Recently, Helen Smith published the book Men On Strike to much fanfare. The book discusses some of the challenges men face in our society. In response, some men noted that when a woman speaks up for men, she garners more respect than she would have if she were a man. Others said that if a woman can bring greater visibility and credibility, then she has value beyond merely the truth of their arguments.
It’s possible to sympathize with both sides – I do. In a sense, the two sides are talking past each other – one is concerned with merit, the other with tactics. And to originate an idea is not enough – spreading it is just as urgent. But the merits of Smith’s work aside, the phenomenon is undeniable: who are these men that pipe up excitedly just because a woman has taken up their cause? Why do they do it?
A man gives undue respect to someone when he himself is not whole. He looks for someone to complete him, someone to whom he can attach himself. He does not trust his own mind, so he yearns for someone of even greater conviction, for a Joan of Arc to which to bond himself. Fundamentally, he is a slave. He needs a master to allay his fears, to assure him that he is on the right path. He is like a child that makes a show of running ahead of his father, yet keeps looking back to make sure father is still close behind.
These submissive men are everywhere. They believe only what is socially acceptable. If all the truth in the world points to an impolitic conclusion, he will run from truth. He waits for a big figure to sally forth, so that he can stand in its shadow and cheerlead, safe in the knowledge that he isn’t alone. He may listen to your arguments and show no disagreement or skepticism. But his fear of being alone keeps him silent.
Compare with the man made whole, the master. He does not look to others for validation, when he believes he has settled on the truth. After all, what does it matter what others say, if the truth is on your side? It doesn’t. Most men of this cast look indifferent even – he may consider it beneath him to herd sheep into believing the truth. He can come off as elitist and esoteric. He lives not by lies and that is enough for him. He keeps a few men as close friends, whom he trusts to think freely and reasonably. Otherwise, he knows most people are beyond reason, so he considers it fruitless to try and change them.
When he does encounter credible arguments, he applauds the author for teaching him something. Insofar as credit is due, the identity of the author doesn’t matter – only the strength of the author’s wisdom matters.
A Slave in Paradise
The Fear Of Being Alone
But there’s an additional, sexual dimension. We live in an age where men are told that true love means committing to a woman who is your best friend. Her qualities as wife and mother? Irrelevant, antiquated and sexist. And the slaves believe this whole-heartedly.
But men and women are different. They have different tastes and pastimes, even in this age of androgyny. So the slave is constantly on the lookout for the few women who share his interests, be they spectator sports, videogames or powerlifting.
Deep down, he fears women who are different from him. In his heart of hearts, he believes that a woman will only want him when he proves that he is identical to her. He has no value, he offers nothing. He is putty in the hands of a woman, ever ready to conform to her will, because he’s always anxious to show how same and equal he is.
He can’t fathom a woman liking him if she doesn’t like World of Warcraft. That’s his only hook. When he finds a like-minded woman, he yelps for joy. He salivates, “I’ve found her! My soulmate!” If her interest in his hobby wanes, it follows, her interest in him is sure to wane too. He is in constant fear that she will change and leave him.
He is so lonely, because so few women show any similarity to him. So he feels he can’t afford to pass up any opportunities to find his match. He placates every woman that crosses his path, in the hopes that she’ll appreciate what they have in common – which, in his figuring, is what makes her like him. He refuses to believe that masculinity, that force of character, has any role. So if he fails, it’s because he didn’t ape her enough.
Parenthetically, I’ve met many such women with male interests. To a woman, they all disdain this man. She mentions that she enjoys say, physics, only to get a deluge of try-hard men talking up Hans Bethe, so she regrets ever mentioning it.
Woman Unmans Lesser Men
Nowadays, men are desperately scared of being tarred as a homosexual or a failure with women – there are even men who will not have dinner with just one other man, because that would look too much like a date. When socializing, he may have three male friends with him, but he’ll stare attentively at the one girl there. Whenever she speaks, everyone else is on mute.
Get to know a man made whole, and you will find a different take on the role of women in his life. He accepts that men and women are different; he looks to women for what he can’t get from a man – her dissimilarity is a virtue, not a vice. She is valuable insofar as she is feminine and unlike a man. Perhaps she has some interest in common with him, as in philosophy or the arts, and that is welcome. But that’s icing on the cake, because those needs are already met through his relationships with men. He doesn’t care if other people think he’s gay because he prefers the company of men. He frees himself from the petty expectations of others.
Ask people what they think of these two types of men, the master and the slave. Undoubtedly, the master would be deemed a misogynist and a sexist, for not wanting or letting a woman be his peer and equal. In truth, it’s the slave who despises a woman, who so taxes her spirit. While the master is content to let a woman relax into her feminine self, the slave wants her to be all things to him all at once: best friend, parent of his children, spouse, advisor, protector, counselor. Little wonder when she starts to feel overwhelmed and masculinized. She starts to see the man as a child, unwilling to take control. The independent woman will cluck about equality when it is precisely inequality that satisfies her.