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19 November 2016updated 30 Jul 2021 6:31am

International Men’s Day can combat the patriarchal pressure of the alt-right

In the online "manosphere" the election of Donald Trump is being heralded as a triumph of toxic masculinity.

By Mark Brown

Today, is International Men’s Day, which focuses on the campaign to reduce the male suicide rate, as well as the need to foster a better sense of physical and mental wellbeing among men and improve relations between the sexes. According to the Office of National Statistics in the UK men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. 

The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) aims to combat this growing problem. They suggest that a contributing factor to this statistical imbalance could be men feeling less able than women to express emotion and admit to vulnerability. On their website it states: “We believe that there is a cultural barrier preventing men from seeking help as they are expected to be in control at all times, and failure to be seen as such equates to weakness and a loss of masculinity.” But who is it telling men they shouldn’t verbalise their emotions or succumb to doubts, anxieties and fears? The answer is, other men.  

On the internet, there is access to a whole network of websites that tell insecure and unhappy men they can gain empowerment if they gang up on the girls. It is filled with men aggressively policing the boundaries of what is acceptable for both sexes. Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) line up to tell men that it’s women who are making them unhappy — that it’s they who are discriminated against. Men are told that without power to influence women they are nothing. According to this online “manosphere”, which includes the right wing news website Breitbart, feminism is cancer, as by association are the “feminine” values of empathy, concern and self-awareness. Status in front of your fellow men is all.

Existing as an internet phenomena, MRAs divide men into alpha males and beta males. Alpha males get what they want, be it sexually or otherwise. Beta males are second best, lack power, are compromised.  The only way to escape your beta status is to keep getting better at expressing your masculinity in an overt and aggressive way. The Red Pill is a famous subreddit which provides support, reading lists and encouragement to men who wish to resist “the gynocracy”. The sidebar on the page links to a webpage with banner stating “Feminism is man hate. Expose it.” which sets out how to refute criticism of the MRA ideas. The Red Pill meme, has its origins in the 1999 film The Matrix where Keanu Reeves’ character is offered a choice between two pills; one that will allow him to see the world as it really is and one that will allow him to stay insulated in a fantasy. The Red Pill is this case is the “truth” that the world is stacked against men by women. The Red Pill also gave name to a 2016 documentary on MRAs that was eventually funded via Kickstarter after an intervention from Breitbart.

The “manosphere” is a series of attitudes and ideas spread across the web like used tissues on a teenage boy’s bedroom floor. It has its specialist sites, but is spread as much through forum posts, YouTube comments, Twitter accounts and other “below the line” interactions.  It follows women around the internet. It will find you if you speak out.  

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The insult of choice for this angry white male community is “cuck”. Derived from “cuckold”, a word which has existed since the 13th century — its literal meaning references a submissive man sexually cuckolded by a woman. Now, it is used to emasculate others. In this land of men aggrieved at what they feel they have lost, pick up artists (PUAs) ply their trade, convincing desperate men to exchange money for the secrets of getting into women’s knickers. Men complain of the “friend zone”; being trapped as a friend who cannot move up to the level of sexual contact; ask why women don’t like nice guys in one breath and then fill the inboxes of women with insults the next. They are united by the idea that somehow, somewhere, women have gone too far and men have betrayed the status of their sex by losing control.

As the election of Donald Trump has shown, the world is full of very angry men. Such men seek to set men against women because that is where their power lies. Roosh V, self-declared King of the PUAs, was in rapture over Trump’s election, saying in a blog post: “If a man tells you that he voted for Trump, it’s safe to say that he is favourable to strong borders, nationalism, masculinity, and beautiful women. On a basic level, you will be able to get along with this man and build a bond… but if a man opposes Trump then I have to anticipate him attacking or sabotaging me in the future. I will distance myself from him for my own well-being.”

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For Roosh V, Trump’s win is a triumph for toxic masculinity: “His presence automatically legitimises masculine behaviors that were previously labeled sexist and misogynist…  The door is opening for a renaissance of masculinity where men can take pride in being men, and the best part of it is that we don’t need to wait for Trump to do anything. His victory is more than enough for us to apply our own individual strength in seizing the bull’s horns where we can come out of the politically incorrect closet and assert our beliefs and behaviors.”

The war on “cucks” will intensify in a post-Trump world. Roosh views himself as a leader of men, and if you aren’t with the men, then you’re against them. Men searching for support fall for the siren call of the online misogynist community, attempting to conceal their vulnerability behind an adversarial identity. They search for a virtual safe space but the men they chose as their guides do not care about them. These men fetishise control and competition: anything else is unmanly.  These men are not their friends.

The worst of men do not just wreck the lives of women; they wreck the lives of other men, too.    

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Mark Brown is the development director of Social Spider CIC, @markoneinfour