Before you dismiss this by just reading the title, I, a feminist, would like you to give it a chance. I promise hope at the end of this article which a lot of us can use in 2020. For the last couple of days, I have been reading research pieces on how cults work, for an assignment on religion, and I found a grim similarity between how incels, BJP trolls and MRAs have adopted the same clockwork.
To begin with, any kind of cult offers an alternative for the troubled. In this case, men around you, especially the ones trolling you on social media or working tirelessly to give men the same rights as women (we all know one). These men are socially isolated, not as privileged to access knowledge initially due to their class position. This, devoid of any actual human connection can be toxic for anybody. The World Health Organisation has started to consider loneliness as life-threatening and it may be so, since governments and businesses are becoming more aware and profitable about the same.
Excluding the trolls that are allegedly paid for the venom they spew online, an increasing number of young men are turning to social media to find a community that engages them in radicalization and guides them to a sweet dream about a father figure that they never had in the shape of a dictator. It’s no coincidence that Nazis referred to Hitler as father, but I will not blame toxic masculinity because you have heard that argument before. However, this disconnect with real emotional bonds, with the ever-increasing access to a community that perpetuates and rewards violence in different forms cannot be avoided.
I have a younger brother aged 14, and I’m doing my part to make him as feminist as I can but I’m not sure I have all the answers. The truth is on both sides of the aisle; they do not have great role models, and much like in cults, if at any point you are able to question the reality crafted for you by the dear leader of your cult, you’re painful process of de-radicalization begins.
Incels have claimed the lives of 45 people across the world since 2014, which was a movement that started off as a forum for shy men asking each other for advice about how to speak to women. Since Eliot Rodger, it has become an anti-feminist vendetta club where men came “to be men” much like the social media wave here in India that merges itself conveniently with the Modi wave, that started with justifying the shutting down of meat shops in the guise of vegetarianism which by extension was the quest to find the lost or unsure identity of a Hindu man.
And I don’t think left woke men have escaped the misogyny that thrives in the boom of internet era either. Shamir Rueben and the likes of his kind who have Karl Marx tattooed on their heart and who sing poetry about underage women’s eyes are also part of this lonely desperate group that needs a movement, but not the one that either of the sides has prepared itself for because even as a left-leaning feminist, I’m yet to find a man who isn’t just a little toxic/sexist in his undertones. Of course, their Islamophobia/casteism/racism isn’t as glaring as a right-wing man because for right wing trolls, these are the core values of the “fear of” ideology that makes frats, the 1% and politicians, political subgroups alike.
But if you look closer, you will also find similar traits in a 20-year-old man who is literally wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt and happens to be well versed in social justice and gender theory. Most of my friends especially the ones who are interacting with them on dating websites agree with me. What seems to be common, is a sense of purpose that no side has been able to identify, A man of 20th century lacks purpose; philosophically I can argue that men of this country have been struggling with that purpose since independence and also argue that if women have now neurologically been proven to carry generational trauma of their ancestors, then men have inherited purposelessness of the men before them.
Politically and socially, every man of this country has been stripped off, of that philosophical urgency for a while now. It too was an urgency much like the mirrors of trauma that needed a community behind it. Anthropologically the idea of tribe is primal for men and when you find that your tribe is encouraging you from the behaviors of mob violence to covering up for your friend who is a known rapist, then it becomes psychologically safer to conform, conformity being the cornerstone of cults and like a pack of wild animals it is what makes them so in sync and dangerous at the same time.
I have a younger brother aged 14, and I’m doing my part to make him as feminist as I can but I’m not sure I have all the answers. The truth is on both sides of the aisle; they do not have great role models, and much like in cults, if at any point you are able to question the reality crafted for you by the dear leader of your cult, you’re painful process of de-radicalization begins. Here the source of the cults like Incels and homegrown trolls is the internet which is also its enemy once they figure out the disillusionment which sociologists over the course of history have proved that they will. The process of healing should provide them a guideline, a role model and a better alternative as well which sadly they do not have. I used to say that historically men have failed women but I think men haven’t failed anyone as much as they have failed themselves and that needs reckoning.
The process of healing should provide them a guideline, a role model and a better alternative as well which sadly they do not have. I used to say that historically men have failed women but I think men haven’t failed anyone as much as they have failed themselves and that needs reckoning.
You must be aware that in popular context we have on one side angry men ranting about women having the audacity to have a scene about masturbation because it was performed by a woman who speaks against the government and on the other hand, we have a brand of communist love poets who thrive in narcissism about having the decency to woo women before they harass them, both sides equally disappointing my friends who already have a very low bar for dating men.
I would like to tell the male readers that as a feminist I don’t understand you, but as a feminist again on a daily basis, I am confused on how to accept Beyonce’s feminism when she runs sweatshops in Sri Lanka or on whether I am up for the sexualization of women because it’s empowering or if I don’t want myself to be defined by the male gaze or if as a feminist I can’t make up my mind about porn.
I as an exhausted feminist know what it’s like to not know what you want. I know what it’s like to be confused in an ever excruciating world that limits your choices while giving you an all you can take access when it comes to really making that choice and most of all, I know what it’s like to be failed by a generation of men before me. I do not claim to have the guidebook on how to be a better man but like I promised at the beginning of this article I might have some hope.
So, I urge men if they are reading this, to not look to us feminists to define your movement. You need one that offers you a role model, that offers you an out from your socially limiting perspective and I urge you to learn from what women’s community’s have done for ages and that is simply taking care of one and other, to look out for each other, listen to each other (especially if you have the reputation of barging in on feminist spaces where you pretend to do that).
I do believe you guys need a reform movement as much as any other group but I don’t think that it has to be a competition. Most of us feminists; but as I mentioned before, this is a reform we can’t give you even if we wish to. This is your war and if any of it makes sense to you then welcome to the fight. I really do hope that we win.
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