MALE DISPOSABILITY – SPC Ivan Lopez – pay me now or pay me later

Late in the day yesterday I started getting texts from my brother. My nephew was locked down in his barracks at Ft. Hood. By now we all know the rest of the story, of how a soldier named Specialist Ivan Lopez, who had been exhibiting problematic behavior, certainly symptomatic, probably that community especially should have picked up on….went off.

No one in his chain of command picked up on this enough to do anything in time – and by the way, the way the Army works is quite different from civilian employers and this is one example; intervening and dealing with this kind of thing is very much a leader responsibility. It was his leaders’ job all up the line to make sure this problem got identified and resolved, and unfortunately his leaders’ failure to do that is not anomalous.

We can either identify these guys, and take the trouble and shoulder the expense to help these people when it would make a difference, or we can bumble on and then get blindsided when the bill comes due, like we have this time. Pay me now or pay me later. Just remember, if you pay later, you may not like how the interest has piled up.

The inital speculation was that there was some kind of jihadi connection, because there had been warnings and indicators leading up to it. But it is probably going to turn out that this was unconnected, that it was something much more mundane and familiar, soemthing we have seen over and over. In fact this incident follows the “suicide by cop” pattern we are seeing in these shootings.

And here we should mention the professionalism and strength that cop showed in stopping SPC Lopez. He shot himself in the head right in front of her when she confronted him. To quote the post commander:

“It was clearly heroic what she did in that moment in time,” said Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, the post’s commander. “She did her job, and she did exactly what we’d expect of a United States Army military police.”

This is the kind of thing that makes me get impatient with most of the discussion around women in the military, so much of it from people whose understanding of war and what is involved in building and maintaining a military effort seems to come only from television or gaming. This soldier did the job assigned to her and her womanhood got in the way not at all. In war and in garrison that is all that matters. Now she can deal with the nightmares and hyper-vigilance she is likely to experience, like everyone else.

SPC Lopez seemed mellow and friendly to everyone, it looked like everything was fine. But it wasn’t. The issue now is why he was able to hide all this so well, and more than that, why he hid it at all. Why did he think he had to? I think we all know the answer to that, and it is the Army’s challenge to undo all the conditioning and enculturation that fed this.

We go along deploying people multiple times, on basically pointless, vague, high-sounding missions, a small, disposable segment of our society; and then when they crack the answer seems to be to reach for some way to blame them or “military culture” instead of the impossible situations the people we elect put them into and then wash their hands of.

DOUBLE STANDARDS – Feminism’s sorry record on the subject of rape

It’s not unusual in the gender discussion to hear someone claim that feminism is horribly understood, that it isn’t man-hating or gender-biased at all; it’s really all about equality – see, it even says so right here in the dictionary. How valid an objection is this?

Let’s take one example, rape. Let’s look at feminism’s on the subject of rape. It turns out that the feminist handling of the subject of rape is one example of feminism’s opposition to an egalitarian discussion of gender. Domestic violence has been another, but that a discussion for another day

First, back in the 90s the standard feminist line of rape was that it was patriarchal violence to maintain the power system that governs gender. This developed put of Susan Brownmiller’s thesis which she enunciated in 1975 in Against Our Will. A logical extension of her position males, by definition, could not be rape victims. (The extension was logical but of course the proposition is not, being based on an illogical premise.)This was operationalized in rape victims services, where male child rape victims were often treated and lectured as if they themselves were rapists, to the point of being told they were the rapists, that they had really raped the woman who raped them. Toy Soldier experienced this and has written about the phenomenon in general.

Then later as consent became settled as the standard for defining rape – a very sane definition and a very good development – a new theoretical problem reared its head. What about men who didn’t consent to sex? Weren’t they rape victims too?

There were several responses to this challenge:

Agreement
One was acknowledgement of this and a refinement in the theory – basically there were feminists who said damn straight that’s rape and those men are rape victims. But they became an embattled minority….

Doubling Down with Rape Culture of Their Own
They were even called misogynist – apparently a woman has an absolute right to sex, however she likes it, from a man for these people and it’s misogynist of him to refuse. It’s like insulting her or something. When people talk about “feminist rape culture, this is the kind of thing they are referring to. Feminsts themselves have identified this problem.

Denial
By far the most common response was denial – “Well maybe women do rape men, but it’s a vanishingly small percentage of rapes.” This was a widespread response; there was advocacy research to back this up that did what it could to erase male victims. Mary Koss stands out particularly in this connection, both because of her insititutioanl influence over the discussiion and the voluminous discussion of her and her position. Google it if you care to see how voluminous it is. Or sometimes the feint was that if women did rape men, then somehow those men pressured their own rapists into raping them. The “erection as consent” canard got thrown in quite a lot.

Deflection
Another form this took was to deny that raped men suffer from the rape as much as women do, based on who knows what information or analysis. Another was a retread of the Patriarchy narrative above, where when a man was raped, or even a boy, it wasn’t the same, it wasn’t really rape, because of the power differential (You have to be a real believer to believe some boy has a power differential over a grown woman.) Hugo Schwyzer had a post several years ago to this effect, though he may have taken it down by now.

Deflection by accusation of deflection
A common attempt at deflection was to claim that talk of female rapists was intended only to deflect attention from the real problem, male rapists. No real evidence was ever offered to back up this mind-reading. The same accusation is often made of attempts to discuss false rape accusations.

Rape denial and rape apology
Everyone one of these responses were forms of rape denial, and one thing feminists have taught us is that rape denial is a part of rape culture. When people talk about “feminist rape culture, this is the kind of thing they are referring to.

Double standards
The sexist double standards – there literally two standards for what constitutes a rape victim, two standards for the degree of harm rape inflicts and two standards for when rape apology gets called rape apology, and a bitterly entrenched anti-egalitarianism in all these responses.

The feminist handling of the subject of rape is one example of feminism’s opposition to an egalitarian discussion of gender.

I doubt this is an exhaustive list. Please help expand it.

SUMMA GENDERRATICA: The Anatomy of the Gender System

Author’s Note: This is a summary of my entire theory of how our society’s gender system operates and how it originated. It is intended to be a ‘road map’ of society’s norms about masculinity and femininity. I believe that it can explain all gender norms in our society. The MHRM requires an integrated, consistent theory about gender in order to successfully compete with Radical Second Wave and Third Wave Feminism – this theory is an attempt at providing one.

The following does not mention every single aspect of our society’s gender system, but I believe that any unmentioned aspects of the gender norms can be successfully explained by this theory (feel free to propose “Explain This Norm As A Product Of The Gender System” challenges in the comments).

Note that whilst I called this post “Summa Genderratica” I do not wish to imply that the theory below is accepted (in its entirety) by anyone other than myself. I am only illustrating my theory here, and it isn’t meant to be taken as the “official philosophy” of GendErratic as a whole. The reason for the title is because I am a pretentious douche and as such I enjoy the self-important connotation/reference towards the works of Aquinas.

Onto the theory!

PART 1
The First Premise: The Purpose of Social Norms
Why do social norms arise?

This theory will take it as axiomatic that social norms arise for survivability and practicality reasons. Social norms arise as responses to the challenges of physical existence.

The Challenge
The gender system arose in the early days of our species. During these days, food and resources were scarce, accumulating them was a difficult and failure-prone task, and it was manual labor which performed these tasks; physical labor was the primary source of improvements to survivability and the standard of living (unlike today, where technological capital and knowledge work provide this (it is telling that the first challenges to the gender system only arose with the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution… periods during which the economy became less labor-dependent and more capital-dependent owing to technological advances. It is also telling that challenges to the gender system arose first amongst materially well-off groups in society)).

Because physical labor was the primary means of production, importance was placed on the means of producing physical labor, i.e. reproducing and growing the population. However, only a minority of children survived to reach adulthood, and as such much higher birth rates were required to grow the overall population size.

But only one half of the population could bear children.

The Response
Biology combined with the necessity of aggressive breeding essentially forced women to “specialize” and devote large amounts of their time to being knocked up and producing children (and when pregnant they are less mobile and thus more vulnerable).

Since males could not perform this important task, they provided protection and resource-provision (in essence, all the ‘rest’).

Social norms arose to push people towards their sex-mandated tasks. The “good female” and the “good male” were the female and male who contributed to their society by fulfilling their assigned role; the “good female” was the fertile mother, the “good male” was the strong warrior and productive hunter. These social norms were reflected in all of society’s institutions, including religion (see the warrior gods and the mother goddesses for more).

Summary 1
1. Social Norms arise as responses to the challenges of living and thriving
2. Low technology societies are dependent on physical labor to survive
3. Very high birth rates were required to increase the supply of labor
4. Only one half of the human population could give birth
5. Gender Roles emerged to encourage specialization on the basis of sex

PART 2
Maturity and Gender
As stated before, the “good female” and the “good male” were understood in terms of those who contributed to society by fulfilling their sex-assigned tasks. However, children of either sex are physically unable to do this.

A woman needs to be post-pubertal in order to bear a child. Young males are on average significantly less physically developed and thus generally lack the necessary strength to even have a chance at successfully performing their sex-assigned task.

As such, there is an association between maturity and gender-compliance. A female needs to undergo a process of biological maturation in order to perform the feminine contribution to society, however this process is essentially automatic and is basically assumed to occur over time, with mensturation serving as a clear biological indicator of fitness to perform the task.

With males, things are more tenuous. Proficiency or even ability to perform the male function, let alone perform it well, is not biologically guaranteed. Additionally, there is no single clear “he’s ready” indicator delivered by male biology.

Whilst females “grow into” being women, males do not automatically grow into being “real men.”

Aristotelian Femininity, Platonic Masculinity, and the Subject-Object Dichotomy
A young female just becomes a woman automatically, due to the innate properties of her biology. Her mensturation evidences her maturation. Her womanhood simply is. She is assumed to be gender-compliant and thus socially contributive by default.

A young male has to demonstrate, through action, the ability to perform masculine tasks successfully. A young male must prove he has “grown up” and become a “real man.” Males are not assumed to be gender-compliant (and thus socially contributive) by default; by himself he is just another mouth to be fed by the work of “real men.” A man must validate his manhood by action, otherwise he is not a real man but rather a “boy” (i.e. immature, not-an-adult male).

As such, one can correctly understand traditional gender roles as premised on epistemological essentialism, however different kinds of epistemological essentialism underpin each role. Femininity is mostly understood as innate to female biology, as an immanent essence, whilst masculinity is mostly understood as an ideal to aspire to, a “form” which one “participates in” in order to gain an identity.

It is a particular quirk of human psychology that we tend to perceive moral agency (the capacity to do things) and moral patiency (the capacity to have stuff done to you) dichotomously, even though human beings are in fact both. As such, the association of agency with manhood combined with the innatist understanding of womanhood (as well as, perhaps, the fact that pregnancy does render a woman less mobile and more resource-dependent) led to the association of womanhood with moral patiency. Men are seen as actors, and women are seen as acted upon. This is the traditional subject-object dichotomy.

The Disposable-Cherishable Dichotomy
A gender-compliant person of either sex is seen as valuable to society (since they are acting in ways which conform to survivability-oriented norms). However, females are assumed to either be (or will be) gender-compliant; naturally infertile women are the exception rather than the rule and thus the assumption is that any given female is (or will be) capable of bearing children due to their biology.

As such, females are ascribed an innate value simply for being female. Females are seen as inherently cherishable because they are the incubators of the future.

Males lack this. Their gender-compliance is not seen as an inevitable feature of their biological maturation but rather an ideal to live up to. Males neither are nor will become “real men” by default. As such, they have no innate value. The value of a man is exclusively contingent on the consequences of his agency and by himself, he is ultimately disposable.

Because men are valued not for properties of their biology but the outcomes of their actions, the death of one man is ceteris paribus a smaller tragedy to society than the death of one woman. After all, when tragedies happen, the death counts typically specify the toll taken by women and children (i.e. the future).

Our society may lionize its male heroes who go and die so that others may live, but as stated before, social norms arise to push individuals to perform socially beneficial tasks; the worship of heroic male self-sacrifice is a way to encourage men to see their deaths for noble causes as a worthy contribution to society, and thus to make men more willing to die for others.

The Gender Norms In A Nutshell
As a consequence of all of the above, males are innately disposable subjects, females are innately cherishable objects.

