Self-determination in reference to determining one’s own thoughts and actions was first used in the 1600s.
Other meanings of self-determination are cited below:
Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) refers to men committed to self-determination, and to voluntarism within relationships. Defining oneself as a Man Going His Own Way (MGHOW) reveals a commitment to the view that a man has the sole right to decide what his own goals in life will be rather than accepting goals conferred by others, or by social consensus of peers, or higher social status individuals or collectives. Generally, consensus-conferred male identities or goals are recognized and rejected by MGTOW men as prescriptive, utilitarian, and benefiting others at a cost of socially unrecognized masculine self-destruction or marginalization.1,2,3,4,5
The phenomenon of male self-determination goes back millennia under names such as free-man, celibate, bachelor or stag. Sometimes these self-determined or ‘MGTOW’ men formed groups, the earliest known being that of the Anti-Bardell Bachelor Band of 1898.6 The phrase “Men Going Their Own Way,” or variants such as “going his own way,” or “to go his own sweet way,” in reference to men’s freedoms is hundreds of years old.7
The MGTOW phrase was further promoted in 2004 by members of a men’s rights group.8 Two of those promoters went by the online names ‘Ragnar’ and ‘Meikyo,’ and in an online interview Ragnar describes the moment as follows:
You see all the ideas were floating around on the internet. We were frustrated that we couldn’t get men to build an organization, couldn’t get men to come to this damned meeting- everybody was going their own damned way, and the fact that men went their own way, we started to use that phrase and we started to talk about what’s important for men… who’s going to define their masculinity? Well, they actually have to do that themselves, they have to find out what it is for themselves. So, as you have the responsibility for your own actions, well then it’s also your responsibility to define who you are as a man.9
The MGTOW acronym has since enjoyed increasing popularity as a title for male self-determination.
A core tenet of MGTOW is rejection of gynocentrism, the preferential concern for women in both traditional and progressive forms. The gynocentric customs of marriage, romantic love, chivalry and male servitude are wholly rejected by MGTOW as running counter to the goal of men going their own way.
MGTOW is viewed as an evolving consciousness of self-determination and way of looking at the world. It involves making choices in the present that serve ongoing, future self-determination. Conversely, choices made that seriously endanger future self-determination are viewed as antithetical to MGTOW (eg marriage). 11
Unlike the lockstep and dogma of so many contemporary movements, MGTOW is entirely individualistic, even though many men may arrive at the same conclusions from having observed the same phenomena. The MGTOW-symbol suggested by the 2004 promoters shows a path deviating from the main road (ie. individualism), and an arrow (evolutionary potential). The same promoters further suggested that MGTOW is not affiliated politically, and efforts are made to “avoid pulling it to the left or to the right politically.”12 The proposition for political apartisanship, however, carries no moral authority for individual MGTOW who are free by definition to choose any political alignment they wish.
By August Løvenskiolds and Peter Wright
MGTOW YouTube producer Turd Flinging Monkey (TFM) recently talked about his theory of how historical patriarchies (real ones, not the faux versions feminists are forever whining about) interact with gynocentrism to produce cycles of societal growth and collapse. The theory, referred to as the traditionalism cycle, has appeared in major civilizations. The traditionalism cycle goes something like this:
Here’s the video that describes this in more detail.
The “traditionalism theory” is both descriptive of observed historical patterns and makes falsifiable predictions about how wealthy societies will break down over time if they fail to control gynocentric resource demands.
The theory is a reasonable one; societies start with patriarchs (father-elders) as the controlling class, then move through traditional and progressive forms of gynocentrism before collapsing under their own weight – the inability of resource production to keep up with the unchecked demands of an increasingly indolent yet powerful populace. The theory says that gynocentrism escalates with the advent of abundance if abundance exists in a given culture.
What we appreciate about TFM’s exposition of his theory is that he did some detailed historical research to back it up – something sorely lacking in the discussion of the roots of gynocentrism. Instead of real research we often see pull-it-out-of-your-ass histories or dismissive appeals to biology – “it’s all in the genes.”
