The last few years have been rough for men. The #Metoo movement, Kavanaugh hearings, Women’s marches, and the ubiquity of the term “Toxic Masculinity” have been bad publicity for our brothers. While some of the criticism of male behavior has been justified and perhaps even necessary, it’s not hard to see tares growing among the wheat of righteous indignation. For instance, “man-hating” has now become more mainstream and normalized. As one sitting U.S. senator said in anger about recent sexual controversies, “Who is perpetuating all of these kinds of actions? It’s the men in this country. And I just want to say to the men in this country: just SHUT UP and STEP UP, do the right thing for a change.”
For a change. Maybe a little harsh?
Looking at my life, I am surrounded by good men who work hard, love their families, and do so with very little recognition. Most men I know try to live good moral lives, but they are imperfect. The truth is we are all capable of evil and goodness, and that capability has little to do with our sex. The world is not as black-and-white as protesters or activists like to imagine. Too often, we women fail to see the weaknesses of our own sex or the strengths of the opposite. But headlines and initiatives send boys this clear message: “There is something seriously wrong with men.”
“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties (or genders) either—but right through every human heart.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Of course, there are men falling short, and many women have good reasons for their prejudice. There are abusive husbands, power-hungry male leaders, and shiftless young men. We should not give these men a pass for their failures. Many women, traumatized by tyrannical or mean-spirited fathers, lack the foundation a good father could have provided, so they see no reason to trust men.
“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” ~Sigmund Freud
Modern plagues that affect men, such as pornography and excessive video game usage, are also not helping women with their trust issues.
Yet we seem to extrapolate the worst in one man to the furthest reaches of mankind. Sin, in all its variations, is never committed collectively but individually. No man should be made to take responsibility for others’ sins; nor should we generalize one man’s mistakes to be indicative of all men. Consequently, labels such as toxic masculinity or demands for “men to shut up and step up for once” are misandry.
As society becomes increasingly hostile towards men, not just for their vices but for their natural proclivities and traditional roles, boys take note. Men and boys want to be respected, and when they sense disrespect, they disengage. Girls are more willing to work for respect and will often go to extreme lengths to prove their worth. By contrast, boys are less likely to put forth much effort unless they are respected first.
We may believe that respect must be earned (as the Senator suggests, we will let men speak again when they are worthy of speaking), but this attitude rarely works. It is respect that motivates men. A generation of boys now faces a disrespectful world, unsure of their purpose. Don’t be surprised if they are unwilling to treat society any better than it treats them.
“It’s an act of courage to trust. If you trust someone, you open the door to reciprocity and negotiation and cooperation, and you entice the best part of the person forward.”
Jordan Peterson is on the front lines of combatting the harsh world young men now face. He isn’t simply sympathizing with young men; he gives them a clear path out of nihilism and self-pity. He is telling them to step up.
In one of his Biblical lectures where he explored the necessity for “men to stand up and take responsibility,” Jordan Peterson stated with emotion that boys “are starving for that message … because now you are cursed from a young age with the notion that you’re part of what is wrong with the world and you’re adding to the tyranny of the social systems … that is soul-deadening; it’s anti-human.”
He continued, “My sense is instead, if you were able to reveal the best of yourself in the world, then you would be an overwhelming force for good.”
Jordan Peterson’s rise to fame was largely upon the backs of these starving young men. He is the father figure many have never had. In interviews, he often gets emotional speaking about the plight of young men in society. This extremely intense five-minute clip shows his genuine concern for them.
The Feminist Rage
Feminism is a word with many connotations and very little actual meaning. It is often seen as a movement favoring women’s rights, respect, and opportunity. Who could oppose that? My own mother is an old-school Feminist. She raised her kids, got a Master’s Degree, and now works as a psychotherapist. Nearly every modern person in America would have agreed with first-wave feminist ideas—the right of women to vote, gain an education and determine their own future.