All gender norms ultimately are reducible to this.

Summary 2
1. Maturity, for each sex, is conceptualized as gender-compliance
2. Female maturity is seen as a natural result of biological development
3. Male maturity is not seen as guaranteed, but rather something proven/earned
4. Men do, women are, because manhood is about doing and womanhood just “is”
5. Because gender-compliance is seen as valuable and women are seen as innately gender-compliant, women are seen as innately valuable
6. Because men are NOT seen as innately gender-compliant, men are seen as innately expendable
7. Ergo, the subject-object dichotomy is overlaid by the disposable-cherishable dichotomy, casting males as innately disposable subjects and females as innately cherishable objects

PART 3 – Some Advanced Implications
Agency and Feminine Power
Everyone derives a sense of power – used here to mean efficacy or competence – when they successfully perform a task which has the end result of providing for their needs. This makes evolutionary sense – if survival-enhancing things did not give pleasure and survival-diminishing things did not cause pain, an organism would be significantly less likely to survive.

But the performance of tasks was typically assigned to males; femininity was not associated with agency and due to the innate reproductive utility of women, women were kept safe and away from potential danger where possible (which in turn generated a self-reinforcing (and perhaps somewhat self-fulfilling) presumption of diminished female competence – a presumption which was somewhat true during pregnancy (and may be somewhat true on average with tasks that require very high upper body strength) but clearly got exaggerated and overgeneralized).

However, every human being has material needs for survival, and these material needs must be satisfied through action (food must be acquired, shelter must be found). So how would a woman, someone culturally perceived as and encouraged towards remaining deficient in agency, acquire these needs?

The answer is that women are encouraged to rely upon men, and not merely in the passive sense, but to actively enlist the agency of males to provide for their survival. Masculine power is thus equated with anything which enhances successful/competent agency (e.g. big muscles), and feminine power is equated with anything that enhances enlisting successful/competent agents. Masculine power is that which augments agency, feminine power is that which augments the acquisition and preservation of agency by proxy.

The gender system, therefore, always contained a form of feminine power – i.e. ways in which women could act to service their material needs. Whilst it reserved direct acquisition through agency to men, the system also reserved agency by proxy for women.

Male Hierarchy
Society’s understanding of manhood as a Platonic ideal to aspire towards explains the fact how there can be “better men” and “worse men” (as men), as well as how biological males can be “not real men” – the use of “real” to mean “ideal” is telling.

Because manhood is demonstrated by performing certain tasks, men are ranked in accordance with how well they perform these tasks. Men are ranked by other men and by women – their gender identity is heavily subject to social validation and revocation. This means “real manhood” is an earned social status which is collective-dependent, hierarchical and competitive, and men can be socially emasculated at any time. Male identity is made contingent on competing with each other to prove oneself a “better man.”

As stated above, maturity is linked with “real manhood” but male maturity is again socially validated due to the fact that masculine task-performance isn’t biologically guaranteed – this means male elders (particularly fathers) are placed in a position of evaluator where they judge prospective males to separate the “boys” from the “men.”

The male hierarchy can be effectively divided into three basic categories (from lowest social status to highest social status)

1) Males who are “not real men.” The socially emasculated. “Boys.” Omega males.
2) Males who are “real men” but who aren’t able to revoke another male’s “real man” status. Beta males.
3) Males who are “real men” with the ability to revoke another male’s “real man” status. Alpha males.

The division between statuses 2 and 3 is contextual and often dependent on other institutional arrangements as well as the surrounding males – someone can in fact be Alpha in one hierarchy and Omega relative to another.

This setup ironically enough compels that a Beta be submissive to his Alpha so as to avoid being rendered an Omega. In other words the male gender role isn’t entirely about dominance but rather demands submission to “better” men.

Social Genders
Typically, “gender” is taken as a binary – as a reference to masculinity or femininity. However, this is hard to reconcile with the above situation – males who aren’t “real men” aren’t regarded as possessing manhood (i.e. they do not contribute masculine value). They are “boys” rather than men, according to the gender system.

They do not receive many aspects of ‘male privilege’ because much ‘male privilege’ is in fact ‘real-man’ privilege. And whilst they are socially emasculated they receive no female privilege either, because due to their biology they cannot perform the essential feminine task of bearing children.

In short, socially emasculated men are not seen as masculine or feminine but rather they are perceived, treated and categorized as a third gender. They are neither a man nor a woman (socially speaking rather than biologically speaking).

PART 4: Challenges
There are several classic problems in gender studies which any prospective examination of the gender system needs to explain. Below, I take several of these phenomena and reconcile them with the theory proposed above.

The Promiscuity Double Standard
The Promiscuity Double Standard (henceforth PDS) of our culture is well-known; a man is seen as a worthy and virile stud for sleeping around, but a woman is seen as a degraded and self-cheapening slut for doing the same thing.

Typically, the PDS is treated as a unitary construct – as if the PDS’s gendered imperatives arose from the same source. This is counter-intuitive because the imperatives of the PDS are in conflict – men are encouraged to sleep around and women are discouraged from doing so, thus meaning men cannot comply with the system without women failing to comply with it (and vice-versa). The PDS certainly isn’t in the interests of men, since it encourages women to prevent men from being studs (through the withholding of sexual access).

Typical feminist analysis sees the PDS as a male construct invented to control female sexuality. The fact that men’s interests are not served by encouraging female chastity complicates this explanation, but it is further complicated by the empirical fact that most slut-shaming is perpetrated by women against each other. If men created and enforced the PDS, one would expect men to be the primary shamers of sluts.

As such, it may be more accurate to see the Promiscuity Double Standard not as a single construct, but two different constructs, proposed and enforced by different parties for different purposes.

An interesting thing about the concept of “slut” is that women who are sluts are seen as “cheapening themselves” or “debasing themselves” – they are seen as giving sexual access far too easily (i.e. giving away a good without getting enough in return). Let’s look at the transactional framing here: a market exists, women are the suppliers of sexual access and men are the demand side of the equation. Women are encouraged to not give away sex “too easily,” i.e. they are encouraged to receive something in return for sex. It is mostly women who shame other women for giving sex away.

From an economic perspective, we are seeing cartel behavior; sellers colluding amongst themselves to raise the price of sex by restricting the quantity of sexual access that is immediately avaliable.

So what is the ‘price’ of sex? As explained above, women are encouraged to enlist male agency in their service, since the gender system discourages them from developing their own. Thus, the ‘price’ of sex is male agency, typically framed as a committed relationship. When women are sluts and thus ‘put out too easy,’ competitive pressure lowers the price of sex and thus damages (traditionally-understood) female interests.

The implications here are quite depressing; because women are encouraged to experience power through enlisting male agency, “sluthood” is opposed to traditional feminine power by eroding women’s bargaining position. Women are encouraged by the traditional gender system to experience their sexuality as being defeated and being conquered, rather than getting something they desire (i.e. sexual satisfaction). Women are also encouraged to see men as adversaries, and to see male advocacy of female sexual liberation as threats to their material security (i.e. “they just want cheaper sex, the cads!”).

In conclusion, the PDS wasn’t invented “by men” – at least half of the PDS is a mostly female-maintained standard intended to sustain traditional feminine power through preserving the value of sex and thus maximizing the agency women can enlist in return for granting sexual access. The imperatives of the PDS conflict with each other, and the PDS’s implicit sexual transactionalism sets up an adversarial situation that sabotages sexual fulfillment for both sexes.

The Childhood Gender Conformity Double Standard
A common double standard in our society is one relating to gender conformity amongst children. Look at the ease with which our society accepts female children going through a “tomboy phase.” Compare this against the worry and concern that accompanies any male child that may want to play with dolls. It is “normal, she’ll grow out of it in a few years” for a young girl to want to play with the boys, but if a boy confesses liking pink he’s immediately suspected of being homosexual or a gender failure.

This is an obvious consequence of the fact that female biological maturation (and thus gender compliance) is seen as an automatic process which “simply happens.” Because womanhood is seen as biologically innate, a woman’s actions are not seen as the primary source of the value she can contribute to society.

Male biological maturation, on the other hand, is not a guarantee of being able to perform the socially-mandated male tasks. Being a “real man” (i.e. able to contribute masculine value to society) is not biologically guaranteed. Since a male’s gender compliance is evaluated not on what he is but rather what he does, a male’s actions place his entire social value at risk.

Many gender theorists argue that society worries more about males because our society allegedly values masculine traits above feminine traits; this conflicts with the fact that feminine traits are praised when they are exhibited by women (it also conflicts with the fact that historically, societies have sacrificed men to protect women; societies don’t sacrifice higher-valued members for lower-valued members). Biology means that a man who acts feminine cannot perform the socially-mandated “core” feminine task (bearing children), and thus for him to be feminine represents wasted potential (but when a woman acts feminine it isn’t a threat). Thus, a man who acts feminine isn’t perceived as a social woman, but rather a social neuter (an Omega Male).

However, since both men and women are (in fact) agents and masculine value is dependent not on what someone is but rather what someone does, females can in fact contribute masculine value to at least some degree (and the feminist movement has influenced people to accept the reality of female agency, and even to celebrate when women transgress gender roles). As such, women can “value-add” through gender nonconformity, whilst men cannot; females can be socially androgynous whilst men (due to their inability to perform the core feminine task under the gender system) can only be social neuters.

Thus, it is the Subject-Object Dichotomy (and not any alleged valuation of masculinity as superior to femininity) which forms the basis for the Childhood Gender Conformity Double Standard.

The Madonna-Whore Complex and Gendered Evaluations of Moral Character
Our gender system has influenced the ethical standards which are placed on both sexes. In the case of this problem, whilst men are subject to normal ethical standards, women are not; questions about a woman’s character are entirely centered around whether or not she is chaste.

This is an obvious product of the subject-object dichotomy, which casts women as moral patients. As women are not seen as moral agents, they are not treated as subject to moral standards or as possessing capacity for great moral virtue (or vice).

Slut-shaming under the gender system is explained above, however it is obvious that religious norms have influenced the Madonna-Whore Complex (look at the name!). Religion is a separate system to the gender system (although the two clearly interact), and Abrahamic monotheistic religions condemn promiscuity in both sexes (not just women). Women, however, are slut-shamed under both traditional gender norms and religious norms, whereas men are shamed for sleeping around under one set of norms but praised for doing so under the other.

This confluence of gender norms and religious norms, coupled with the objectification of women under the gender system, explains why chastity/sluthood is so heavily emphasized in discussions of women’s character: women are typically left off the hook with standards relating to other issues (minimizing both their virtue and vice), so the Madonna-Whore standard fills the vaccum.

PART 5: Conclusion
The above is a summary of my entire theory of gender as expressed in all my previous articles. I believe it to be a superior explanation of the gender system, for both sexes, than the status quo theories accepted in most gender studies departments. Feedback, commentary, suggestions and critiques are encouraged.

Complaining About “Fake Geek Girls” Is Not Misogyny

And now for my first piece of original content exclusively for GendErratic! Again I wish to extend my gratitude to Ms. Tieman for inviting me to contribute to this blog, and I can promise there is plenty of theoretical analysis and discussion of cultural issues to come in the future. Now, for the article.

Proposition: Complaining About “Fake Geek Girls” Is Not Misogyny
Feminism’s engagement with “nerd” culture has, for the most part, come entirely from a critical and contemptuous angle; one of these criticisms is that “nerd” culture is allegedly a “boy’s club” which excludes women. To prove this, feminists point out the fact that females claiming a geek identity will be interrogated to see if they are “real” geeks or fakers.

This is not misogyny. Demanding “geek girls” prove themselves would only be misogyny if the treatment were motivated by an animus towards or prejudice against women as a class. Nerd culture would be equally suspicious of “fake geek guys.”

Wait… fake geek guys?

The fact that there is no such thing as the fake geek guy is in fact an important piece of the puzzle. Some feminists would argue that the lack of fake geek guys is evidence yet again of discrimination against women, but in reality it is because the status of “geek” has never been desirable for men to claim.

No ladies, we are not discriminating against you because you didn’t dance with us at the prom. We have no problem with you being girls. Our problem is due to the fact that fake geek girls (not to be confused with real geek girls, who do in fact exist and have been part of geek culture ever since the beginning) are subcultural poseurs claiming an identity which they in fact lack.

