Note: This letter is in response to the following article – https://reason.com/blog/2015/09/25/mgtows-mras-and-libertarians
I was utterly shocked to read your recent Reason article “Why So Many Men Who Hate Women Love Limited Government.” Your article is far beneath the standard I expect from Reason Magazine, and as a multi-year donor to the Reason Foundation I am greatly disappointed in it.
I normally find your reporting extremely fair, but as a supporter of both Gamergate and the Men’s Human Rights Movement (and also of Individualist Feminism), who is also a MGTOW in theory although I don’t use the label, I notice you make several appalling errors I find it hard to chalk up to anything besides personal bias (well either that or a lack of fact-checking which would make Rolling Stone blush).
First, with respect to GamerGate, you may wish to read the articles which your Reason colleague Cathy Young has written on the subject. As Young herself pointed out, Gamergate is not anti-female nor does it oppose Feminism in its egalitarian and individualistic forms. Gamergate is a rebellion by consumers against a gaming press which has become colonized by non-gamers more interested in using gaming for Progressivist political advocacy than in fairly discussing and reviewing games for their audience. There are plenty of women and minorities involved in GamerGate and the idea that there is somehow an ingrained desire to keep female players, creators and characters out of gaming is frankly ludicrous.
Second, your article conflates MRAs and MGTOWs and “Red Pillers.” You mischaracterize MRAs as well as MGTOWs.
Third, there is an obvious reason that MRAs and MGTOWs (I am not going to speak for Red Pillers since I do not share their mindset nor do I wish to defend their outlook since I disagree with much of it) like limited government; it is the yearning for self-determination. Just as egalitarian/individualistic forms of feminism oppose social demands for gender-compliance amongst women, MRA and MGTOW theory oppose social demands for gender-compliance amongst men. The idea that the individual should be the ruler of their own life, answering to neither gods nor kings nor crowds, underlies both libertarianism and a rejection of society’s mandate for gender-traditional behavior.
Libertarian feminists (such as Cathy Young, Wendy McElroy, Christina Hoff Sommers and, presumably, yourself) share the same principles as Men’s Rights Movement and MGTOW – do you ever wonder why the Radical Feminists and Third Wave Feminists are so hostile to Libertarian/Individualist Feminists? It isn’t about tax policy disagreements but rather deep conflicts on meta-anthropology, which is why you’ll hear Third Wave Feminists like Anita Sarkeesian dismiss Individualistic forms of Feminism (or “Choice Feminism”) as “hyper-individualistic” (the ‘hyper’ being a way to make ‘individualistic’ sound scary and extreme. You know just as well as I do that there is no such thing as “hyper” individualism, there is only individualism).
I want to carefully spell out what the MRM (or MHRM – Men’s Human Rights Movement) and MGTOW actually are, and also point out how they differ from “The Red Pill” as well as each other.
The Men’s Human Rights Movement, as we know it today, is probably best summarized by Dr. Warren Farrell’s book The Myth of Male Power (a book which thanks the Libertarian Nathaniel Branden in its acknowledgments). Farrell has spoken before at the Cato Institute (a well-known Libertarian think-tank), and was a board member for the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women. In this book, Farrell does not “blame women” – rather he argues that traditional gender roles were, for most of human history, an economic necessity, and that now for the first time in human history we are able to do away with them. He argues not for gender-traditionalism, but for a “gender transition movement” where both men and women reject the rigid roles of the past in favor of flexibility and individual fulfillment. In other words, the MHRM is basically trying to do for males what the Feminist movement at least nominally claims to want to do for women.
