*The following speech was delivered by Elizabeth Hobson at the 2020 digital International Conference on Men’s Issues (ICMI) (shortened version).
We inhabit a world of things – literally observable objects and facts, and, for the MRA, literally measurable evidence of male disadvantage. And we MRAs collectively do a good and necessary job of measuring and cataloguing such disadvantages. It escapes none of us however, though our evidence is required (and should be), that feminists are not held to the same standards.
That feminists can assert the most outrageous untruths, without challenge. That baseless feminist conspiracy theories, fantasies, lies, delusions and myths are simply believed. The reason for this is simple: as much as a world of things, we live in a world of stories (Peterson, 2018).
Mythologies, archetypes and expectations help us to organise information. We can’t expect to be able to rationally sift through each piece of data that we’re exposed to, so we categorise constantly: of interest/not of interest, in line with what we would expect/anomalous (Sowell, 1987).1 And feminism has been uniquely deft at creating compelling stories that people can internalise, which act as shields against further investigation of their claims.
If this sounds malevolent: that’s because it is. Feminists misuse the power of stories to circumvent the logical appraisal that should accompany policy lobbying and establishment. Feminists misuse the power of stories to breed resentment instead of love between men and women. Feminists misuse the power of stories to justify hate-filled and supremacist intentions as recompense for centuries of “sex-based oppression”.
And the fact is that feminism has advantages in the story-weaving game. Our species’ innate gynocentrism, our gender empathy gap and our evolutionary perceptions of men (the genetic filter, to be policed) and women (the limiting factor in reproduction, to be protected) allows us to zero-in on female disadvantage and to ignore male disadvantage, to view the world through blinkered eyes through the lens of the female experience, to believe in an innate badness in men!
But we MRAs have advantages also… We can share stories that enrich the psyches of our audiences with gratitude and love for men, and respect for women. We can share stories that are exponentially closer to the truth than those sordid webs that feminists create. Stories backed by facts, but stories that can be internalised by a significant proportion of the public; and weaponised so that no longer will feminist rhetoric be taken at face value. So that the playing field will be levelled and the standards of evidence that we accept as the bare minimum required for MRAs to advocate – will also apply to feminists.
This is why I believe in the power of stories to deliver justice for men and boys (and the women who love them).
Feelings don’t care about your facts
Stories frequently succeed in arousing strong feelings, like when we read a novel and become moved to tears or anger, or when we see scenes in a movie which make our skin crawl, give goose bumps, or make our hair stand on its proverbial end. Such strong feelings, and the stories that generate them, seem to put a lie to the popular phrase “Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings”. The reverse seems more likely in evidence, even when we know that a fantasy novel or movie is not factually real – our feelings remain dominant.
This is why old-world mythologies, complete with kooky beliefs, have flourished and sustained large civilizations – civilizations which thrived and expanded under the guiding influence of those same unfactual stories. Even when the stories promote a geocentric universe with a flat earth, or mythical gods requiring human sacrifices, deadly wars or violence over the divinely mandated length of men’s beards, or whether a woman’s mandated head covering is pleasing to the divine powers. You would think these things would cause a civilization to collapse and die out, however it appears that those more rational civilizations who deconstruct myths have birth rates plummeting whilst cultures based in fanciful stories enjoy explosive birth rates.
Perhaps it’s time to consider the painful possibility that feelings don’t always care about our facts. That’s certainly the case in many cultures, and it may indeed be a default setting of human beings generally – we are story creatures, and facts are often seen as an affront that offends both the stories we believe in and feelings associated with them.
Writing in the year 1984,2 professor emeritus of communication Walter R. Fisher explored these two approaches to reality – the approaches of both story and rationality – and named them 1. ‘the narrative paradigm’ and 2. ‘the rational world paradigm.’
Fisher describes the narrative paradigm in much the same way as I am in this talk; as a reflection of the fact that we use stories to communicate with each other, and to provide a shared map of meaning among a group of people.
Stories help by gathering the scattered bric-a-brac of everyday existence and combining it into a coherent whole, or what we might refer to as a template, that we use to orient ourselves and our goals in harmony with the shared orientation and goals of others. In short stories provide us with a shareable world.
As we have seen, religious stories and folk tales, can be both benevolent by way of organizing the masses into a harmonious moral unit, or they can be destructive as we see in stories promoting warfare against innocent nations, and even those stories which, today, promote gender wars.
What Fisher refers to alternatively as the ‘rational world paradigm’ consists in five presuppositions, which I can paraphrase as: 1. That humans are essentially rational beings, 2. That human decision-making and communication is a form of argument depending on clear-cut inferential and implicative structure, 3. That the conduct of such argument is ruled by legal, scientific and legislative dictates (etc), 4. That rationality is determined by subject matter knowledge, argumentative ability, and skill in employing the rules of advocacy in given fields, and finally, 5. The world is a set of logical puzzles which can be resolved through logical analysis and application of reason conceived as an argumentative construct.
Fisher notes the frequent failure of the rational world paradigm in the modern context, and goes on to conclude that:
This failure suggests to me that the problem in restoring rationality to everyday argument may be the assumption that the reaffirmation of the rational world paradigm is the only solution. The position I am taking is that another paradigm may offer a better solution, one that will provide substance not only for public moral argument, but also all other forms of argument, for human communication in general. My answer to the second question then, is: “Yes I think so.”
Adoption of the narrative paradigm, I hasten to repeat, does not mean rejection of all the good work that has been done; it means a rethinking of it and investigating new moves that can be made to enrich our understanding of communicative interaction. 2
What Fisher refers to as “Investigating new moves” is something the men’s issues community might also take on board – specifically that stories and the feelings they evoke can be used as a form of communication to address the wrongs of gynocentrism and misandry we have been working so hard on, with limited successes, via the rational mode of argumentation and data recitations.
The narrative communication paradigm, or more simply the use of stories, has been criticised from a rational perspective when applied to scientific or legal issues, with the charge being that there is no way to make a choice between two equally coherent narratives. This is a valid complaint, but not one that practitioners of the rational world paradigm completely escape – this due to their frequent preferencing of one set of data over another, of placing the accent on one set of findings while neglecting others – a tendency that renders “rationalist” conclusions more subjective than they might like to admit – just like those of the story tellers.
Ultimately the rational and narrative approaches need to work in tandem if we wish to provide strong results, but at present the men’s movement has been wary of narrative approaches due to their tendency to subjectivity and corruption. Unfortunately, storytelling remains the preferred mode of communication and decision-making of the human species, therefore we can’t simply wish it away as irrelevant because that would be to deny the fact that humans have evolved to be narrative creatures – Homo Narrans – who preference communication via stories. It is a biological and evolutionary fact, so it isn’t going away, and hating it will do little to change its biological necessity.
If story is here to stay, then we need to enter the fray. We need to get down into the alphabet soup and wrestle with those destructive narratives perpetuated by feminists and others who would reduce men and boys to a tiny fraction of their lived experience. This can be done by challenging any element of the dominant gender narratives currently circulating – by amending the stories to conclude the male hero is “good” rather than “toxic,” or by crafting new stories altogether that incorporate the positive experiences of men and boys.
That is my challenge to you all today: not to do away with rational or data-based approaches, but to broaden them by offering new endings to the destructive stories currently on offer, re-narrating them, or by telling new stories in ways so compelling and emotionally moving that they displace the destructive ones currently on offer.
 Sowell, T. (2002). A conflict of visions: Ideological origins of political struggles. Basic Books (AZ).
 Fisher, W. R. (1984). Narration as a human communication paradigm: The case of public moral argument. Communications Monographs, 51(1), 1-22.
E.B. Bax outlined two forms of damseling, one appearing as “simple weakness,” and the other as “aggressive weakness.” In his view simple weakness deserves consideration on its merits, whereas aggressiveweakness deserves no assistance.
“For modern Feminists of the sentimental school, the distinction is altogether lost sight of between weakness as such and aggressive weakness. Now I submit there is a very considerable difference between what is due to weakness that is harmless and unprovocative, and weakness that is aggressive, still more when this aggressive weakness presumes on itself as weakness, and on the consideration that might be extended to it, in order to become tyrannical and oppressive. Weakness as such assuredly deserves all consideration, but aggressive weakness deserves none save to be crushed beneath the iron heel of strength. Woman at the present day has been encouraged by a Feminist public opinion to become meanly aggressive under the protection of her weakness. She has been encouraged to forge her gift of weakness into a weapon of tyranny against man, unwitting that in so doing she has deprived her weakness of all just claim to consideration or even to toleration.” Chapter 5: The “Chivalry” Fake, in The Fraud of Feminism (1913)
Whether real or purely fabricated, these displays of vulnerability represent the two main faces or modes of enacting the damsel-in-distress archetype. Both begin their display with an announcement of vulnerability and powerlessness, but their ways of enlisting assistance differ considerably. The simple damsel invites assistance by displaying utter helplessness, imparting a sense of inadequacy, impotence and a complete lack of agency to deal with the situation responsible for her distress. The aggressive damsel, on the other hand, angrily denounces the forces assailing her, and demands redress with bitter and vindictive calls for the world to exact revenge on her behalf.
Unlike the simple damsel, the aggressive damsel feels unable to attract chivalric reinforcements via the simple act of broadcasting her helplessness. Thus, she loudly seeks the attention of men and governments, demanding they provide chivalric redress for whatever ‘distress’ is assailing her. This kind of damsel relies particularly on governments to address her grievances, and she is likely the kind of woman that John Stuart Mill, an advocate of feminism, had in mind when he wrote the following;
“From the moral influence exercised by women arose the spirit of chivalry … a special submission and worship directed towards women, who were distinguished from the other defenceless classes by the high rewards which they had it in their power voluntarily to bestow on those who endeavoured to earn their favour, instead of extorting their subjection.