But modern feminism is different. We are now on the 4th wave of the feminist movement, and the women marching in the 1920s would likely be appalled and even disgusted by the antics of modern feminists. The anger, bitterness, and crassness indicative of many modern feminist leaders have turned the average woman against feminism. (Remarkably, 70% of American women surveyed do not define themselves as feminists.) Some may claim this negative new version isn’t really feminism. Perhaps so, but the tares have overtaken the wheat when the leaders of the Women’s March promise the next few months will be a “Summer of Rage.”
Douglas Murray, the author of The Madness of Crowds, spoke to these iterations of Feminism in a recent interview, noting that compared with first-wave feminism:
In Second-wave feminism, man-hating or misandry starts to creep in, saying things like, “we don’t need men” and that goes on in the ’70s, but it’s still fringe. By third and now fourth-wave feminism, this misandry exacerbates to the stage we are at now, fourth-wave feminism. This isn’t a movement seeking to find agreement or compromise or any kind of equitable arrangements between the sexes. It isn’t seeking to make sure that women aren’t held back from achievements. Instead, it’s seeking to try to carry out an act of historic revenge, which the perpetrators believe will, in some way make up for what they perceive correctly, as it turns out, to have been lesser opportunities in the past for women. … But the desire of these groups seems to be, let’s go way past equality. Let’s make men feel awful. Masculinity is the problem, never femininity.
So in using the term feminist, I refer not to the original inspirational feminists but to this 4th wave of revenge-seeking women. If you look online, you will quickly find them. They are distinguished by their man-hating and anger. Unfortunately, the crowd tends to follow these especially loud and passionate voices.
In a society that fears men’s very nature and views any masculine ambition and competence with distrust and skepticism, Peterson is a counter-cultural voice. His firm and consistent message to young men is simple: if you improve, then the world will improve.
Yet some don’t like the idea of Jordan Peterson helping young men. They assume if young men are drawn to something, it must be bad. This shows the depth of the distrust of men. As one commentator notes, “Progressive critics have tended to assume that if a lot of white men are buying Peterson’s message about responsibility, there must be something sexist and/or racist in the message itself.” (In reality, his followers are actually quite diverse.)
Though we hear a lot about “The Patriarchy” from modern feminists, it is a concept rarely defined—even amidst frequent insistence that it is causing enormous suffering in the world. The word patriarchy actually means “rule of the fathers,” reminiscent of the patriarchs of the Old Testament who were meant to rule in righteousness. It is ironic that in our age of so many consequences from fatherlessness, the Patriarchy is now being blamed for so many of our modern tribulations. Feminist extremists see Peterson as a symbol of their version of the as Patriarchy—an evil gang of men oppressing women at every opportunity. But this view is simplistic and out of date. Women now live in an age of unparalleled equality and opportunity, but we too often remain stuck on old grievances. (In the same moment, modern feminists ironically tend to ignore genuine modern misogyny manifest in porn, casual sex, and prostitution—instead opting to view these as somehow empowering for women.)
Unsurprisingly, these people aren’t always open to considering another perspective. As Peterson notes, men and women have had unique roles throughout human history, but they have, by and large, worked together to overcome great suffering. Cooperation was necessary to raise a family amid physical and financial hardship. So while there have been tyrannical men, tyranny is not a good long-term policy for kings or husbands. Gender roles developed not primarily due to oppression but because of the natural differences between men and women. With technology and modern advantages, these natural differences become less apparent.
“The way I think we should view the history of the world is that men and women labored under virtually impossible conditions … and they did their best to cooperate, and to compete. But to cooperate so they had some possibility of a modicum of security and satisfaction.”
“That is the right framework,” he underscored, and “within that, there are power games played by those who are corrupt.”