Does the MHRM believe that “feminists have destroyed the rightful social order” or that men are “the ones truly discriminated against today?” No. As for the first point, the MHRM believes that socially-mandated gender roles must be rejected; most MHRM thinkers criticize contemporary (i.e. Radical and Third Wave) Feminism not because it ‘destroys the rightful social order’ but rather because it does not destroy gender roles enough. Female MRA Alison Tieman became an MRA precisely because she found contemporary Feminism’s fetishization of victimhood reinforced the subject-object dichotomy (i.e. how traditional gender roles see men as moral agents and women as moral patients) rather than rejected it. The MHRM doesn’t think that gender traditionalism was a ‘rightful social order’ but rather objects to what it sees as Feminism being half-hearted in the attempt to abolish the unjust social order.
What about the claim that men are “the ones truly discriminated against?” No, the MHRM does not believe men are an “oppressed class.” This is because the MHRM, like Betty Friedan, rejects the idea that gender relations are a class war between oppressors and oppressed; this Marx-ish model is held in common by both Radical Feminists and Third Wave Feminists, but is rejected by Individualist and Egalitarian forms of Feminism (Wendy McElroy, an Individualist Feminist, has penned some of the best criticisms of the “gender as class oppression” worldview ever written (and has also worked with Dr. Warren Farrell previously)). Sure, many MHRM or MHRM-sympathetic authors have argued that our society sometimes pathologizes gender-typical male behavior (Christina Hoff Sommers’ “The War Against Boys” being the most well-known example), but apart from the fact that it is often more common to see MHRM authors protest at how our society also pathologizes gender-atypical male behavior, it is a far more modest claim than the “men as a class are oppressed by women as a class” claim which, from what I can tell, isn’t really made by anyone.
Indeed, Farrell’s book defines “power” as an individual’s control over their own life – this is a methodologically individualist premise. Methodological individualism is incompatible with Marx-style class analysis, and is also a critical component of Libertarian theory (see the works of the Austrian School of Economics for more). The MHRM is, at its base, a methodologically individualistic movement aiming at a culturally individualistic goal; it is this, rather than any alleged misogyny, which explains the deep affinity the MHRM has for liberty.
MGTOW, or “Men Going Their Own Way,” does indeed involve rejecting relationships with women (due to our current laws placing males at an extreme disadvantage within these relationships), but that is only part of it. In fact, MGTOW is really an extension of the MHRM’s own cultural individualism. If you go to the MGTOW subreddit (reddit.com/r/mgtow), you will see their community description as follows:
“We are men going their own way by forging our own identities and path to self-defined success, cutting through collective ideas of what a man is.”
In other words, MGTOW is about rejecting society’s standards of “real manhood” and instead living by one’s own standards and pursuing one’s own satisfaction; this is the kind of pure cultural individualism you find in Ayn Rand novels. The Vice article you rely upon for characterizing MGTOW (which cites a source that identifies itself as Red Pill rather than MGTOW) falsely equates MGTOW with gender-traditionalism, yet MGTOW’s own subreddit rejects gender-traditionalism. Perhaps the Vice article isn’t an accurate source?
As for the issue of men deciding not to have relationships with women, how is this necessarily misogyny? Dr. Helen Smith (wife of the Libertarian Glenn Reynolds) chronicled this phenomenon in her book “Men On Strike” and argued that it was simply rational self-interest encouraging men to not marry or get involved in deep relationships with women. Do men owe commitment to women ‘just because’?
Indeed, shouldn’t Radical Feminists be celebrating MGTOW? If we are to analogize MGTOW to the strikers in Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” there are some surprising similarities – after all, MGTOW is a strike built not upon making demands but rather upon granting them. Radical Feminism claimed marriage and family were inherently oppressive, and that heterosexual intercourse is an “expression of contempt for women’s bodies” (Dworkin) which no woman can truly render informed consent to under the social condition of patriarchy (MacKinnon). Men were nothing but oppressors and exploiters according to their theories, so MGTOW decided to oppress and exploit women no longer. So MGTOWs are withdrawing their wedding rings and oppression rods, and thus depriving society of victims to parasite off, and thus causing panic-stricken “Where Have All The Good Men Gone?” and “Failure To Launch” and “Boys Addicted To Video Games And Porn” articles to proliferate within the mainstream press.
