-symbol, half-mortal and half-immortal. In this sense, the Washington Monument is a commanding symbol of masculine power. The obelisk is erect, its orientation is straight like the razor-sharp jaw line of an alpha male, and it shoots upward towards the sky like broad shouldered astronauts rocketing to space. The obelisk makes a bold, self-confident, unapologetic and heroic statement.
Often the best way to define something is to examine its opposite. Traditional female virtues serve as a natural counter-point to male ones. If men are compact, competitive, and courageous, women are soft, cooperative, and nurturing. The interplay between these two sets of characteristics are not mutually exclusive or categorical either, both sexes can exhibit them. However, when the male-female dichotomy is balanced according to this scale, it lays firm groundwork for a healthier, more self-confident society. Unfortunately, modern men and the society they live in have lost this balance, resulting in the anxiety and insecurity most men now feel.
I focus on men in the city because the world is urban. The power structures shaping modern culture, especially but not limited to fashion, art, music, academia, social media and entertainment are virtually all urban and coastal. The lifestyles of men today are subsumed in the highly competitive urban wilderness the way our simian ancestors faced life or death in the primordial state of nature. Further, as men have migrated away from rural areas in search of work, it has reshaped the way men and women interact, how they date, compete, and socialize. Essentially, the milieu of social life in today’s world is the city.
In this social Möbius strip, what it means to be a man, his purpose, and place in civilized society is now disoriented or ambiguous, some would say detrimental to the continued march of “progress.” Feminism has led the assault on masculinity in the West. Institutions, particularly in the US, from healthcare, law, and education to Fortune 500 corporations and mass media conglomerates champion female virtues while deriding male ones as the polluted runoff of “toxic masculinity.” “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men” put out by the American Psychological Association (APA) links “Traditional Masculinity” with discrimination and violence. At the same time, technology, social-economic change, and the rise of the welfare (provider) state have also challenged the role of men.
The process of evolution itself comes in fits and starts. A fundamental theme in Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents points to the uneven development in man’s psychical development. It is in the “realm of the mind” where “one portion of an attitude or instinctual impulse has remained unaltered, while another portion has undergone further development.” On the surface, men in the city are noticeably feminized: their capacity for physical strength appears obsolete, the will to dominate the environment is muted, the bluntness of the male character seems softened, and the supremacy of “feelings” over thinking reigns like a despot. However, the primal instincts hard wired inside the male brain lie dormant – eager to be reactivated – a theme we will return to later.
Today, men in the city lurk in the shadows like gauzy apparitions. Metro-feminine men fritter about like androgynous automatons meandering through life without purpose. They are veritable push buttons for their over-accessorized, high-maintenance wives and girlfriends who pull them along like house cats frightened of the outdoors. Ironically, as female power in society has grown and the power of men has receded, studies suggest that female happiness has declined in absolute and relative terms compared to men (See: “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness”). Radical (anti-masculine) feminism may be in part a neurotic rage that erupts from the insecurity of this power inversion.
Today, men in the city lurk in the shadows like gauzy apparitions.
Western men are universally familiar with the Teflon social queues our minds are now trained to respect. Buzzing admonishments to “grow up,” “be nice” or “don’t judge” among other shrill reproaches serve to infantilize men. In this skewed model, women assume the role of adults and men their pubescent, irresponsible underlings. Rather than a complimentary relationship based on mutual respect, radical feminism has created an antagonistic power struggle based on asymmetrical favoritism for women and suspicion of men.
Perhaps the worst offenses of feminist social re-engineering have occurred in the US military where the new focus is on winning “hearts and minds” instead of wars. The rank and file have been reoriented to endless Sexual Assault Victim Awareness (SAVI) briefs, peer leadership pep talks, excessive safety precautions and SOP red tape. In effect, any residue of esprit de corps or Spartan culture that once propelled young men into combat has been sterilized. Today, US forces are paralyzed with dependency and insecurity, especially high up the chain of command where “doing the right thing” is nearly synonymous with doing the wrong thing. As a result, wars are no longer won, they are abandoned.
Another permutation that has upset the male ego is technology. The rapid disintegration of manufacturing jobs recycled at the hands of automation has dealt a serious blow to men at work. In stark contrast to their female counterparts who have seen wages rise, college attendance increase, and corporate leadership climb in the services economy, men have experienced the opposite. Job staples of blue-color masculine living pay less and are shrinking in number compared to office and sales jobs. A good number of men are uninspired by the career paths on offer, so they fail in school and drop out of college to escape. Without question – automation has rendered much of the hands-on factory worker’s role archaic.
