Okay, so an online friend of mine was spitting mad after reading this recent effort on the part of I can only assume to be a traditionalist woman, in trying to figure out what the heck is wrong with men these days. As so many traditionalists and feminists before her, she missed the mark by a freaking mile, even though she did dance dangerously close (within 100 miles or so) of a few of the core issues that currently discourage men from being good little married drones like they're supposed to be, dammit.
Despite being critical of feminist attitudes that she rightly sees as anti-male, the article was absurdly gynocentric. It was very much about what women want, and there was a lot of expectation that men *should* do what women want when they want it--that is, get married and have babies on HER schedule as decided by her. One has to wonder if she even bothered to ask any actual unmarried males WHY they are refusing or not bothering to "man up" before writing her article.
But as I said, it did at least poke at the surface of the festering boil that is the systemic nature of "the problem", even if it didn't give it the lancing it truly deserved. Her conclusion was "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? And why get a good job when women are so independent they can just give the milk away for nothing?" Both are backhanded criticisms of women's behavior (yay, for someone brave enough to blame women for their own troubles), but they fall far short of any sort of true examination of the issues.
So I'm going to give it the old college try, and give a bit of an overview of what I believe has become a multifaceted problem.
A recent examination from Heartiste said a very great deal, and with some serious literary flair (pearls of wisdom from that pit of social nihilism that is the pick-up artist community). I'm just going to quote some of the relevant bits and leave a link to the article below:
And let’s not forget that economically empowered and government-assisted women, slaves to their hypergamous impulse for higher status mates than themselves, can’t help but winnow the pool of men deemed acceptable marriage material. When women say “there are no good men left”, what the astute observer hears is “there are no good men left thanks to a combination of my increased expectations and decreased attractiveness.”
He goes on to say:
to the factory-farmed ivory tower sociologists studying marriage trends and turning out paper after paper of half-assed hogwash: there’s a whole other world out there. It’s the world of men, and in that world, men’s desires matter. You should think about incorporating that ugly reality into your theories.
Hey, Heartiste--why don't you tell us how you really feel. As blistering as that little snippet was, it raises some very important points, I think the most important of which is that MEN'S DESIRES MATTER. When men cannot find women THEY desire who are willing to partner with them, why would they partner?
And I think it's important to note that the reality of divorce and family law in our culture plays a HUGE part in men's growing contempt for marriage as an institution. It's not that men are commitment-phobes. It's that women seem increasingly commitment-incompatible. The word "commitment" has in fact, in female parlance, come to mean, "up until the moment I'm no longer 100% satisfied with the person I married". And that attitude is only going to lead to more and more divorces as more and more successful women effectively set their sights higher than they reasonably should while their youth and attractiveness wanes, leading to a growing number of them feeling like they settled even if they didn't--even if they scored someone 2 points above them on the overall attractiveness scale.
And oddly enough, no one, least of all women, seem to really give a shit what MEN desire in a partner. Why can't men just be happy with what's available? Well, let's look at what's available to the *average* man in his 30s: a 35 year old woman who hollers yes over the jangling of her biological clock while unable to keep the grimace from her face because he's a bigger loser than the 5 guys she dumped in her 20s and now she has to settle, a divorcee who's already financially annihilated and emotionally crippled at least one man, and a single mother who's collecting reams of child support from one poor schmuck while her other baby daddy manages to duck his obligations because he's a drug dealer and his income's off the books.
And yes, I'm exaggerating, but you see my point.
And no, not all women are like that. But frankly, the consensus among today's women seems to be that this state of affairs is the new normal, and even responsible women will often frame such destructive choices on the part of other women as somehow valid and defensible. The sentiment in the mainstream is that men should just man up and go along with Pairing Up 2.0: Who Cares What Men Want?, that essentially, a given woman's behavior and life choices should have no effect on whether she is able to attract a good, reliable man...this does not speak well of the principles of even those women who are more well-situated. In fact, I think it's safe to say that the fewer female voices of reason there are out there the more men are likely to wash their hands of the entire idea of partnering.
But I honestly think it goes deeper than even the baggage the average unattached woman now carries, or the danger of ending up an emotionally and financially devastated statistic with "generous" every-other-weekend access to one's children that is keeping men from "manning up".
I've been thinking of the White Feather Girls. For those who don't know, it was a group of young women in the UK during WWI who bestowed a white feather of cowardice on any man they saw in civilian clothes, to shame them into enlisting.