Chivalry left without legal check all those forms of wrong which reigned unpunished throughout society; it only encouraged a few to do right in preference to wrong, by the direction it gave to the instruments of praise and admiration. But the real dependence of morality must always be upon its penal sanctions – its power to deter from evil…The beauties and graces of the chivalrous character are still what they were, but the rights of the weak, and the general comfort of human life, now rest on a far surer and steadier support.” [John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women1869]
Many readers will recognise Bax’s simple weakness in the behaviour of traditional gynocentric women, and likewise will recognize aggressive weakness in the behaviours of feminist women. However, contrary to Bax’s trusting view of non-aggressive displays of weakness, readers might recognize that these too can amount to manufactured displays of weakness every bit as manipulative and undeserving of assistance as that of aggressive weakness.
To labor this theme a little further, we also find these two modes of enacting the damsel within classical mythology, long before our modern world learned to exploit the victim routine for personal advancement. The two goddesses who best represent these positions are Persephone, the simple damsel who was abducted and victimised by Hades without ever showing personal agency of her own, and yet her helplessness alone provoked widespread efforts to save her, and secondly the goddess Hera, wife of Zeus who was forever seething in a sense of victimhood and grievance, while seeking cosmic vengeance toward those who wronged her. For more on these classical archetypes I recommend the YouTube channel of Greta Aurora who has made many videos exploring the victim complexes of these goddesses, along with explorations of many other archetypal figures.
The origins of damseling are biologically-based and are as old as the human race. Technically speaking, the behaviour we refer to as damseling refers to a human being who announces its vulnerability to others – to husband, family, friend, stranger or to one’s tribe.
The announcement of vulnerability stimulates a neurological system in the brain designed to provoke reflexes of protection, caretaking and nurturance of vulnerable children and infants. However, the same neurological system can be provoked by adults who find themselves in a vulnerable situation, or by adults feigning vulnerability in order to acquire resources of protection, provision, and especially, comfort. While such vulnerability can be displayed by any human, whether a child or adult of either sex, when we use the word damseling it refers especially to adult women who engage in theatrical versions of these behaviours.
The word “damsel” derives from the French demoiselle, meaning “young lady”, and the term “damsel in distress” in turn is a translation of the French demoiselle en détresse. The behaviour of the damsel in distress; her screams, her fear, her appeals for relief in the face of immanent danger, are captured in the words of Julia Kristeva who says of life in the Middle Ages, “Roles were assigned to woman and man: suzerain and vassal, the lady offering up a ‘distress’ and the man offering a ‘service.’ “
Ancient mythologies around the world have captured the theme of damseling, and also the ‘parental brain’ state of the heroes who set out to rescue vulnerable maidens. While these tales are numerous, the practice of damseling did not become the centrepiece of any culture until a catering to women’s vulnerability was codified as a social expectation for men in the Middle Ages – a codification whereby men were asked to specialize as servicing agents in the role of alleviating women’s distresses. Giving birth to this idea, chivalry, courtly love, and a new sexual relations contract coalesced that placed women’s safety and comfort at the top of the hierarchy of social customs.
This gendered social development is perhaps nowhere better exemplified than in the “Enterprise of the Green Shield with the White Lady” a chivalric order founded by French knight and military leader Jean Le Maingre and twelve knights in 1399, committing themselves for the duration of five years to the protecting of all damsels in distress:
Inspired by the ideal of courtly love, the stated purpose of the order was to guard and defend the honor, estate, goods, reputation, fame and praise of all ladies, including widows.
According to his Livre des faits, in 1399 Jean Le Maingre, tired of receiving complaints from ladies, maidens, and widows oppressed by powerful men bent on depriving them of the lands and honours, and finding no knight of squire willing to defend their just cause, out of compassion and charity founded an order of twelve knights sworn to carry “a shield of gold enamelled with green and a white lady inside” (une targe d’or esmaillé de verd & tout une dame blanche dedans). The twelve knights, after swearing this oath, affirmed a long letter explaining their purpose and disseminated it widely in France and beyond her borders.
The letter explained that any lady young or old finding herself the victim of injustice could petition one or more or the knights of the ‘Enterprise of the Green Shield with the White Lady’ for redress and that knight would respond promptly and leave whatever other task he was performing to fight the lady’s oppressor personally.
During this period, men saving damsels was referred to euphemistically as love service, which saw male lovers referred to as homo ligius (the woman’s liegeman, or ‘my man’) who pledged honor, and servitium (service) to the lady via a posture of feudal homage. This growth of gynocentric specialization would later allow Modesta Pozzo to write the following:
“Don’t we see that men’s rightful task is to go out to work and wear themselves out trying to accumulate wealth, as though they were our factors or stewards, so that we can remain at home like the lady of the house directing their work and enjoying the profit of their labors? That, if you like, is the reason why men are naturally stronger and more robust than us—they need to be, so they can put up with the hard labor they must endure in our service.” (Pozzo – 1590 AD)
Such is the social ascendency of women and their ever-increasing cries of distress. Today we have a different dilemma in that damseling has evolved into a victim cult extending well beyond women. The damseling attitude now blankets much of the world with aggressive demands for redress, with social movements arising from the trope that are fomenting violence and decay within human societies. Exploiting primal reflexes, particularly those designed for parenting vulnerable juveniles, has become a runaway train with little to stop it. We can only hope that the current destruction will serve as the moment of reflection and restraint toward the damsel’s demands.
The damsel in distress, persecuted maiden, or princess in jeopardy is a classic theme in world literature, art, film and video games, most notably in the more action-packed. This trope usually involves beautiful, innocent, or helpless young female leads, placed in a dire predicament by a villain, monster or similar antagonist, and who requires a male hero to achieve her rescue. After rescuing her, the hero often obtains her hand in marriage. Though she is usually human, she can also be of any other species, including fictional or folkloric species; and even divine figures such as an angel, spirit, or deity.
The word “damsel” derives from the French demoiselle, meaning “young lady”, and the term “damsel in distress” in turn is a translation of the French demoiselle en détresse. It is an archaic term not used in modern English except for effect or in expressions such as this. It can be traced back to the knight-errant of Medieval songs and tales, who regarded protection of women as an essential part of his chivalric code which includes a notion of honour and nobility. The English term “damsel in distress” itself first seems to have appeared in Richard Ames’ 1692 poem “Sylvia’s Complaint of Her Sexes Unhappiness.”
The damsel in distress theme featured in the stories of the ancient Greeks. Greek mythology, while featuring a large retinue of competent goddesses, also contains helpless maidens threatened with sacrifice.
For example, Andromeda’s mother offended Poseidon, who sent a beast to ravage the land. To appease him Andromeda’s parents fastened her to a rock in the sea. The hero Perseus slew the beast, saving Andromeda. Andromeda in her plight, chained naked to a rock, became a favorite theme of later painters. This theme of the princess and dragon is also pursued in the myth of St George.
Another early example of a damsel in distress is Sita in the ancient Indian epic Ramayana. In the epic, Sita is kidnapped by the villain Ravana and taken to Lanka. Her husband Rama goes on a quest to rescue her, with the help of the monkey god Hanuman, among others.
European fairy tales frequently feature damsels in distress. Evil witches trapped Rapunzel in a tower, cursed Snow White to die in Snow White, and put the princess into a magical sleep in Sleeping Beauty. In all of these, a valorous prince comes to the maiden’s aid, saves her, and marries her (though Rapunzel is not directly saved by the prince, but instead saves him from blindness after her exile).
The damsel in distress was an archetypal character of medieval romances, where typically she was rescued from imprisonment in a tower of a castle by a knight-errant. Chaucer’s The Clerk’s Tale of the repeated trials and bizarre torments of patient Griselda was drawn from Petrarch. The Emprise de l’Escu vert à la Dame Blanche (founded 1399) was a chivalric order with the express purpose of protecting oppressed ladies.
The theme also entered the official hagiography of the Catholic Church – most famously in the story of Saint George who saved a princess from being devoured by a dragon. A late addition to the official account of this Saint’s life, not attested in the several first centuries when he was venerated, it is nowadays the main act for which Saint George is remembered.
Obscure outside Norway is Hallvard Vebjørnsson, the Patron Saint of Oslo, recognised as a martyr after being killed while valiantly trying to defend a woman – most likely a slave – from three men accusing her of theft.
In the 17th century English ballad The Spanish Lady (one of several English and Irish songs with that name), a Spanish lady captured by an English captain falls in love with her captor and begs him not to set her free but to take her with him to England, and in this appeal describes herself as “A lady in distress”.
Frank Bernard Dicksee. Chivalry
The damsel in distress makes her debut in the modern novel as the title character of Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa (1748), where she is menaced by the wicked seducer Lovelace. The phrase “damsel in distress” is found in Richardson’s The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753):
He is sometimes a mighty Prince … and I am a damsel in distress
Reprising her medieval role, the damsel in distress is a staple character of Gothic literature, where she is typically incarcerated in a castle or monastery and menaced by a sadistic nobleman, or members of the religious orders. Early examples in this genre include Matilda in Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Emily in Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, and Antonia in Matthew Lewis’ The Monk.
The perils faced by this Gothic heroine were taken to an extreme by the Marquis de Sade in Justine, who exposed the erotic subtext which lay beneath the damsel-in-distress scenario. John Everett Millais’ The Knight Errant of 1870 saves a damsel in distress and underlines the erotic subtext of the genre.
