Opinion: The Alt-Left should be neither feminist nor for men's rights. It should be for good relationships between the sexes.
It's a familiar story for anyone who's been online for any length of time. A discussion starts over a gender or feminism related topic. There've been plenty of these lately since the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal broke in Hollywood and the me too hashtag campaign, so there's no shortage of examples to choose from. There's nothing unique about these conversations, however. They've been taking place on social media since Facebook and Twitter first launched, and were commonplace on bulletin boards long before anyone knew what a comments section was. The basic conversation hasn't changed much in the decades since Al Gore invented the internet. <grin> A typical conversation will go something like this.
Feminist: Men rape and harass women. <subtext> That's why men suck and women should reject them.
MRA: But not all men. <subtext> But not me. That should give me an advantage in the mating game with women, should it not?
Feminist: But only men. Plus patriarchy, power, privilege, rape culture, etc. <subtext> Not so fast, buster! You're part of the segment of the population that does the most rape and who benefits from rape, and are therefore not so innocent as you'd like to believe. And therefore suck no less and are no less deserving of rejection.
MRA: But what about false accusations? What about women who sexually assault men? <subtext> This nullifies the advantage you claimed in your previous statement. Therefore, women should more readily accept and sleep with us. I mean me!
It's never long before a conversation like this breaks down, and school yard level copypasta insults break out. "Boo hoo! Teh poor menz!" "Enjoy your cats!" So on and so on. It'll inevitably come down to one or both sides being ugly, living in their parent's basements and being unable to get laid. This is due to the fact that the surface conversation is never nearly as important as the subtext that continually underlies conflicts over gender theory and its real world implications.
The unstated but nonetheless omnipresent axioms that are revealed when any kind of deconstructive analysis is applied to such discussions are that male power is expressed through sexual conquest of the female, and that female power is expressed through sexual rejection of the male. All else is ancillary. Which is largely why pro and anti feminists talk past one another and at one another far, far more than with one another. The legitimate issues raised by either side fall by the wayside because they're obviously being weaponized to one or the other of those two ultimate effects. The real purpose for bringing up rape, harassment, divorce, child support or any other issue, at least in online discussion, is to lower the value of one gender relative to the other, for the ultimate purpose of making sex either easier (in favor of men) or harder (in favor of women) to attain.
There's just one problem with this paradigm, however. It doesn't work. It's not making anyone happy. It's based in a glaringly flawed assessment of human nature, and is much more rooted in ego than in reason or human empathy. Men are not going to be rejected into sympathizing with women's concerns. They go their own way instead, doubtlessly with the intent of bringing those pesky, uppity women to heel. No dice: women are angrier now than ever. Who'd have guessed? The result is that heterosexual activity has been driven into a kind of moral black market, wherein most people actually do it at some point or another, but also have to conceal it, rationalize it or engage in it under some kind of false pretenses much of the time to avoid social censure. "An Ashtray With a no Smoking Sign," as Slavoj Zizek recently described the emerging rules of sexuality. No wonder bad behavior abounds.
It's time to smarten up, people. Get out of the grade school mentality. Let's at least try and hit puberty, okay internet? Human nature is not especially complicated. We tend to simmer down when we feel that our concerns are being heard and taken somewhat seriously, even if disagreed with in some ways. The natural response of people when faced with a lecturing, condescending tone is to get defensive, not to open one's heart or mind. This is true however legitimate the surface grievance actually is or is not. Which isn't to say you accept bullshit uncontested. Rather, let your assessment of what's bullshit and what isn't depend on honest appraisal, which you can't get without listening and understanding.
Whatever your claim to victimhood, past or present, however poorly you were treated as a child or in your past relationships, other people, even the opposite sex, will not accept your shitty and abusive behavior. Not indefinitely, at any rate. However much you feel entitled to it. Two wrongs don't make a right. This is something we feel instinctively, if not intellectually. It stops mattering who started it, or who inflicted or suffered the greater suffering after a point. Neither women nor men will accept the other's claim to morally superior status based on previous victimhood and grievance, even if real.
It is easy to say that we should set our fragile egos aside and listen seriously to the other side when they lay out their grievances and issues. This is true. But when the other side does not expect this of themselves, even the most legitimate gripe becomes tainted by the ultimately self-serving purpose to which it is put. The kinds of behavior displayed by feminists and MRAs alike in most internet discussions between the two would be emotionally abusive were they done in real life, and increasingly these kinds of relationship dynamics are spilling out of cyberspace and into the real world. It is no wonder that growing numbers of people, especially the young, are eschewing relationships with the opposite sex all together, and claiming to be happier doing so.
