How should the orthosphere[*] engage the manosphere?
January 9, 2013 § 22 Comments
Until last fall my blog participation had been rather light since mid 2009. In 2010 I made about a six month return to light blogging, the main focus of which was to drive a stake into the heart of the waterboarding/torture debate which had been plaguing the Catholic blogosphere for half a decade or more. As an accident of timing and personal interests, then, I’ve mostly missed the development of the Christian (largely Protestant) “manosphere.” Jim Kalb had linked to Roissy at one point early on, so I was vaguely aware of the development of a hedonic/materialist anti-feminism in blogland and of its inevitable romp in the sack with the religion called “evolutionary psychology.” But to the extent I paid any attention at all, which isn’t much, this was just a part of the background noise of things that others in the orthosphere/tradosphere were discussing.
Then somehow I stumbled upon Dalrock. I don’t remember how, but the blog really caught my interest: here was a guy who clearly takes marriage and family seriously, who engaged in trenchant data-founded pull-no-punches antifeminist (which is to say realist) commentary on divorce, who took human nature and the differences between men and women seriously, and – though clearly Protestant in religious outlook (like most people in the pews at Mass, hah!) - who also was clearly addressing the whole dystopia from the perspective of a serious Christian. The perspective on divorce seemed very like my own, that is, a view of it as an individual crime and a pollution of the common good. That’s not to mention the frequently engaging and funny writing style, especially given my own proclivities toward more-than-half-serious dry humor.
Some of the writing was also very critical (at times hysterically and pointedly so) of “traditional conservatives”.
What we may be seeing, as I suggested to a commenter the other day, is a kind of phase change. The term “manosphere” or “androsphere” or “mandrosphere” or what have you may no longer refer (or perhaps never did refer) to a cohesive, definite thing. This isn’t particularly unusual. I’ve contended myself many a time that while “liberalism” refers to a definite thing “conservatism” does not: as I wrote to Lawrence Auster a decade ago,
“Liberalism has ontological stability: it has always referred to the same basic political loyalty, changing only tactics over time. Conservatism—the label—has ontological instability. The basic political loyalties to which it refers have changed dramatically over time.”
But in any case I think the answer to the question posed by this post is that we ought to do what we always ought to do: take a few steps back and ask, focusing on the actual subject matter, “is it true?” When we ask that question a lot of the irrelevancies fall away.
So it may be true to some extent that the mandrosphere gets a lot of its chest-thumping bravado from the fact that it stands on the shoulders of traditional conservatives, having (unlike traditional Christianity) never faced any real test of mettle in the center of the cultural storm, having no clue about certain critical foundations, and to that extent acting a bit like a raging manchild. It is hard for me to say, since my androsphere experience is so limited and I’m unlikely to make exploring it and its history into my life’s work. From what I have read the criticism appears to have some punch in the sense of being true sometimes about some of the commentary.
But so what? What is this but a distraction from the substantive issues at hand? What ultimately matters is what claims are being made which are true and what claims are being made which are not true. All the other stuff is just distraction and drama.
I’ve already weighed in on a number of substantive issues, and assuming I stay interested/engaged and real life doesn’t intervene too much I plan to weigh in on some more over time. To summarize a few of them:
- I have nothing to add to Dalrock’s devastating and trenchant fact-laced exposition of the modern feminist woman’s implicit life plan and of the state of marriage in society at large, including among Christians.
- Dalrock is right that Christians for the most part formally and materially cooperate with feminism, and tend to think that opposition to abortion and a few other things makes one “not a feminist” or “a good kind of feminist”. In reality virtually everyone has been subject to feminist indoctrination (as a subset of liberal indoctrination), to the point where feminist orthodoxy is utterly pervasive and dissent from it is treated as contemptible heresy. Opposition to abortion is for most an unprincipled exception to feminism, not a rejection of feminism.
- Hypergamy is a real phenomenon with real consequences. The standard issue androsphere explanations for it are probably wrong, steeped as they are in the materialist religion of modernity.
- NAWALT is a concept upon which there is much equivocation in the androsphere: it is treated both as true and as false in question-begging fashion, depending on what contention is being supported.
- Fitness tests are something many women definitely do, probably for the most part unconsciously.