One exploration of the theme of the persecuted maiden is the fate of Gretchen in Goethe’s Faust. According to the philosopher Schopenhauer:
The great Goethe has given us a distinct and visible description of this denial of the will, brought about by great misfortune and by the despair of all deliverance, in his immortal masterpiece Faust, in the story of the sufferings of Gretchen. I know of no other description in poetry. It is a perfect specimen of the second path, which leads to the denial of the will not, like the first, through the mere knowledge of the suffering of the whole world which one acquires voluntarily, but through the excessive pain felt in one’s own person. It is true that many tragedies bring their violently willing heroes ultimately to this point of complete resignation, and then the will-to-live and its phenomenon usually end at the same time. But no description known to me brings to us the essential point of that conversion so distinctly and so free from everything extraneous as the one mentioned in Faust (The World as Will and Representation, Vol. I, §68)
The misadventures of the damsel in distress of the Gothic continued in a somewhat caricatured form in Victorian melodrama. According to Michael Booth in his classic study English Melodrama the Victorian stage melodrama featured a limited number of stock characters: the hero, the villain, the heroine, an old man, an old woman, a comic man and a comic woman engaged in a sensational plot featuring themes of love and murder. Often the good but not very clever hero is duped by a scheming villain, who has eyes on the damsel in distress until fate intervenes to ensure the triumph of good over evil.
Such melodrama influenced the fledgling cinema industry and led to damsels in distress being the subject of many early silent films, especially those that were made as multi-episode serials. Early examples include The Adventures of Kathlyn in 1913 and The Hazards of Helen, which ran from 1914 to 1917. The silent movie heroines frequently faced new perils provided by the industrial revolution and catering to the new medium’s need for visual spectacle. Here we find the heroine tied to a railway track, burning buildings, and explosions. Sawmills were another stereotypical danger of the industrial age, as recorded in a popular song from a later era:
… A bad gunslinger called Salty Sam was chasin’ poor Sweet Sue
He trapped her in the old sawmill and said with an evil laugh, If you don’t give me the deed to your ranch I’ll saw you all in half! And then he grabbed her (and then) He tied her up (and then)
He turned on the bandsaw (and then, and then…!) …— Along Came Jones by The Coasters
During the First World War, the imagery of a Damsel in Distress was extensively used in Allied propaganda (see illustrations). Particularly, the Imperial German conquest and occupation of Belgium was commonly referred to as The Rape of Belgium – effectively transforming Allied soldiers into knights bent on saving that rape victim. This was expressed explicitly in the lyrics of Keep the Home Fires Burning mentioning the “boys” as having gone to help a “Nation in Distress”.
A form of entertainment in which the damsel-in-distress emerged as a stereotype at this time was stage magic. Restraining attractive female assistants and imperiling them with blades and spikes became a staple of 20th century magicians’ acts. Noted illusion designer and historian Jim Steinmeyer identifies the beginning of this phenomenon as coinciding with the introduction of the “sawing a woman in half” illusion. In 1921 magician P. T. Selbit became the first to present such an act to the public. Steinmeyer observes that: “Before Selbit’s illusion, it was not a cliche that pretty ladies were teased and tortured by magicians. Since the days of Robert-Houdin, both men and women were used as the subjects for magic illusions”. However, changes in fashion and great social upheavals during the first decades of the 20th century made Selbit’s choice of “victim” both practical and popular. The trauma of war had helped to desensitise the public to violence and the emancipation of women had changed attitudes to them. Audiences were tiring of older, more genteel forms of magic. It took something shocking, such as the horrific productions of the Grand Guignol theatre, to cause a sensation in this age. Steinmeyer concludes that: “beyond practical concerns, the image of the woman in peril became a specific fashion in entertainment”.
The damsel-in-distress continued as a mainstay of the comics, film, and television industries throughout the 20th century. Imperiled heroines in need of rescue were a frequent occurrence in black-and-white film serials made by studios such as Columbia Pictures, Mascot Pictures, Republic Pictures, and Universal Studios in the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s. These serials sometimes drew inspiration for their characters and plots from adventure novels and comic books. Notable examples include the character Nyoka the Jungle Girl, whom Edgar Rice Burroughs created for comic books and who was later adapted into a serial heroine in the Republic productions Jungle Girl (1941) and its sequel Perils of Nyoka (1942). Additional classic damsels in that mold were Jane Porter, in both the novel and movie versions of Tarzan, and Ann Darrow, as played by Fay Wray in the movie King Kong (1933), in one of the most iconic instances. The notorious hoax documentary Ingagi (1930) also featured this idea, and Wray’s role was repeated by Jessica Lange and Naomi Watts in remakes. As journalist Andrew Erish has noted: “Gorillas plus sexy women in peril equals enormous profits”. Small screen iconic portrayals, this time in children’s cartoons, are Underdog’s girlfriend, Sweet Polly Purebred and Nell Fenwick, who is often rescued by inept Mountie Dudley Do-Right.
Frequently cited examples of a damsel in distress in comics include Lois Lane, who was eternally getting into trouble and needing to be rescued by Superman, and Olive Oyl, who was in a near-constant state of kidnap, requiring her to be saved by Popeye.
In video games
In computer and video games, female characters are often cast in the role of the damsel in distress, with their rescue being the objective of the game. Princess Zelda in the early The Legend of Zelda series and who has been described by Gladys L. Knight in her book Female Action Heroes as “perhaps one the most well-known ‘damsel in distress’ princesses in video game history”, the Sultan’s daughter in Prince of Persia, and Princess Peach through much of the Mario series are paradigmatic examples. According to Salzburge Academy on Media and Global Change, in 1981 Nintendo offered game designer Shigeru Miyamoto to create a new video game for the American market. In the game the hero was Mario, and the objective of the game was to rescue a young princess named Peach. Peach was depicted as having a pink dress and blond hair. The princess was kidnapped and trapped in a castle by the villain Bowser, who is depicted as a turtle. Princess Peach appears in 15 of the main Super Mario games and is kidnapped in 13 of them. The only main games in which Peach was not kidnapped were in the North America release of Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario 3D World, where she is instead one of the main heroes. Zelda became playable in some later games of the Legend of Zelda series or had the pattern altered.
In the Dragon’s Lair game series, Princess Daphne is the beautiful daughter of King Aethelred and an unnamed queen. She serves as the series’ damsel in distress. Jon M. Gibson of GameSpy called Daphne “the epitome” as an example of the trope.
^ See, e.g., Alison Lurie, “Fairy Tale Liberation”, The New York Review of Books, v. 15, n. 11 (Dec. 17, 1970) (germinal work in the field); Donald Haase, “Feminist Fairy-Tale Scholarship: A Critical Survey and Bibliography”, Marvels & Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies v.14, n.1 (2000).
^ See Jane Yolen, “This Book Is For You”, Marvels & Tales, v. 14, n. 1 (2000) (essay); Yolen, Not One Damsel in Distress: World folktales for Strong Girls (anthology); Jack Zipes, Don’t Bet on the Prince: Contemporary Fairy Tales in North America and England, Routledge: New York, 1986 (anthology).
^ Singer, Ben (February 1999). Richard Abel (ed.). Female Power in the Serial-Queen Melodrama: The Etiology of An Anomaly in Silent Film. Continuum International Publishing Group – Athlone. pp. 168–177. ISBN0-485-30076-1.
The following is a discussion by Janice Fiamengo of the medieval practice of damseling to garner chivalric responses from males, a practice that is alive and well in the political sphere today.
The Near-Irresistible Lure of Damseling
By Janice Fiamengo
Well over a century ago, our ancestors debated women’s demand for voting and other privileges. Traditionalists argued that women faced a choice: they could either have special treatment on the basis of their alleged vulnerability as a group, or they could have political equality, but they couldn’t have both. Lo and behold, women got both, with peculiar results for our political culture.
In our time, the performance of powerlessness has become a dominant strategy of power, nowhere more evident than in politics. “I’ve been traumatized” is now a more galvanizing cry than “I can handle that”—and trembling weakness often eclipses demonstration of strength and competence.
Notwithstanding a few notable exceptions like black actor Jussie Smollett, who teared up on cue for Good Morning America while discussing his alleged assault by noose-wielding MAGA men, the performance of quivering hurt is far more likely to be used with success by women, and the past few years have brought a plethora of enactments of feminine fragility: demands for apologies, declarations of fear and shame, and the demand that tales of trauma be believed, all appealing to the in-group empathy of women and the chivalric impulses of men.
AOC has outlined in detail, in a video of one and a half hour’s painfully self-absorbed length, how she was convinced that “Everything—was—over” as she hid in her office waiting for Trump supporters to come for her. It didn’t matter that she was not near the epicentre of unrest, and that the voice she heard that so terrified her was that of a Capitol police officer rather than a rioter.
One might expect her to hesitate to share her fears once it had been revealed that she was never really under any threat at all. But instead, AOC doubled down, linking her Capitol ordeal to her experience years before as an alleged victim of sexual assault.
According to her logic, what actually happened to her in the Capitol complex doesn’t really matter; only what she felt. And anyone who doubts what she felt—or doubts her right to use that feeling for political leverage–is someone with contempt for the recurring trauma of survivors like her.
What is perhaps most striking about AOC’s hour and a half long video is her very deliberate self-infantilization as she plays up the non-rational elements of her response.
Her story is told to the camera as if for the first time—though of course it was filmed weeks after the event and presumably was much-rehearsed. There are long pauses while she seems to search for a word or is overcome by emotion while remembering.
The appearance of spontaneity, of in-the-moment visceral intensity, is almost perfectly mastered, and in that sense it is an Oscar worthy enactment.
AOC’s voice frequently trembles with seemingly irrepressible emotion as tears well up in her eyes. Sometimes within a very short time, she moves from near-tears to smiles and laughter. At moments she appears lost in thought, unconscious of the camera, gazing out of the frame as if consumed by feeling; at other moments her glance is directly to the camera lens, inviting soul-to-soul intimacy.