Men are less equipped to deal with a world based on “soft” skills. We were not programmed to navigate the passive aggressive world of cube farm politics and as result, feel unfulfilled in corporate life. It is disinterest above all else that deflates male industriousness. Men long for the days when we worked as artisans, machinists, carpenters, artists, inventors, and builders and saw the physical consequences of our hard work come to life. As research has indicated, men are more excited by “things” than people: the design of a rocket, the sound of an engine, the mechanics of space travel, less so by people centric jobs. We are unenthused about manipulating spreadsheets, Power Point slides, and sucking up to the boss to get ahead.
While the elimination of factory work has affected male industriousness, the rise of the welfare state has made matters worse for fatherhood. The explosion of government services that dispense everything from birth-control to breast exams on the government dime has demoted fathers as the head of the family, especially for low income earning men who struggle to provide. Male absenteeism from the family has led to rising out-of-wedlock births and single parent households. Young people raised by one parent (usually by Mom) experience much higher risks of maladjustment and all the downstream impacts that accrue from it: failing in school, long term unemployment, propensity to drug abuse and criminal behavior, higher divorce rates etc.
Still, it is in politics where masculinity has come under the heaviest fire. Women’s issues like equal pay, abortion rights, sexual assault, and Planned Parenthood entitlements are the rallying cries for fulminating Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) who mark men as the object of their derision. According to the “war against women” mantra, men are oppressors and women their innocent victims. SJW justice is swift, categorical, indiscriminate and collective. Any brave individuals (men or women) who object to this treatment are told to “shut-up” and get in line, or face mob attack, just ask Brett Kavanaugh supporters.
Feminism may be at peak power in the public mind today, but it has dominated our social consciousness for decades. Recall the Dirty Harry film The Enforcer (1976), whose central motif was integrating women into the San Francisco police force. The irascible Inspector Harry Callahan finds himself annoyed with his female partner (Kate Moore), less so because of her gender than about her unfair advancement. Later in the plot the Mayor shamelessly awards commendations to rookie Inspector Moore to score political points. Harry nearly resigns in disgust after chiding the police chief with a classic Dirty Harry barb, something about disposing of a six-pointed suppository where the sun don’t shine.
Gender politics has transformed society. The “progressive” Left has converted feminine values like understanding, tolerance, and empathy into a combustible template of victimization. Even the Boy Scouts of America, now the gender neutral “Scouts BSA,” ceased to be a male-only institution in 2019. Any departure from orthodoxy on women’s issues and you are party to white-male-oppression. The dogmatic talking points of political correctness are expressed in a judgmental yet motherly tongue that abhors honesty and demands euphemism or outright lying. Government now operates under the guise of a tyrannical Mommy State, a veritable Helicopter parent that endeavors to police everything we think or do.
Even the Boy Scouts of America, now the gender neutral “Scouts BSA,” ceased to be a male-only institution in 2019.
What are the consequences of this level of gender antagonism? One horrifying measure might be falling birth rates. Western nations along with Japan are egregiously in the red. There are certainly many reasons that could explain this downward trend, but radical feminism has encouraged new social norms that delay and even discourage motherhood as a sole occupation. Competing priorities often means choosing one (career) or the other (children) or choosing less of one (children) and more of the other (career). Like any ecosystem, a falling population is a reliable indicator of trouble and humanity is no exception.
These challenges are daunting and yet suggestive of a new raison d'etre for masculinity in the 21st century. The push for a genderless (“equal”) society has opened the door to profound threats to everyone’s well-being, not just men. Clarion calls to action are beginning to find champions. From the mundane to the grandiose elements of life, men everywhere hunger for leadership to guide them. Now is the time for men in the city to find within themselves a new purpose, a new identity, to restore balance to their lives and to those around them. We must reassert ourselves as the “masters of our fate.” Such is a journey worth starting and a cause worth fighting for, but how?
Men in Revolt
Social movements rarely trace back to precise moments, however, I distinctly remember when the crisis of masculinity first gelled in my mind. It began with the cult classic film Fight Club. The film resonated strongly with me the first time I saw it as an impressionable teenager. It was violent (extremely), grainy, dark, depressing and inspirational at the same time. The movie takes place in an exclusively urban and industrial setting. I vividly remember a dilapidated house, a grungy dive bar, and sterile office spaces where the narrator sleep walks through his days. Sounds dull right?