In a GQ interview, the feminist interviewer stated, “The patriarchy is a system of male dominance … the fact is that the vast majority of wealth is owned by men, and the vast majority of capital by men.” Jordan Peterson responded, “You are talking about a very tiny proportion of men. [The fact is] a huge proportion of people seriously disaffected are men, most people in prison are men, most people who are on the streets are men, most victims of violent crime are men, most people who commit suicide are men, and most people who die in wars are men, people who do worse at school are men. Where is the dominance here precisely? What you’re doing is taking a tiny substratum of hyper-successful men and using that to represent the entire structure of western society. There is nothing about that that is vaguely appropriate.”
You Hate What you Don’t Understand
Despite many remarkable claims to the contrary, there are differences between the sexes— differences that matter. We are more alike than different, and our differences are often greatly exaggerated, but pretending they don’t exist is another kind of distortion. In terms of temperament, Jordan Peterson summarizes the three most statistically significant differences between genders in temperament:
- Men are more interested in things/ideas and women in people.
- Men are more aggressive and women more agreeable.
- Men are less emotional/neurotic, and women tend to be more emotional/neurotic.
I find it fascinating that these main differences are all related to the three most hot-button issues and buzzwords often highlighted by feminists:
- Patriarchy = Men are more interested in things and ideas (these interests tend to translate into making more money in a capitalist system since scientists and inventors make more than teachers and social workers)
- Toxic Masculinity = Men want respect—and will use aggression to get it— and women want to be loved.
- #Metoo = Women view sex more emotionally than men, and this can cause conflicting expectations/traumatic experiences for women, while men minimize these experiences because they are not as emotionally connected.
A lot of the anger you see from feminists toward men comes from a naivete, misunderstanding, or lack of compassion for the inner world of men. Rather than harnessing their innate feminine traits to show empathy and nurturing, these women end up demonstrating the very traits they detest in the opposite sex: aggression and indifference.
Empathetic Women’s Appreciation vs Men-Hater’s Bitterness
So what is to be done? We see mischaracterization and stereotyping of the average guy from modern feminism, and men have little power to defend themselves from a crowd that has presumed in advance their guilt. Some men, sensing the toxic reception of their culture, increasingly seem willing to become what they are believed to be—nihilistic, aggressive, and misogynistic (see Twitter for evidence). Men need respect first, remember?
In all these ways, the mischaracterizations and disrespect of modern feminism matter. They seep into the consciousness of men through media, social initiatives, and doctrines taught in school. We need women who know the goodness of men: wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters, women who love men. They can share the missing perspective.
Let’s examine the differing perspectives on men from appreciative wives and mothers versus man-attacking feminists, who can assume evil intent lurking behind every male action.
Contrasting Messages About Men:
Appreciative Mindset Embittered Mindset
Thanks to the millions of men who died in wars to protect our freedom.
It was men who started these wars; women rulers would usher in utopia.
Thanks for doing all the manual labor and dangerous jobs that women can’t or don’t want to do.
Boys’ interests are socially constructed by the patriarchy because men want to keep their “boys club.” If men are more capable of manual labor, it is only because historically they stole all the meat from women (real feminist theory).
Sorry for the burden of hyper-sexuality due to a biologically-driven need to propagate humanity.
Men are just pigs, and women should be able to walk around half-naked without being leered at by creepy men.
Thanks for protecting your family from outside threats.
Men are insular and violently hostile to any diversity. Women don’t need protection!
Thanks for working hard all day to support your family.
Successful men are power-hungry and part of the patriarchal tyranny trying to subjugate women.
Envy in Modern-Day Feminism
When our worldview is clouded by envy and bitterness, no good news will likely reach our hearts, and no defense will make a difference. Why are there so many women unable to gain a greater love for men? Surely, as discussed above, there are bad experiences with men which contribute to distrust. But often, in the musings of feminists, I sense an undercurrent of envy.