The performance is about as far as could be imagined from the rationality and self-control—and above all the calm strength, the inner power–that one would traditionally have expected from a politician, someone responsible for conducting the nation’s business. It is a performance of youth, certainly, and even more so of deep feminine vulnerability and emotional volatility—far more appropriate to a 16-year-old high school girl—and even then an immature and narcissistic one–than a 31-year-old congressional representative who proposes and votes on federal legislation.
Such a self-performance, which is certainly not confined to AOC, raises troubling questions about the impact on public life of women, and men to a lesser extent, who define themselves by their experience of trauma and claim authenticity on the basis of powerful feelings beyond their control.
If AOC cannot be counted upon to respond rationally in a moment of minimal or merely imagined danger, how can she be counted upon to do the people’s business at all? Being a member of the House of Representatives requires tough-mindedness and resilience. Accusations and personal attacks—though not physical attacks—are a normal part of the job. Hysteria and over-reaction –as in accusing Ted Cruz publicly of trying to kill her—interfere with the focus and maturity necessary for the work of government.
AOC’s justification of her fear is damning: “When we encounter such a terrifying moment,” she explains, “we respond with the entirety of our life experience.” In other words, AOC admits that the moment was terrifying because she couldn’t separate her previous experience of alleged assault from her current perception.
Note how glibly she speaks of herself not as a rational individual in control of her own responses but as a member of a pre-determined collective, in this case the identity group ‘female survivor.’ She admits that, as a female survivor she cannot help how she responds to an unsettling situation. The embrace of the hysterical feminine—and not as a moment of weakness overcome but as a deliberate strategy of power—should be profoundly alarming to all who care about the future of western democracies.
It is always easy enough for rationality to be lost inadvertently in the midst of heated political argument—but it’s a calamity when it is deliberately rejected. And that’s where we’re at now, at a time when women’s public tears and professions of fragility have been granted unprecedented political power.
There have always been women who understood the equivocal power of feminine weakness and warned against it. Canadian journalist Sara Jeannette Duncan, a skeptical supporter of the women’s movement, wrote in the Toronto Globe newspaper in 1885 about the double-edged sword of a woman’s public tears: they got results, certainly, but they detracted from the intellectual self-discipline necessary for productive political engagement.
“Nothing is more unconsciously dramatic than a woman’s outcry against a suffering which is often hers through no fault of her own,” Duncan wrote, “But if she asks the ballot by virtue of her ability to sorrow eloquently […] it seems to me that she will be sorely puzzled to know what to do with it when it is hers” (Toronto Globe, 15 July 1885, p. 3). If women wished to be treated as political equals, Duncan advised, they would have to overcome their reliance on postures of eloquent sorrow.
Many of Duncan’s feminist contemporaries, however, embraced claims of female emotional superiority, alleging that maleness was responsible for war, cruelty, and inequality.
Widely admired Canadian feminist Nellie McClung addressed the question of what she called “The New Chivalry” in her 1915 book In Times Like These. “People tell us now that chivalry is dead, and women have killed it,” she quipped at the start. She was referring to the idea, quite common at the time she wrote, that women’s entry into public life would destroy their special status as a protected class.
When the British vessel Titanic sank in April 1912 with enormous loss of life, 74% of the women on board were rescued as compared to only 20% of the men. Men deliberately stood back, giving up places on life boats and accepting their own deaths so that women could be saved. They did so in part because they knew that to survive a disaster like the Titanic sinking while leaving women to drown was to be permanently disgraced. Such was the power of chivalry, as a concept and a living reality, in British and North American society.
McClung makes no reference to the Titanic sinking in her discussion of chivalry—though the disaster was very much a recent memory.
She dismissed chivalry as a romantic notion far more honored as an idea than as an actual practice. Yes, beautiful women have always had an easy time of it, she admitted, but the notion that women are protected as a whole is little more than a pretty theory. She asserted this at the very time that young men were being maimed and killed by the hundreds of thousands in the trenches of Europe while some of their female counterparts discussed voting rights. McClung actually had the gall to argue that when women had the right to vote, war itself would become a thing of the past because war was in her words, “a crime committed by men” that would end “when women are allowed to say what they think of war.” Up until now, she alleged with a sarcastic dig at chivalry, “women have had nothing to say about war, except to pay the price of [it]” (15).
According to McClung, what women wanted was justice, not chivalry: not men’s gallantry, not men’s sympathy, but the right to represent their interests and pursue professional careers in the same way men did. This would be, she said, a “fair deal” (42). Significantly, though, she did not reject chivalry altogether, saying that “Chivalry is a poor substitute for justice, if one cannot have both.” In the fair society of McClung’s vision, women should have equal rights but should also have special rights as women when appropriate.
And it turns out that special rights are often deemed appropriate—perhaps more now than ever before. The temptation to act the damsel in distress appears near-irresistible.
When women occupy positions of political power, the media is ablaze with stories about the feminine qualities they allegedly bring to their positions—according to a recent article in the left-wing academic journal The Conversation, their empathy, ability to work collaboratively, communication skills, openness, and inclusivity.
But one quality conspicuously lacking is the ability to resist playing the damsel.
In my home province of British Columbia, the chief health officer is a woman named Bonnie Henry, an unelected official who has exercised extraordinary, often devastating power during the COVID pandemic, deciding whether schools could open, which businesses were essential, how many people could gather, and whether protests were legitimate, all with a soft quavering voice and endless promises of just a few more weeks as the axe fell regularly on citizens’ freedoms and livelihoods. She has generally been very popular, her saintly image memorialized in a public mural and a musical ode.
But at the first sign of criticism, the vulnerable damsel has emerged onto the public scene.
In the middle of the pandemic when most people, on her advice, were isolating in their bubbles, Henry took part in a panel discussion about women in leadership , and made much of her own suffering, singling out the “death threats,” “nasty notes,” “phone calls,” and “harassment” she had allegedly received, and suggesting that “people find that it’s OK to do that for a woman who’s up front more so than some of our male leaders” though she followed that with “But I could be wrong.” Fortunately for Henry, it doesn’t matter whether female leaders are attacked more often or more viciously than male leaders (actually they’re not)—a chorus of chivalric experts are always happy to chime in about women’s special suffering, and Bonnie Henry, suffering to the tune of $360,000 a year while peons lost their businesses, stoked public sympathy even while wasting precious pandemic time appearing on a panel to damsel about how hard it is to be her.
It’s a now standard part of gender politics—endless claims and controversies about sexism, endless rounds of demands for apology, apologies offered, apologies refused, apologies accepted but criticized as inadequate, and so on. Just a few weeks ago, Canadian newspapers ignited with inflammatory headlines such as “Ford owes apology to every woman in Ontario after hurling ‘sexist’ comment, Horwath says.” Readers could be forgiven for assuming that the Conservative leader of Ontario, Doug Ford, must have said—or rather ‘hurled’–something outrageous if it required not only an apology to Horwath, the feminist leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party, but to every one of the millions of women in the province. It turned out that during a back and forth in the provincial parliament, Ford had said, “It’s like listening to nails on a chalkboard listening to you.”
An extraordinary number of journalistic words were spent hyperventilating about the alleged misogyny of the outburst, and Horwath couldn’t resist the halo it offered her as a deeply wounded but valiant champion of womankind; later that day, she tweeted out a message to all women advising them: “Don’t let anyone try to tell you you don’t belong at Queen’s Park,” though there had been no suggestion that she didn’t belong (at the provincial legislature). “I’m going to continue making positive proposals to give people the help and hope they need to get through this pandemic.” If she were really so deeply concerned about constituents affected by the pandemic, she might have thought it frivolous to waste an entire day fussing about her alleged hurt feelings.
But that is the nature of the female politician these days, consumed with thoughts of self, narcissistic displays, allegations of harm, and demands that others recognize the uniqueness of female suffering.
The notable confusion in our societies is highlighted every time an allegation of gendered trauma or necessity for gendered apology is raised. Do women require kid gloves treatment in the public sphere, or not? Are their feelings more delicate than men’s when it comes to personal remarks and perception of threat, or not? If the answer to these questions is no, then why do female politicians not say so loud and clear? If the answer is yes—women do require kid gloves treatment—then why do we continue to pretend that women today seek equality of opportunity?
The fact is that women’s ability to demand equality when it suits them and special treatment when that suits them is a ridiculous and corrosive distraction. Women’s claims of victimhood take a great deal of time and energy away from many pressing issues, and create an uneven political playing field in which every man knows he can be wrong-footed, and every woman knows she can power trip if she wants to. The damsel option disinclines some women from whole-heartedly pursuing competence because they know they can deflect criticism or gain advancement by sorrowing eloquently, creating bad faith in many women, suspicion and resentment in many men.
Until it becomes an actual political disability to claim weakness and demand apologies—our public culture will continue to be held hostage by the damsels among us.
The Men’s Rights Movement exists to recognize and ameliorate problems, institutional or social, that predominantly or exclusively harm boys and men. To that end, activists have adopted strategies ranging from filmmaking to legal action. Media analysis has also been done (Allemano, 2012) but with folktales largely ignored. This is unfortunate since folklore in its various forms has practical functions: entertaining, justifying institutions, enforcing cultural norms, educating, and providing escapism (Bascom, 1954). Thus, MRAs could harness the power and versatility of folktales to influence the culture. “The Four Artful Brothers” (Manheim, 1977) is a strong foundation since it complies with pro-male values in several ways.
The story tells of siblings who leave home to find jobs when they’re father is unable to provide for them. Becoming a thief, a hunter, an astronomer, and a tailor, they return home, demonstrate their skills to their approving father. A dragon attacks days later and the boys combine their talents to rescue the princess, resulting in them getting awarded their own principalities.