Then, the film hits you, literally – enter Tyler Durden. Tyler Durden is the reason Fight Club makes such an impact. He is introduced about a third of the way through the film as an eccentric soap salesman. Tyler dresses like a gigolo, he wears women’s sunglasses, offers wild opinions and insights, and makes crude jokes. In short, he is an unapologetic non-conformist. The narrator meets Tyler on a plane right before his condo, like his former self, is blown to bits by a home-made dynamite explosion. With no one to call and no place to go, the narrator pulls Tyler’s business card out and enters Tyler’s world (see video below).
In just a few quotable scenes, Tyler Durden shatters the narrator’s fiber glass encased world view. One line stood out from the rest to my mind when Tyler asks: “How much can you know about yourself if you haven’t been in a fight?”
In this short, punchy sentence, Tyler Durden casts doubt on the narrator’s masculinity. He questions his materialist values and tests his willingness to fight for a belief system. What Tyler is really asking is – What are you willing to fight for?
Fighting became the narrator’s way out of an empty life, and so it was for other men too. As the narrator observes, “We were discovering more and more that we were not alone.” Men flocked to underground fight clubs because they were male only and completely unregulated short of a few basic rules. It was a “safe space” to be unsafe, where men could be men, where they could escape from a litigious, child-locked, and neutered society. I seemed to recognize the message right away, that the modern formula for a good life defined by consumerism and pop-culture was flawed or empty, especially for men.
“We were discovering more and more that we were not alone.”
The film won me over instantly because it seemed to presage a renaissance of masculinity. While Fight Club’s revolt was primarily against consumerism, today’s men are fighting to regain their masculinity, their sense of identity and self-respect. Men are beginning to push back against those who indiscriminately brand them as oppressors, rapists, and brutish retrogrades. The mushy fear of SJW backlash that has stoked male fears is beginning to solidify into hardened resistance the way water molecules transform from liquid into solid blocks of ice. Men are in search of new outlets on the internet, in film, in academia and even in politics to help them reclaim a masculine identity.
While Fight Club’s revolt was primarily against consumerism, today’s men are fighting to regain their masculinity, their sense of identity and self-respect.
The first of many geysers of masculine energy to go off spouted in November 2016. Donald Trump’s acrimonious presidential run changed the rules. In about eighteen months of campaigning, Trump demonstrated that speaking truth to power was the antidote to political correctness. Ironically enough, the “secret sauce” to combating mendacious euphemism was blunt and scurrilous truth. And despite the avalanche of abuse that skewered his family, reputation and brand, Trump’s resilience carried him across the finish line. Whether you love or hate his politics, what is clear is that Trump’s unapologetic offense only strategy worked.
Donald Trump’s presidential win was a teachable moment for men and society. Pundits and polemics alike rather astutely cast Trump as America’s id, a human embodiment of the collective primal instinct activated by the sense of impending danger. The basic themes of his campaign certainly reinforced that idea: he promoted national security, a border wall, and preventing harmful actors from entering the United States. Society – both men and women – seemed to hunger for the masculine energy that fueled Trump’s victory.
Another leading figure in defense of masculinity is Canadian Professor Jordan Peterson. Peterson has risen to fame primarily for his defense of free speech, a feat he accomplished when refusing to use gender neutral pronouns mandated by Canadian law. His lectures on the dangers of identity politics and anti-male feminism made him a YouTube sensation. On YouTube his message resonates strongly with both young men and women. His topics address everything from marriage and morality to the dangers of totalitarianism.
Peterson’s more cerebral approach is the stylistic interior to Trump’s raw horsepower driven muscle car, and perhaps with added torque. In his book 12 Rules for Life, Peterson imparts life lessons to young people about how to improve their lives and better understand the world they inhabit. He stresses the importance of standing up straight, telling the truth, listening to others, and understanding that inequality of outcome has been with us since the beginning of time. “Dominance hierarchies are older than trees,” he writes, a reality we ignore at our own peril.