The Essential Characteristic Of “Nerd”
There’s a reason why Spider-Man got ruthlessly beaten up in high school. There’s a reason why Loki grows up as the undervalued intellectual in a society of macho warrior brutes. There’s a reason Steve Rogers was originally skinny and frail and got beaten up regularly. There’s a reason for the “Revenge of the Nerds” films.

Being a “nerd” isn’t about just liking certain things. It is about having culturally atypical interests and experiencing social persecution as a result.

It is a subculture which embraces esoteric and often intellectual interests that go against what is expected of “real men.” This is why there are “sports fans” and “automotive enthusiasts” and “petrolheads” and “aviation buffs” (all acceptably masculine interests) but to be into comics or video games or analog synthesizers makes one a “nerd” or a “geek.”

Nerdiness is about being set outside the mainstream, often with violence. It isn’t merely about a specific set of interests, but about the social consequences of these interests.

Nerdiness is a culture primarily composed of socially emasculated males – a culture of “not real men” – a culture which has paid the price for failing to measure up to our society’s standards of masculinity.

Female nerds are also outside the mainstream – but their experiences rarely include being beaten up for this. Being intelligent and possessing a rational temperment is also gender-deviant because traditional gender roles see women as fundamentally emotional. But even if they don’t necessarily face the same violent retribution for gender-nonconformity that male nerds do, they share the experience of being socially alienated (to at least some degree) from one’s same-sex peers, of being gender-atypical, and of not having “normal” interests.

Nevertheless, we need to recognize that the gender system is far more willing to be suspicious of gender-deviance amongst males; as I have argued before, the gender system treats femininity as an innate characteristic and masculinity as an earned status that needs to be guarded, demonstrated and socially validated – hence why the Tomboy is just “going through a phase” (and is also perhaps worthy of some encouragement for proving she can compete with the boys) whereas the boy who plays with dolls is instantly suspected of being defective/damaged/gay/etc.

As such, it isn’t surprising that the experience of being socially de-gendered due to atypical interests is more common amongst males than it is amongst females (although perhaps potential on-average tempermental differences between the sexes may play some role too, but that’s another discussion). The primary narrative of nerd culture is the narrative of the “Omega Male” (the “not-real-man”) – this is a narrative of being bullied, brutalized and victimized for not being “one of the guys.”

The Case Of Video Gaming
The “fake geek girl” issue is often discussed in relation to video gaming – a pasttime which (in its super-hardcore manifestations), in the pre-PS2 era, was an extremely effective method of social suicide performed by spending exhorbitant amounts of money on 3d-capable bleeding-edge graphics hardware.

Console gaming at the time was primarily seen as a children’s toy – Sony’s Playstation platform was the first to deliver 3d gaming with mature themes alongside the low cost and relative convenience of a console. But the Playstation was relatively easy and inexpensive to develop for, meaning a wide variety of different kinds of game could be created.

The Playstation 2 was not, but it achieved phenomenal market success and essentially turned 3d gaming into a pasttime the general population (many of whom bought it for the DVD playback) could partake in.

But the generation following the Playstation 2 was even more difficult for programmers and developers; the jump to HD gaming as well as the increased difficulty to program both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 (relative to their predecessor consoles as well as the PC) further increased the costs of developing games, particularly multiplatform ones. Publishers, having to fork out larger amounts to make competitive and cutting-edge games, were becoming more cautious with their money. The used game market on consoles as well as piracy on the PC substantially cut into developer/publisher margins. At the same time, however, the market was potentially extremely lucrative and becoming even moreso due to the attraction of mainstream audiences.

This essentially led to the “blockbusterization” of video gaming as a hobby; instead of the niche markets of the past, gaming targeted the mass market. In order to attract mass market, games began to pander to this market; even games from traditionally “hardcore” genres began to emulate (to varying degrees) mass-market games in the hope of winning the money of “the CoD crowd.”

At the same time, Nintendo’s success with the Wii console as well as the success of small online games (via platforms such as Facebook) led to the proliferation of lower-cost and sometimes free-to-play casual gaming. This genre ended up migrating mostly to smartphones and other portable devices.

The ultimate result of this series of technological and economic pressures was that gaming ended up subdividing itself into three “markets” -

First, the original “hobbyist gaming” market segment, the nerdy gaming culture which we all know.

Second, the casual gaming market, which was mostly situated on Wii, Facebook and smartphones.

Third, the AAA “Blockbuster” gaming market, focused on best-selling (and sometimes annualized) sports and action titles like Madden, Call of Duty, FIFA, Halo, Battlefield, Medal of Honor and Gears of War.

The focus which once lay on Hobbyist gaming took a backseat to the newly-ascendent Blockbuster and Casual sectors of the market. Economic pressures forced a formerly niche-market hobby to conform to mass-market tastes.

The Absense Of Fake Geek Guys
In light of the above, we can address the absense of fake geek guys. For men, geekiness has always been a ticket to social emasculation, but with the arrival of Blockbuster gaming, one did not have to be even remotely geeky to game. Blockbuster games were aimed squarely at mass market gender-typical male tastes (and were rewarded with billions of dollars for doing so). A subset of games were essentially de-nerdified.

Thus, the cultural link between gaming and nerdness was cut, at least with respect to certain franchises and genres and subject-matter. The target audience – an audience which genuine nerds describe (and often still describe) disdainfully as “the dudebros” – did not claim a nerd identity. They didn’t want to do so due to gender pressure, and with the mainstreaming of certain video game franchises the identity would not be forced upon them from the outside.

This is why “fake geek guys” don’t exist; of course there are males who play games without belonging to geek culture! This has even been acknowledged by Mark Rubin – executive producer of the latest iteration of Call of Duty (see http://ign.com/articles/2013/10/21/call-of-duty-players-arent-hardcore-gamers-says-infinity-ward), as Rubin was clearly using “hardcore gamers” and “gamers” to refer to “Hobbyist gamers” (i.e. the nerdy subset). But because guys have no incentive to identify as nerds or geeks, they don’t claim to be such unless they genuinely are (and even then, sometimes they’ll dodge it because it is a persecuted subculture).

In the early days of geek culture, women faced some disincentives to identify as geeks or to at least keep their geekiness secret (and these days they still face some – certainly there are many women who probably would face some degree of ridicule or derision if they confessed to reading and/or writing slash fanfiction.. although in some cases that may be due to the quality of the writing rather than the subject matter). These days, however, the disincentive to be a female nerd is significantly lower, and indeed it is arguably the case that women face incentives to identify as nerds.

Princess Poindexter (This Phrase Is A Keeper!)
The idea that women may benefit from entering nerd culture is hardly new; Rebecca Watson, an internet atheist who has made absolutely no contribution to atheist philosophy or theory or rhetoric and has built her entire career off the relative rarity of her sex in the atheist community, said it best:

“In the land of the nerds, the double “x” chromosome is queen. The lack of women getting actively involved in skepticism has led to a peculiar deification of any female brave enough to dive into debates, engage in philosophical arguments, or just withstand the flirtatious banter that permeates online forums. The skepchick is held up as an ideal in an intellectual community – a woman who is smart, interesting, and most of all, approachable.
Despite what I saw as a distinct willingness for men to accept and embrace (sometimes literally) skeptical women, there were just not that many around. Somehow, the word was not getting out.”
(Watson, R (2005), Skepchicks International, eSkeptic, http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/05-11-03/).

Did she talk about how oppressed she was? Does she sound like she is complaining about being held up as an ideal or being deified or being embraced? Does she claim atheism was a ‘boy’s club’ aiming to keep her out? No, she shounds like a shrewd businesswoman spotting a market niche full of attention which was ripe for the harvesting!

Note that she described the atheist community as “the land of the nerds.” She clearly didn’t have a problem with their attention (assuming, presumably, it didn’t get expressed in a small confined space like an elevator).

This enjoyment of men’s attention is another facet of traditional gender roles; traditional gender norms treat men as subjects and women as objects, men as innately disposable instruments and women as innately precious and fragile. Men are thus encouraged to gain feelings of self-fulfillment through exercising agency, whereas women are encouraged to gain these feelings through enlisting male agency with innate feminine preciousness and specialness; being the center of attention, being considered extremely special and precious and worthy due to one’s innate value as a woman (and thus worthy of men doing things for you) is the essence of the female power fantasy under the traditional gender system.

Combine this with a culture which, historically, has very few women and thus very few competitors.

No matter what one may think about Ms. Watson, it is clear she acted with incredible business acumen. It should also be noted that at the time she wrote this article, the atheist community was gaining significant energy as an opposition to the Third Great Awakening and the growing influence of the Religious Right during the George W. Bush administration. She, in a sterling display of economically rational attention whoring, demonstrated that “the land of the nerds” is in fact a goldmine for women looking to benefit from traditional feminine norms.

Just as Rebecca Watson managed to be part of New Atheism during its time in the sun, the feminist engagement with geek culture seems rather conveniently timed to have occured only after Blockbuster games started making more money than Hollywood.

This mode of behavior – coming into a space and refocusing it on oneself – is extremely gender-traditional. It is also extremely unlike the actions of genuine female nerds; after all, like male nerds, female nerds are gender-atypical. Female nerds, like male nerds, typically possess what Myers-Briggs Temperments would classify as a rational temperment (xNTx) – NT’s are statistically rare in the overall population, rarer amongst women than men but still a small minority within both sexes (after all, male nerds are gender-atypical too). Thus, this mode of behavior or things resembling it come off as a “red flag” – an indication of being into the culture not due to sharing its interests but for other motivations.

In all fairness, it is quite plausible that many women who are genuinely interested in video games have been unfairly suspected of faking it – we couldn’t have all been born early enough (or had enough money) to be part of the golden age of PC gaming. But when a significant uptick in feminine interest in nerd culture (something which was significantly more atypical than male interest in nerd culture) seems to happen in ways which make sense as products of traditional feminine behavior patterns, there are grounds for skepticism… particularly in light of the extreme stigma nerdiness used to carry merely one-and-a-half console generations ago.

It certainly doesn’t help that there is footage on Youtube (courtesy of thunderf00t) of Anita Sarkeesian openly admitting she hates video games because she finds them too gory.

So, in a world where video gaming is far less stigmatized than it used to be, women can enter gaming culture and gain attention, receive adulation as an innately special creature simply for being there, and apparently get a warm welcome. They can, as Watson pointed out, be treated like princesses, and doesn’t every little girl want to be a princess? They can also receive praise for confronting “the boy’s club” and be heroines fighting against oppressive sexism – the cheers of “you go, girl!” rain down upon them.

Compare this to the treatment men have historically received for being affiliated with nerd culture. Hell, compare this to the treatment which actual female nerds receive (indeed, you could argue that the feminist influx has made it worse for them – they get accused of being gender traitors now for being ‘one of the boys’).

Subcultural Poseurs
Marginalized subcultures have always hated poseurs – those who claim the identity without knowing what it truly means. The goth subculture went through a strong period of rooting out perceived “fakes” in the aftermath of the Columbine shootings, particularly focusing on anyone who was considered too fond of Marilyn Manson (one of the artists most blamed in the aftermath of the massacre, even though the killers in fact did not like his work).

In the history of geek culture, almost every single geeky pasttime was the subject of a moral panic; The Seduction of the Innocent argued that comic books would turn your sons into juvenile delinquents who fantasized about being Robin while Batman sodomized them, Dungeons and Dragons was accused of promoting Satanism and suicide and occultism by the religious right during the Satanic Panic, and every single school massacre brings out a gaggle of “blame Grand Theft Auto” from several psychologists, religionists and political personalities.

Combine this with how nerds have been social outcasts pretty much since day one. In the light of this, resentment of poseurs is hardly surprising. Again, the goth example is illustrative, and goth is a relatively gender-balanced subculture in terms of its adherents; the resentment was against poseurs rather than any specific sex.