Folklorists have argued that this tale and its variants have remained popular partly because it focuses on educating sons (Zipes, 2000). This theme is relevant for contemporary advocates because male literacy and academic achievement lags behind that of girls (Autor & Wasserman, 2013) and has since 1870 (Tyack & Hansot, 1988). But this tale doesn’t just dramatize anxieties regarding male education, it alleviates them. “The Fourt Artful Brothers” is a multi-genre narrative that includes action, fantasy, and real-world problems, which are the kinds of texts boys prefer and which they aren’t usually given (Boys Literacy Teacher Inquiry Project, 2008). To wit: the siblings battle a dragon and survive a shipwreck, satisfying the action requirement. The presence of a dragon, an omniscient telescope, and a magical needle-and-thread place the text within fantasy. And the premise of the story – leaving home to find gainful employment – is a realistic goal and concern for many young adults. Altogether, these elements fulfill the multi-genre requirement.
Combined with that is a nuanced depiction of masculinity. For instance, the story is about young men mastering skills and courageously facing mortal peril. These two traits – mastery and courage – are considered bedrocks of traditional manhood (Donovan, 2012). Yet, the tale is inclusive of men who deviate from norms. Consider the mentors: their role as teachers is people-oriented, which contrasts with men’s general preference for object-oriented work (Rong et al., 2009). The main family also deviates from norms; the boys have no mother, implying that childrearing and housekeeping were done by their father and themselves since the birth of the youngest. The youngest himself does tailoring – a subset of textile work like sewing, knitting, and weaving – which has traditionally been a feminine craft (Barber, 1998). Notably, the king says that each of the brothers have an equal right to marry his daughter, metaphorically saying that all men are worthy of respect and recognition, regardless of their gender expression.
Another point in the tale’s favor is its multilayered subversion of male disposability. While the boys do endanger themselves for a woman they’ve never met, their primary motive is to prove the usefulness of their skills. Their secondary motive is economic, since they came from poverty and are unemployed at the time. Another challenge to the disposability of men comes from the king. Unlike real-world leaders who conscript men to war (Watson, 2014) or citizens who sacrifice men for women’s benefit (FeldmanHall et al., 2016), the king offers an incentive to save the princess and the boys are the only men to go her rescue.
Marina Warner, a prominent mythographer, once declared, “I decided that it was crucial not to leave the territory of the imagination to those history has taught us to recognize as dangerous” (The University of Sheffield, 2017). Hers is an attitude that men’s rights activist should embrace wholeheartedly, especially because those who pose a threat to male wellness already have a head start.
Donovan, J. (2012). The way of men. Milwaukie: Dissonant Hum.
FeldmanHall, O., Dalgleish, T., Evans, D., Navrady, L., Tedeschi, E., Moobs, D. (2016). Moral chivalry: Gender and harm sensitivity predict costly altruism. Social psychological and personality science, 7(6), 542-551.
Manheim, R. (1983). Grimms’ tales for young and old: The complete stories. New York: Anchor Books.
Rong, S., Rounds, J., & Armstrong, P. I. (2009). Men and things, women and people: A meta-analysis of sex differences in interests. Psychological bulletin, 135(6), 859-884.
Tyack, D., & Hansot, E. (1988). Silence and policy talk: Historical puzzles about gender and education. Educational researcher, 17(3), 33-41.
What we are witnessing is a hacking of the parental brain with the bait of dramatized neoteny. Once our biological operating system is hacked in this way, and the hack is taught as cultural operating practice, nothing can undo it. This iteration of superstimuli is here to stay. The only way around ‘aggressive vulnerability’ is to say NO when faced with its demands, which will be all day & every day in the form of female victimhood, race victimhood, “marginalized” sexuality, and so on — the hegemony of the child archetype.
Biologists, neurologists, evolutionary psychologists, and ethologists have long recognized parent and child instincts in the form of parents’ urge to caretake and protect juveniles, and conversely of juveniles having an impulse to announce their vulnerability to signal their need to be cared for. This biological fact was independently discovered and understood by archetypal psychologists (parent & child archetypes), object relations psychologists (parent & child objects), and by other schools of psychology dealing with the ‘inner child’ and the need for caretaking. Object relations psychology goes so far as claiming the sexual libido is subservient to the evolutionary imperative of parent~child bonding, making the latter the strongest motivator in human affairs.
As an interesting point of distinction, Jungians differentiate between the child archetype and what they call the ‘puer archetype‘ which can be represented respectively by the images of a toddler (child) and an older child/teen (puer). The puer archetype is perfectly represented by the figure of Peter Pan – youthful, loving of new experiences, playful, spontaneous, optimistic, adventurous. The puer is not a vulnerable child in need of coddling and protecting, he’s an independent child or youth and an archetypal imperative vital to the psychological health of all men and women. This is why I reject admonishments of the puer impulse as “Peter Pan syndrome” and “failure to launch,” which essentially shames men into assuming one-sided adult responsibility. “Failure to launch” applies more properly to an overidentification with the child archetype, which deserves challenging when it reaches the status of personal or cultural dominance.
While the above video provides only half of the full speech given by Hillman on the child archetype, it does impart a good overview of the topic. Hillman touches there on Jung’s description of the child archetype as including vulnerability, a sense of futurity (that life will begin in the future), innocence, and also a feeling of “hermaphroditism.” This sexual orientation is also confirmed in Freud’s idea that toddlers are “polymorphous perverse” and haven’t yet formed what he understood as an appropriate genital identity. Perhaps this all makes sense when you consider the concerns of the ‘marginalized’ wokists today who champion multiple genders, non-binarism, bisexuality, transgenderism etc. and aggressively demand to be taken care of.
Have you noticed everyone attempting to nail down the one true definition of masculinity? Its a bit like arguing which is the One True God. Likewise, with every earnestly researched and precisely crafted definition of masculinity, a broad acceptance of any single definition seems out of reach.
If you have an hour to waste on the internet you can discover hundreds of competing definitions of masculinity, each one vastly different, which raises the question of why we can’t agree on a singular, universal statement. Why the ongoing lack of agreement, even within the men’s movement which sets out to champion that very topic of “men” and “masculinity”?
There’s no doubting that underlying physiological structures are shared among all males, the base unity of masculine potentials: a Y chromosome, androgens, muscles and penises. But this tells us little about how individual men will behave in the real world – and behave individually, and variably, they certainly do.
Defining masculinity appears doomed because we tend to rely on singular expressions of it – and singular definitions likewise follow; “masculinity is to be interested in things, not faces” “masculinity is striving for status,” “masculinity is to be more rational and less emotional” (etc.). Are some men like this? sure. Are all men like that? Hell no – far from it. And, naturally, in response to such monocentric definitions the disagreements come lightening fast, with detractors claiming that masculinity is something far more, or something other, than the reductive definition offered.
When we seek singular stereotypes (whether they be based on some example of a traditional male social role, or on some author’s view such as “the way of men,” on singular evopsyche fantasies, or on singular fixations on testosterone as the whole picture) – in such mono-models we will never feel settled on the question of masculinity because there are too many outliers from whatever singular definition we’ve chosen.
Obviously masculinity is more than one thing – more than testosterone, more than intelligence, more than muscle mass, more than status-seeking, and more than a powerful urge to have sex and reproduce. Its more than the sum total of these things, and individual men’s expression of them will widely vary. On that basis a plural understanding of masculinity appears to be the only way to save the concept, though I don’t for a second subscribe to feminist ideas of ‘masculinities’ with their convoluted and unscientific hierarchies of “good” and “bad” instances of masculinity.
Viewing masculinity as plural can be as simple as returning to ancient Greek culture, or to any other classical culture, or even Bible-based cultures for that matter in which varieties of masculine styles are showcased. The Greeks for example had many gods, each expressing a different archetypal face of masculinity. Those expressions ranged from effeminate Dionysus to macho Ares, from instinctual Pan to the ordered and intellectual God Apollo. There is Zeus and his concerns for leadership and hierarchy, and Hephaestus with his labor consciousness, and so on and so forth.
Instances of masculinity, never all seen together in one character, each god or man tending to specialise in one way or another.
It might be argued that because feminists have seized the term masculinities and subsequently twisted the concept into perverted, misandric typologies, that we should shy away from plurality and stick instead with the traditional idea of a masculine singularity – a kind of Vitruvian man who displays all masculine behaviours at once. That’ll teach those femmos!
But this defensive retreat from feminist dominance over the gender discussion is a needless one that throws out the baby with the bathwater. That retreat avoids forthright celebration of male plurality and leads not to better understanding of various masculine dimensions of behaviour, but rather to singular and often reductive definitions that few men can relate to. Furthermore, insisting (as some have) that many expressions of masculinity can be accounted for within a singular definition of masculinity hasn’t helped to provide an agreed definition thus far, so why would we believe it can do so in future? Fighting over the One True Definition rages on.
Nailing down a singular definition of masculinity that everyone will agree with reminds increasingly of Sisyphus rolling his boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down to the bottom before he starts rolling a new definition up the hill – over and over ad infinitum. Isn’t the definition of insanity that of repeating the same process over and over but expecting a different outcome?
This is why personally I’m an advocate of classical models over modern monocentric ones – people relate to them, and tend to agree with them.
Feminists can never own the concept of masculine variety, even if they have seized on the plural masculinities. Ironically, their attacks on masculinity tend to be one-dimensional caricatures, and when they do get around to exploring plurality of male expression, they tend to make value hierarchies out of the different masculinities, dividing them into good and evil according to arbitrary misandric criteria. For example the more typically effeminate male = good, and the less typically effeminate = bad. This is why their attempt at a plurality of masculinities is junk science and why we men are turned off from celebrating our very real diversity – ie. even though its a fact of life, it has been poisoned with needless ideology.