Like Trump, Peterson’s success has earned him vile descriptors like the “Custodian of the Patriarchy.” According to the New York Times Peterson comes across as ill-tempered and frustrated, he doesn’t smile much, possibly because he is bitter about the coming female-centric world (perhaps they are projecting?). According to progressives or radical feminists, Peterson like Trump is just an old-fashioned misogynist trading on tired shibboleths of male oppression. As we shall see, this is a hackneyed and uninspiring explanation for Trump or Peterson, let alone male behavior. Of course, what these hatchet jobs miss is what Peterson and Trump are really stirring up in young men – the desire to become alpha males, again.
Alphas and Betas
When I think of being an alpha male it reminds me of an ad for Hugo Boss cologne called “The Man of Today.” The commercial (see below) features the statuesque Chris Hemsworth, best known for his role as Marvel Comics superhero Thor. From start to finish the ad shows Hemsworth in constant motion: he wakes up in a minimalist city apartment, dons a suit, grabs a coffee, chats with the barista, listens to a mentor, leads an office meeting, and strides confidently through the city (his kingdom) with the skyline at his back, all in about 60 seconds. The imagery is narrated with a running monologue about masculinity. A few statements stood out to me:
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give”
“Your belongings don’t make you a better man; your behavior does.”
“Integrity is how you behave when there is nothing to be gained.”
“Choose to strive for more.”
“Every hour of every day, be the man of today.”
Male targeted advertising is frequently delivered this way but what does it tell us about modern masculinity? The images, props, settings, and words for Boss Bottled are carefully worded to appeal to the urban male. Consider the verbs stressed: give, make, gained, strive, be. The commercial illustrates concentrated action: the male subject is clean cut, wears tapered clothing, walks with a purposeful pace, engages his subjects with both eyes and squared shoulders, and exudes confidence and sociability to anyone in his sphere. The “Man of Today” may appear as just a marketing ploy, but it represents an enduring archetype of masculinity that persists even in today’s feminized culture.
Boss Bottled resonates with men because it is rooted in the alpha male paradigm. The compulsion to act, dominate your environment, engage your peers, and stride with confidence in front of others can all be observed in chimpanzees, our closest primate cousins. Even more compelling than the fact that 96% of our DNA is shared with chimpanzees is how remarkably close their social behavior is to ours. Professor Frans de Waal, author of Chimpanzee Politics, notes that “entire passages of Machiavelli seem to be directly applicable to chimpanzee behavior.”
What stands out about alpha males in Chimpanzee groups is leadership ability. The alpha is the highest-ranking male because he is the group leader. An alpha demonstrates his social status by walking upright with a Bipedal Swagger, a commanding promenade in which the male stands on two feet to appear taller. He exhibits generosity by showing interest in younger chimps to curry favor with females. The alpha maintains peace within the group (what de Waal calls the “Control Role”); he grants rivals access to females (compromise) and is considerate of everyone in the group (empathy). Mastering these complex social situations allows the alpha to assume and maintain his status, which he does at great risk to his own well-being (courage) since others are constantly jockeying to dethrone him.
The alpha male paradigm reveals that at the core of masculinity is the drive to be a leader. Leadership in human groups does not necessarily imply physical dominance or lording yourself over others. Far deeper than that is the ability to connect with and influence others (friends, family and community). In order to be a leader or an alpha male, men must have a defined identity that empowers and orients them in the world, something that inspires others to follow. Men can accomplish this in basic or grandiose ways: being a good father, excelling at what they do best, creating a company, building a house, or simply telling the truth.
Achievement through self-mastery is essential because it attracts the opposite sex. In the dating world the “Alpha mentality” has been recast as a trendy and nuanced courtship strategy. How to become more alpha is now the subject of innumerable YouTube dating videos, self-help books, and Pick Up Artist (PUA) pep talks designed to help beta males, ostensibly men who lack the ability to attract women. It should be noted that while men in the city are feminizing in certain key respects, an entire cottage industry has arisen to teach them how to be more masculine. What a confusing time for men indeed.
Attraction, Style, and Power
I recently dated a woman who lamented the paucity of “real-men” in the DC area. She works as a highly placed engineer for a large government contracting company, a position where she is surrounded by nerdtrons, a term used to characterize hyper-nerdy, effeminate men. While being a single woman in an office that skews heavily male can be uncomfortable, what passes for office sexual tension is more vaguely humorous and awkward than alarming. At her last office potluck for instance, a nerdtron tried to impress her by baking cookies from scratch – while the cookies were delicious, she said, the gesture less than sexy.
