A roomful of what? ICMI, London, 2018, day 1

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Given feminism’s “toxic masculinity” narrative, you’d think even a feminist writer from a progressive publication would have taken an interest in Darren Deojee‘s talk on Positive Masculinity: Standing on the shoulders of giants. Perhaps the sticking point was the nonfeminist tone, beginning with the lament that men are growing up terrified of their masculinity, have fallen behind women in terms of rights and social acceptance, and that the sexes need to work together again.

Mr. Deojee asked the audience, “How can we trust a logic that allows people to be judged by the deeds of others?” This is the environment men face; collective guilt, the myth of a nefarious patriarchy, and the attacks masculinity has suffered. Even men’s clothing, with status demonstrated by stifling cuffs and collars (white, blue, etc.) The meaning of masculinity, he explained is found not in safe spaces, but “at the edge where it is not safe, facing the teeth of the night.”  He went on to describe the need for space and support for developing skill with one’s emotions just as children are given when developing manual dexterity during infancy.

Was Darren Deojee’s idea of boys and men developing the ability to take charge of their masculinity, to create change, to temper what is brittle and unpredictable about masculinity into a useful edge too much in conflict with feminist narratives? Perhaps, as he did go on to lament what he referred to as the “Cosmo man,” a man characterized by doing what he thinks women want, according to what women say. Women want masculine men, but they want to tame them. In the end, they end up breaking them.

He went on to point out that the spirit of masculinity manifests in men, when tested, striving to make things safer and easier for the next person crafting what is needed to achieve that, mean our ancestors are in everything we have, from old laws to tools and structures we use to protect ourselves from the horrors they faced, and from which they learned. Feminism, he said, “wears those masculine gifts like a robo-suit, using gifts of masculinity to wage war on men.” His final challenge to the listener: “What are the men of today going to add? Find your temper. Move when the charge is live.”

Following this was Professor Eric Anderson, speaking on A nonfeminist approach to Masculinities. Mr. Anderson, coming from a feminist-dominated academic setting and a history of fighting homophobic violence, challenged the audience with the position that homophobia has been made a means of proving heterosexuality in our society, and that younger men (millennials)  are moving away from identifying as masculine.

He went on to describe the concept “Inclusive masculinity theory,” the idea that the “stratification of men” (social ranking) is related to homophbia and as homophobia dies, so does stratification, with modern men not considered popular unless they maintain “genuine friendships with a variety of types of men.”

On the gender politics front, he pointed out that his feminist training didn’t teach him about men’s issues, nor did he learn about ways in which women’s behavior doesn’t match feminist narratives. He gave the example of the gender paradox, a phenomenon of women being more likely to go into STEMM professions in countries that don’t interfere with their choices than in those that push women in. These egregious exclusions are due, he explained, to academic gatekeeping by feminists like Michael Kimmel. These gatekeepers prevent publication of that which contradicts the narrative, with no-platforming, and the use of the micro-aggression narrative, safe spaces, and trigger warnings to kill intellectual discourse. However, as feminism self-destructs and the internet expands the availability of platforms, that gate is opening to a wider variety of schools of thought.

Out of all of the speakers, Eric Anderson’s speech met with the most pushback from the audience, in their questions and their responses to his points. One of the most challenged was the idea that feminism’s demonization of the men’s rights movement could be countered by relabeling ourselves to something harder to oppose, like “gender equality,” the way the LGBT movement relabeled “homosexual” to “gay.” Veterans of the movement, many of whom wear the label “MRA” because it was slapped onto us as a slur by feminists who found it easier to label and shame than to challenge our ideas, bristled at the idea, but it and the points on masculine identity led to quite a bit of discussion among attendees.

Mr. Anderson’s stimulation of discussion also didn’t make the cut for Ms. Whyte’s article. Perhaps she didn’t want to highlight the group’s willingness to discuss ideas, even when we don’t see eye to eye with their presenter on their nature.

She did, however, mention Paul Elam, the next speaker, whose talk “The men’s movement: Personal and political” was delivered by video as he was unable to attend. One quote made it into the post, sandwiched between bits of unfounded anti-MRA-narrative to poison the well, proving the point with which Paul actually started: The men’s movement is demonized. We must not expect a watershed victory, or an end to gynocentrism. Don’t expect the world to suddenly start caring about men’s vulnerability out of hand.

Instead, he pointed out, (unmentioned, of course, in Whyte’s article) that our safety is in being tough enough to deal with tough issues – in our spines. The men’s rights movement, he explained, offers men “a clear path away from personal destruction,” and “the greatest majority of men’s issues can be addressed by their personal choices.”

That didn’t make it into Whyte’s article, either. Perhaps she didn’t like what came after it: Hard truths about the cancerous nature of modern marriage, and the financial threat divorce represents in a society that as Paul explained, “socializes women to be mercenary.” He cited MGTOW as “the largest, most functional part of the men’s movement,” one that is moving away from the norm of volunteering to potentially be the next victim of a predatory divorcing wife. He explained that the path to winning the gender war is in taking responsibility for one’s own decisions, MGTOW being one example – not as an attack on marriage, but as a response to its current state, warped by family court and modern traditionalist conservatives into an attack on men.

He continued by pointing out that populist movements present a chance to gut feminism’s funding, something gynocentric Republicans have failed to do even in response to their attacks on the family structure, and the left hasn’t even tried, as the feminist movement and the left go hand in hand.

He admonished the movement to encourage men and boys to view their intrinsic worth, to smash the gynocentric pedestal, and to keep reminding the world that men are human beings.

Paul’s speech was followed by a video of Mike Buchanan presenting him, long-distance, with the National Coalition For Men’s Winston Churchill award, and Paul’s response that this is one of the greatest honors of his life, and his expression of gratitude for the award.

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