Men: The Fucked-Up Manhood
Following Andrew Tate’s arrest and nemesis (or so we hope), a lot has been said and written about the type of man he is, his appalling views of mental health, manhood, and, above all, women. A lot has been said and written, too, as to why he would appeal to what seems to be a growing generation of men and boys. Why would such a guy be so influential?
Some -mostly men themselves- have blamed a growing sense of alienation being experienced by more and more boys, leaving them bereft of positive male role models while in a cultural vacuum mostly unconcerned about their issues. Others -mostly women identifying as feminists- have argued, on the contrary, that his misogyny is but 'a norm', that the average man does in fact believes what he does, and that even teenage boys are but entitled patriarchs feeling threatened by feminist advance.
Which is it?
I am a man myself. I am a father too, raising two teenage sons and a daughter. I am, also, an immigrant, having been leaving in the UK for the past 17 years but being originally from France, a country where both the idea of what makes someone successful, and, relationships between gender, aren't quite the same. From my vantage point, then, I see the success of men like Tate from a different angle.
We tend to forget it, but Andrew Tate first came to prominence as a successful and wealthy athlete, whose message was, for long, centred around how to make a shitload of money besides glorifying the consumerist lifestyle that comes with it. He is, after all, a keen collector of sports cars.
Shallow? Perhaps. Whatever you think of such vulgar materialism and money-grabbing mindset, though, is irrelevant. In a corporate, capitalistic society that has been encouraging even indecent levels of profit making and greed (regardless of the terrible cost both for society and the environment) over humanistic and empathetic ethos, the fact remains that his idea of what makes someone 'successful' taps right at the core of a zeitgeist, and so can only resonate with those growing in it -our children.
That such mindset would be more attractive to boys than girls shouldn’t surprise us either, since financial success and independence has always been (historically at least) expected more from men than it has of women. Lewis Howes, writing in ‘The Mask of Masculinity’, called it ‘the Material Mask’ that is, the idea that what we earn and what we own define us, besides providing a sense of self-worth and fulfilment. Andrew Tate, then, being, as he is, the pure product of our consumerist, selfish society where greed has been hailed as a good thing, has fully internalised such expectations.... only to reflect them back to us.
'his idea of what makes someone 'successful' taps right at the core of a zeitgeist...'
But wealth, money-grabbing, and the flashy lifestyle that comes with it are not the only layer to Tate's success. What else?
What's striking with such a man is his intellectual shallowness, wrapped up within a craving for fame and a weaponizing of social medias to serve an egotism bordering on the narcissism. Here’s a guy, after all, far more concerned about his look than about character (as if manhood was solely about getting a ripped six-pack). Here's a guy, also, who had gained more public attention following his appearance on Big Brother, a reality TV show where the most idiotic, even, vulgar behaviours are proudly displayed as objects of entertainment to be adulated. And who is Tate indeed, but a vulgar and not very clever man himself?
Now, this is certainly not to say that our shallow culture where people can easily be objectified (let alone happily be objectifying themselves) is feeding hatred. Andrew Tate, after all, was kicked out of Big Brother for his treatment of a woman, further proving, if need be (and contrary to what many a feminist would like us to believe) that misogyny is everything but 'normalised' in our society, including when it comes to the trashiest of our popular trash. This is to say, in fact, that the glorification of shallowness can only come at a price: the death of substance. Yet substance, when it comes to 'be a man', matters, and it matters a great deal.
'who is Tate indeed, but a vulgar and not very clever man himself?'
Andrew Tate didn’t appear in a cultural vacuum. He is, in fact, surfing the so-called ‘pick-up artists’ wave that is, men being concerned about seducing and fucking as much women as they can get, since they think that sexual conquests are what define manhood. Far more concerning, though, is that, at the core, these men truly believe that they are the ‘alpha males’ that women truly want and crave: men who are flashy, hedonistic, contemptuous, aggressive, forceful, and, most importantly, unconcerned about consideration, gentleness and tender feelings, as that would make them nothing but despicable 'pussies'.
If you’re a woman reading this and feel in utter disbelief as to why some men, and, worryingly, a growing generation of boys in need of role models would think so, then you clearly haven’t pay attention as to what happened to gender interpersonal dynamics and defining over the past few decades. And, here, we need to address the elephant in the room: feminism, or, more precisely, what feminism has turned into and what it has meant for all of us, especially when it comes to how boys perceive themselves.