A question virtually all men dwell on (some endlessly) is how to attract women. I embarked on my own journey to puzzle this out in my late twenties. I approached the problem the way a biologist studies an ecosystem. I focused on understanding how men and women think and how they relate to one another. Key to my awakening was the realization that evolution and psychology choregraph the courtship dance. Like the lead-follow of a Tango tanda, men must earn the nod (cabaceo) from a woman to begin the dance – in other words, men must be masculine to attract women who must be feminine to attract men. The mainstreaming of homo-sexuality and trans-genders, among other alternative sexual lifestyles has not diminished but rather strengthened this axiom.
So how does the modern urban man become more masculine? The first step is to reject the basic premise of feminism, namely that men and women are the same. As Judith Harris put it in her must read The Nurture Assumption:
“In every society we know of, the behavior of males and females differs. It differs far more in most societies than our own [United States]. And the pattern of differences is the same all over the world. Males are more likely to be found in positions of power and influence. Females are more likely to be found tending to other people’s needs. Males are the hunters and warriors. Females are the gathers and nurturers.”
In order to become more masculine, men must project power just as our simian ancestors did. Displaying power has as much to do with strength of character as it does strength of income. Plenty of urban metro-feminine men are high-income earners but their power quotient, one might say, is still low. Many of them are insecure, passive aggressive, and entirely lacking in values. They advance their careers by concealing what few real opinions they have, by shameless self-promotion often at the expense of others, and by accommodating poor performers, all standard protocol in today’s corporate climate.
Character figures prominently in this equation. Simply earning a high income is not enough to attract women, a salient fact in the dating world today. Plenty of high earners struggle the most with the opposite sex because they are acutely lacking in masculine power. I have observed this first hand in the technology sector where incomes have been soaring for decades, and women are not exactly swooning. Digital dominance does not translate to real world romance.
Since male identity is so jumbled nowadays, the emergence of sub-cultural styles untethered to masculinity has emerged. One such sub-culture that has become mainstream is called Geek Chic, a style whose staples are T-shirts, horned rimmed glasses, and long-sleeved hoodies; the ensemble of choice by many in the tech sector. Sheldon Cooper of the Big Bang Theory might be the poster child for Geek Chic a la mode. A Men’s Health article described it this way: “Nerdy swag is about ‘making a fashion choice because I really love it, whether or not this is what you think looks good or is normal looking or what should be.’”
What do women think of this new attitude? Well, according to a 2011 Kelton Research nationwide survey called the Well-dressed Man Survey, they expect more. The results of the study concluded that women prized a well-dressed man like a precious metals dealer prizes Gold and Silver; men who dressed better were viewed as more attractive by 85 percent of women. Some women would even forgo food if their husbands and boyfriends dressed better. Wearing fit jeans or slacks, sharply cut shirts and jackets, and most essentially a tailored suite that puffs up your shoulders and tapers your torso remains the ultimate platter of masculine bravura. Such attire is as attractive as ever because it projects an image of power, style and success in a hyper competitive world.
Masculinity is about power projection voiced through character, income, and style, but these actions must be framed in a wholistic social context. Matthew Lieberman addressed this principle tangentially in another thought-provoking read called Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect. Lieberman reminds us that evolution has purposely constructed our brains to “think about other people’s minds, their thoughts, feelings, and goals.” (19) Men can only truly build attraction if we can relate to the feelings and perceptions of others, and a mechanism the brain employs to do so is called mentalizing.
Mentalizing enables us to naturally interpret body language and perceive the intentions of others. As Lieberman explains further, “It is only by synthesizing the complexity of movement into the simplicity of action that any psychological analysis of another’s goals, intentions, desires, and fears can begin.” A real-world application of this principle is body language since someone’s non-verbal communication is a gateway into their psyche and a far more reliable one than the words coming out of their mouth. Next time at your local bar or coffee shop pay keen attention to the body language of the couples around you. Couples in sync mirror each other: both lean in or sit back as if pulled together on a string, shoulders are aligned, and drinks are sipped simultaneously. Couples out of sync resemble a see saw.