Another factor which has made nerd culture defensive of its distinctiveness is the prominence of Blockbuster gaming and how its success encouraged several gaming franchises to aim for more mainstream appeal (“dumbed down for the dudebros”). To someone who has literally been beaten up for playing video games, seeing a beloved hobby start to cater to people who may be perceived as the same kind of person as those who inflicted the beatings feels almost like a betrayal. Hobbyist gamers have already felt like “their” hobby was being taken away from them and formatted towards a different target audience – the fact that some women (particularly women who haven’t shown any interest in games until recently) seem to want to do something similar naturally comes off as a threat (of course there is nothing wrong with catering to all audience niches, but until relatively recently this seemed impossible due to the dominance of Blockbuster gaming – thankfully this situation seems to be getting remedied but that’s another story).

Indeed, the gender-flip of the fake geek girl, from the perspective of nerd culture, is the bro-who-plays-CoD-with-his-bros-on-saturday-but-isn’t-a-nerd. The salient difference between the fake geek girl and the CoD-bro-who-isn’t-a-nerd is not that one is a girl and one is a guy, but rather that one is claiming to be part of nerd culture and the other is not.

We are not seeing sexism here, we are seeing typical dynamics one would find in any marginalized subculture, even one with a far less skewed gender composition. Marginalized subcultures resent poseurs; the reason that the poseurs in this case are only from one sex is due to the way our society’s gender system creates different incentives for the sexes to affiliate with the subculture in question.

Conclusion
The culture of nerds has always been a culture of those who are gender-atypical due to cerebral temperments and specific hobbies. It is a culture born of the experience of those alienated from their peer group and persecuted for not fitting in. It is a culture of not-real-men and women-who-think-too-much-and-this-may-scare-boys-away-from-dating-her.

It is a culture of gender-nonconformists, built upon the experiences of these men and (admittedly much less frequently and influentially) women. It is a culture defined by its outcast status.

But, certainly these days, a female does not automatically commit social suicide by playing (or claiming to play) video games. Some men might even find her nerdiness cute. The incentives to be a nerd are like the incentives to identify as bisexual – the incentives are much more positive for women than for men, and in the case of nerd culture particularly so for women with relatively gender-traditional desires (which are typically not those of actual female nerds).

As such, suspicions of fake girl geeks, whilst obviously not always correct, are hardly indefensible bigotry. We are not seeing misogyny but rather a disdain for poseurs common to all marginalized subcultures – a disdain which would clearly be gender-neutral if the poseurs in question included members of both sexes.

There are real female geeks. There are also fake girl geeks. Fake girl geeks do not share the values or experiences of real female geeks or male geeks. Marginalized subcultures will expel those perceived as external invaders irrespective of the invaders’ sex – the problem with fake geek girls is not that they are girls but that they are fake.

Perhaps as the world becomes more accepting of genuine geekiness, geek culture as we know it (i.e. built in the context of persecution) will disappear. However, acceptance of genuine nerds grates against our society’s gender system; the system has no affection for not-real-men.

Irrespective of this, to claim that the only reason suspicions of “fake geek girl” are raised is sexism is false; if there is any gender issue that explains the lack of ‘fake geek guy,’ it is the fact that nerd culture is a culture built from the experiences of socially emasculated men (and to a lesser extent gender-atypical women); men lose their real manhood by being nerds, but women usually lose less and (these days) in some cases can make substantial gains from being geeky. In the light of this fact, it makes sense that many women want in (even if they are not nerds), but most men do not (sometimes even if they are).

Mens’ Rights vs Feminist Rape Culture Explained Using Puzzle Pieces

This is Jill.

jill copy

This is Jack.

jack copy

This is rape.

rape copy

This is not rape.

madetopenetrate copy

When a man physically forces Jill to have sex we consider it rape.

But when Jill physically forces Jack to have sex, we don’t consider it rape.

We think that Jack’s sexuality negatively affects Jill in a way that Jill’s does not negatively affect’s Jack’s.

Mary Koss agrees.

Mary Koss is the feminist researcher behind the factoid that one in four women will be raped in her lifetime.

In Mary Koss’s original survey only one in sixteen women said “yes” to “have you been raped?”

So how did she get her one in four number?

By asking women “have you ever been physically forced to have sex or have had sex under the influence of drugs or alcohol”

Disregarding the women’s answers to “have you been raped” Mary Koss went on to publish her findings and 1 in 4 became an oft repeated feminist talking point.

Unfortunately Mary Koss encountered an additional problem. When women and men are asked if they were raped, the number of male victims is low. But when women and men are asked if they were “physically forced to have sex”, the number of male victims skyrockets.

On her efforts to correct to correct the problem of too many men saying “yes” to “have you been physically forced to have sex” Mary Koss says:

 We worked diligently to develop item wording that captured men’s sense of pressure to have sex and draw their responses into an appropriate category of coercion instead of rape.

Based on Mary Koss’s advice the Center of Disease control decided to separate “physically forced sex” into two categories in their nation wide US study of sexual and domestic violence:

This is rape.

rape copy

This is made to penetrate.

madetopenetrate copy

They then went on to publicize their findings on rape while excluding the majority of male victims of physically forced sex.

When we reclassify “made to penetrate” as rape we see the problem that Mary Koss and the CDC were facing.

They had found that men and women report equal levels of victimization in the past year.

Jack is equally likely to experience physically forced sex as Jill in the last twelve months.

However the CDC found that only 20% of the victims who reported being physically forced into sex in their lifetime were male.

Why is this?

When witnessing two criminals, one female and one male, who are both equally violent, witnesses “misremember” the violence of the female over time. The force she uses is remembered as being less relative to the male. The witnesses’ perception of her agency is whittled away.

The same process is happening with male rape victims. Over time they are bringing their memories in line with the dominant narrative shared by Mary Koss, the CDC, and likely you.

This is rape.

rape copy

This is not rape.

madetopenetrate copy

So when you ask  “did someone physically force you to have sex with them in the last year” equal numbers of men and women respond yes.

When you ask “did someone physically force you to have sex with them in the last five years”, the percentage of male victims drops from 50% to 30%.

And when you ask “did someone physically force you to have sex with them in your lifetime”, the percentage of male victims drops again to 20%.

Over time male victims are “misremembering” the violence used against them by female rapists.

Feminists will often assert that 90% of rape victims are female and 99% of rapists are male.

Considering that this is universally seen as rape.

rape copy

And this is not commonly seen as rape.

madetopenetrate copy

It makes sense that the majority of male victims and the majority of female sexual aggressors are excluded from statistics regarding rape… But what’s really remarkable is that as much as ten percent of male rape victims remain to be counted. And that despite being categorically excluded women count for even one percent of rapists.

Feminists are creating a false perception of female victimhood. They are creating a culture of fear targeted at women. They are maintaining the idea that men act and women are acted upon.

That this:

rape copy

is fundamentally different from this:

madetopenetrate copy

Wouldn’t it be better if we stopped playing games with people’s lives and recognized that this:

madetopenetrate copy

is not fundamentally different than this:

rape copy

And that all victims of sexual violence–including Jack–deserve equal compassion.

References

Female criminals seen as less violent:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100525090554.htm

The Centre of Disease Control’s National Partner and Intimate Violence Survey:

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf

Tables specific to sexual violence:

http://i.imgur.com/Ps9wW.jpg

My Analysis of the CDC’s NIPSVS:

http://www.genderratic.com/p/836/manufacturing-female-victimhood-and-marginalizing-vulnerable-men/

Mary Koss Promotes Rape Culture:

http://www.genderratic.com/p/836/manufacturing-female-victimhood-and-marginalizing-vulnerable-men/

http://www.genderratic.com/p/2798/male-disposability-mary-p-koss-and-influencing-a-government-entity-to-erase-male-victims-of-rape/

http://www.genderratic.com/p/2943/mary-koss-the-corruption-continues-manboobz-style/

Feminist groups block or remove men’s protections against rape by female sexual predators.

http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Womens-groups-Cancel-law-charging-women-with-rape

http://toysoldier.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/a-sad-day-for-male-rape-victims-in-india/

Reddit Repost: “Objectification and the ‘Male Power Fantasy’”

This is a repost of an article originally posted on /r/Masculism, here: http://www.reddit.com/r/masculism/comments/1j9vy4/objectification_and_the_male_power_fantasy/

This is probably my most successful/popular article to date, probably due to its analysis of some pop culture artworks rather than simply sticking to theory. But theory plays a big part (of course).

Introduction
A common debate that takes place within the gendersphere is one which focuses on how (typically male-targeted) fiction portrays female characters. Many feminists allege that, speaking generally, the predominant portrayal of female characters constitutes objectification by portraying women as “sex objects.” Typically (although not universally), these feminists express concern that these kinds of fictional portrayals encourage men to see real-world women as not individual persons with the capacity to make their own decisions but rather as physical things that exist principally to serve the sexual demands of men.

In response to this, many advocates for men’s issues point out that male characters are also depicted with idealized body types that don’t represent real-world males.

The typical feminist rebuttal to this argument is that a false equivalence is being made – the physical idealization of female characters is intended to serve as erotic titillation, whilst the physical idealization of male characters is intended to be empowering; the women are sexual fantasies, the men are power fantasies, and in both cases the characters are created to cater to the fantasies of an assumed-to-be-male audience. Thus, the women are still portrayed as objects, whilst the men are portrayed as subjects (and the physical idealization serves to emphasize this).

This argument has, in my judgment, a degree of truth. The traditional norms of gender are ultimately predicated on the subject-object dichotomy, with manhood conceptualized as a precarious social status that is earned and validated and reinforced via actions producing specific outcomes, and womanhood conceptualized as an innate property of female individuals. Men do, women are, because a manhood is about doing and womanhood is about being. I agree that the traditional norms of gender are outdated and destructive towards individuality, and as such I believe that reinforcing these norms is something best avoided.

However, I disagree that the so-called “male power fantasy” is devoid of objectification. Indeed, I would not describe it as a fantasy of power or agency at all. Rather, I am going to argue that the “male power fantasy” is in fact objectifying of men, and that to call it a “power” fantasy is a substantial error. In reality, the “male power fantasy” is better understood as a gender conformity fantasy – a fantasy of being or becoming a “real man” – rather than a fantasy of power. And if one accepts the proposition that traditional gender norms reduce people’s power (defined as control over one’s own life), then the so-called “male power fantasy” is in fact a fantasy that glorifies powerlessness.

As examples of my point, I will be using two works of male-targeted fiction; the movie Thor (a superhero film based on an intellectual property owned by Marvel Comics) and the video game Gears Of War (which Cliff Bleszinski, in an interview with Kotaku, said used unrealistically muscular characters specifically to serve as a fantasy of empowerment).

Part 1: Objectification
The feature which separates Subjects from Objects is that a Subject possesses a mind/consciousness/free will – in brief, a Subject makes choices. Subjects, unlike Objects, can initiate action, and their actions are not the product of “causes” but rather proceed from reasons, goals and motivations. As such, Subjects can be held responsible for their actions whilst Objects cannot; a murderer is put on trial and imprisoned, but the murderer’s weapon is not.

Human beings are Subjects – indeed out of all entities which we know of, human beings demonstrate the most indisputable level of subjectivity. This has led to a situation where we often see “humanity” and “subjectivity” as essentially synonymous, and as such “objectification” (denial/marginalization of a subject’s subjectivity) is seen as dehumanizing. The possession of a mind/consciousness/free will, the ability to initiate teleological action, the capacity to choose, are the traits which separate us (as human beings) from all other known entities (there is some debate as to the cognitive capacities of higher animals, but that issue is beyond the scope of this essay). The denial or marginalization of these traits constitutes a denial/marginalization of our very humanity.

But in discussions of fictional portrayals, “objectification” goes beyond a mere acknowledgement of a character’s possession of free will/choice/etc. Let’s take, for example, the classic piece of BDSM erotica The Story of O. This piece of literature portrayed a fully consensual BDSM arrangement, with the consent of all parties repeatedly affirmed over the course of the story – and unsurprisingly, the anti-sex Radical Second Wave feminists Andrea Dworkin, Susan Griffin and Joan Smith attacked The Story of O as objectifying, even though all characters (particularly the submissive main character) are repeatedly acknowledged as possessing free will/choice/agency.

This leads me to make a proposition about what constitutes objectification – to use Kantian language, to portray a character (in-universe) as a means to an end, rather than an end in themselves, marginalizes their agency by reducing it down to acting as a functionary of some other will, and thus portrays them as an object (an instrumentally useful tool). In this way, being acknowledged as a subject is not protection against objectification. Sexual objectification consists of showing a character as existing principally to satisfy others’ sexual desires, however one can objectify characters across multiple dimensions depending on which ‘ends’ they exist to serve.

