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[1] from the fact that it stands on the shoulders of traditional conservatives[1], having (unlike traditional Christianity) never faced any real test of mettle in the center of the cultural storm[1], having no clue about certain critical foundations[1], and to that extent acting a bit like a raging manchild[1].  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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Fitness tests are something many women definitely do, probably for the most part unconsciously.
  6. 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”.
  7. The “Feminine Imperative” is not a well-defined term[2].  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.
  8. 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[1]: first, that women-qua-women are being seen as the enemy and second, that a cynicism which is disconnected from reality[3] 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.

____________________________________

[1] One must of course acknowledge that NAMCALT: Not All Manosphere Commenters Are Like That.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

§ 22 Responses to How should the orthosphere[*] engage the manosphere?

  • Aegis says:

    There is little in common between the Orthosphere and the Manosphere. I remember Bonald from Throne and Altar writing about how traditionalists should avoid The Spearhead. I remember seeing an article at In Mala Fide attacking The Thinking Housewife.

    One need only consider Kristor’s post, Back to Qumran (http://orthosphere.org/2012/11/20/back-to-qumran/), and contrast it to Jack Donovan’s call for creating gangs and “destroying the future.”

  • Zippy says:

    I’ve mentioned that one of my personal liabilities here is lack of breadth. I don’t read The Spearhead unless I stumble upon a link to it, and In Mala Fide is defunct. Most of what I’ve read has been Heartiste, Dalrock, Rational Male, Mentu, Vox, and others that springboard from there.

    My main point, though I certainly meandered my way to it, is something I have often said in one way or another: that given an “it”, what matters is not the proximate source or the language in which it is spoken. What matters is if it is true.

  • Gabriella says:

    You could stop by Traditional Christianity sometime. We are a bit like Orthosphere but with more estrogen.

  • sunshinemary says:

    What matters is if it is true.

    Yes. In general, there are good conversations to be had with people in both the ortho- and Christian mano- spheres, with both communities being interested in understanding what is the truth. Especially Dalrock – no one has done a better job of digging into statistics and evidence to ferret out the truth of the matter, and he is usually quite willing to listen to alternative points of view provided that they are coherent. Even in discussing the feminine imperative, I found most participants willing and interested in discussing and understanding it. Sadly, there were a small number of very vocal people who were not interested in allowing dissent or questioning and who went out of their way to attack people rather than ideas. But there are always a few people like that in every crowd, and the manosphere doesn’t seem to have more of them than any other community has.

  • NobleHipsterSlayerOfDeath says:

    Just like rhetoric can reframe a truth so that it is more obvious, or bring something previously unnoticed to the fore, so can Game (which should strictly speaking be strategies for maximizing sex in a given situation) reveal nuances about human nature. Unfortunately, what it reveals is then also called Game, perhaps contributing to confusion. In any case this is not post-modernist deconstruction but simple cause-effect logic.

    Personally I think the biggest break ideologically is EvoPsych. If you do not agree with or believe in the truth of evolutionary psychology at some level then its impossible to share a lot of conclusions I’ve seen reached in the manosphere. It is false to see it as some sort of materialist reduction, rather it is the materialist, reductive expression of the truth. It should not be rejected.

    I have to say, I think the real worth in the manosphere is not in its rejection of feminism but in its attempt to deconstruct human relationships. It’s just a bonus that the knowledge gained destroys the basis of feminism (equality).

    Aegis I see no essential difference in Kristor and Jack Donovan’s positions except that one is more optimistic. Donovan is not anti-civilization.

  • Zippy says:

    @NobleHipsterSlayerOfDeath:
    Personally I think the biggest break ideologically is EvoPsych.

    That could be.

  • Mike T says:


    Personally I think the biggest break ideologically is EvoPsych. If you do not agree with or believe in the truth of evolutionary psychology at some level then its impossible to share a lot of conclusions I’ve seen reached in the manosphere.

    Since EvoPsych is just an exercise in post hoc “reasoning” the real question is whether or not the behavior they are attempting to explain via EvoPsych is real or not. Conclusions they make will be false only to the extent of their reasoning.

  • Dalrock says:

    Excellent post Zippy, and thank you for the kind linkage.

