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By Men For Men
If mainstream society wants to reach men, it needs to elevate male voices
I said I would follow up in more depth on the points I raised in my Wall Street Journal piece about why men turn to online influencers instead of mainstream authorities and institutions.
One of those reasons is that online men’s influencers are all other men, whereas a high percentage of the people speaking about men’s issues in mainstream society are women.
The fact that all the online men’s influencers are men is a fact almost too trivial to notice, but it’s important. I cannot name a single female influencer that men are looking to as a guide. I believe Candace Owens has a significant male audience but is more of a political figure. There have always been some females who serve as a sort of women’s auxiliary in movements like men’s rights activism, but they are just echoing points being made by the men.
By contrast, a huge share of the people speaking about men’s issues in mainstream society are women. For example, there was just a glowing profile in the NYT magazine of a woman named Caitlin Moran published under the title, “Modern Masculinity Is Broken. She Knows How to Fix It.” I noted in my article how every single piece in a recent masculinity themed issue of Politico magazine was written by a woman. And of course, that big Washington Post article from over the summer was also written by a woman.
Even in movement conservatism, the bulk of the people talking about gender type issues and even men specifically are women. Kay Hymowitz at the Manhattan Institute wrote Manning Up. Helen Smith wrote Men on Strike.
Not all of these people are bad. For example, I’ve praised Christine Emba’s WaPo piece, and Kay’s work is also great. At the same time, they are clearly not writing to men directly. Also, any number of these folks writing in major media actually are essentially just male bashing. I’m sure there will be another screed against toxic masculinity coming around soon.
Interestingly, this is one where the religious world is actually ahead of the game. Because of its male dominated pastorate, most of the religious people speaking on men’s matters actually are men. Though of course there are exceptions like Nancy Pearcey, who just wrote a new book called The Toxic War on Masculinity. But she’s the exception that proves the rule. By and large men are doing the talking to other men in this space.
It’s understandable why many of these mainstream institutions would choose to do this. Just as Republicans always prefer to have a minority argue against affirmative action, it’s safer for some talking points on gender to be delivered by women.
At the same time, men need to learn to stand up for themselves and their own legitimate interests.
That’s one reason I’m positive on the work of Richard Reeves. Although I have my differences with him, it’s important that a man like him be standing up and making the case he is in the public arena.
It’s true that he personally states his own positions are animated by a deep and longstanding commitment to a certain form of feminism. But it’s also true that he’s in a highly constrained and high pressure environment that limits what he can say and do.
The fact that he left Brookings to start his own American Institute for Boys and Men (which doesn’t seem to have a web site yet that I can find) strongly suggests that Brookings did not want to support him in continuing this line of work, for example.
He isn’t able to say everything I can say, even if he wanted to. On the other hand, I’m not getting invited to give talks to the UN’s #HeForShe initiative to say that there should also be a #SheForHe movement in light of the problems facing men. That takes guts to do.
I do think there’s a risk that Reeves could get pulled into becoming another Michael Kimmel type (a sociologist who studied men’s issues from a feminist perspective, and created the first academic unit devoted to men’s studies I believe). The pressures will surely be immense to go in that direction. But I’m hopeful he won’t.
One way to help make sure that doesn’t happen is for there to be a lot of other men around him working the same territory from a variety of positions. So men and institutions in mainstream society need to step up on this matter. The fact that conservative think tanks are so weak in this area is particularly disappointing.
The first step to compete with men’s online influencers is to have men talking to and about other men.
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