'these men truly believe that they are the ‘alpha males’ that women truly want and crave...'
There was a time indeed when being a man meant something. It meant, especially, being courteous and respectful of women, a mindset underpinned by expectations (call them 'gender etiquette' if you will) which used to be known as gallantry.
Inherited from chivalry, gallantry was more than a mirror of the protective ethos which has always been associated with traditional masculinity. It was a reflect of an aspiration, that of being a gentleman (‘gentle’: from the French ‘gentil’, meaning ‘kind, nice’). It was, above all, a set of 'knightly' attitudes that translated into very simple every day behaviours, from letting women go first when passing a door to opening the door in the first place, and from pulling a seat at a restaurant to offering to pay the bills on a first date.
Was it laudable? As a Frenchman, of course, I believe so. As many women themselves have been fully aware, gallantry was a mean for men to show them respect and consideration, besides allowing women to sort out the wheat from the chaff that is, distinguishing between men who cared (or, at least, had manners) as opposed to jerks who didn't. And yet...
And yet, to neo-feminists convinced that everything that men do or don’t are in fact symbols of ‘patriarchal oppression’, it wasn’t long before such polite, courteous ('kind', 'nice') attitude would be dismissed as being in fact patronising, demeaning, and, even, ‘benevolent sexism’.
Now, of course, you can pooh pooh all over ‘benevolence’ as much as you want, but let us acknowledge here that, according to the Thesaurus, ‘benevolence’ is a synonym for ‘kindness’, ‘consideration’, ‘compassion’, and ‘thoughtfulness’. As such, then, when neo-feminists have been trashing gallantry and the kind, considerate, compassionate, and thoughtful behaviours that came with it as being, in fact, 'sexist', what they have done goes beyond telling our daughters that being treated with respect and courtesy (e.g. having a door being held open for them to go first) is to be but 'a victim' of 'patriarchal sexism'. What they have done, also, and by the same token, is to tell our sons that being benevolent and having manners is irrelevant, as this is not what women want. More: being so makes you, in fact, a sexist jerk to be scolded.
But: what do women really want, exactly?
'you can pooh pooh all over ‘benevolence’ as much as you want, but (...) ‘benevolence’ is a synonym for ‘kindness’...'
Traditional masculinity, of course, wasn’t perfect. It’s a common truism that what made a man 'a man' was resilience, independence, self-reliance, and toughness of character to the point of stoicism if necessary (call it the ‘manly virtues’ if you will). At first glance, there is nothing wrong with that.
The problem, though, is that being a man was also about not being vulnerable, or, if put in a vulnerable situation, either ignoring it, denying it, or bottling it. Weakness wasn’t allowed, and painful feelings ought to be shut down in the name of strength. The patriarchy, after all, has hurt men too, and it’s a hurt still being reflected in the toxic mantra every single man has heard ever since he is a boy (including by women themselves) that is, ‘be a man’, ‘boys don’t cry’, ‘man up’, ‘grow some balls’.
The consequences of such 'manly' mindset are well-known. It has mostly translated into male violence, both against others (95% of the prison population in the UK are men) and against themselves (75% of people taking their lives are also men, with suicide being the first cause of death for men under 50). But what have our neo-feminists done about it?
'Weakness wasn’t allowed, and painful feelings ought to be shut down in the name of strength.'
If one is to believe that men and boys cannot possibly be victimised, or, if they are so, that the victimisation in question ought to be dismissed because 'it's-the-patriarchy-stupid', then far from acknowledging men's issues one will, on the contrary, been exacerbating them. And indeed, I have already blogged about it (here), but it needs reminding: while men activists have been campaigning on a wild range of fronts to tackle men and boys' issues, the Men’s Right Activists movement itself, which started in the 1960s and has now exploded all over the internet, has been, on the contrary, systematically been undermined, mis-portrayed, vilified, stereotyped, and lampooned to such a point that the term 'MRA' itself has become synonym with 'women-hater' or 'misogynist'. But is it fair?
It’s easy to denounce an Andrew Tate for tossing out irresponsible and ignorant view when it comes to mental health (e.g. he denies that depression is a thing), but then again: while positive male role models all over have been encouraging men to report their vulnerability, neo-feminists, on the other hand, have made it perfectly acceptable to dismiss and mock their concerns as if it was irrelevant. Misogyny is not the only problem. Misandry is too. Yet, who denounces it?