    I normally don’t focus on definitions, but in this case I think much of the problem with engaging the manosphere comes from understanding what it really is. I’ve said before that there is no mansophere orthodoxy, and that you are part of the manosphere if you sincerely engage in the conversation. After thinking about this a bit more, I think I was close but not entirely on mark. There are a set of core ideas held by nearly everyone in the manosphere, but these aren’t the ideas the sphere is accused of being an “echo chamber” for. In fact, the ideas claimed to be manosphere orthodoxy are where the biggest active faults exist within the sphere. Game is the most prominent example of this. There is much disagreement on whether game works, and if it works whether it is moral. I offer the 597 comment discussion in response to Cane Caldo’s guest post on the topic several months ago and the heated semi formal debates on the topic hosted by AVFM. Likewise for the concept of the feminine imperative.

    However, there is an area nearly everyone agrees on and that is the tearing of the social contract by decades of feminist tinkering. For me this is mostly about marriage, and interestingly you can frame all of the main “factions” of the manosphere based on how they respond to the debasement of marriage. While I point out the debasement of marriage in order to try to restore something precious, Roissy makes it his life’s goal to enjoy all of the young sluts our society is sending his way while they delay their search for a husband. In my post “Stanton’s Heroes”, I show how Professor Mentu similarly chose to respond to the glut of mothers who eject their children’s father from the home. Even here though, Roissy and Mentu understand how foolish the larger society is for allowing and encouraging all of this to happen. Another group looks at the destruction of marriage and basically says “good riddance”.

    So we have three main groups who all acknowledge the radical change in the social contract. My camp might be called the traditionalist segment of the manosphere, and we mourn the loss of marriage and are working to find solutions to shore up the culture, laws, and the church as well as specific steps individual men can take to reduce his exposure to the risk of frivolous divorce (going all the way back to the choice of who to marry). At any given time and depending on the topic at hand two of the three groups (traditional marriage, Roissy’s group, and MRA/MGTOW) tend to be in agreement in disagreeing with the third group. However, this is very fluid, and the alliances are intellectual and topic specific. There is generally a baseline respect for the fact that these fault lines exist, which can make it shocking to read say an Orthodox Christian and a pickup artist reinforcing each other’s intellectual arguments. They absolutely aren’t in agreement with each other on the question of sexual morality, but there will be times they are in agreement on the facts, etc. of any given issue. Since these core fault lines are so intractable between the three groups, there is an effort not to make them the focus of discussion (agree to disagree). These dormant fault lines are always there, but some care is taken to avoid perpetually getting locked in the same discussions over core values. This doesn’t mean the question is off the table, it just means that after so many rounds everyone has already made their case.

    If there is a manosphere orthodoxy it involves acknowledging the reality of the new order (roughly the narrative you linked to above) and responding with something other than “Man up and marry those sluts!” Cross one of those two lines and all three groups are in sudden agreement. You won’t be run out of town on a rail, but I would offer that the manosphere is ready to engage in those discussions and I’ve never seen anyone make a solid case either for “Nothing to see here folks, move along…” or “Man up and marry those sluts”. I’m happy to host such a discussion for anyone who wishes to make either case though.

    The reason all of this is so important is because when you are engaging someone from the manosphere either on a manosphere blog or especially an off sphere blog, you really need to consider who you are hearing from. I absolutely agree that the question should be “is it true” and not “who is saying this”. However, understanding who you are encountering can make it easier to understand what they are writing. It isn’t uncommon for very solid traditional members of the manosphere to be tarred with the PUA/MGTOW labels even when their arguments are very traditional. Readers outside the sphere can be so spooked at the thought of a looming manosphere barbarian horde that they shoot first and ask questions later.

  • [...] is not a good time folks. Our job is to hold. To support each other. To pray for each other. Even if we are fighting.This includes praying for all churches, and all [...]

  • Gabriella says:

    “looming manosphere barbarian horde”

    Have you been reading my diary?

  • Dystopia Max says:

    This is all heartening, but I’m thinking it requires some actual case examples before we can make distinctions.