Let me drop the semi-satire and state it bluntly – MGTOW doesn’t hate women. Rather, it hates how relationships with women have become an utter minefield due to various aspects of the legal system. MGTOW is fundamentally about male self-determination and self-preservation within a culture that still demands men put family, country and society above themselves. MGTOW is men rejecting the classic male gender role. Isn’t this a good thing, for anyone who wants to encourage people to embrace individuality and live their own lives on their own terms so long as they are peaceful? Are not MGTOW and the MHRM effectively just ‘Individualist Meninism’ and thus the natural complement to Individualist Feminism? Surely, wouldn’t Hank Rearden have benefitted from going his own way not merely politically and professionally but also personally, instead of marrying a woman and enduring a family who relished demoralizing and guilt-tripping him whilst sponging off his wealth?
The Red Pill is a different story, and if your criticisms were reserved for them I wouldn’t have found your piece particularly objectionable. The Red Pill does believe Feminism has destroyed the “proper” social order (which TRP believes to be biologically determined, with evolution being the primary force behind our entire selves including our psyches). But TRP believes gender roles to be innate, and that compliance with these roles is morally mandatory (they don’t really care about trying to resolve the contradiction between a belief that these roles are “natural” yet somehow gender deviance must be avoided). TRP is part of the Dark Enlightenment – which is basically a fusion of epistemological Positivism, Evolutionary Determinism of effectively everything, a categorical/methodologically collectivist view of race and gender, and on the basis of this a rejection of egalitarianism as a political value.
But TRP is therefore opposed to the MHRM – TRP sees gender roles as biologically determined and more-or-less mandatory. The MHRM’s founding father, on the other hand, advocates a “gender transition movement” and accepts an economically reductionist theory of how gender roles came about. TRP sees the MHRM as fighting a futile cause, and/or being (to use TRP’s vocabulary) “a bunch of beta cuckolds who are too weak to hit the gym and lift.” The MHRM has also critiqued TRP on several occasions, including this piece by MHRM luminary Dean Esmay which criticizes TRP’s theory of evolutionary psychology: http://honeybadgerbrigade.com/2015/08/20/challenging-the-evolutionary-psychology-of-pua-and-mgtow-the-absurd-alpha-beta-paradigm/ (note – the piece seems to package deal TRP and MGTOW. I know plenty of MGTOWs who reject TRP).
TRP and MGTOW differ too – MGTOW embraces cultural individualism and the rejection of traditional masculinity whereas TRP demands compliance with “real manhood.” In addition, TRP evolved out of the Seduction/PUA community and is thus a tool intended to make a man more attractive to women whereas MGTOW eschews committed relationships and rejects building one’s self-esteem upon a “sex with women” foundation.
Your entire article depends on a chain of Guilt By Association derived from a Vice article which begins by citing a gender-traditionalist TRP statement, then inaccurately claims that TRP was the founder of MGTOW, and then you tie this to an inaccurate summary of the MHRM. As Janet “JudgyBitch” Bloomfield recently said (http://judgybitch.com/2015/09/27/no-mgtows-dont-hate-women/), you are “a usually fair, balanced reporter.” The article you wrote, accusing MGTOW and the MHRM and even GamerGate of being misogynist he-man-woman-haters, is utterly beneath you.
I won’t write more about GamerGate because Young has already given it fantastic coverage within the pages of Reason. I advise you to read her work on it.
If you want to learn more about the MHRM and MGTOW, why not come here to the Honey Badger Brigade and interview some of us (Karen, Alison, Jim or Hannah should be available)? Why not read “The Myth of Male Power” or “Men On Strike”? Why not try and speak with Paul Elam, Dean Esmay, Diana Davison, or someone actually affiliated with the MHRM? Why not try and get an interview with Dr. Warren Farrell? Why rely on one single, shallow, badly-researched (and/or outright biased) Vice article and then add your own smears about GamerGate?
You can do better than this.
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