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Toward a Positive Masculinity
John Mac Ghlionn speaks with Chris Williamson about his advice to alienated, hyper-online men.
Written by John Mac Ghlionn.
The United States is dangerously polarized. Deep political and ideological divides exist. Millions of people feel alienated, alone, and utterly useless. Many of these people happen to be male. I have already discussed the crisis of masculinity in great detail. Now, it’s time to ask: Where should these desperate men look for inspiration?
There are many possibilities, but it’s important not to confuse quantity with quality.
Take the ‘Manosphere’. This disparate collection of online communities has been referred to as a product of misogyny. However, to label the entire Manosphere misogynistic is, at best, lazy.
Researchers have shown the Manosphere can be divided into four distinct groups:
“Men going their own way” (MGTOW): Members of this group believe that men should have nothing to do with women.
“Pick-up artistry” (PUA): This practice has existed for decades. “Pick up artists” are men who methodically study the “game” of dating and mating.
Involuntary celibates: More commonly referred to as incels, members of this primarily online community find themselves unable to attract sexual partners. They are angry and alone and voice their discontent in various online chat rooms.
We might also add a fifth group: The Red Pill Community.
Spearheaded by Rollo Tomassi, the "Godfather of the Red Pill,” this online community is built around the idea of waking men up to the realities of the modern-day dating scene.
Many men will vouch that the community has drastically improved, sometimes even saved, their lives. However, the psychotherapist Adam Lane Smith has argued that the Red Pill turns men against women, encouraging them to view members of the opposite sex with inordinate amounts of suspicion. Smith believes that there’s too much focus on red flags and nowhere near enough on the green ones. He has spent many years helping men escape from unhealthy online echo chambers. He believes millions ‘lack power and purpose’ and that these men must be told about the genuine sources of meaning.
For men, Smith says, ‘meaning comes from creating impact in the lives of those around us. Especially for our family and loved ones.’ First, men must realize the importance of creating a legacy for themselves. Next, Smith says, ‘comes helping them connect to other human beings, because a legacy is best created through human relationships. A legacy boils down to the human impact left behind after a man has died.’ Finally, he concludes, ‘we need to give men the skills and understanding to stop being alienated from other humans and instead connect with a few whom they can then impact enough to create a legacy.’ The Manosphere is, on the whole, ill-equipped to do this.
So where should men look for guidance and inspiration? One good heuristic is to look at those men spreading messages built around courage and honesty. Men whose agenda involves uncovering the truth are men worth listening to. They are, in many ways, men worth emulating.
Chris Williamson, host of the wildly successful podcast Modern Wisdom, tells me that the Manosphere isn’t all bad and many of its creators do add value. ‘Some of them,’ he notes, ‘have a good grasp on human mating and evolutionary psychology.’ ‘Others,’ however, ‘wildly miss the mark.’
Williamson continues: ‘One primary manosphere focus is on the importance of male status, resources, and prestige for attraction, which isn't incorrect,’ as women ‘do indeed value these, and in relationships where the woman out-earns or out-educates the man, there are some really poor outcomes for long-term stability.’
However, he stressed, ‘the degree to which this is all that matters can be overemphasized to a fault. A man with a pleasing disposition, a dependable character and emotional stability are among the highest ranked traits women desire in a partner and these have remained relatively stable since the 1930s.’
He’s right. Don’t underestimate the power of a good sense of humor and the ability to be honest, dependable, and trustworthy. Of course, if you happen to have chiseled features and a good body, this is a huge bonus – but alone, it’s not enough. There must be substance. Good looks can only take a man so far. Chiseled abs can't compete with compassion and commitment.
I ask Williamson what, in his opinion, is the biggest mistake the Manosphere makes. The ‘primary meta-error that some parts of the Manosphere make is that they see men and women as adversaries, not collaborators. Almost all competition is intrasexual, not intersexual. Men compete with men for women, and women compete with women for men. Men and women are not each other's enemy.’
I ask Williamson what advice he would give to men who have been led to believe that males and females are in competition and that most women are out to screw members of the “unfairer” sex over? ‘Guys,’ he said, ‘women are not your enemy. We've worked together since the dawn of time to get the species to where it is now. Hating and fearing them is a guaranteed way to fail at connecting with them.’
The erudite Brit urges male readers not to pay too much attention to viral stories. You know, the guy who went to the grocery store for ten minutes to buy a carton of milk, only to return home to find his wife in bed with his brother, father, and best friend from college.
‘If you take all your cues about mating from the internet,’ says Williamson, ‘you are selecting for the most egregious, brutal stories - due to the fact that those stories are outrageous.’ Most women, he stresses, ‘are perfectly nice, kind and want to find a guy that they like and who likes them and treats them well. Spend some time in the real world and you'll realise that most women are nowhere near as insane as the internet makes out.’
Finally, I ask Chris where he looks for inspiration. He tells me that he’s blessed to have friends who inspire him. ‘My advice is to find a squad of guys who you want to be like and learn from them. If you can't find them, then create your squad of content creators who speak to you and make that your friend group until you get to a place where you've recreated them in-person.’
‘Turn your idols into rivals,’ he continues, ‘and then turn them into friends, or at least find people who are similar to your idols and befriend those people instead.’
Online, he concluded, you can take supplement advice from Andrew Huberman, motivation from David Goggins, and/or discipline from Jocko Willink. Or, he finished by saying, ‘you can learn about building a business from Derek from More Plates More Dates, and how to crush a debate from Destiny.’
Solid advice from a successful man who has his feet very much grounded in reality.
John Mac Ghlionn is a psychosocial researcher and essayist. Follow him on Twitter here.