Game and Red Pilling
The umbrella term modern men often use when thinking about mentalizing as it applies to dating is Game. In Shakespeare’s parlance it was known as wooing, a slightly less pejorative term. Cervantes’ infamous character Lothario is perhaps the epitome of Game and its negative connotation. Cervantes brought the character to life as a cautionary tale about a suspecting husband who recruits the seductive Lothario to carry out a scheme of entrapment against his wife. The short vignette ends rather predictably in heart break and infidelity. The name caught on because Lothario’s tactics for attracting females – while infamous for misdirection and cunning – once again draw upon the timeless tit-for-tat of the genders.
Game is a mechanism that informs men how to attract females by adapting archetypal masculine core competencies to the modern world. Understanding Game within this context is the main theme of Rollo Tomassi’s cult favorite The Rational Male. He defines Game as “a series of behavioral modifications to life skills based on psychological and sociological principles to facilitate intersexual relations between genders.” “Behaviors” in this case roughly translate to actions that a man takes to realize his potential in life and therefore attract the right kind of woman.
Game is a mechanism that informs men how to attract females by adapting archetypal masculine core competencies to the modern world.
Tomassi views Game as a kind of defense mechanism designed to help men contend with new societal dating challenges. It is a “logical social reaction to the women that the past 60+ years of feminism, social feminization and feminine primacy has created for the men of today.” The ebb of masculinity and flow of feminism is forcing a re-invention of courtship tactics (Game) to negotiate 21st century obstacles. As biological entities inclined to adaption, such a shift in male behavior vis-à-vis females are predictable, especially since men are so lacking in guidance.
It’s true, today’s iteration of Game can unquestionably encourage a slightly sinister posture towards the opposite sex. “Negging” for example is a method deployed to reduce the self-esteem of an attractive woman by insulting her. Other tactics can involve elaborate routines of manipulation sometimes called a “set” or “frame.” Perhaps the embodiment of Game in its malicious form is Californication’s Lothario – Hank Moody. The entire show graphically details Moody’s irresponsible sexual conquests, which he accomplishes through lewd wit, objectification, drug abuse, and all forms of hedonistic behavior. Hank Moody possesses an uncanny ability to generate rapport with women (see below), mostly by appealing to their baser instincts and exploiting their emotional vulnerabilities.
But Game is less about attracting women than a way to help men see the truth behind how male-female interactions actually work, what some call Red Pilling. Richard Cooper, who is a 40 something self-described entrepreneur makes this goal explicit on his YouTube channel, Entrepreneurs in Cars. While driving on the highway he offers men life lessons on everything from texting and dating younger women to insights on the types of women to avoid or how to exit from a bad marriage. He stresses the principle of Hypergamy for instance, the tendency of women to marry across and up their Sexual Marketplace Value (SMV). Cooper says repeatedly to men, “don’t chase women, chase success.”
The red pill message is about male empowerment, making men the “best version of themselves” in Cooper’s terms. Men need guidance and a truth-based world view to help them date, build careers, be good fathers, improve their moral character, and lead society. Since the rise of radical feminism men have been left in a cultural-spiritual vacuum with little knowledge of themselves or the world around them. What little values they have been taught make them more feminine, oriented towards consensus rather than individualism, indirectness rather than courage, and a tactful aversion to the truth for fear of social rebuke and isolation.
To break the spell of male delusion and disempowerment men have looked to each other. Useful guides for people enduring personal crisis are often found in underground places, in this case the virtual underground. Men have retreated into an immersive “Manosphere" – an online complex of YouTubers, bloggers, and other resources where men can interact and influence one another, share experiences – to learn about the world under the radar of society’s anti-male sentiments. Given rising suicide rates, an opioid epidemic, mounting joblessness, 50/50 odds of a failed marriage, the MeToo movement, and massive social rancor directed towards them, there is a lot to discuss.
An extreme offshoot of the Manosphere is a new movement called MGTOW – Men Going Their Own Way. MGTOWs openly reject the idea of monogamous or marital relationships with women and operates under suspicion, often hostility toward the opposite sex. It is hard to overstate how big MGTOW has become except to say that it represents deep rooted and worsening problems in the male psyche. These men, some of them embittered by scalding divorces, others irritated by radical feminism, still others with poor dating experiences have all concluded that there is no alternative but to eject from society.