The word masculinities has been around for at least a few hundred years, referring in the 1800s to any behaviors deemed a departure from the narrowly assigned gender roles of the day, or alternatively to any male behaviors considered inappropriate for polite society. Feminist activists from the gender studies world revived the word during the 1980s and 1990s, basically reaffirming the practice of deeming some masculinities toxic (eg. “hegemonic masculinities” – R. Connell)1 and others as non-toxic.
One academic, Eric Anderson, who was embedded in the scene during that period of “problematizing” masculinity, broke ranks with the obsessive pathologizing narratives and emphasised rather that men of different styles can and are forming what he calls “inclusive masculinities.”2 This approach admits that men are more accepting, or at minimum more tolerant of differences than we were led to believe by the misandric character assassins Robert Connell, Michael Messner or Michael Kimmel et.al who portrayed the vast majority of men as ruthlessly intolerant.
This approach, celebrating masculine variety, is not new to readers here. In fact A Voice for Men has honoured the very plurality I’m describing, and it has done so consistently for over a decade. Men, strong and weak, stoic or sensitive, physical or intellectual, gay, straight or transgender….. we’ve demonstrated inclusive masculinity from the outset. This article serves as a reminder of the importance of those values, while introducing the concept of masculine variety to new readers.
When it comes to terminology, we need not rest only on the loaded term masculinities. Well before Connell and his henchpersons began to discriminate and denigrate so many examples of masculinity, the Jungian and archetypal psychologists already viewed men in terms of masculine variety, and they didn’t apply any of the familiar pathologizing narratives – they simply referred to them as male archetypes. For example, the Archetypal Psychologist Adolf Guggenbuhl-Craig wrote the following statement in the year 1976, which is long before sociology got onboard with its plurality of masculinities:
“It should be clear that there is not only one masculine archetype and one feminine archetype. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of feminine and masculine archetypes. Certainly there are many more of them than we usually imagine. But not all archetypes are dominant at a particular period in the life of an individual. Moreover, every historical epoch has its dominant masculine and feminine archetypes. Women and men are determined in their sexual identities and behavior by only a select number of archetypes.
Behavior is determined only by those patterns that are momentarily dominant in the collective psyche. This leads to a grotesque but understandable error: the archetypes that dominate masculine and feminine behavior in a particular time come to be understood as the masculine and feminine archetypes. And from this limited number of archetypes it is decided what “masculinity” and “femininity” are. This misunderstanding has led, for example, to the assumption in Jungian psychology that masculinity is identical with Logos, and femininity with Eros. It is assumed that the essence of femininity is personal, related to one’s fellow man, passive, masochistic, and that the essence of masculinity is abstract, intellectual, aggressive, sadistic, active, etc. This naïve assertion could have been made only because the masculine and feminine archetypes that were dominant at that time and in that culture were understood as the only valid ones.”3
A contrast between feminist and archetypalist views is that the latter admits that archetypal styles arise from biology even if they are socially manipulated; that they are not socially conferred onto ‘blank slates’ by society, as some sociologists might view it. Our biology-based archetypes may lay dormant if not facilitated by culture, or they may arise at certain stages and phases of life, and of course we are each born with our peculiar masculine predilections, or style, that may not be the lot of the next man. Despite that complexity, biology remains a fundamental factor in the theory of archetypes – and yes, environment remains important too.
While the mythopoetry movement of the 1980-90s emphasised singular masculine archetypes, such as Robert Bly’s Wild Man,4 the movement also tended to follow the Jungian tradition of honouring a variety of male archetypes and expressions. For those who are new to the men’s movement, it might be worth studying this aspect of the mythopoetic tradition to help you avoid the pitfalls of an overly singular view of masculinity.
So to finish this article, let me leave you with a playful overview of male archetypes in Greek Myth, compiled by archetypalist Greta Aurora. While her descriptions of various male archetypes are not the last word on any of the characters mentioned, they do provide an example of seeing males in their individuality.
Ultimately its a personal choice whether to see masculinity as one or many, or as both, but in my experience an overemphasis on ‘the one’ tends always to swallow the many, and in the process we lose too much.
 Connell, R., Hegemonic masculinities (Wikipedia)  Anderson, E., Inclusive Masculinities (2009)  Guggenbühl-Craig, A., Marriage Is Dead – Long Live Marriage! (1976)  Bly, R., Iron John: A Book About Men (1990)
*The following by Joseph Campbell is a short account of the classic romance tale of Tristan and Iseult
The great tale of Amor is the tale of Tristan and Iseult. Though we know that Chrétien wrote a version of this tale, it has not come down to us, and so the greatest of the existing versions was written by Gottfried von Strassburg in the very early thirteenth century.
Tristan was a young orphan who was born in Brittany, the place from which this whole tradition emerges. An enormously talented youth, he could speak no end of languages, play no end of musical instruments, and he knew how to butcher game— he knew everything. Tristan goes to serve his uncle King Mark in Cornwall.
There is an interesting aspect to these Arthurian stories: it is always the nephew and the uncle, the mother’s brother: the matrilineal line. You’ve got Tristan and Mark, Arthur and Mordred, and so forth.
When Tristan arrives he learns that a warrior has arrived from Ireland to collect tribute from the Cornish people because the Irish king had conquered Cornwall. The tribute consisted of youths and maidens to be brought to Ireland to serve in the Irish court, and the people didn’t want their children to go. Tristan said to his uncle Mark, “Let me take care of this. I’ll go and meet him in single combat, defeat him, and then there will no more tribute.” This is a deliberate echo of the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, an intentional restating of ancient Classical motifs.
Morholt, the Irish champion, has a sword that has been anointed with poison by the queen of Ireland, who is named Iseult— and whose daughter is also named Iseult. This is a common trope in courtly love: poison on the sword. The combat takes place and Morholt’s sword comes down on Tristan’s thigh and cuts it, and the poison is introduced. Tristan’s sword comes down on Morholt’s helmet, cuts right through, and smashes Morholt’s skull, killing him, but a little chink of Tristan’s sword is left in Morholt’s head.
The tribute is finished, and Morholt is brought back to Ireland. Now, his little niece Iseult, the daughter of Queen Iseult, loved her uncle and when the chink was extracted from Morholt’s head she kept it as a memorial in her little treasure box.
Back in Cornwall Tristan’s poisoned wound begins to stink and nobody can bear it, and he says to Mark, “Put me in a little boat, and the boat will carry me by magic to the very place where the healing will be attended to”— the healing has to be accomplished by the one who injured him.
In Amor, the love wound— the sickness no doctors can cure— can be cured only by the one who issued the wound: namely, the one you fell in love with. This is a replay of the poison-in-the-sword motif.
So Tristan sails off in the boat and it carries him indeed to Ireland, to the court of the very person whose poison is killing him. He is playing the harp out in the little boat, feeling very sick, as he sails into Dublin Harbor. The people ashore go out and hear this youth play— this is Orpheus. They bring him ashore and lo and behold, they carry him to be cured by the very queen who poisoned him.
For some reason the queen doesn’t know that this man is the one who killed her brother Morholt. Of course, our hero had changed his name and called himself Tantrist (French: “too sad”) instead of Tristan, so how could she know who he was? So she works to cure him, as she is a compassionate woman. When the wound no longer stinks, she invites her daughter, Iseult, in to hear this wonderful harpist, and when the daughter enters, Tristan plays more marvelously than he’s ever played in his life. In other words, he’s fallen in love— only he doesn’t know it yet. This is the mystery of this whole tale: he doesn’t know it.
Finally Tristan is cured, and he goes back to Cornwall. He’s so excited about this wonderful girl that he talks her up to his uncle and says, “You ought to marry her!” Can you beat it? He’s so innocent of his own emotions that he thinks his uncle should marry this girl.
Well, everybody thinks his uncle should get married anyhow because they need a queen, so they send Tristan back— with his name still twisted around— to fetch this girl. Well, he arrives back in Ireland to find that there is a dragon making it tough for people. And the king has said, “Whosoever kills this dragon shall have Iseult in marriage.”
Well, of course, Tristan rides out to kill the dragon. There is also, however, a seneschal, a sort of courtier who isn’t capable of killing dragons, but he wants very much to marry Iseult. So whenever he gets a notion of somebody going out to kill that dragon, he trails along.
When Tristan has slain the dragon, he opens its mouth, cuts out its tongue as proof of his deed, sticks the tongue in his shirt, and walks away.
The seneschal comes afterward and cuts off the dragon’s head, then brings the head to court to claim Iseult.
Poor Tristan. One thing you should never do with a dragon’s tongue is stick it in your shirt— because it’s poisonous. So while he is walking away with the dragon’s tongue in his shirt, Tristan faints and falls into a pool, and the only part of him sticking out is his nose, so he’s breathing all right.
Iseult and her mother happen to be out for a stroll along the pool, and as they stroll along, they look and say, “There’s somebody down there!” So they pull Tristan out— for some reason they don’t even recognize that he is Tantrist, the one who was there before— and take him to court once again to heal him.
They put him in the bathtub to heal him. In the meanwhile, Iseult is fooling around with Tristan’s equipment in his room when she pulls his sword out of its sheath, and lo and behold, “My gosh, there’s a nick in this sword!” So she goes to her little treasure box and there is this missing piece. She sees that it fits, and oh, she loved her uncle! So she takes this heavy sword and goes in to kill Tristan in the bathtub.
He looks up and says, “Hold on. You knock me out and that seneschal dope gets you.”
Iseult has to admit that this is a good point. In the meantime, the sword is getting kind of heavy, so that is the end of that.
Once Tristan has once again been healed, he is brought to court with the big question: Who gets Iseult? The first claim is made by this chap the seneschal, who comes in with the dragon’s head, which looks very conclusive.
