As part of the filming process for The Sarkeesian Effect, Jordan Owen and I attended the Kennesaw State University’s Men’s conference, Male Students in Peril, in November—and to be honest, I was mildly skeptical going in.
The split between the manosphere and the Men’s Human Rights Movement (MHRM) occurred several years ago, and while I haven’t held the same level of vitriol for A Voice for Men (AVfM) as others within the manosphere, I’ve remained generally skeptical. I’ve been supportive of them in our mutual fight against the social justice/feminist left, but for the most part I haven’t been keeping up on their activities.
After what I saw at the Male Students in Peril conference, I should have been.
Before we get into that, however, it’s worth revisiting where this split came from—not to rehash the past but to re-examine it through the eyes of a historian.
Aurini and Elam
The manosphere and the MHRM come from the same place: they’re both reactions to present-day misandry. Over the past 50 years, we’ve completely reordered our society, throwing out the basic rules that regulated (i.e., made regular) interactions between the sexes (rules that served humanity well for millennia) and replacing them with a corporate/democratic “equality” in which we’re all equal cogs in the machine … only some cogs are more equal than others. The marriage contract has been defanged while alimony law has been beefed up. Schools have become more “inclusive,” which in practice means that they’ve become more female-oriented, punishing boys for acting like boys. The workplace has embraced “equality,” the result of which has been ambiguous HR standards meant to protect the feelings of the weaker sex. The myth of the “patriarchy” is pushed (a supposed society in which men conspired to oppress women), justifying a tilted playing field in favour of women.
The result of all of this has been a world that despises men who fail while castigating those who succeed. It’s a world that has excised the masculine role.
It should go without saying that this has harmed women as well. Despite what the Marxists believe, there is no “gender war.” Both sexes are in it together: when one of them suffers, the other does as well. Modern women are discovering just how exhausting it is, being chained to a desk, that those sexy bad boys their grandmothers tried to warn them about really are a poor choice for baby-daddies, and that the “patriarchy” they smashed was made up of their fathers, brothers, and sons.
Unfortunately, it’s still a rare woman who recognizes this. The majority are too inculcated into the Marxist “gender war” theory of patriarchy, too addicted to the easy money of corporate slavery, and harbour a misplaced anger against all men for the actions of the minority who’ve abused them (the sexy bad boys they picked over the “nice guys” that their grandmothers would have approved of).
These problems have been apparent, and worsening, since at least the 1970s, but for a long time the mainstream media managed to keep a lid on things by representing the exception as the norm: the abusive husband as the culprit behind rising divorce rates, the sexist bosses who refused to promote their brilliant female intern, etc. The innocent men who were swept up in the system believed that they were the exception, that they’d just fallen between the cracks, that the dominant narrative was an accurate representation of reality.
All of that changed with the Internet.
While women are expected to be the cheerful sex, men are expected to be the stoic one. It’s not in our nature to complain about our lot in life; we’re supposed to be the fixers, not the excuse-makers. Give us anonymity, however, and we’re willing to open up. That’s when we started comparing notes and realizing just how heavily slanted the system was against us.
This was the primordial sea from which both the MHRM and the manosphere emerged: comparing notes, learning that we weren’t crazy, researching accurate statistics, and throwing out the mainstream narrative. At first both movements seemed to be moving in lockstep, but in mid-2012 the split happened.
If you ask most denizens of the manosphere, they’ll describe AVfM as nothing more than “feminism for men.” The MHRM, meanwhile, would probably describe the manosphere as “nothing but a bunch of guys trying to get laid.” These are both gross mischaracterizations.
Part of the reason for this confusion is that at the time of the split AVfM was overrun by leftist/Marxist entryists, individuals claiming to support the movement who were ultimately trying to co-opt it into the same destructive system that we have already: men versus women, Blacks versus Whites, rich versus poor, all while the “enlightened” elite sit above it all and pass legislation for “our own good.” But there was more to it than just that; even after these entryists were dealt with, there were still some fundamental differences.
The manosphere is a group of radical individualists. We study the principles of masculine virtue, we search out old tomes full of forgotten wisdom, we reject movements and organizations because we don’t need to belong to an army to justify our existence—we only need to become better men.
The MHRM, on the other hand, is an army; it’s a guerrilla force.
On the surface, it shares similarities to the mass-movement “Human Wave Attack “organizational chart of the social justice warriors—”Sign here, pick up your slogan, stop all rational thought, and obey, obey, obey!”—but that’s only a cover. Scratch the surface, fellows: Paul Elam’s gone fourth-generational. It might look like a lobby group, but that’s just what he wants you to think. What he’s actually doing is changing the narrative.
The MHRM is acting as a lobby group to undermine lobby groups. They’re demanding equality so as to destroy what the left means when they say equality. They’re occupying enemy territory to salt the earth.
The MHRM and the manosphere are fundamentally different but not antithetical. The break was inevitable, necessary even. One side became a guerrilla force, the other a bunch of lone snipers. The tactics we employ are utterly different and incompatible, but our enemies and our end goals are identical (or close enough as to make no difference).
Elam’s done a sneaky thing: he’s actually managed to turn the weapons of leftism back onto the left. That’s one helluva fait accompli. And if Sage Gerard is any indication, this force is highly trained: he had a group of feminists begging to join his side at the conference!
This isn’t to say that I expect you to like it over there; we’re the snipers, after all. We speak hard and blunt, we have no interest in building communities, and any softness or sensitivity is grounds for the Banhammer. Elam’s camp is a little too “civilized” for our tastes: it’s apolitical, eco-friendly, and he even lets women in!
But there’s method to his apparent madness. Snipers can take out high-value targets, but they’re ineffective against swarms; with guerrillas, it’s the opposite.
So before you dismiss the MHRM as nothing but “feminism for men,” take a closer look; there are some interesting currents stirring beneath the surface…