We live in a society indeed where men's mental health, including depression, might be an epidemic, even starting as young as 9, yet where many women find it perfectly acceptable to sell and display swags mocking ‘male tears’. We live in a society where suicide rates in men are very high, yet where proud femocrat can laugh out even a proposal for a debate about it in the House -with not much outrage being expressed. We live in a society where domestic violence is not, and has never been, 'gendered' (here) yet where men victims still are being mocked, dismissed, and gaslighted even by very powerful women organisations themselves, telling us that the real prevalence of domestic abuse perpetrated by women is but 'a myth', its impact (including upon children) to be trivialised. We live in a society where fatherlessness has been a growing concern and where fathers are still being treated like second class parents, yet where men campaigning for fathers' rights are being branded as 'abusers', and vilified as being 'manipulative', 'coercive' and 'controlling' solely for wanting shared parenting or access to their children post-divorce/ separation. We live in a society where the negative impact of toxic language from men and against women (e.g. 'grab her by the pussy') is rightly being denounced (for language can shape a mindset and be conducive of sexist behaviours indeed) yet where women's obnoxious language against men is not being subjected to the same demand, with feminist themselves defending, for example, the #KillAllMen hashthag as supposedly being nothing but banter, while the rest of us are still battling male disposability and its ongoing toxic impact. We live in a society, in other words, which is fully encouraging and echoing of Tate's views that is, that women don't care about men's feelings, that expressing them makes you a wuss to be mocked and ridiculed, that being vulnerable and victimised is not 'manly', that only selfishness and aggression pay off, that men and boys can't have issues since the patriarchy is about power and control, that even fatherhood cannot be valued, yet that has the gall to wonder why a growing generation of boys is, not only, feeling alienated, at a loss, un-listened, but, also, won't listen to men campaigning to make a positive impact, in complete disregard for the fact that these same men have been otherwise vilified as some sorts of male supremacists in the first place... We are hypocrites.
But where does that leave us?
'Misogyny is not the only problem. Misandry is too.'
We cannot complain about the rise of shallow celebrities concerned only about money-grabbing, appearances and fame, when our whole society has been built upon a narcistic celebrity culture as much as it has upon one of the most toxic form of capitalism and consumerism that there is. About, one would be a fool to think that, as Tate is to boys, there are no female influencers out there whose message and behaviours aren't damaging to our girls. We reap what we sow.
More to the point, when it comes to gender, one cannot rubbish, mock and dismiss everything that was good, positive, inspirational about traditional masculinity as being 'sexist', and then turn around only to wonder what the hell happened to men's respect, consideration, kindness, and the centuries-old courtesy that was shown towards women. Here too, we reap what we sow.
Last but not least, we often hear the usual complaint that there is not much positive male role models available for our boys. It's complete baloney. Positive male role models abounds, and they always have. The problem is that, for decades now, such men have not been saluted as being inspirational, but mocked, dismissed, stereotyped, and, overall, undermined in their endeavour by a toxic brand of 'feminism' which has done its outmost to vilify them. But: is it 'feminism'?
These women are very loud indeed in claiming ad nauseam that theirs is about 'dismantling the patriarchy'. It's nonsense and hypocrisy. As we have seen, one of the core feature of the patriarchy, when it comes to its dealing of men, was male disposability. To dismantle the patriarchy, then, would be to address such disposability. As we have seen too, though, these women are doing nothing of the sort. On the contrary, they fully embrace it, sustain it, encourage it, and echo it. But one cannot ignore, trivialise, or dismiss men and boys' concerns, and then complain that men and boys, mocked and ignored as they are, will go and seek refuge back into the most toxic fold of masculinism. After all, adopting a negative identity has always been better than having no identity.
In the end, then, we must at long last reckon with neo-feminism for what it is: nothing but to women and girls what Tate is to men and boys that is, a toxic, divisive, sexist claptrap still entrapping us into gender expectations that ought to be discarded. Boys can be vulnerable. Boys can have issues. Boys aren't privileged. Boys, too, deserve to be listened to. Are we going to? Or are we going to carry on portraying them as part of a 'patriarchal conspiracy', supposedly implemented for their benefits and to oppress women (including through kind behaviours) and where even their lives worth less than a 'male tears' T-shirt or mug? The answer is yours.
Thanks for reading; and, if you are interested in feminism, men's issues, fathers' rights, and domestic violence (including parental alienation) then please subscribe here. Meanwhile: sapere aude!