Mainstream media like Vice for example misdiagnose MGTOW as a throng of sad or insecure fellows unhappy about the ascension of women in society. Such glib analysis misses the fact that urban men on the other side of the world in places where radical feminism is hardly ascending are facing a crisis as well. In Japan for example, so-called “herbivore men” (soushoku danshi) are apparently uninterested in pursuing women or much else in favor of sex dolls and bukkake porn. Well to do Chinese girls in cities like Shanghai are dating virtual (as in not real) boyfriends who leave them fake voice messages on apps like “Love and Producer.” I guess the men around them are not as interesting. Marriage rates in China have fallen by 30 percent in the last 5 years.
The real crisis of masculinity is one of belief, something largely ignored by public intellectuals, the academic community, and mainstream thought. In his important book Denial of Death, Ernest Becker conveyed the seriousness of this crisis over 40 years ago:
“The crisis of modern society is precisely that the youth no longer feel heroic in the plan for action that their culture has set up. They don’t believe it is empirically true to the problems of their lives and times. We are living a crisis of heroism that reaches into every aspect of our social life.”
If you replace the words “society” with masculinity and “youth” with young men, understanding our current predicament becomes clearer. Today’s Soy Boys, MGTOWs and Incels (Involuntary Celibacy) among other groups are not sporting a hip new lifestyle or jumping on a bandwagon as much as giving up on a culture that no longer offers them a compelling story. Indeed, they are less than thrilled with a plot twist that paints them as antagonists by default.
MGTOW is less a reaction against feminism than a rejection of what modern society is becoming. There is a shrinking space in urban life for men to be men (Sports and video games being a couple obvious places, and these are not enough). Fight Club struck a chord because consumerism and corporate culture are increasingly controlling our lives. What do young men have to look forward to anymore: Closely monitored recess? Endless classroom worksheets? The office holiday party? The next company potluck? The corner office? The Black Friday sale? Playing hours of Fornite? Monday Night Football? What about the thousand swipe rights that lead to a shallow tinder date and meaningless sex? What about community – what community exists exclusively for men today? Answer – none.
The activities above are empty calories for men. They are like spiritual Cheetos, enough to get you through the night but leaving your stomach empty and upset by morning. The bureaucratization of life lacks any thrill or trial, or freedom to act, be aggressive, tell the truth, or shake up the status quo. MGTOW is not the answer, it is Novocain to numb the pain. What is missing for men is a cultural-spiritual cause or mission to define our lives and societies blessing to execute it.
The most popular films of the last two decades are from the superhero genres. I remember one of the earliest films that kicked off the fad – Spider-Man starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker. I saw it in the theater with a couple of my high school friends. The enthusiasm for the film struck me when it came out because I was never all that enamored of comic books or superheroes as a kid. The audience was overwhelmingly young men, some of whom wore costumes for the occasion and at the film conclusion there was a standing ovation. Spider-Man was like sustenance for a famished generation of men.
The movie came with the perfunctory explosions and CGI, but it also offered a compelling hero character arc. Looking back twenty years later, what is clear is that all the key ingredients for masculinity were there: Peter experiences the awkwardness of adolescence, the wrath
of a bully, and the rejection of authority that most young men exhibit ahead of maturity. He also sees the consequences of his irresponsible actions or inaction, accepts his weird but unique abilities, fights the jock who torments him, and wins the heart of the woman he loves. Above all, Peter comes to embody an ideal passed onto him from his Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Equipped with this transcendent value Peter Parker becomes Spider-man.
Masculinity demands that men become two things, both man and ideal. We must be both Peter Parker and Spiderman, the Dark Knight and Bruce Wayne, 007 and James Bond, Tyler Durden and well, Tyler Durden. You might say that modern men in the city must be part well-adjusted urban dweller and part vigilante hero, part husband to wife and part king to queen, part sleekly attired and ruggedly tough, you get the idea. Feminism, urbanization, political correctness, bureaucracy, maybe technology itself are choking off circulation to the inner hero ego necessary to sustain the male psyche.
A troubled masculine spirit can only be mended by a Neo Masculinity, a mass movement that empowers the inner Übermensch laying dormant inside every man’s consciousness
A troubled masculine spirit can only be mended by a Neo Masculinity, a mass movement that empowers the inner Übermensch laying dormant inside every man’s consciousness. The 21st century augurs profound global transformation ahead, which will unleash financial chaos, political upheaval, technological change, and eventually anarchy in the streets as legacy structures crumble. Overcoming these challenges to build a reformed world is the mission for men in the city. The cause we are fighting for is restoration, to restore men as the standard bearers for moral truth, the “tender protectors” and dark knights that society so desperately needs.
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