This is hardly a controversial proposition – the concept of objectification is Kantian in origin and radical anti-pornography feminists Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon both appealed to the Kantian reasoning (see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-objectification/). Non-radical feminist philosopher Martha Nussbaum also appealed to Kantian reasoning in her famous 1995 article Objectification (published in her book Sex and Social Justice) and described treating someone as a means to another’s end as “instrumentality” – which she classed as a form of Objectification.

Part 2: Traditional Masculinity As Objectification
If to be reduced to a functionary of others – a means to others’ ends rather than an end in onself – constitutes objectification, then both traditional gender roles are objectifying. Firstly, the gender system arose primarily to incentivize reproduction and population growth in a world where most children didn’t see their tenth birthday – sexual dimorphism necessitated that women bear many children over time and men serve as protectors and providers. The resultant social norms – good woman is mother, good man is hunter-warrior – reduced women to fertility objects and men to provision-protection objects.

Females, with a few exceptions owing to natural infertility, would simply gain the biological capacity to bear children owing to their maturation process. In short, their ability to serve as a means to socially-mandated ends was assumed, and thus their womanhood was conceptualized as an inherent part of their nature.

Men lacked this particular developmental feature, since the socially-mandated end of men was to provide and protect for others across a long span of time and biological maturity was no guarantee of being either able or particularly proficient at fulfilling this end. Thus, a male’s ability to serve as a means to their socially-mandated end had to proven and demonstrated, and thus their manhood was conceptualized as an ideal to aspire towards. As is typical with Platonic idealism, the normative pressure is to aspire towards the ideal – to prove oneself a “good” man by complying with the role’s demands.

The good man was a good provider – i.e. one that provided for his tribe and family and not only for himself. The good man was a good warrior – i.e. one that defended his tribe and family from external threats and was willing to die for the ‘greater good’ of his group. The good man may have been competent and powerful, but this power was justified in terms of service to an higher will (the idea of individuals living their own lives in accordance with their own wills is historically quite recent – principally it is a product of Enlightenment Individualism, which is far newer than traditional gender roles). The good man was thus a means to an end – a disposable tool – an object (albiet objectified in a very different manner to women).

Part 3: Masculinity, Dominance, Submission and Self-Determination
This naturally clashes strongly with an understanding of masculinity as dominance. Both feminist gender theory and traditionalist gender norms often conceive of masculinity in terms of dominance and femininity in terms of submission. This contains some truth but it is an oversimplification which ignores a feature of traditional masculinity that has been long-ignored; traditional masculinity, owing to its hierarchical nature, contains a significant component of submission.

As explained in my article Separating The ‘Boys’ From The ‘Men’ (http://www.genderratic.com/p/3977/reddit-repost-separating-the-boys-from-the-men-male-hierarchy-and-the-oppression-of-men/) , the Platonic Essentialist nature of the socially-mandated male role results in a multi-tiered hierarchy of “real manhood.” Those who are not “real men” are practically treated as a third gender. Those who are “real men” compete with each other in order to attain superiority, and eventually an “Alpha” status defined by possessing the ability to revoke an inferior’s “real manhood” and socially emasculate said inferior. For the purposes of this article, let us call those “real men” who lack “Alpha” status “Betas” and let us call those males who lack “real man” status “Omegas.”

Traditional masculinity, whilst often mischaracterized as being centered on dominance, mandates that a Beta submit to his Alpha so as to avoid being rendered an Omega. Sure, the Beta isn’t as good a man as the Alpha (by social standards), but he is still a “real man.” The penalty for unsuccessful rebellion is a loss of status, which may reach the level of social emasculation.

As I have argued above, traditional concepts of gender are heavily grounded in notions of maturity – hence how “grow up” and “man up” are functionally synonymous. A Beta who unsuccessfully rebels against the Alpha is often called a “brat” or “punk” – two terms with immature connotations (bringing to mind discontented children/teenagers who dare question their allegedly-omniscient elders). To be a “real man” is to not act like a child male (a “boy” – a common emasculating slur), and to rebel is childish.

In short, real men acknowledge rank and obey their superiors. The military is an institution held as the height of masculine, and it is brutally hierarchical (and, in what would be a paradox to those that define masculinity purely in terms of dominance, it is the soldiers rather than the officers that are considered more macho even though the officers hold command).

As such, submission to authority is not inherently emasculating, but rather masculinity-mandated under certain conditions.

When asserting one’s own self-sovereignty (which is inherently rebellious since it denies the legitimacy of others’ dominion over oneself) is seen as transgressive of the gender norms, when surrendering one’s will is seen as properly masculine, when obedience is elevated to virtue, it becomes impossible to see traditional masculinity as being about dominance alone. When knowing one’s place and being a good soldier is a masculine duty, one can scarcely describe traditional masculinity as empowering men to live their own lives on their own terms.

And it is this self-sovereignty-sabotaging ideal of masculinity which is being aspired to.

Part 4: Case Studies
In light of the above, the discussion moves to two real-world works of fiction targeted primarily towards young males and aimed at providing a so-called “male power fantasy.” I shall argue that the object of these fantasies is in fact gender-compliance, of being a “real man” rather than possessing power (“power” being understood as self-determination).

Study A: “Thor”
The movie “Thor” provides an interesting case-study in the culturally-induced self-loathing of many nerdy young men; simply take Thor and his brother Loki and ask oneself “which of these characters is the audience surrogate?”

Clearly, it isn’t the six-foot-three, unshaven, heavily muscled, popular, father’s favorite Crown Prince. Thor embodies the normative ideal of Asgardian masculinity – a warrior who wins with as much force and as little tactics as possible.

The slightly shorter, slender, pale, dark-haired Prince Loki fights with deception, trickery, illusions, sorcery and throwing knives – all of which transgress Asgard’s concept of how a “real man” fights. His skills are seen as mere “tricks.” And Thor’s friends are arguably Thor’s friends who endure Loki’s presence out of respect for Thor rather than like of Loki.

To use language suited for the high-school target demographic, what we have is a simple contrast between the popular, gender-normative jock and the unpopular, gender-atypical nerd. Out of these two archetypes, who is more representative of the typical audience of comic books? And who exactly is the villainous one?

In a way, Loki’s relationship with Thor can be seen as having similarities to that of the target audience’s relationship with Thor: jealousy and resentment and wishing to be the golden, approved of, normal kid. Loki is in effect a representative of Jung’s Shadow – the parts of the self which are disowned on some level.

But the relationship between Thor and Loki cannot truly be understood without viewing it in the context of the Princes’ relationship with their father, King Odin – they both crave their father’s approval and endorsement. It is implied that Thor begins with this endorsement, and Loki does not. As I wrote in my article The Literal Patriarchy (http://www.genderratic.com/p/4021/reddit-repost-the-literal-patriarchy-men-and-masculinity/), this approval/endorsement is something which our gender system places a high value upon; the result is that culturally speaking, father figures have the ability to bestow or revoke “real man” status.

This is precisely what Odin does to Thor during an early part of the film. After Thor rashly causes an incident which nearly triggers a war (an incident caused by Thor reacting with outrage at another character verbally emasculating him), Odin makes Thor human and casts a spell on Thor’s hammer which results in Thor being unable to use the hammer until proven “worthy.” During a verbal admonishment, Odin verbally emasculates Thor further, calling him a “boy.”

The implications should be obvious – verbal and symbolic (the hammer being a pretty obvious phallic symbol) emasculation combined with depowering until Thor began to meet Odin’s standards.

Thor only reclaims the hammer by proving himself, i.e. complying with Odin’s will. He regains his symbolic masculinity by sacrificing his own life for the humans (both affirming male-sacrifice (and hence male disposability) as well as self-sacrifice (and hence Christian and Comtean ethical beliefs)), simultaneously complying with his father’s will and a deeply-rooted premise of the gender system. Thor regains his masculinity through acts of submission (as paradoxical as this may seem).

This is further validated when at the end of the film, Thor confesses to Odin that Odin is a better King than Thor would ever be and how he longs to make Odin proud. Odin then confesses pride in his son. Yet again, Thor acquiesces to Odin, and through that gains approval and is validated as a “proper” man.

Thor may be physically mighty, but he lives essentially as his father’s vassal, motivated entirely by the desire to prove himself and live up to his father’s standards. He desires to serve as a means to his father’s ends and be a good, dutiful son. How, with any depth or meaningful contemplation, can this be seen as a power fantasy?

Indeed, if Loki is the audience surrogate, then the film itself explicitly denies being a power fantasy; Loki clearly states that he never wanted the throne (i.e. wasn’t interested in power) and only ever wanted to be Thor’s equal (the “in father’s eyes” is implied).

At the climax of the film, after discovering his actual heritage as a frost giant foundling adopted by Odin, Loki uses a superweapon to attempt genocide on his race’s homeworld (after killing their King, who was Loki’s biological father). Loki’s motivation was to prove himself to Odin, to prove himself a good son, and to essentially out-Thor Thor, by demonstrating (though an extreme act) compliance with Asgardian standards (including gender standards (we could describe Asgardian gender standards of embodying certain elements of Toxic Masculinity)).

Loki’s plan failed, and when Odin looked at him with nothing but disappointment and regret, Loki committed suicide. As Warren Farrell pointed out, suicide is not a response to power, but to powerlessness.

If Loki is the target demographic’s representative and Thor is the escapist character, then the Thor film is no power fantasy. It is a fantasy of fitting in, of meeting popular standards of masculinity, of pleasing authority figures. It is a fantasy of being the good son that makes Daddy proud. It is a fantasy of proving oneself a “real man”. It is a gender conformity fantasy, and therefore it is the opposite of a power fantasy.

Study B: “Gears Of War”
Amongst gamers, “Gears Of War” as an IP is infamous for extreme levels of conventional masculinity. In an interview between Cliff Bleszinski (the game’s creator) and Kotaku, Bleszinski stated that the unrealistically muscular (i.e. hyper-masculine) bodies of the main characters were intended to give a sense of empowerment to the player. This statement is of course in line with the “power fantasy” narrative, but to paraphrase Warren Farrell, men have been taught to think of that which makes them powerless as power.

“Gears” takes place in a world run by a totalitarian-collectivist dictatorship called the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG). The symbolism of the acronym should be obvious – being a cog in a machine is clearly objectification, isn’t it? So, obviously, since this game is a power fantasy (i.e. a fantasy of having/attaining/increasing one’s control over one’s own life), the plot must be about a rebellion against the COG, right?

In reality, the plot focuses on a super-gruff, super-growly, steroidally-sized soldier named Marcus Fenix; a war hero who fought for the COG in multiple battles, but got stripped of his rank and thrown into prison for going against orders. The story begins with Fenix being reinstated, although Fenix’s CO Colonel Hoffman is not happy at all with this. Over the course of the story, Marcus Fenix aims to prove himself to Hoffman; at the climax of the game when Fenix is hanging on for dear life to the struts of a flying helicopter, Hoffman finally reaches down and helps him up. The music grows to a soaring, triumphant crescendo.

The story here is one of Marcus Fenix proving himself, through compliance to an authority figure, as a reliable and effective servant – a very good cog in the machine, as it were. Like Thor, Fenix is punished for a transgression against his overlords, and is given a chance to redeem himself through compliance to his ruler’s standards. Like Thor, Fenix is eventually redeemed for his transgression through servitude. Like Thor, Fenix has to please an elder male authority figure (Colonel Hoffman in this case), and just like in the movie Thor, the audience is expected to find fulfillment in the approval of said figure.

“Power” is not the object of this fantasy – being a good soldier boy is not a position of power. One might be shooting tons of enemies and kicking proverbial ass across a pixel-gore-coated screen, but one is doing so on orders. As E.S. Raymond points out in The Myth Of Man The Killer (http://catb.org/~esr/writings/killer-myth.html), military insociation is based upon breaking people’s individual will and reformatting them into collective-identifying agents of the wills of their superiors – in short, removing the sense of individual agency/responsibility – in short, objectification. It is a fantasy of instrumentality (in the sense Nussbaum used the term) that powers “Gears Of War” – a fantasy of being an effective attack dog who is rewarded by his master.