The irony that “Turd Flinging Monkey” did NOT pull it out of his ass is not lost on us.
The pull-it-out-of-your-ass kind of history is based on half-guesses, ideology and assumptions with little to no evidence – except perhaps references to items like Lysistrata, a play; Helen of Troy, a myth; The “Rule of Thumb” law authorizing standards of domestic violence (which even feminists admit is a complete fabrication), religious tales, fairy tales, and other fantasy sources – i.e. to assume myths and fables mirror real life has marginal utility at best and is often times just crap: have you ever seen a centaur?
Surely the classical depictions of centaurs must have mirrored real creatures and behaviors or they wouldn’t have mentioned it?! Any thinking person will recognize the problem; relying on ancient mythologies is akin to having future zoologists base the history of equine evolution on episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
Mythology’s chief value is in metaphor: when the goddess Ishtar’s love interest Gilgamesh spurns her, she threatens to unleash zombies unless her father punishes Gilgamesh for his impudence. The metaphors seem to boil out of this, the oldest of human stories:
Some of those metaphors are useful; some not so much.
The same goes for reductive biological explanations. Aside from the laziness of such approaches, the error in over-emphasizing biology is that biology is a product of environmental pressures that can, and do, change over time. Where you see biology you will always see a facilitating environment shaping it. Changes in environmental conditions (like over-population and resource depletion) could eliminate the biological “need” for gynocentrism entirely – wombs lose value when reducing the population is the only viable survival option for a species.
Fortunately, TFM breaks with the catalogue of errors and is trying to keep his analysis fact-based and real.
With that said there are some major, unspoken nuances that should be added to the conversation. The first is that there are degrees of gynocentric culture in both its traditional and progressive forms. Gynocentric societies are not cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all. Like hurricane categories with wind strengths of one to five, gynocentric culture can be imagined in a similar way – as differing in reach and packing winds anywhere from dangerous to destructive to catastrophic.
Like hurricanes, which become more intense depending on a confluence of atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, and wind direction, likewise the intensity of a given gynocentric culture rests on multiple factors. TFM has named one of them in his video: abundance.
Abundance is a good start, one that, in isolation from other factors, can definitely lead to a (lets call it) ‘category one’ gynocentric culture. But as we add more contributing factors the gynocentrism gets more pervasive and more destructive – factors like
As these and many other factors converge the strength of gynocentric culture grows potentially up to a ‘category five’ such as was born in the Middle Ages with the mother of all gynocentric cultures that has spanned over 800 yrs and been exported from Europe to the rest of the world.
We don’t intend to give an exhaustive reply here but will end with a general comment about our present culture. At this point the gynocentric culture birthed in medieval Europe is unprecedented in the long path of history – it was only there, and then, that the combination of romantic chivalry and courtly love was born, along with a bunch of other contributing factors that made this gynocentric revolution the mother of them all. But there’s no doubt there have occurred smaller, less intense manifestations of gynocentric culture throughout history along the lines TFM suggests.
Recognizing gynocentrism and how it hurts men, families and society is critical to the process of limiting and perhaps undoing the toll that it takes on everyone.
A version of this essay first appeared on gynocentrism.com.
The following is a brief comment on Turd Flinging Monkey’s theory referred to as the ‘traditionalism cycle’ appearing in major civilizations. The cycle goes something like this:
Patriarchal traditionalism → gynocentric traditionalism → progressive gynocentrism → collapse.
The theory is a reasonable one; societies start out as patriarchally controlled, then move through traditional and progressive forms of gynocentrism before collapsing under their own weight. The theory says that gynocentrism escalates with the advent of abundance (if and when abundance exists in a given culture).
What I appreciate about TFM’s theory is that he did some actual historical research to back it up – something sorely lacking in the discussion of the roots of gynocentrism. Instead of actual research we frequently see a pull-it-out-of-your-ass histories, or alternatively dismissive appeals to biology – “it’s all in the genes.”