- I don’t yet have a well-formed opinion of Game, and it can be difficult to pin down just what Game is supposed to be. Game partisans themselves, however, seem to believe that it is approximately as effective as a placebo. If so (and for my own part that remains as of this writing a genuine “if” not a rhetorical flourish), it becomes hard to distinguish from other exhortations to “man up”.
- The “Feminine Imperative” is not a well-defined term. For that reason it is not even wrong: there isn’t enough there there for it to be possible to judge it right or wrong. While it is certainly true that endlessly demanding ever more precise definitions is sometimes used as a rhetorical device to mean “shut up” (I’ve referred to this tactic as the appeal to finer detail in a different context), it is also true that a concept has to be reasonably definite before it can be subjected to judgment. It seems to me that the “feminine imperative” is primarily a rhetorical tool the main function of which is to promote a view of men and women in a zero-sum power struggle with women as oppressors and men as victims: cultural marxism with women (currently) in the role of oppressor and men in the role of oppressed, locked in a cosmic battle over who gets resources and who is enslaved.
- There is a power struggle going on, but that power struggle is not between men-qua-men and women-qua-women: it is between liberalism (the tree on which feminism is a branch) and reality. Even more grandly, it is between Good and Evil. The manosphere is very focused on one particular aspect of that struggle. There is nothing wrong with being focused on one aspect of the struggle: we all have different roles to play in the Great Dance. But that focus appears to me to be having two deleterious effects: first, that women-qua-women are being seen as the enemy and second, that a cynicism which is disconnected from reality is sometimes fostered.
These are all substantive positions on questions of what is true, and – whatever one thinks of my particular views – are therefore reasonable, potentially productive points of engagement.
On the other hand the “personalized metanarrative” phenomenon permeating manosphere discussion is not just annoying, it is in my view entirely counterproductive. By “personalized metanarrative” I mean the tendency to take the content of the discussion and attempt to apply it to remotely psychologizing various complete strangers who are actually involved in the discussion, sometimes to the exclusion of actually paying attention to what the person right in front of you (at least virtually) is saying and might in charity mean, in the process jumping from useful generalization to … lets just say hubris. This cuts both ways: I have seen any number of traditionalist conservatives yammer on about how particular manosphere denizens must just be losers and wimps, etc. This is as unhelpful in terms of discussion signal to noise ratio as the bottomless well of gutter talk and personal attacks, and is about as likely to be true as a guess at the winning lottery numbers; though doubtless some folks get some sort of emotional payoff from it.
Another common approach is the well known phenomenon of NIH (not invented here). The idea seems to be that it is great fun to show contempt for anyone who came at the truth through some other means or using some other vocabulary than the approved sources or within the approved community. (What constitutes approved sources and approved community varies by who it is we are ridiculing). Like others, I find this entirely unhelpful. I remember finding C.S. Lewis’ account of his own Christian journey in The Pilgrim’s Regress rather baffling (though I’ve no idea how it would strike me now). But I don’t care much how people get to the summit nor who got there first; and, citing Matthew 20, I don’t think you should care either.
I assert both of these criticisms in the full knowledge that there may be places in various comboxes and posts where they find me as the target. That’s OK. We can do better, and by we I mean we.
Hopefully this concludes my own discussion of the discussion, and the remainder of my own engagement with the subject will actually be with the subject.
 One must of course acknowledge that NAMCALT: Not All Manosphere Commenters Are Like That.
 It is commonplace for rhetorically useful terms to become equivocal. I’ve pointed this out before (for example) with the term consent as used in “government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed”. In its strong form the term can be easily shown to be problematic or even self contradictory. It therefore also has a weak form, so that when one criticizes the strong form partisans fall back to the weak form and claim that what is being criticized is a straw man. Then, hoping nobody notices (and perhaps not even noticing themselves), partisans will continue to make inferences which depend on the strong form rather than the weak form.
 Note that “cynicism disconnected from reality” is not a kind of remote psychoanalysis of particular individuals. It involves the observation of material numbers of cynical statements which are objectively wrong. I’ve noted among these the ridiculous contention that women are incapable of love. (NAMCALT, of course).
[*] By “orthosphere” I mean orthodox Christian bloggers in general, not the specific website.