Tristan, however, has only to say, “Open its mouth and let’s see what’s missing there.” No tongue. And where is the missing part? “It’s here!” says Tristan, holding out the tongue, and so he got Iseult.
This stupid little boy, he still wants to bring her back to uncle Mark. So her mother, the one who prepared the poison that brought this whole thing about, prepares a love potion for Iseult to deliver to Mark so that the two will have a love marriage.
Now, this is a great problem theologically and in every other way. In any case, the queen puts the potion and her daughter into the keeping of young Iseult’s faithful nursemaid, Brangaene.
Well, Brangaene doesn’t pay very close attention. On the way back, Tristan and Iseult, both about fifteen years old, each take a sip of the love draught, thinking it is wine. Suddenly the couple becomes aware of the love that has been gradually growing in their hearts.
When Brangaene learns what happened, she is appalled. This is a wonderful moment: she goes to Tristan and says, “You have drunk your death!”
And Tristan answers, “I don’t know what you mean. If by death you mean this pain of love, that is my life.”
This is the essential idea of Amor, experiencing the pain. The essence of life is pain, all life is suffering. In Japan in almost the same period Lady Murasaki writes The Tale of Genji, and you have this love play of the cloud gallants and the flower maidens— they’re experiencing in a very sensitive way the Buddha’s wisdom, that all life is suffering, and the suffering of love is the suffering of life and where your pain is, there is your life.
Tristan continues, “If by this love, this agony of love, you mean my death, that is my life. If by my death you mean the punishment that will be ours when discovered in adultery, I accept that.” This is pushing right through the pair of opposites of life and death, and this is where love is: the pain pushed through. And then he finishes, “And if by death you mean eternal death in Hell, eternally I accept that too.”
Now, that’s a big, big statement, and this is the spirit of Amor in the Middle Ages. You can’t call it just an aristocratic game, and it wasn’t just a love affair. It was a mission transcendent of all the values of this world and a pitch into eternity.
◙VM: Hey Peter, thanks for agreeing to the interview.
◙VM: You are well known, as far as I can see, within the MRM for your advocacy against gynocentrism. You point out the aspects of society and the cultures of the world, historically and in the present day, that enable and promote gynocentrism in one way or another, and you run Gynocentrism.com which talks extensively on the subject and is basically the go-to source of content exposing gynocentrism. While you may not be the only one that talks critically of gynocentrism, you are among the very few that I can see that calls out that out on the traditionalist as well as the SJW side with the same vigor, and for the right reasons. Can you reflect on your experiences having confronted gynocentrism on both those fronts, and how have you have been received in the MRM for it?
►PW: In some ways confronting the feminist version of gynocentrism is easier than confronting its traditional counterpart, because feminists are more likely to admit to their plan of increasing the power of women — female empowerment as they like to call it.
Many traditionalists on the other hand tend to disguise their desire to grant women inflated status, but they work toward securing forms of gynocentric power no less than do feminists. In the traditionalist language that power is referred to as men ‘putting her on a pedestal’ – a phrase known by all, and an aim widely aspired to by traditionalists.
Both progressive and traditional gynocentrism aims to privilege women over men. Both are reliant on the damsel-in-distress narrative to harness chivalric supply, and the only thing that separates them is the typical list of privileges they aim to institute – ie. typically a pampered housewife for the traditionalist, or have-it-all lifestyle for the progressive feminist.
These two gynocentrisms are essentially at war with each other over who deserves priority access to male chivalry, that magic ingredient needed for realizing gynocentric power. To that end, traditional and progressive gynocentrists have cultivated different dog-whistles to provoke chivalric behaviour from males: the traditional woman plays the demure, weak damsel in need of saving by a knight in shining armour, while the feminist plays the same victim role but is far more aggressive in her demand for chivalric redress. We could say that the same ‘white knight’ caters to these two variants of damsel – the demure damsel, and the aggressive damsel respectively.
These two gynocentrisms have their taproots in the codified gender roles of medieval Europe, in which, to quote philosopher Julia Kristeva, “Roles were assigned to woman and man: suzerain and vassal, with the lady offering up a ‘distress’ and the man offering a ‘service.’ “
So despite feminism positioning itself as a progressive new movement, its motive is remarkably traditional.
My rejection of gynocentrism as a default path has been met with resentment from both feminists and traditionalists, both of whom have counselled men to embrace more chivalry for the benefit of women. Fortunately, there’s a segment of the men’s movement that reasonably doubts, or outright rejects gynocentrism as a healthy basis for relationships between men and women, and likewise any appeals to chivalry are met with a reasonable scepticism by the same segment of men.
►PW: Paul and I first exchanged in around 2007 while he was working at Men’s News Daily, a popular news site for men, and I was working on expanding International Men’s Day to reach a more global audience. We were discussing collaboration of some kind, but due to our busy schedules we let it slide.
A few years later, I think it was around the beginning of 2010, I joined as a contributor at A Voice for Men and soon after became an editor at the site. During the early years we had many discussions about men’s issues and about the future of the men’s movement, and it was clear then that Paul and I held similar perspectives on many issues – like chivalry, the problem of gynocentrism, and the need to create a new psychology for men. Our first collaborative articles explored those themes and seemed to come effortlessly, so much so that we continued co-writing and proof reading each other’s articles until recent times when we’ve both taken a hiatus from writing generally. This has been a personal highlight in my men’s advocacy work, and I’m pleased to see many of these collaborative pieces now collected in the two volumes you cited, which are proving popular with the red-pill audience.
◙VM: You and I are non-feminist, or anti-feminist, because we know feminism for what it is – a female supremacy ideology that is but one symptom of gynocentrism, not the be-all end-all of it. There have been some anti-feminists, however, that argue against it for blatantly gynocentric motives of their own that they aren’t even trying to hide, such as something along the lines of: “Before feminism, we had it all and men provided for us like servants, and now we women have to work like men do, woe is me! Let’s go back to the good old days and make things easy for us women!” What do you make of this variety of antifeminists? Is it traditionalism, or is it something different and possibly worse?
►PW: It is one kind of traditionalism, yes, but not the only kind. More specifically we might call this one ‘gynocentric traditionalism’ – a designation that acknowledges the existence of a non-gynocentric traditionalism.
The gynocentric traditionalist is at war with feminists because she realizes that chivalry is a finite resource, and if men are pouring out their assistance, protection, finances, pampering, and general deference to feminists, then the traditional gynocentric woman is likely to receive a far smaller serving of the available resource. It’s a jealousy with a valid rationale.
Unlike traditionally unemployed and pedestalized “home-maker” wives, who appeared en-masse after the industrial revolution, I think it’s important to acknowledge there were less gynocentric, or non-gynocentric women in pre-industrial societies throughout global history. Such women were more likely to be family-centered than self-centered, and they would labour alongside men as field workers, brewers, butchers, bakers and candle-stick makers, along with sharing a great deal of the care of children with other family members, including fathers, as contrasted to the more modern practice of mothers keeping children all to themselves, like chattel or bargaining chips, as post-industrial society has succeeded in establishing.
This last point of women’s exaggerated control over children is blamed on contemporary feminist policies, whereas it was, in fact, equally the case for traditional families a century ago in both America and Britain, as we read in the writings of Ernest B. Bax… and I’d like to quote him on this point:
“It has always in England been laid down as a fundamental law based on public policy, that the custody of children and their education is a duty incumbent on the father. It is said to be so fundamental that he is not permitted to waive his exercise of the right by pre-nuptial contract.
Nevertheless, fundamental and necessary as the rule may be, the pro-feminist magistrates and judges of England are bent apparently on ignoring it with a light heart. They have not merely retained the old rule that the custody of infants of tender years remains with the mother until the child attains the age of seven. But they go much further than that. As a matter of course, and without considering in the least the interests of the child, or of society at large, they hand over the custody and education of all the children to the litigant wife, whenever she establishes –an easy thing to do– a flimsy and often farcical case of technical “cruelty.”
The victim husband has the privilege of maintaining the children as well as herself out of his property or earnings, and has the added consolation of knowing that they will brought up to detest him.
Even in the extreme case where a deserting wife takes with her the children of the marriage, there is practically no redress for the husband. The police courts will not interfere. The divorce court, as already stated, is expensive to the point of prohibition. In any case the husband has to face a tribunal already prejudiced in favour of the female, and the attendant scandal of a process will probably have no other result than to injure his children and their future prospects in life. [The Legal Subjection of Men – published 1896].
This quote provides an example of what I mean by gynocentric traditionalism, the widespread practice of the privileging of women and disadvantaging men, which was taking place well before the popular rise of feminism. Advocates of traditionalism, of course, remain silent on these ‘traditional’ abuses of men.
◙VM: On a similar note, another argument for men’s issues that I see a little too often for my taste is “men’s issues affect women, too!” That’s irked me – as if women and their dear white knights are supposed to respond, “Oh! I haven’t cared about men’s issues before but it affects women?? Now I ought to care!” To me that sounds every bit as gynocentric as anything else out there in the world – do you have any thoughts on that?
►PW: I think you hit the nail on the head, this is nothing more than a He-For-She reflex by people unlikely to ever care about the concept of He-For-He. If helping men is not somehow exploitable for the benefit of women, then these same people generally don’t care.
People are more likely to care about men becoming disabled, getting cancer, losing a job, or getting killed at war because these things will affect women – as Hillary Clinton famously quipped when she said that women were “the primary casualties of war.” But if a single, unmarried man becomes disabled, gets cancer, becomes unemployed or dies – then who gives a damn? No one.
Addressing the gender empathy gap is the big issue of our time and it requires all hands on deck, all genuine advocates of human decency, to bring attention to the problem.