The pull-it-out-of-your-ass kind of history is based on half-guesses and assumptions with little to no evidence – except perhaps references to items like Lysistrata, a play; Helen of Troy, a myth, religious tales, fairy tales, and other fantasy sources – ie. it’s a huge error to assume myths and fables mirror real life. Have you ever seen a centaur… surely the classical depictions of centaurs must have mirrored real creatures and behaviors or they wouldn’t have mentioned it?! Any thinking person will recognize the problem; relying on ancient mythologies is akin to having future zoologists base the history of equine evolution on episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
Same goes for reductive biological explanations. Aside from the laziness of such approaches, the error in over-emphasizing biology is that biology does not exist, or rather doesn’t exist as a thing-in-itself. Where you see biology you will always see a facilitating environment shaping it.
Fortunately, TFM breaks with the catalogue of errors and is trying to keep it fact based and real.
With that said there are some major, unspoken nuances that I’d like to add to the conversation. The first is that there are degrees of gynocentric culture in both its traditional and progressive forms. Gynocentric societies are not cookie-cutter one size for all. Like hurricane categories with wind strengths of one to five, gynocentric culture can be imagined in a similar way – as differing in reach and packing winds anywhere from destructive to catastrophic.
Like hurricanes, which become more intense depending on a confluence of atmospheric pressure, humidity, and wind direction, likewise the intensity of a given gynocentric culture rests on multiple factors. TFM has named one of them in the video below: abundance. This is a good start, one that, in isolation from other factors, can definitely lead to a (lets call it) ‘category one’ gynocentric culture. But as we add more contributing factors the gynocentrism gets more pervasive and more destructive – factors like male to female population ratio; aristocratic conventions influencing the masses; the presence of military campaigns; and the strength and structure of cultural narratives perpetuating the sentiment (etc.). As these and many other factors converge the strength of gynocentric culture grows potentially up to a ‘category five’ such as was born in the Middle Ages with the mother of all gynocentric cultures that has spanned over 800 yrs and been imported from Europe to the rest of the world.
I don’t intend to give an exhaustive reply here but will end with a general comment about our present culture. At this point I’m still assuming the gynocentric culture birthed in medieval Europe is unprecedented in the long path of history – it was only there, and then that the combination of romantic chivalry and courtly love were born, along with a bunch of other contributing factors that made this gynocentric revolution the mother of them all. But there’s no doubt there have occurred smaller, less intense manifestations of gynocentric culture throughout history along the lines TFM suggests.
Harnessing men’s utility can be witnessed from the erection of Stonehenge to the Roman Empire to the moon landings. Cures for diseases and vaccines to prevent them happened from the intensely intelligent actions of the human male. Exploring new territories and engineering the transport to send people to new places has changed the world, almost all of it through risk and hardship borne by men. Men have driven civilization forward since we first walked away from the African savannah. Men’s blood, sweat, tears and sacrifices are the fuel rods that have always driven the big machine of our society.
Conditioning men, training them to do that, was necessary.
If the world wanted to continue its forward march it needed to entice little boys with fictions of glory that would forge their identities as the architects and the engineers of the world around them. It was an easy sell given the perhaps innate tendency in males to risk and to accomplish more than the man next to him.
We have thus, from generation to generation, raised our men on a steady diet of stories about saviors, knights and world-building heroes. We train them see themselves in accordance with those fables, sometimes brutally. We teach them that their worth is actually their worth to the wants and needs of others. We instruct them to see themselves as worthless for doing or being anything other than what we expect them to be.
This kind of thinking probably had its appropriate place in a world that was driven by constant and immediate survival needs. There is no doubt that without humankind benefitting from male sacrifice, you would not be sitting there reading this over an internet connection in a safe and comfortable environment, perhaps half a world away.
So do we need to continue this kind of dependence on men to sacrifice unthinkingly for the needs of others? Seven billion examples of a species now dominating the planet and traveling the solar system suggest not.
Yet we continue on in the same mode, blinded by habituation and the thoughtlessness that comes with it.
The problem that we glean from this is clear. The labels of hero, savior and other forms of “real” manhood are now just euphemisms for the disposable servants we have become as an entire class of human beings. We proudly retell tales of sacrifice to our sons, even as the story of their own lives emerges – singing paeans to the yoke.