Marcus Fenix is the slave of a totalitarian regime and exists to serve his government. His career consists of following orders. He is merely a tool with a gun and even though he is unrealistically muscular and speaks in a guttral snarl, he has no control whatsoever over his own life. His motivations consist of pleasing the higher-ups. The sales figures of the “Gears” series make it clear that a disturbing number of young men indeed believe that Marcus Fenix is an empowered man.

But Fenix is a clear case of Nussbaum’s instrumentality – in slaughtering legions of enemies, Fenix proves his usefulness. In ordering his squad around, he fulfills the demands of his own superiors. In fulfilling aspects of the masculine gender role, he serves. He may not be sexually objectified, but he is clearly objectified.

A soldier fighting for a totalitarian state, striving to prove himself a useful instrument of his rulers, is hardly in a position of power. But what Marcus Fenix does display is a level of gender conformity which is borderline ludicrous – as explained above his instrumental efficacy is perfectly in line with the traditional expectations of manhood. His stoicism is practically a running joke. His size is extraordinarily unrealistic considering his nation is living at near-starvation. His voice and mannerisms and facial features speak for themselves. So what is the object of the fantasy?

An interesting case could be made that a fantasy of power over others is exhibited by Gears Of War. For one, as the game is a Third Person Shooter, one can argue that the nature of the gameplay involves exerting power (in this case, violence) over the opponents the player faces. For two, in the context of the game’s plotline, Marcus Fenix is the leader of his squad. However, with respect to the second point, the fantasy of power over others is marginal compared to the overwhelming lack of power that Fenix has in the storyline – he has superiors too, after all. And with respect to the first point, almost all action games fulfill this role, even those with female protagonists; is Bayonetta thus a transgendered or autogynephiliac power fantasy?

The power over others Marcus has is justified in terms of how he uses it to serve his own superiors, nation and family – he is merely a conduit for the power over others possessed by his superiors. He is a senior slave who sets out to win the approval of his rulers and prove himself a good soldier. He is not a fantasy of power, but rather a fantasy of appeasing traditional standards of masculinity. Compliance is hardly an assertion of power.

Part 5: Conclusion
The depiction of men in popular (and typically male-targeted) fiction is an important issue for anyone that wishes to criticize the traditional gender system. However, some feminists react to attempts to discuss the topic by arguing that it falsely equates female-characters-as-sex-objects with individuated, powerful and truly human idealized men.

But this argument errs because traditional masculinity has always been objectifying, albiet in a very different way to the manner in which traditional femininity objectifies women. The male gender standards demand that a man be an instrumentally useful, compliant servant; a male may possess agency but he is no “real man” unless he deploys that agency in an approved fashion.

As such, works of fiction typically seen as “male power fantasies” become more comprehensible as fantasies of compliance with gender norms. As demonstrated by the two case studies provided, neither central character could be described as possessing control over their own life; both central characters act as executors of an higher will than their own and follow narrative arcs where they are rewarded with approval for being good subordinates. If Thor Odinson and Marcus Fenix are embodiments of normative masculinity then to fantasize about being them is hardly a fantasy of power.

A different kind of objectification is not a power fantasy. A fantasy of measuring up to social norms is not a fantasy of power, nor are such fantasies a product of power; rather, they are a response to and manifestation of a profound powerlessness.

Those who wish to address how the gender system harms men should continue to analyze the depictions of men in popular culture, particularly in male-targeted fiction. Fiction crafted for a target audience will typically attempt to embody and flatter the beliefs, norms and values of this audience; thus, fiction can serve as a reflection of that audience’s greatest desires and aspirations. What does that imply about the so-called “male power fantasy”?

Feedback and discussion is appreciated.

CULT OF THE MOTHER – The Minoan Great Mother

One lobe of Second Wave feminism was the Goddess Movement. Proponents posited that there had been a stage of historical development, in Europe and the Mediterranean at least, where the dominant image of divinity had been female. It was controversial from the start and the level of intellectual rigor behind the argumentation for it basically doomed it to obscurity. But it is still worth examing for the larger lessons it offers.

A corollary to this assertion of a female overgod was that these societies had been naturally peaceful, because that’s inherent in femininity or something. One example adduced was Minoan civilization, with its Mother Goddess and cities without walls, taken as proof that warfare was so rare as to require no special defensive fortifications. (Yeah, well, Washington DC doesn’t have any walls either….)

This is a standard image of the Minoan Mother Goddess. It’s probably quite familiar by now.

 Along with the Great Mother/Snake Goddess bulls were a very important symbol in Minoan culture and religion, and a form of sport that involved jumping over bulls by grabbing the charging bulls horns. Yee hah, coming to a rodeo near you. Don’t hold your breath. At least that’s what some mural depict; it looks so difficult as to be impossible.
 Minoan culture produced beautiful statuary featuring bulls and stylized bulls horns were a standard decorative form along the tops of walls at the palace at Knossos and they always were a fixture on altars – “the horns of consecration”. Note the connnection between bulls and sacrifice.
The myth of the Minotaur reflects the importance of the bull in that religion.

Another aspect of the importance of the bull was the bull sacrifice. The story of Theseus encodes the bull sacrifice under its overlay of human sacrifice. The Athenian youths are sent to Knossos to feed the Minotoaur, yes, but after all it is still the bull that ends up dying. This is the kind of patchy reconstruction we should expect after that story has come through a span of centuries and a dark age as part of the overall Bronze Age Collapse in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Minoans prospered at the heart of a thalassocracy that spanned the Mediterranean. I have heard them credited with spreading cultivation of the olive over the entire region. Perhaps some other aspects of ther culture endure in these far reaches as well.
Oh dear – bullfighting. How barbarous and brutal! Surely the naturally nurturant religion of the Great Mother could have nothing to do with anything like that! And notice how again it’s the bull that always dies.
A much better attested female-oriented religion was the mystery cult of Adonis. Mystery cults in Roman times were the preserve of women. Christianity was a mystery cult in the beginning and this held up its full social acceptability for generations. And what do we find in this cult tailor-made for women? We find the myth of Adonis, whom Aphrodite takes as a lover when she looks down from heaven, and who dies as a result of this connection.
What a treasured teenaged fantasy – the hot young man dying for love! How romantic it all is! And the crucial part is that he has to suffer and die to give the story some juice, to give the listener someone to moon over and pine over. Country Joe and the Fish nailed this one not so long ago.
So these female religions are all nurturant and peaceful, as long as you’re not the one on the receiving end of all the fevered fantasies.
The Goddess Movement is largely forgotten in internet feminism, if it was ever known at all, but it has diffused into the gender discussion. You hear its echoes all over – the way every issue is discussed in terms of how it impacts women, the way female victims are identified as female while males are degendered and borgified into either non-males or non-victims, the way gains for women and girls are gains whereas gains for men and boys somehow always threaten women…If it seems implausible that the Goddess Movement should have such influence despite its short duration the larger feminist movement, it’s not really strange at all. It’s not at all strange because it fits so perfectly with the general gynocentric orientation of the culture, which measures a “Real Man” by how useful he is to women. So examining the Goddess Movement and its narratives is an important part of any gender discussion that hopes to be at all through.
The Goddess Movement and its assertions were controversial from the start and the level of intellectual rigor behind the argumentation for it basically doomed it to obscurity. But it is still worth examing for the larger lessons it offers.

Reddit Repost: “Separating the ‘Boys’ from the ‘Men’ – Male Hierarchy and the Oppression of Men”

This is an article originally published here on Reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/masculism/comments/11w04k/separating_the_boys_from_the_men_male_heirarchy/

As this piece was published at /r/Masculism it tends to take a less vehement tone than the ‘typical’ pro-men’s-rights piece. Upon re-reading I couldn’t find any substantially objectionable material within it and as such I wish to preserve it here.

Part 1: Introduction
In my article on /r/GenderEgalitarian/ A Few Thoughts On Some Feminist Concepts, I pointed out an interesting quirk of language use:

“It is interesting to note how the phrase “real men” is used in a way that contradicts what people typically mean by “real.” You are probably reading this article on a computer or similar electronic device; this device exists and is therefore real. Yet the minute we shift to “real men” we start talking not about men that exist, but men who embody a specific ideal of correct manliness (also called the Hegemonic Masculinity). The word “real” is used to mean “ideal.”"

This sudden shift in the definition of “real,” from “something that exists” to “exemplar of an ideal,” is a process I call a Platonic Inversion (because it is an instance of underlying residual Platonism in people’s thought processes – Plato after all believed that the “ideal” was “more real” than physical stuff).

In the mainstream of our culture, this Platonic Inversion with respect to “men” is nearly unquestioned. When we talk about a real DVD player, using the term to mean a “far better DVD player,” we all know that the term “real” is being used metaphorically.

But, on the other hand, being a “real man” is not a matter of metaphor. It is a matter of personal pride. It is a big deal (socially speaking), not a simple case of a metaphorical invocation of Platonism.

Why?

The reason for this is that, according to the cultural mainstream, being a “real man” is an earned social status rather than something innate in physically real men. “Real manhood” must be repeatedly demonstrated, proven, confirmed and defended. Psychological studies have backed this point up.

How did this situation come to pass?

A common theory, one which I think has significant explanatory power, is that women’s signs of biological maturity were relatively obvious; they had their menstural cycle, grew breasts, and (most importantly in societies which were fed through the manual labor of a growing population) bear children. “Girls” simply became “Women” (with the exceptions of infertile females), at which point they could fulfil their expected social role of bearing children.

Men, on the other hand, had less physically obvious signs of biological maturation. This was coupled with the fact that early human societies had reproductive pressures that incentivized protection of the females, as well as the fact that pregnant females were less able to perform hard labor/hunt/fish/farm/etc. The social role of women was something that the vast majority of women would grow into being capable of performing just by the nature of female biology.

The social role performed by men was not as biologically assured. Men had to be protectors and providers; tasks which were physically strenuous, dangerous, and could be performed with different levels of success and/or failure (i.e. men could be “good men” or “bad men” in the sense of being more or less competent at fulfilling their assigned roles; women of course had something similar (infertile women being seen as “bad women” or “barren”) but as a matter of degree the pressure wasn’t as strong since any given man was more likely to be a bad warrior/hunter than any given women was likely to be infertile, and then we have to introduce the matter of levels of skill at performing warrior/hunter tasks relative to breeding tasks (women do have different levels of fertility, but how wide is that scope vs. the scope of competence at warrior/hunter tasks?)).

As such, “proper” femaleness was seen as innate, but “proper” maleness required actions which produced specific outcomes. Barring infertility, a female would always become a “real woman,” but a man would have to continually fulfill his social functions in order to be seen as a “real man.”

It should come as no surprise that this formed our society’s most basic gender role; a role that I’d generally say Feminists and Masculists and Gender Egalitarians of all stripes basically accept as the foundation of our society’s gender system. This is the Subject-Object distinction, often phrased as “men do, women are.” Men are actors, women are acted upon.

Feminists, Gender Egalitarians, and MRA’s have consistently traced out the misogynistic and misandric implications and outcomes of this role system.

So, the above is a brief sketch of how our society came to its basic gender system. During early human history, this system probably had significant utility – human survival was predicated on manual labor, and a steadily-growing supply of manual labor was premised on consistent reproduction (ergo women having to have children and men having to protect/feed the family).

When the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution ushered in modern civilization as we know it, things changed. Manual labor stopped being the engine of human survival and prosperity; a progressively automated, capital-and-enterprise-dependent economy took its place. It is no coincidence that modern gender discourse, kicked off by Classical Liberal Feminism, was a product of the Enlightenment era. Fundamentally, gender discourse is a product of the fact that our technology has developed far more quickly than our received cultural wisdom; now, the “received wisdom” about masculinity and femininity is clearly obsolete.

From this point onward, I wish to focus on masculinity, or more correctly our society’s understanding of “correct” masculinity, and how it has constructed a system which oppresses men

Part 2: The Machismo Economy
So how does our society’s “masculinity system” (whatever you want to call it) operate?

As stated above, the casual acceptance of “real men” to be used to refer to men who meet some ideal standard gives us an important clue; under this system, not all physically real men are “real men.” Manhood (in the “real man” sense) is a socially-earned status. It is conferred. Because it can be conferred, it can also be revoked.