And that's fine for some individuals. If you're happier going it alone, and I think some people are naturally disposed this way, have at it. But that'll be a disaster for society as a whole. Fewer lasting successful marriages and long term relationships (LTRs) are poised to cause all kinds of problems down the road. Demographic and economic dependency ratios are bound to get worse, and socially destabilizing levels of mass immigration will need to be employed to compensate for falling birth rates. Frustrated romantic and sexual drives will find expression in other, usually more antisocial ways, from mounting political or religious extremism to mental health problems and increased cynicism. Even many, though not all, of those who claim to be happier being single are not so much once you scratch the surface. A certain regret often, though not always, presents itself. And why not? Humans were not hardwired to live alone and not pass on their genes to future generations. A society losing its capacity for love and empathy is not one we should aspire to be a part of.
So here's a proposal. The alt-left should be neither feminist nor MRA. Not exclusively. We should be instead for healthy and good relationship dynamics, be they platonic, romantic or erotic. We should listen to the concerns of both sides and sort the valid and legitimate grievances from the entitled whining and vapid boasting. It should not be a concern of the alt-left which of the two has the more legitimate grievances and is therefore more deserving. Ten years and God knows how many flame wars into the social media age later, we should know by now that ideological partisanship and competitive victimhood isn't actually helping anybody. It's driving a spiral of mutual frustration that is causing increased polarization and extremism.
Even if one gender really does have it worse than the other by a wide margin, our approach should be one of mutual listening and empathy, not one of grievance and vengeance. This is not to say that we can't prioritize some issues over others or that wrongdoers can't be called out and exposed to such sanction and censure as their actions warrant. But it should never be an ego stroking exercise. Even if you've had it worse or your sex or gender has been on the receiving end of injustice. The world doesn't owe you anything, whatever you may think. Success, be it alone or in partnership, derives from responsibility, not entitlement.
So if you're single or attached, male or female, here are some things you can do vis-a-vis the opposite sex to improve the situation. And in case you are wondering, this is over twenty years of relationship success (I've been with my present wife since 1995) and a decade of every mistake imaginable leading up to it, talking. There's much I learned the hard way:
- Listen. Nothing is more effective at defusing anger.
- Do not stereotype the opposite sex unironically or for non-comedic purposes.
- Stop with the vain, stupid games. Crushing some young man or woman's confidence in him/herself won't bring down the patriarchy or gynocentrism, and it doesn't make you strong or independent. It makes you an asshole, be you male or female.
- Do not participate in discussions that tend to descend into pissing contests of competitive victimhood, and clearly state this. Ask instead, "what do you want?" That's a powerful question that can very effectively shut down entitled whiners with weaponized grievances.
- You are owed nothing. Approach all relationships with the opposite sex, or with anyone, with that in mind. This is not to say that you should tolerate shit and abuse. Don't. But don't expect to be put on a pedestal either.
- Do not have as an expectation from an ideal partner a trait you do not have or can not match. Half of our problems stem from 6's thinking they're actually good matches for 10's, so to speak. Do not expect a prince if you're not a princess, or vice versa. And assess yourself honestly to save a lot of trouble.
- Live a good life outside of a relationship context. This signifies that you will not be dead weight but instead a net asset in other people's lives. No one wants a needy dependent.
- Trust must come before any kind of relationship intimacy, be it physical or emotional. Always. Take it upon yourself to earn rather than demand trust. Decide at what point your efforts are in vain and when to move on.
- Do not expect from a relationship partner anything that you can do for yourself. Relationship success thrives best when free of contrived obligations and expectations. Otherwise resentments creep in and do damage.
- Do not be afraid to point out the <subtextual> elements and their underlying axioms (see above for examples) in gendered discussions, but do so only if the person you're discussing things with becomes obstinate, obtuse or clearly hostile. The underlying pettiness and stupidity become readily apparent when brought to light.
- Likewise, if need be, remind people that two wrongs don't make a right. Plus, no man was ever rejected, nagged, scolded or castrated into liking and respecting women. No woman was ever convinced by rational argument or else likewise rejected, scolded or shamed into liking men. People don't work that way. Don't hesitate to point this out.
- Make your disdain for passive aggressiveness clear, if need be.
- If people insist on dominating conversations with socially destabilizing displays of rudeness, sarcasm or hostility, do not be afraid to call them out on it and exclude them from further social activities. If you moderate or administer an online or social media space, you have a special responsibility here. Trolls thrive on the emotionally destabilizing effect that their refusal to be decent and reasonable people has. Do not tolerate it and ban them at once.
- Admit that the opposite sex doesn't always have it easy. Try to replace resentment with walking in the other man or woman's shoes, as the case may be. This isn't to say it's equally bad on both sides, all the time. Occasionally people will need to be told to stop whining.
- Do not attribute to malice what can be attributed to clumsiness or ignorance without evidence. This is especially true with flirtation, flattery or the like.
And above all ...
- Get the f**k off the internet every once and awhile. Yeah, I know. It's hard. But there are numerous dynamics that contribute to the internet being a relatively uncivil place where your faith in humanity can easily go to die. Meet people in the real world from time to time. They're usually (though not always) not what they appear to be when seen as just a social media profile.