    Let’s take a look at those fine upstanding women at a fine upstanding newspaper who casually, recklessly, and unrepentantly endangered thousands of lives just recently by publishing the name and location of everyone in their cities with a gun to the whole world. Like so many other things feminists do, it’s technically legal, morally repugnant, extremely dangerous to societal safety, and demands immediate action against it lest it become common practice for other malcontents who fancy themselves journalists.

    What would those in the Orthosphere, or those primarily informed by the orthosphere, do with these people, if it were in power?

    And what would those primarily informed by the manosphere do with them, if it were in power?

    Would they join to see those responsible…

    Shunned at all the best parties?
    Run out of their jobs through public intimidation?
    Fined heavily?
    Imprisoned?
    Publicly executed?

    I’m fine with any or all of those options if you’ll actually commit to doing them, which means not only that you’d be okay having people do them for you but you would do them yourself to the people in the pictures at the link, to set an example for others who must govern after you.

    For the sake of everyday justice and the enforcement of a moral order that puts all human authorities in their proper place, how would you punish them? You are not Jews under Roman occupation, you are citizens of the United States of America with both the authority and the responsibility to promote the general welfare in defense of liberty, so give a good answer or consider your philosophies dead!

  • Zippy says:

    I do try to take commenters seriously; but sometimes the dots just refuse to connect.

  • [...] brings us to the sweeping conclusions that some manosphere commenters (NAMCALT!) reach about women in [...]

  • Svar says:

    “You could stop by Traditional Christianity sometime. We are a bit like Orthosphere but with more estrogen.”

    Ahhh… wishful thinking. It’s cute that you think that TC is anywhere near the level of the Orthosphere.

  • [...] to do in excruciating detail.  I’ve encountered this gripe often when discussing the kind of sometimes-useful pop-sociology and psychology frequently called [...]

  • blogRot says:

    A mighty fine blog, Zippy.

    :”Then somehow I stumbled upon Dalrock. I don’t remember how, but the blog really caught my interest:”
    fwiw – I stubled on to the ‘manosphere’ back when the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled PUAs and said blogosphere as hate groups. Since I am already everything the SPLC hates (40yr old white God-fearing gun-totin’ Texas male with a sweet spot for Chick-fil-A) naturally I had to go see for myself; initially Alpha Game/Vox Popoli and Athol Kay, then over to Dalrock’s, and now to yours.

    Of course, now I have to delve in and figure out if this ‘orthosphere’ you mention is worth the read; if its half as good as your blog is I look forward to finding out.

  • Zippy says:

    Welcome to the blog, blogRot.

  • […] Note:  This post is an adaptation of a comment I originally made on Zippy Catholic’s post How should the orthosphere engage the manosphere? […]

  • Dance says:

    I too have had a hard time figuring out exactly how to approach the manosphere. On one hand, they are clearly onto something of great importance, but Dalrock excepted, I have found them to be on the whole, outside my moral proclivities. It has been very challenging to try to find what is true amidst the clear anti woman bias. (I suppose even that is unfair, as very often it is not women they are biased against, but rather the social structure that has created the ‘modern woman’)

    While folks like Roissy and Roosh are too much for me to be able to stomach whole, I have really been thrown by Athol Kay and Ian Ironwood. Neither of them have a morality that matches my own, but they, like Dalrock, take marriage and it’s value very seriously. Not only that, but what they say seems to be of deep intelligence and value.

    I think it’s time for a Catholic translator, and I would love to see the manosphere filtered through Catholic eyes. I think your fundamental question, “is it true?” is exactly the spirit needed for such an endeavor.

  • Dance (and Zippy), one reason Athol and Ironwood throw you for a loop is there hasn’t been a such thing as non-Christian marriage in the West for over a millennium. A Christian in 200AD would not have been surprised at all to hear a Roman, Persian, Greek, or Egyptian saying rather insightful things about marriage, despite having rather divergent morality. By contrast, today, the friends of marriage are almost entirely Christians, and secularists are almost entirely its enemies.

    To the extent the manosphere even engages Catholicism per se, it tends to be harshly critical of the erotic mysticism of Bernard and the like.

  • […] Over at Zippy Catholic, a commenter make the following remark: […]

  • oogenhand says:

    Reblogged this on oogenhand and commented:
    Two referrals, after a lot of time, so time for a reblog.

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