This means that the system has a binary component, where a man either is a “real man” or is not a “real man.” They either “pass” or “fail.” They are “real men” or they are socially emasculated.

This binary component is one of “separating the men from the boys.” Degrees do not exist within this component of the system. Note the use of “boys” here; the implication being that insufficiently masculine (by social standards) men are not fully mature (i.e. they are child males rather than adult males). This further validates the hypothesis expressed in Part 1; “real manhood” is a socially-earned status because a man’s full maturity isn’t as biologically obvious as a woman’s, and that the male social role wasn’t as connected to innate biological capabilities as the female’s.

It is often noted that various institutions mediate the conferral of social manhood; sports teams, the military, fraternities, etc. Again, the need for institutional validation of social manhood seems to back up the hypothesis that the relative understatedness of male biological maturation is an important reason for the nature of the current gender system (also note how real-world tribal societies frequently have rituals which initiate “boys” into “manhood”).

Thus, within the “manhood” system developed by our society, you will typically find an underclass of “not real men.” Call them “boys,” “beta males” or “omega males,” “the socially emasculated” or whatever; if being a “real man” is like being in a nightclub, these men are outside of the club.

But then we move into the second component of the “manhood” system; inter-male heirarchialism. Once someone has been admitted into the category of “real man” there is competition amongst the men inside to establish an order of rank. As explained earlier, there are differences in degree of how well men can fulfill the social role of “real man,” and whilst there is the aforementioned binary distinction between “those that can’t” (“boys”) and “those that can” (“real men”), some “real men” can do it better than others.

This is the familiar battle for “Alpha Maleness.” With it comes power over one’s underlings and, crucially, the ability to socially emasculate them (kick them out of the “real man” club and reduce them to a “boy”). The battle for Alpha status is not pleasant, it is endless and must be repeatedly fought, yet the alternative to being “one of the real men” is social emasculation.

In brief, you could say the social system of “real manhood” operates with three basic “tiers.” At the top, the Alpha who can bestow or revoke “real man” status. In the middle, those “real men” who are attempting to continually acquire more “real man” status and outcompete their opponents. At the very bottom, the “boys” or “not real men,” the socially emasculated, the outcasts.

We might describe these tiers with the labels “Alpha,” “Beta” and “Omega” but those would just be shorthand, plus I wouldn’t want to get the above confused with PUA terminology (PUA terminology refers to frequency of sexual success, which is related to but certainly not the same thing as status amongst fellow males).

Part 3: Some Effects Of This System
1) GENDER POLICING: A simple truth of economics is that people respond to incentives – if conduct X confers a benefit, and conduct Y bears a cost, then ceteris paribus people will be more likely to engage in X and less likely to engage in Y.

The “real manhood” system operates in such a way as to incentivize gender policing; by outperforming another man at a specific masculine-coded task, one gains more “real man” credit whilst at the same time diminishing the social masculinity of the outperformed men. The incentive isn’t to be good or competent at these specific tasks, but rather to be better than others at these specific tasks. Thus, men are motivated not to view other men’s strengths as good, but as threats. Men are motivated to view other men’s weaknesses as opportunities to be exploited.

Let’s put aside the strange moral inversion (resenting the admired, wishing to see more of the disdained) that this system implies for now; the obvious effect is gender policing. Make one slip and your “fellow men” will be right there to tear you apart and degrade you for it; it is the only way for them to increase their own status.

Obviously, this makes authentic self-expression and pursuit of one’s own happiness into a minefield for men, particularly those with some preferences that fall outside of traditional gender boundaries (in fact it is fair to say that almost all men have at least one interest which transgresses gender boundaries). Even those that, to their knowledge, have purely gender-typical interests, are socially penalized by this gender policing to some degree; they are discouraged from exploring things which may end up potentially enhancing their lives.

2) HERD CONFORMITY/GROUP IDENTITY: Significant neurological evidence exists to indicate that one’s gender identity (innate feeling of being male or female) is a result of neuroanatomy (for instance, transgender persons have been shown to have neuroanatomy of the opposite sex to the anatomy of the rest of their bodies; transgender conditions are arguably the neurological version of intersex conditions). When one’s gender identity is attacked or questioned, it can be distressing.

But, as stated before, being a “real man” is a social status rather than something innate, and the mechanism for acquiring and reinforcing this status is interpersonal. Basically, it is conferred by group insociation.

As a result, males have a portion of their innate identity subject to social approval and validation.

Now, most readers of this piece would accept the proposition that there is a mind-independent reality, and that facts aren’t the same thing as group consensus. And yet, this is precisely what “real manhood” requires – subjective acceptance of someone as a “real man.” So not only does “real manhood” refer to a Platonic ideal rather than physical reality, it also refers to a socially subjective status, as if the World Of Forms and the Consensus Reality were one and the same.

Leaving aside the utterly crackbrained metaphysics and epistemology that seem to be entailed here, the psychological effects of such an attitude are pretty obvious; if a critical part of one’s identity is dependent on the group, then one is far less likely to be fully individuated. One is far less likely to go against the grain, to think for oneself, to live with authenticity and integrity, when critical components of one’s identity are heavily invested in a group membership that is granted by mass consensus.

This goes far beyond gender policing. The damage that can be caused is fundamentally cognitive; if someone’s primary reference point for facts of reality is social rather than empirical, then that someone has basically abandoned any pretense at rationality.

This group-granted, group-dependent “real man” identity does nothing less than encourage complete cognitive dependence in males, crush unorthodox thinking, and incentivize “fitting in” and being “one of the guys” over being one’s authentic self.

3) PARALLEL HIERARCHIES: As stated above, having one’s innate gender identity questioned or attacked is a distressing experience (as many transgender people will attest). And, as stated before, plenty of males are not granted the status of “real men,” rather they are seen as failed men, as “boys” or some other emasculated label. Thus, many real men (physically real men, not “real men”) unfortunately live in a state where they commonly are inflicted with the distress of having their innate gender identity socially denied.

Denial of an individual’s innate gender identity – in effect a claim that this individual doesn’t really know their own mind and that the denier knows that individual better than that individual knows themselves – is offensive. It is offensive when it happens to trans people, and it is offensive when it happens to cisgender people, including cisgender men.

Given how social sanction and reinforcement has always been a crucial component of “real manhood” (a component which, it can be plausibly argued, is more important to “real manhood” than “real womanhood”), social emasculation can cause a remarkable amount of distress to men.

So, how do those men that have had their “real man” status revoked react? Sure, there are some that simply reject the whole enterprise of proving themselves to others, but this reaction isn’t as common as we’d all like. Indeed, the more common reaction is to form a parallel institution – in this case to simply create a different kind of heirarchical masculinity with its own cultural standards of “real manhood.”

The pattern of traditional masculinity is taken; there’s an heirarchically-structured “in group” led by the person that most exemplifies the group’s standards, with subordinate members competing with each other in an attempt to outdo each other at compliance with the group’s standards; unsurprisingly there is also an “out-group” composed of those that are not considered the “in-group” and who’s masculinity is held as fundamentally deficient/failed.

Why would some of the socially emasculated react by reproducing a variant of the same system that humiliated them? The answer is simple – those that are socially emasculated and respond by forming a parallel masculinity do so out of a desire to be accepted by the “real man” group that rejected them, and create their own as a substitute. They don’t reject the underlying premises of the system, they simply alter the standards to ones more favorable to their own traits.

Those familiar with the theory of Hegemonic Masculinity should see the parallels here; there is a socially normative model of “real manhood,” but not all can practice it successfully. Those who are heavily dependent on such group validation for their gender identity, yet find themselves socially emasculated, will desire to have their “real manhood” reinstated through insociation. In order to cater to this need, they will seek out or set up a parallel institution more likely to accept them.

4) DESTRUCTION OF PEER BONDS AND TRUE BROTHERHOOD: And we finally come to the most ironic and arguably most pernicious effect that the traditional system of “real manhood” has inflicted upon actual men: the poisoning of male relationships.

The “real manhood” system is hierarchically structured and incentivizes competition with and subjugation of one’s fellow man. After all, if one begins a gender system by positing a Platonic ideal then the moral imperative is to refashion oneself into that ideal as much as possible; if one defines the process of moving closer to this ideal as defeating others, then defeating others becomes a duty.

A peer relationship, i.e. a relationship of equals, cannot exist in this framework. Benefit can only come from a violation of the peership. If one posits hierarchical behavior as a proper component of “real manhood,” then peer relationships become emasculated (hence accusations of “those two men are getting too friendly/buddyish, obviously they must be gay” etcetera).

And yet, is not true brotherhood inherently about an ultimate sense of peership? Is it not about admiring and respecting the competencies and virtues of another, rather than conspiring to defeat or lessen those competencies and virtues? Aristotle famously described a true friend as another self – does one attempt to diminish, demean, defeat, humiliate and subjugate oneself?

Human beings relate to those that are like themselves – birds of a feather flock together is more than just a saying. This is why women like their “girl’s nights out” and men like their “boy’s nights out.” Same-gender social bonding is normal and healthy; it is almost certainly a human need (arguably this is another reason for the phenomenon of Parallel Heirarchies discussed above). To make this bonding into an adversarial exercise and a threat to one’s gender identity is a cruel joke at the very least.

Part 4: Conclusion
Traditional concepts of gender were Gender Essentialist, but the type of Essentialism differed between men and women (due to the different roles men and women had to play in pre-modern societies and the differences in the obviousness of their physical maturation). Femininity was typically treated as innate, i.e. as an immanent essence (Aristotelian/Moderate Essentialism) which women possessed by virtue of birth.

Men, on the other hand, were saddled with a Platonic Essentialist concept of masculinity. As such, identity as a “real man” was always a less sure thing than identity as a “real woman.” Women were beings and men were doings. This basic Subject-Object separation ultimately underpins our society’s traditional gender roles, and provides both men and women with various different advantages and disadvantages relative to each other.

One specific disadvantage the traditional conception of the “proper” way to be a “real man” has is that, by virtue of its Platonic nature, it emasculates many men. It compels men to be unsure of their identity, to rely on social verification, to conform and be “one of the guys” at any cost. It encourages men to police other men’s gender expression, to capitalize on each other’s “weakness” and resent each other’s capabilities and skills. Ultimately, it generates a toxic hierarchical environment where even the basic human need of same-gender camaraderie becomes a veritable battleground.

If gender policing, sabotage of individuation and individuality, and the corruption of the process of fulfilling a natural human need, are correctly called “oppressive,” then the current sex/gender system is oppressive of men.

In my earlier article, A Few Thoughts On Some Feminist Concepts, I argued that “Platocracy” is a better term than “Patriarchy” to describe the traditional gender system. It is in traditional ideas of “real manhood” that we find the clearest evidence for the Platonic basis of this gender system.

It goes both ways

The Huffington Post recently published an article titled The Conversation You Must Have With Your Sons. The point of the article is to blame all men and boys for the experiences of women and girls as feminists interpret them. It’s the same anti-male slander with which feminists target men, re-packaged as “parenting advice” handed out in an open “letter” to the parents of teenagers.

Rape is something men and boys do. All men and boys are rapists in waiting. That’s their default status unless you teach them not to rape. Girls are never to be held responsible for their actions or the image they present to other people. To teach your son not to rape, you must make sure he understands that. He must also understand that he’s expected to have more respect for girls than they’re expected to have for him. 

Reading the article made me think, but not about what I should teach my son. Instead, I thought about how the article would have been received if it were written with the sexes reversed, right down to the difference in issues faced by men and boys.

The following is the result of that contemplation; a gender-issues reversal of the original letter. I’ve kept it true to the original as much as possible, but I found that in dealing realistically with the issues faced by men and boys, I couldn’t keep it as short.

To the Parents of U.S. Teenagers,

(An open letter.)

Remember that intimate conversation you had with your daughter? The one where you said, “I love you and I need you to know that no matter how a man dresses or acts, it is not an invitation to cat call, taunt, stalk, harass, assault, or lie about him”?

Or when you told your daughter, “A man’s social or financial status isn’t a prize, and sleeping with a rich, popular, or hot guy doesn’t earn you a point”? Or when you told her “A man isn’t your personal dumping ground for the consequences of your bad decisions, so don’t use false accusations to cover for cheating, being out late, feeling promiscuous, or anything else you decided to do”? Remember when you told her that men are actual human beings, not just walking wallets for women to use and discard when they’re drained?