◙VM: MGTOW is a varied umbrella with men whom I’d like to think come from various walks of life and different perspectives on why they are going their own way and what it means to them. Among those permutations, is there a precedent for a man going his own way to have an intimate relationship with a woman (or a man, if they are so inclined)? Also, is there a precedent for a woman going her own way as distinct from the feminist idea of the “independent woman who don’t need no man”, and if yes, what might that look like?
►PW: This is a good question, one that gets silenced in some MGTOW communities. I’ve never been good at conformity to orthodoxies however, and prefer to make up my own mind about what MGTOW stands for and to whom it might apply.
In its most basic definition MGTOW means male self-determination, nothing more, and nothing less. I, as a man going his own way, choose what I want to do with my life in preference to having my goals conferred or dictated by others, whether by the State, by women, or anyone else. In this sense MGTOW overlaps with libertarian principles.
Can a man in an intimate relationship with a woman ‘go his own way’? I say yes, he certainly can, and I know many men who have been in relationships with the same woman for decades who’ve consistently done their ‘own thing,’ while being mindful that a relationship is by necessity a dynamic requiring some reasonable compromises on both sides – which these men choose to accept based on their own freewill and on their desire to be in a relationship. These same men would not hesitate to abandon the relationship if their partner’s respect for his self-determination were lacking.
Married and single men can and often do have their self-determination thwarted in a number of ways. For example the married man might have his life upended in divorce court, and the single man might have his life legally upended by a false rape charge. In both cases, self-determination is stolen. So I tend to place some emphasis on the beliefs and convictions of the man in question to determine if he is striving to go his own way, and not only on his relationship status…. though I hasten to add that marriage in the modern age is an extremely risky undertaking.
Can a woman go her own way? Yes of course she can, though it would look different to the phoney “feminist” version you alluded to in your question. Some years ago I researched the phrases “go his own way” and “go her own way” through the last 200 years of literature. There were many instances of men going their own way, and likewise there were many descriptions of women who went their own way without undue reliance on men to make it happen for her. I know some women who fit that picture today, including (for example) Elizabeth Hobson of Justice for Men and Boys, who validly refers to herself as a woman going her own way.
Some MGTOW are possessive of the concept of ‘going your own way,’ claiming that women are trying to usurp a concept created by men. While I completely understand their fear of male initiatives being co-opted, they fail to realize this phrase has been in use for hundreds of years and belongs rather to the English language as a designation referring to anyone displaying self-determined behaviour.
Feminist overtures about women living self-determined lives doesn’t pass the litmus test. Their pretentious displays of independence are too strongly reliant on the support of male labour, male deference and male servitude to provide the agency they crave, whereas true self-determination is more self-reliant in my reading of it.
◙VM: You are the one who directly introduced to me with the concept of the Puer archetype in describing my idea of the “inner boy” in a man, that which serves as the core and essence of what makes a man as well as his source of youthful energy and optimism. You’ve helped me distinguish that concept from the “inner child” concept in which one partner assumes the role of the helpless and often petulant child and the other assumes the parent role that becomes self-sacrificial. So, on the Puer – what is your take on the importance of the concept for men (and perhaps the equivalent Puella for women)?
►PW: Your own essay on this topic, titled ‘Attitudes Towards the Puer: From Jody Miller to Tomi Lahren,’ provided an excellent analysis of these archetypes, perhaps the best I’ve seen in the manosphere in terms of teasing apart the many definitions and misunderstandings. As you point out, the child archetype is that part of our nature that represents helplessness, vulnerability, innocence and dependency, whereas the puer archetype represents the part of our nature that is youthful, spontaneous, inquisitive, and playful.
That youthful, spontaneous potential is an essential ingredient of human happiness that we carry from cradle to grave, yes even in old men and old women. So it pains me to see this it disparaged in men as “Peter Pan Syndrome” or as a “failure to launch” just because men might like sport, or to play video games or other fun pastimes instead of being chained to the serious business of “growing up” ie. that path of ordered responsibility and of being in service to women and society. If you are not enslaved to serious responsibilities six-and-a-half days per week, say those critics of fun, with perhaps a half day allotted on Saturdays to watching sports on a TV screen, then you are little more than a “pathetic man baby” who needs to “man up” and start providing a lifestyle for a deserving female partner.
If I had the choice to get rid of just one phrase from the discourse about men, even from the most famous men’s advocates, it would be ‘failure to launch.’ Launch into what, into slavery to others? Loss of self, and misery? No thanks. My advice for men and women is to enjoy some youthful spontaneity and playfulness till your dying day, and don’t let wagging fingers and shaming language throw you off. Even in its more extreme forms, a failure to launch might represent a healthy response to an increasingly toxic world.
There are plenty of women showcasing the puella trait, the female-equivalent for the male puer. These are women, flirtatious and playful, who can laugh at themselves and at others, and who generally walk lightly through life with an air of ‘Don’t fence me in.’
But going back to the other archetype, that of the child – the needy, dependent, vulnerable child – I would say that unlike the puer impulse, it deserves to be constrained within adult relationships because it tends to become a drain on the other partner. Who wants to be in an adult relationship with a needy, petulant child? It’s no secret that in marriages one partner often tends to play the needy child, and the other partner plays the responsible parent. And its women who have traditionally been encouraged to play the vulnerable, pampered child more than men – though I hasten to add some men get caught by this archetype too.
Esther Vilar writes masterfully about women’s gravitation toward enacting the child archetype within marriage, a truth for which she became persecuted after daring to articulate it. Her book is titled ‘The Manipulated Man’ – written I think in 1971, and it remains as relevant today as when it was written.
◙VM: Narcissism is a big subject that comes when one critiques gynocentrism, and rightly so because of the vampiric, parasitic behaviour that is enabled and encouraged by any given gynocentric mindset. You are also strong in defense of the individual, celebrating the differences of masculine expression as well as praising the individualism of men and women. Do you have an idea of what are the key differences between individualism and narcissism?
►PW: This is a big subject and I’m no expert on the numerous variations of individualist philosophy. What I have noticed is that critics of the individualist path – whether it’s based for example in libertarian thinking, Objectivism or Nietzschean philosophy – make the charge that individualism is synonymous with narcissism. That’s a false equivalence, but they are correct in the sense that there’s a potential for individualism to degrade into pathological narcissism, or alternatively for pathological narcissism to disguise itself behind an ethic of reasonable individualism.
Gynocentrism is one example pretending to represent individualism. It’s a gendered version of narcissism that lacks respect for the individual sovereignty of others, particularly male others, and sets up its own individualism as exclusive – and it does so by actively excluding the individualism of others.
Narcissism of any kind operates as a social monologue, not a social dialogue. Narcissism lacks empathy for others, its inherently exploitative, and is demonstrated by an unrealistic sense of grandiosity that isn’t based on commensurate achievements or merit. Individualism isn’t necessarily any of those things.
So we can’t claim that individualism and narcissism are equivalent. At best someone might mount an argument that narcissism is a pathological variantof individualism, a claim worthy of exploring. But it will never be correct to represent as ‘narcissists’ the majority of those who follow individualist philosophies.
◙VM: To what extent can we see gynocentrism mitigated in our human history to come? What would that look like, and is it something we have to constantly be vigilant about lest gynocentrism comes back around again?
►PW: There’s obviously a biological component to gynocentrism, but I’ve always maintained that the gynocentric impulse has been wildly exaggerated, supersized by cultural forces that have exploited our biological tendencies. The cultural gynocentrism we have today has vastly overrun whatever evolutionary purposes it may once have had – it’s now a runaway freight train leaving human destruction in its path.
On that basis I think there will be a correction. It has already begun. Based on the extreme gynocentrism we currently see at play, I expect to see an increase in bachelor movements such as those of Japan’s Herbivore men, and more recently in the rise of ‘men going their own way.’ But while these movements ensure men’s safety away from toxic human entanglements, which is an absolutely necessary short-term response, such bachelor and celibacy movements solve little in terms how to enjoy relationships that we humans are hardwired to participate in. What we need are some new ‘maps of meaning,’ as Jordan Peterson would phrase it, at least in the area of forming viable, long-term relationships.
Rather than appeals to traditionalism with its goal to pedestalise women, or on the other hand calls to embrace progressive feminism which also pedestalises women, we might in future discover new relationship models (or perhaps much older, pre-industrial revolution ones) that can lead us out of the impasse.
The certainty is that men and women will continue to form relationships, but they might gravitate more toward equitable relationships as contrasted with the faux equality proposed by feminists. This move would involve equality of value between men and women, based on libertarian-style principles. Those principles emphasize individual choice for each person of the relationship, relative autonomy, voluntary association, individual judgement, free will, self-determination, and negotiated labour-sharing arrangements & agreements between partners. In a nutshell; freedom to choose, instead of conferred roles or duties.
This is precisely what Warren Farrell proposed when he talked of moving away from survival roles of the past, which he referred to as ‘Stage 1’ relationships, and moving instead toward what he called ‘Stage 2’ relationships which entail men and women sharing equal responsibility to earn money, clean house, enjoy time with children and so on, instead of being imprisoned in socially prescribed or conferred roles. It goes without saying that such roles are completely voluntary and the details negotiable. I agree with Farrell on this proposition, which offers a way out of the impasse and out of the destructive gender war that has raged on for too long unchecked.
Human societies are like fragile ecosystems where if one animal or plant becomes too dominant it can send the entire system into chaos and disintegration. Imbalances will always appear in human societies and we can only hope that if the current imbalance of extreme gynocentrism is downsized in the near future, perhaps as a result from men’s withdrawal of chivalry, our vigilance will ensure that it takes a long rest. Humans however are great at forgetting prior lessons, which allows any number of past maladies to come back and terrorise us.