Such are the stories all little boys are raised on:
The stories seem harmless and even cute in isolation from their real-world implications. As fantasies we delight in them. But it pays to remember our identities consist, as Shakespeare said, of such stuff as dreams are made. The stories we absorb are the stories we enact, and in this case we enact them to the neglect of ourselves and our larger human potential.
The psychotherapeutic world has long understood the equation ‘narrative becomes identity’ – and the field is populated with therapies whose sole aim is to construct new narratives for our lives. Beginning with Freud’s ‘talking cure’ and later archetypal psychology, cognitive psychology (scripts), narrative psychology, cognitive narratology (etc.), narrative therapy leads the way to healing and self-respect.
Men, in particular, are story creatures. Our psyches literally rely on them for existence as much as our bodies rely on food. We create stories about “who” we are; about the world we live in and our place in it; and about how we are meant to relate to others – men, women and children. Without them we lack orientation and are left with an existential vertigo.
Whatever you want to call them–scripts, myths, narrations, schema or stories–we can’t live without them. However, like a bad dose of salmonella some narratives will give you a case of mental dysentery leading even unto death by overwork or suicide – such is their power to direct your behavior. Psychologists, good ones anyway, refer to these as pathologizing narratives and try to weed them out of your mental garden.
But who is to decide what a pathological narrative is? Surely it is not the feminist psychologists who now dominate nearly every part of the therapeutic landscape with pathological narratives.
The problem with all mainstream therapy, which is now nearly synonymous with feminist therapy, is that it doesn’t recognize gynocentrism as a problem or perhaps doesn’t see it at all. So they have no model for guiding men out of pathological (gynocentric) narratives and into new ones that might release them from the old script. In fact what they usually do, despite superfical overtures about therapy that focuses on the needs of the client, is actively encourage men to stay lodged in the depth of the gynocentric mythos.
How many men feel (and actually are) waylaid, ambushed and taken hostage by female-centric ideas when they enter couples counseling? How often do you hear that men are resistant to therapy because they don’t want to express feelings, only to see the same purveyors of that idea rush in to shame men the moment they open up?
How many men would benefit from understanding that they cannot begin to identify who and what they are without first ending the unhealthy reliance on women, and others with a conflict of interest, as sources of approval in their lives?
There is a reason that men don’t trust therapists. It is because there are so many therapists who don’t trust men. Those practitioners are more likely to use men than to help them.
We don’t just make narratives up – in many ways they make us up. So it’s important to not let the culture write the script for us, the script that inevitably leads to the belief that we are rapists and emotional failures, that women are damsels, that we are knights in the Order of Chivalry, and that we must suffer our lives for the principles of gynocentrism. Like the tattered novel you just can’t seem to finish reading, throw it in the trash and hunt for a new book, a better book, one that will bring value to your life.
If you are searching for a therapist make sure and ask one question: “Have you heard of gynocentrism?” If they haven’t walk away and don’t hire them. In fact be prepared to do so much walking away that your steps will number enough to walk around the entire planet three times. Doing therapy with men without a fundamental understanding of gynocentism is like trying to teach algebra without a fundamental understanding of mathematics.
The task of the gynocentrism-savvy therapist is to facilitate the male client’s rewriting of his own story. The (completely imaginary) book will have a beginning, a middle and an end with a compelling plot throughout. It doesn’t matter what the new fiction is, as long as it works for the client. It can be anything the therapist helps the client envision for himself during the course of therapy. They leave the therapy sessions with a new novel in which they are the protagonist, leading a gynocentrism-free life of self-determination.
The above underscores the importance of having a healthy narrative to live by. A good therapist can help you achieve that – if you need assistance at all. Some of us, many actually, can write our novels without help. Just make sure that the narrative you adopt is one that allows you to be a fully functioning human being. If your current story doesn’t achieve that, burn it and dream up something new.
Dream big, but most importantly, dream what you choose.
“To be or not to be- that is the question.”
