Women, beware: There’s a new emerging threat online. This week two journalists whose prior experience includes folding T-shirts at Abercrombie & Fitch and writing celebrity profiles of Demi Lovato discovered the manosphere lurking in the darkest recesses of the Internet. 20/20 has partnered with the Southern Poverty Law Center to expose this nefarious menace befouling the information superhighway as we speak.
For anyone not hip to the latest and greatest online ideological developments, the manosphere is a place for…well, men, if you need that spelled out. Other than that, not a hell of a lot holds it together. On the one hand, there’s the men’s-rights crowd, who occasionally make a salient point or two but mostly come off as a bizarre inversion of feminism. (Protip: Real men don’t complain, they drink Scotch until they can’t feel feelings anymore.) The other side consists of gamers and pickup artists, a far younger, far more attractive wing that revolves around having lots of random sex and mocking fat women on Twitter.
Like most things progressives hate, the manosphere asks difficult questions (“If feminism is so concerned with inequality, why isn’t it trying to get more women dying of workplace injuries?”) and poses uncomfortable truths. (“Men who act like belligerent assholes probably do get laid a lot more than men who show up with a dozen long stem roses on the first date.”) ABC, doing their due diligence and sticking to only the strictest of journalistic ethics, went ahead and interviewed a whopping two manosphere bloggers, which, to be fair, did provide a rough cross section of the movement.
Paul Elam runs A Voice for Men. Think of it as a sort of Huffington Post for the men’s-rights wing of the manosphere. He’s soft-spoken but an obviously passionate and downright avuncular man who shows remarkable patience and answers pretty basic questions that anyone who has read the Wikipedia entry on the men’s-rights movement knows the boilerplate answer to. (“Why is marriage unsafe for men?” asks Elizabeth Vargas, furrowing her brow, waggling her face, and doing her best to simultaneously channel confusion, boredom, and moral indignation.)
Roosh V, who sadly did not make the teaser article posted on ABC.com but may or may not appear in the actual segment if and when it ever actually airs, is known for his personal website, his “bang guides” (country-by-country manuals on how to seal the deal wherever you might find yourself), and Return of Kings, the website that brought us Fat Shaming Week, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like.
If Roosh somehow manages to actually get screen time there’s going to be feminist teeth gnashing o’er the land the likes of which hasn’t been seen since…the last couple of weeks or so. It doesn’t take much to get them going, really. But Roosh is just the type of guy that sends the “gender as total social construction” crowd into a furious, white-hot rage. If Elam is your patient but wounded uncle, Roosh is the unrepentant rascal your wife prefers you not hang out with.
Still, even when wallowing in juvenilia (and there’s no shortage of that…boys will be boys, after all), the men’s-rights wing of the manosphere is distinguished by a class and refinement totally missing from the shrieking hysteria of modern feminist blogging, whose arguments, such as they are, often entail little more than “HOW DO PEOPLE LIKE THIS EVEN EXIST?” or “WOW. JUST WOW.”
The most “shocking” quote pulled from the manosphere (“I really wouldn’t mind shooting a [expletive] dead in the face, they are evil, all of them”) was actually an example Elam posted to AVfM of things that might get a person banned from commenting. Compare with what Matt Forney—a manospherian “pre-interviewed” by 20/20 and the guy who leaked the identities of Julian Assange’s accusers—gets on an almost daily basis:
“I really hope someone he meets chops his dick off and feeds it to him.”
“People like [Matt Forney] need to be exterminated like the insects they are.”
“Hopefully this guy will get murdered in the next 12-14 years so that I can rip out his dead lungs.”
“Your mother should’ve aborted you, you piece of shit.”
Forney gets so many threats on Twitter that he’s made a special account just for reproducing them. Stay classy, femosphere!
It’s not terribly surprising that ABC didn’t give the manosphere a fair shake. This is the same news outlet that covered “devil worship” in 1985 with nary a trace of skepticism. Anyone who thought they were going to go on 20/20 and get a fair and honest portrayal befitting journalistic impartiality—I’m looking at you, Elam—hasn’t turned on a television or cracked a newspaper lately.
What is somewhat surprising is that in 2013, ABC doesn’t get it. The feminists are going to hate the manosphere; that’s a given. The “manboobs” (manosphere parlance for male allies and defenders of the prevailing feminist paradigm) are for the most part going to remain boobs. However, there are tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of men who are grasping for the vocabulary with which to discuss the very same issues as people such as Elam, Roosh, and Forney: the changing face of masculinity in the 21st century, what women really want (as opposed to what they say they want), how to go a little bit Galt from the whole dog-and-pony show if that’s your thing, or how to be the kingly patriarch you’ve always wanted to be.
After all, fewer things are manlier than creating and rearing your own people.
Despite its original intentions and despite the protestations of some within the manosphere (and I sincerely hope that’s the last time I ever use this term for the rest of my days), all the 20/20 segment is going to do is infuse the whole project with a little bit of fresh blood.
ABC, which has apparently never heard of the Streisand effect, may well have just moved us into a new golden age of patriarchy.
I’ll drink to that.
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