And when I consider how vulnerable so many men were to those kinds of shaming tactics, vulnerable enough to enlist in a war that killed 10 million to preserve their manhood in the eyes of women they'd never met, I simply can't believe that it's only the risks of marriage, as onerous as they are, that have rendered men impervious to the kinds of shaming tactics employed by traditionalists and feminists who seem increasingly desperate to strong-arm men into their old roles.
I think at the very core of it, it's about a positive male identity. Male identity almost always revolves around doing, rather than being. Most of that doing has always revolved around being of use in a uniquely male context. Most of men's usefulness through history has derived from learning "male" skills and performing them well, embodying a male role in the service of women or society. In the more turbulent past, those roles needed to perform a valuable service to women or the community that women could not--or should not be expected to--perform for themselves.
This is the most common path to a positive male identity BECAUSE MEN LACK A MECHANISM FOR AUTOMATIC OWN-GROUP PREFERENCE. Simply put, they do not relate to other men automatically, just because they're men.
Women have this bias, which provides them a natural ability to form cooperatives, relate to other women, and seek consensus though their strong mechanism for own-group preference based on gender alone. Given their gender roles through most of human history, this mechanism makes sense. Their individual value as, to put it bluntly, breeders, meant that in a survivalist environment, you didn't throw a woman on the trash pile without a pressing reason. Adjustments were made when possible to keep as many women as you could within the sisterhood. This is where you find a ton of attention in female spaces given to things like "tone" and "being nice" and "getting along" even when there are disagreements. It's all about comfort level and feelings of acceptance.
Men, however, lack the hardwiring to form a preference for maleness based merely on maleness. And that only makes sense when you think about men's roles for the last couple million years or so--roles that involved things like beating the guys down the valley to a pulp when they threatened his women and children, and competing against other males within his community for a shot at the mating game. Given those roles, automatically siding with one's own gender over the other is...well, it just doesn't work.
And it's not that men cannot manifest a form of own-group preference, it's just that when own-group preference manifests in males, it can't be based on maleness alone. There must be a common purpose, a common set of ideals, a common duty or cause, a common doing or a common position in the status hierarchy.
Men can indeed identify with each other and be team players among other men--you see it in churches, military units, fraternities, sports teams and even sports fans, political parties, movements, project teams. While they will often form hierarchies within those contexts, those realms can be sources of a sense of loyalty and brotherhood among men.
The myth among feminists that men will insult each other for displaying feminine traits because they see women as inferior is just that--a myth. Men do this because women have a trump card that bestows intrinsic value on them--their uteruses--and they retain that value even when they gender-bend a little. A woman who acts like a woman is not seen as inferior. A man who acts like a woman has always been seen not as a woman, but as a "woman without a womb". He has no female value, and he has no male value. Therefore, he has NO value at all. And unlike women, men who were not "useful" did--and still do--get thrown on the trash heap of society.
In the currency of reproduction, an ovum goes for a thousand bucks, a uterus is worth a cool mill, and an ejaculation about 10 cents. To be acceptable mating material, and worth keeping around, a man had to do more than generate sperm. And when the only thing keeping you from becoming completely disposable as an individual lies in differentiating yourself from the feminine, well, guys gonna enforce that shit.
This is why men have always tended to define themselves by their roles. Father, husband, working man, soldier, career man, family man, middle class man, politician, activist, etc...in other words, roles to exist in which allow them to relate to other men who also occupy those roles, and to derive a positive and meaningful identity from performing their masculinity through those roles.
And I think this may be why suicide rates for men skyrocket after divorce--you have not just taken away his kids, his wife, his assets and a chunk of his income. You've effectively stripped him of a huge part of the male identity he's built around himself.
So I'm thinking that for most men, forming a positive male identity in relation to other males requires a couple of things--a male role that is differentiated from the female one (or at the very least, a male-oriented environment) and, well, positivity.
Men used to be able to derive a positive male identity from marriage. That is, through the respected and uniquely male role of husband and father. When that identity is increasingly characterized by society as superfluous, obsolete, or in the words of Harriet Harman, unnecessary to social cohesion, it is no longer a way for a man to defer his disposability, is it? Moreover, when that identity can be unilaterally stripped from him on the whim of the increasingly fickle and hard to please female even when he does everything right, marriage ceases to be a positive way for men to define themselves as men. It becomes a way for men to define themselves as chumps and idiots, and who wants to define themselves that way? Moreover, from sitcoms to romcoms to TV commercials, to billboard ads, the role of husband/father is increasingly one of playing the incompetent buffoon to sassy, smart, together wife or even child. In the mass media there is nothing noble or respectable about husbandhood or fatherhood anymore. Further, when the roles within marriage become virtually indistinguishable and interchangeable, a man's role becomes less and less...well, uniquely male. It's just a role. It can be a path to meaning and fulfilment (if he's lucky), and it may be something he desires to do and become, but it's not necessarily a path to defining himself AS A MAN.