I attempted to watch the movie Ocean’s 8 the other day. It is similar to the other Ocean movies except worse and all the men are replaced by women pretending to be men. I have never seen such an obvious attempt to rectify a childhood grudge at being rejected from your brother’s boy’s club. Can’t women come up with our own ideas? So often, rather than demonstrating the magnificence of feminine creation, we see a mimicking of male creation. There seems to be an inability in many modern women today to appreciate the strength of our own gender and perspective.
It’s striking how a modern feminist perspective is anti-man but also sees developing male attributes as progress. We will never be a better version of a man—and why would we want to be?
Imagine what could happen if we stop envying the lives of men and appreciate the life we can have as fully-actualized women! Read Jane Austen, examine the art of Mary Cassatt, the writing of Dorothy Sayers, and the prophecy of Julian of Norwich. Women have not been in the halls of formal power to the extent of men—but we have always been vital creators. Women have talents and gifts and purposes to fulfill and we have wonderful men to help us accomplish them. We need men, and men need us.
“We men and women are all in the same boat, upon a stormy sea. We owe to each other a terrible and tragic loyalty.”
Who Will Stand Up for Boys?
Perhaps the most significant tragedy is the message this trend of “man-hating” sends to our impressionable boys. As the data confirms, our boys are lost; many have no sense of purpose. The now-antiquated notion of men as protectors and breadwinners for their families once gave young men an ideal and a goal. Now, “women can take care of themselves,” and fatherhood is downgraded and deemed unnecessary by society. In schools, energetic boys are too often treated like defective girls (and literally treated disproportionately to rectify this psychic energy). STEM, sports, and business initiatives likewise abound for girls while boys remain unchallenged. Innocent young boys are asked to accept “male privilege” and take the sins of their patriarchal ancestors on their own heads. Should we really be surprised when boys absorb discouragement from this kind of culture? Among other things, this is an opportunity for mothers to step up and teach their sons why being a strong man is crucial for the future of mankind.
Who will conquer the Man-Hater? It has to be us, women who love men, imperfect though they are. In an interview with Camille Paglia, a proponent of individualist feminism, Jordan Peterson speaks about why it needs to be “sane women” to stand up against their man-hating sisters. Respectful men are often defenseless against the attacks of bitter women. Men taught to respect and value women find it difficult to put up a fight since any such resistance would quickly be seen as displaying their “toxic masculinity.“
Mothers have a vested interest in men’s success, for our boys are little men. We can defend them because we gain unique levels of understanding and empathy “in the front row” as we witness the development of boys and the inner lives of our husbands. We discover their motivations, feel their frustrations, and encourage them in the face of their fear. When we raise our own beloved sons, we see all men in a different light. We see the aggression and teasing between brothers, but we look forward to them defeating their sister’s bully. When we raise teenage boys with raging hormones, we gain sympathy for the weight of heightened sexuality in men, and we view our own husbands with more understanding. When we see our boy intently kicking a soccer ball against the garage after a devastating loss, we understand words may not always be needed.
What a blessing a good, strong man is! As we see our beloved husbands take on the role of fathers, we discover they can give our children things we can’t or don’t want to give. I don’t need to wrestle with my kids on the floor—that is Dad’s job. I don’t teach my boys math through football scores or to “toughen up” after being pegged by a baseball. Fathers can be the calm, stable presence kids need. When I see my husband make the sacrifices he does—going to work every day and still coming home and finding time to play with the kids—I gain a renewed appreciation for all men who quietly go about their duties and never demand much appreciation.
To my fellow women and mothers, may we share the good news of masculinity—speaking out in defense of men when they are being collectively bashed. May we take the unique challenges of this moment as an opportunity to inculcate our boys with a sense of purpose and teach them to disregard the derision of our society. We need to recognize men’s differences and appreciate their strengths. We need to value the unique and irreplaceable role of fathers in our homes. We need to be among the sane voices that affirm masculinity and the power of a good man in an increasingly man-hating world.
*This piece is a revision of a previous piece “Mom’s Verses Manhaters written in Dec 2018. A version of this piece was published in Public Square Magazine on June 13, 2022.