A Field Guide to the Online World of Men’s Rights

Do you choose the red or the blue pill?

You know who the real victims today are? Men, that’s who, white men if you want to get specific. What with them getting thrown in jail all the time for rape and being told off by feminists for everything, it’s amazing these long suffering targets of oppression haven’t just given up entirely. Luckily, there is one last bastion of defence for the beleaguered man today: the stalwart heroes of the Men’s Rights movement.

You’ve probably heard the term before now. Recently, it has started spilling into a lot of discussions such as Gamergate and the tragic murders committed in California by Elliot Rodger. The movement is often called a backlash to modern feminism and elements of its thought and attitude can often be seen cropping up in this context. But, if you’re a newcomer to the blogs and forums that make up the ‘manosphere’ there’s a lot to wrap your head around. Sarcasm aside, you’ll need a strong stomach as well.

The first thing to notice is the terminology that’s always present. One of the big terms is the red pill, as opposed to the blue pill. Just like in The Matrix, the idea is that once you’ve taken the red pill you wake up, in this case to all the lies a feminised society has told you. I’m not so sure employing Matrix terminology is the best way to announce what a grown-up, unshackled man you are, but we’ll roll with it for now.

Another frequently used one is Alpha Fucks and Beta Bucks. Apart from being a charming little phrase, this expresses the idea that women get everything they want by manipulating so-called beta males for their money, while having sex with the so-called alpha males they are actually attracted to. How’s your stomach doing? Let’s dive into some theory.

And I do mean “theory”. Another aspect of Men’s Rights terminology is how academic a lot of it is designed to look. In broad terms, the central beliefs of red pillers are that we are all taught a false narrative of history and how society works in order to oppress men and benefit women. That women are biologically determined to be manipulative and constantly look for the most attractive alpha male. So, the answer to this is to man up, learn how to become powerful, dominant, successful and play women’s game back at them to achieve sexual satisfaction with things like Pick Up Artist techniques. I promise we’re done for now, you can breathe again.

Even for all the terms and theorising written (and wow is there a lot of it) all of this is built on a very old idea: why do all the pretty girls like jerks instead of me? On the sidebar of the red pill subreddit, there’s a link to Michael’s Story, a poor man in want of a devoted wife who has to suffer a world where all the pretty girls throw themselves at the wrong guys. In what must have been an incredibly bizarre scene, Michael corners a large group of his apparently sex-crazed female peers at college and demands an explanation, the thought that it was neither anything to do with him nor none of his damn business not occurring to him.

As easy as it is to make fun of, it’s not impossible to understand. A lot of kids go through a lot of pain growing up feeling like they weren’t invited to the party, struggling for whatever one of many reasons to fit in and to have the experience pretty much every piece of media tells them they should be having. And the chances are they are not going to meet some cool friends to initiate them into that world in the manner of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. But reacting to this with rage and a philosophy of dominating those you think denied you isn’t a solution, even if it does feel good to begin with.

Because we shouldn’t ignore how intoxicating Men’s Rights theory is. Who likes being told they’ve had it easy and benefit from male privilege, especially when you feel like your pain is being ignored and not validated. How liberating to be told exactly what you want to hear, that you’re actually the victim and everything has been set up to oppress you. That’s certainly how Elliot Rodger felt, a victim who had been cruelly denied what was rightfully his.

As much as popular Men’s Rights writers talk about how hard it is to take the red pill, it’s by far the easier option. It tells you exactly what you want to hear and validates your worst fears and anger. The much harder option is accepting that you’re not special or the only person in pain, whether it’s lesser or greater than yours, and to keep trying to find people you can work things out with, whether it’s sex, a relationship or just how to live.

You won’t have any luck arguing with people in the manosphere though. Many writers gleefully bait and pre-counter criticism (opposing arguments are even colour coded), and the best way to combat it is probably just for the surge of feminist and other voices and perspectives online to grow louder and stronger. But perhaps the worst thing about taking the red pill is that it’s a trap. For those lonely people it appeals to the most, it doesn’t offer a way out but a way to be trapped in that loneliness forever.

Because even if it works, and you transform yourself into a glorious alpha male with power, money and a devoted wife or all the casual sex you could want, you’ll still be trapped inside your head. You have to keep performing the role, manipulating and gaming everyone, terrified that if you stop for a second they will get power over you or sleep with someone else. You can never have a genuine relationship with anyone (showing weakness to a woman is instant death for a relationship, apparently), only power struggles. And, what’s more, your entire life will be defined by a period of anger and pain that you wanted to be over in the first place.

Men’s Rights activists just sound like they don’t go outside. With all their banging on about reason and logic and being rational (and also shadowy feminist conspiracies) they’ve given up on discovering anything else about the world and decided to stay in their own perspective, alone, forever. With suicide the leading cause of death for men under the age of 50, we could do with having something a lot better on offer.

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