So we can scratch that one off the list--even for men who've been living under a rock when it comes to divorce law. Marriage and children no longer offer a reliable path to a positive male identity. It is no longer positive, nor is it significantly differentiated from the feminine.
The workplace is yet another milieu that has largely lost its maleness. And that's not to say that women ruined everything. It is not so much the presence of women but rather the alterations in environment and interaction many women demand when they want to engage the world through the paid workforce. A male space that leads to a positive male identity need not be free of women, but it still needs to be male--men need an environment that suits their psychology, not one in which they must be metaphorically castrated in order to steer clear of trouble with HR. And I'm not even talking about vulgarity or expressions of sexuality, but aggression, ambition, ribbing, competition, passion, authority, and plain speech--all of these are often discouraged when women are present, in order to spare feelings and prevent discomfort. Outspokenness is replaced with drawing room rules of discourse and ingenuity with protocol, all of which render a feminized workplace, though tolerable to men, no longer a path to a positive MALE identity.
Because it is no longer a male space, and no longer appeals to the psychology of men, the workplace has become a ladder fewer men feel driven to climb in order to construct their identities. Combine this with the fact that we handicap men through quotas and affirmative action for women, well... a large number of men are not only becoming disenchanted with the expectation to perform in an environment that does not feed their natures and has set them up to fail--in the absence of those uniquely male-centered psychological rewards and motivators, a growing number are finally opening their eyes and waking up to the negative aspects of wage-slavery. And that is a pill that, once taken, cannot be unswallowed.
In every space males congregate where women have elbowed their way in and demanded changes, you seem to find large numbers of men giving ground and eventually losing their drive to perform there. And again, I don't think it's the presence of women that does this--it's the enforced necessity to change one's behavior in order to maintain a proper decorum around them, and the changes in how those places function that women often demand. It's the expectation that the environment and the men in it adjust to suit women's needs, rather than expecting women to adjust themselves to the environment.
A few bastions of maleness remain, places where women are often welcome right up until they begin to demand the environment change to suit them, at which point the male protests begin. Hell, you can even see this tolerance on the part of men when women sneak into the men's room when the line-up is too long for the women's bathroom. It's all good unless she takes offence at men behaving the way men do in a restroom by farting and pissing in her presence.
So where are men retreating to? The internet, and the few men's spaces that have not tailored their rules of conduct to suit women's easily offended natures and need for comfort. The MRM, where a common set of ideals and values bonds the community and allows them to define their maleness irrespective of society's or women's approval. A place where words and ideas are more important than the tone or the smiles that may or may not lie behind them.
The hierarchy and uniquely male objectives of the pick-up artist community, where competition and scorekeeping are indeed still allowed, where there are men for others to admire or to mentor, and where they thumb their noses at what women say they want. Society wasn't working for them, so they invented their own society and they're running with by their own rules.
Video games and related forums. Online venues where refusals to police speech are deemed misogyny and the men there don't give much of a fuck.
Men going their own way, who've taken a stand based on a realistic assessment of what's in it for them, and maintain their self-respect not by complying with society's expectations but by disregarding them.
Beer and buddies, hook-up culture, and part time jobs men tolerate but don't care about.
Gynocentrism--the manginas and white knights who supplicate and pander to the feminine even when it's ugly or amoral, differentiating themselves from the feminine through their blind worship of it.
And why? Because all of the "approved" paths to a positive male identity, the paths society both endorses and depends on, are gone. And even when men don't consciously realize this, they know it somewhere in the backs of their brains. Men have always worked and sacrificed and sweated and bled if they were rewarded with a means through which to see themselves as worthy of respect. But when every role society wants to cram you into is no longer a way to respect yourself, then it's time to throw those roles away.
And one thing the apexuals at the top, like Bill Bennett and Obama, feminists like Kaye Hymowitz and Katie Roiphe, and traditionalists like Suzanne Venker, will never realize is that using shame to try to coerce men to do what is expected of them isn't going to work this time, because while it's possible to shame a man into giving his life for his country if there's a promise of respect in it, it's impossible to shame someone into working his ass off and risking his future just for the joy of looking in the mirror and seeing Homer Simpson or Ray Barone looking back at him.
When the cost of society's approval is the self-respect you derive from a positive identity, it ceases to be worth it to a lot of men.