How about the heart-to-heart where you lovingly conferred the legal knowledge that “a man doesn’t have to be fighting you and you don’t have to be pinning him down for it to be RAPE. Incapacitation via drugs or alcohol means he can’t legally consent, NOT that it’s okay to rape him and then accuse him because you were drinking too”? Or when you told her “Erection isn’t an automatic sign of consent. Being able to make a guy experience one doesn’t entitle you to sex with him. If he says no, it means you should stop”?

And then there was the ever-important conversation about honesty in a relationship. Remember making sure your daughter understood that using pregnancy, real or false, to trap a guy in an unwanted relationship is abusive? Remember telling her that lying to him will only lead to problems later on? And that she can’t create a functional, happy relationship by manipulating an unwilling guy into staying with her?

Remember explaining to your daughter that she’s not entitled to anyone’s attention, interest, love, or regard? That being female doesn’t put her above the imperative to earn other people’s respect? When you explained that men and boys are human beings, with their own experiences that are separate and distinct from hers?

You know that time you told her it’s not okay to gay shame or slander a guy for turning her down? That it’s not okay to gay shame at all, period? That just because she tries to get a response from a guy doesn’t mean he owes it to her? That attempting to manipulate him with social pressure is abusive? How about when you explained that faking interest to milk a guy’s one-sided attraction to her for personal gain is abusive?

Or maybe you recall sharing this important tidbit: “Your feelings don’t define your partner’s actions or intent.” You know, when you explained that communication is key to a functional relationship, then went on to explain that communication includes her actions? That being forced or coerced into sex is rape, but not getting everything she imagined out of the experience doesn’t make it so? That false accusation of sexual assault is a sexual assault?

Do you remember calling your daughter out when you discovered she was buying into outrageous double standards? When you heard her call her ex-boyfriend a player after complaining about being treated like a slut? Or when you overheard her talking about some boy from school as if he were more of a conquest than a person, just because of his popularity or his job? How about when explained that it’s abusive to shame guys for not appealing to her? When you heard her verbally attacking boys she found unattractive for the ‘crime’ of daring to glance in her direction? When you had to explain that “hello” doesn’t automatically become “nice tits, bitch” because she’s not interested in the guy who is greeting her?

When you responded to “Where have all the good men gone” with “be a good woman, and you’ll find out”? To “I want my boyfriend to be a gentleman” with “are you prepared to be a lady”?

Last but not least, do you remember explaining to your daughter about personal agency, and how the choices she makes are her own choices? That equality means she should expect to take the same responsibility for herself as men are expected to take for themselves? That this responsibility includes the responsibility to assert herself and not behave as if being female is an incapacitating handicap?

I want you to consider these conversations and then ask yourself why you don’t remember them. The likely reason is because you didn’t have them. In fact, most parents haven’t had them.

By contrast, here are some conversations you might have a better recollection of. I’ll give you a telling hint: they probably weren’t with your daughter.

“Treat all women with respect – you don’t want to be that guy.”

“Don’t talk that way in front of a lady.”

“Have her home by (curfew.)”

“If you want respect, you have to earn it.”

“Be a man who deserves a good partner.”

“A real man…” followed by any advice you wanted taken seriously.

“That’s just the way girls are – don’t take it so personally.”

“Well, you must have done something. She was pretty mad.”

“Be responsible. Don’t get your girlfriend into a bad situation, and then let her down.”

“How do you plan to support your future wife and family?”

“What (work because work makes you respectable) are you going to do with your life?”

and if you’re in the U.S., you’ve probably had to discuss with your son the importance of timely registration with selective service.

Maybe you’re also familiar with the following phrases:

Deadbeat dad

Wife beater

Mama’s boy

Man flu

Man up

Ladies first

These are conversations often had by loving parents like you. They come from a place of care, they come from a place of concern but most notably they come from a place of upside-down, cultural indoctrination that is hurting, stifling and punishing young men.

The cultural indoctrination that I’m speaking of goes something like this: It is a young man’s responsibility to safeguard himself from rape, assault, harassment, stalking and abuse because girls will be girls and some of them just can’t help themselves.

As a writer on gender issues, I’ve talked to a fair share of parents who are more than aware of this screwed-up reality but don’t really know what to do about it.

“It’s unfair and it’s horrifying,” one father admitted to me, “but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. I can’t change the fact that there are creepy women out there behaving badly. I have to help my son protect himself.”

So let’s take a quick look at these “creepy women.” Who are they, really? Who are the creepy women that are making it unsafe for your son to go solo to a party on campus? Who are the creepy women that are catcalling him or gay-shaming him or intimidating him with threats of false accusation? Who are the creepy women that are stalking him? Harassing him? Attacking him?

Who are these “creepy women” and where did they come from AND who in the hell raised them?

The answer, unfortunately, is YOU.

We have too much information to continue blaming the anonymous woman lurking in the shadows. We have more than enough data to conclude that the majority of perpetrators aren’t “others,” they are peers and classmates and ex-girlfriends and friends.

They are young women your son probably knows and interacts with. You cannot build a wall up around your son to keep these women from entering his world — they are already inside it.

I don’t expect you to welcome this news. I doubt many will even accept it. I want you to know that I’m not saying all young women are rapists, or false accusers, or hateful of men — and I’m certainly not saying that all young women are just hardwired that way.

What I am saying is this: we live in a culture that puts victims on trial with questions like, “well, what were you wearing?” and “how much did you drink?” and “don’t stick your dick in crazy.” We live in a culture where a mother, concerned about raising daughters who “act honorably,” holds young men accountable for the way young women objectify them. We live in a culture that blames men and boys for being falsely accused, asking them why they didn’t do a better job of protecting themselves… when we’ve never taught them how. We live in a culture where a judge orders a teenage (or younger) victim of rape to “man up” and pay his child support. We live in a culture that relegates not being victimized to men and boys instead of expecting and demanding girls and women to be responsible for not lying, not trapping, not exploiting, not raping.

Your daughter is coming of age in that culture with those messages swirling around her. You might have raised her in a home that perpetuated that culture without ever intending to or perhaps you raised her in a home that taught values in complete contrast to that culture. The more important question is: did you ever directly tell her to never buy into that culture? Did you ever tell her that culture is unacceptable and WRONG? Did you ever have any of the aforementioned conversations?

When you have the “avoid getting raped” conversation with your son, it is difficult, as you don’t want to imagine him as a victim. The idea of having the “don’t rape” conversation with your daughter is more difficult as you don’t ever want to imagine her as a perpetrator.

Do it anyway.

Do it because so many parents have thought they didn’t need to and so many people have suffered because of it.

Do it because you love your daughter and want her to have a bright future.

Do it because not doing it is irresponsible.

Do it for your son or for your nephews or for young men in general because while this particular conversation might be terrifying, the much more terrifying reality is young men continuing to be taught to live in fear of women.

That is really what you’re doing when you have the “man up” conversation with your son. You are telling him to always be suspicious, you are telling him to spend his life looking over his shoulder, you are telling him that any woman is a potential predator.

“BUT IT’S TRUE,” you might think. “All of these things are true.”

And you’re not wrong. Sexual assault is pervasive today — 1 in 4 to 5 male college students will be sexually assaulted by the time they graduate.

But sexual assault is pervasive despite the conversations many parents have had with their sons. It seems that the “don’t get raped” angle is not a successful strategy for curbing this pandemic. In fact, it is counter-productive as it perpetuates a culture where women don’t feel the need to take responsibility.

Fortunately, you do have the tools to curb these crimes. You CAN help to protect your son and other young men like him.

And you can do it from your living room.

All you have to do is talk to your daughter.

GENDER STEROTYPES – Kjerringa mot strømmen

There is a story told in various forms across northern Europe that involves a contrary old woman. The form I am (vaguely) familiar with is the Norwegian version, Kjerringa mot strømmen - The Old Woman (no good English equivalent for the Norwegian term) Against the Stream. In this version there is an old couple on their way somewhere and they fall to squabbling over whether their field should be “clipped’ or “shorn” – not clear on the difference – and one way or the other the old woman ends up in the river. So the old man goes downriver to find her to give her a proper burial, can’t find her, concludes a contrary old woman like her would be far upstream by now, and he finds her up above the rapids.

The story has been seen as a proto-feminist parable. The idea is that the individualistic old woman resisted social norms, and the core of those social norms were her restrictive female gender role.

Time roles on and the struggle continues, but now the villain looks different. The monster’s old mask was societal male domination that a kjerring would bravely rebel against, but now that mask is being torn off and the monster’s real face is being exposed. The monster is the traditional female role that these kjerringer see victimizing men and women in complementary and inter-supporting ways.

What is that traditional female role modern-day kjerringer are rebelling against? It basically comes down to hypoagency and feeding off of men’s agency, objectifying men into instruments of whatever is good for women.

Aspects of this are:

The Romance Narrative: In the West the Romance Narrative is a reflex of courtly love as it was popularized in the Middle Ages and has since then permeated the entire culture, from the elites down to us humble folk.In this memeplex the man is eternally on bended knee offering serivce to his Lady, who sits in passive glory far above the trammels of earthly existence. She is pure, he is dross; she is spiritual, he is animal; she is selfless; he is a predator; she is wise; he is thick-witted and insensitive and all his worth is derived from her approval. Oh, and he’s a naughty little boy too, and it’s her job to civilize him.

Measuring of Men: Women have always measured men as possible mates against various external criteria, just as men have women. Those criteria might be birth, might be wealth, might be breast size, success in war – whatever. In the past few generations those criteria have either become irrelevant or have been demonized, so what remains is a vague list of criteria derived from romantic fantasies, see above.

Here is an example of this thinking, a checklist of metrics to measure a man by to decide if you still find the relationship beneficial or if it’s time to trade up, a consumerist objectification of men verging on sociopathy.

There is one other aspect of this that remains, the old Moral Guardian role.This role was active not only in the White Feather Campaign – note how no men were out handing out these white feathers because they would have been beaten down - but also it has always been the preferred approach taken by feminists in gender discussion. The suffragettes made the issue of voting rights a moral issue and 2nd Wavers did the same thing with their pig-shaming language later on. The issue always is how are men oppressing women and what can men do to redeem themsleves to women – stop rape, stop rape jokes, stop keeping women and girls out of men and boys’ spaces, stop FGM, stop, stop.

Men Exist to Serve Women: The first question in any discussion of gender must be what is best for women. Any discussion of parenting must defer to the wisdom of mothers as the natural nurturers and any discussion of what is best for children really comes down to what is best for mothers because after all children are just extensions of their egos. (This is the kind of narcissistic perversion you can expect in a consumer culture.)

Engagement rings? A sign of ownership of women by men, not an exaction of expensive jewelry by women from men. Valentine’s Day and all that attendant expense? Oh there’s nothing wrong with that, women actually like that and it doesn’t make them feel objectfied or anything. Stay At Home dads? That’s a good thing because it frees women to work outside the home. Not one of these points is inaccurate or invalid, but they are all gynocentric. Everything must be assessed from the perspective of how a woman benefits from it because after all that is the only measure that matters.

So why does any woman rebel against this sweet deal? And by rebelling, I don’t mean the false rebellion of the spoiled brat who talks her parents down, i.e. she denounces the patriarchy, and then sits back and lives on their money and counts on their protection if the cops find out what she’s really been doing all this time to impress her friends. I mean women who reject all this for the golden cage it is but more than that, they reject it because they are not sociopaths and it sickens them to see men treated this way.

They are wives of husbands they truly love (as opposed to moaning about tot ehir friendsand toelrating as co-breadwinners). They are mothers of sons who are angry about they way way their sons are vilified and considered suspect or ignored in school and horrified at their lack of equality before the law if they are accused of a whole range of crimes that their female peers soemhow never get accused of. They are grandmothers of children whose mothers keep them away from their fathers and families.

These women are not traitors to women, they are the salvation of women, despite the howling derision, threats and vilification they endure from other women. They are what feminists claim to be and sometimes are – gender egalitarians. And that means swimming hard against some very strong and icy currents. They have the whole force of the “Patriarchy” and the traditional gender roles it prescribes, against them