Being is vital to the health of everyman but is rarely given the consideration it deserves: Being at a cafe, being in nature, being with a friend, being at home, being at peace. Smelling the roses. If allowed, these things have potential to replace some of the incessant doing that drives men’s existence too early into the coffin.
We’ve all heard the phrase Women are human beings and men are human doings.1 It’s one of those catchy, hummable lines that everyone agrees with before it slips again from conscious awareness – even as it remains in front of our eyes and in our daily behavior. Even as it slips from awareness the fact remains that doing without being, and being without doing, bespeak unbalanced lives, ones that can and do lead to pathology.
The question we need to ask is what are we doing about it? I don’t mean what are we doing about it as a movement, but what are we, each of us, doing about it in our own personal lives. While some men are already addressing the balance of being and doing in their personal lives, others may still be searching for the right balance, and for a better understanding of what’s at stake.
Pediatric psychiatrist Donald Winnicott contends that not only is being more important than doing in regards to psychological health, but that being must precede doing in order for doing to have significance:
“Being is at the centre of any subsequent experience in life. In fact if the individual has not had the opportunity to simply be, his future does not augur well in terms of the emotional quality of his life. The likelihood is that this individual will feel empty.”
“Now I want to say: ‘After being–doing and being done to. But first, being.”
“The ability to do, therefore, is based on the capacity to be. The search and discovery of the sense of self, in the context of therapy, is all to do with finding an identity.”
“It cannot be overemphasized that being is the beginning of everything, without which doing and being done to have no significance.”2
Being, according to Winnicott, is more important to mental health, and is ironically the thing males are most encouraged to forego in favor of doing. You’d better not relax and simply be – there is work to be done!
The trend of separating boys and girls along these lines starts early. The boy gets a dump truck and a Bob the Builder toolkit, and the girl receives a Be Yourself Barbie™. Through the person of Barbie girls learn the experience of ‘being’ in a doll’s house, and being relaxed, being pretty, being ugly, being among friends, being at a cafe, being married, or being happy, sad, jealous or vain. That’s the psychological cloth little girls are cut from.
The first question we ask a boy is “What sport do you play,” or “What kind of work do you want to do when you grow up?” Men are taught to be action figures who work, do the wage earning, do the repairs, or do their girlfriend. As long as they are doing something, we assume they are in their rightful place.
But doing can only return value if the person first exists. If he doesn’t exist, all efforts in doing have no meaning because there is no ‘me’ doing the doings. In that instance all doing becomes futile because it never leads to a sense of me-ness. Or, if doing does provide a momentary illusion of me-ness, it all vanishes the moment activity stops. When all is still, with no future plans, he is swallowed by an existential void.
With the modern mandate that men do and women be, there’s a dearth of male models for how to be. So for the purpose of this article lets revive a classical source illustrating what men have lost and why we would do well to rediscover it. For our purpose let’s consult the 2,600 yr old sage Lao Tzu, who cultivated a philosophy of non-doing (Wu wei), defined as follows:
Wu wei (Chinese: 無爲) is an important concept in Taoism that literally means non-action or non-doing. In the Tao te Ching, Lao Tzu explains that beings (or phenomena) that are wholly in harmony with the Tao behave in a completely natural, uncontrived way. The goal is, according to Lao Tzu, the attainment of this purely natural way of behaving, as when the planets revolve around the sun. The planets effortlessly do this revolving without any sort of control, force, or attempt to revolve themselves, instead engaging in effortless and spontaneous movement.3
Being long aware of the doing/being dichotomy, one of the first books I gave my son, at the tender age of 10, was a children’s version of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. We read it together and enjoyed some interesting discussion about the wise old sage, especially about his contention that the wise man “Acts without doing” — What did it mean? I’m not entirely sure if we got the meaning right, but we decided it meant to ‘act’ in the way you want to act, without ‘doing’ what others demand or expect from you.
In another translation the old sage says, Act without doing; work without effort. In each of these phrases he seems to be saying let it come naturally, and not from pressures from the outside world.
None of this is to suggest that boys and men shouldn’t be active in the world. Not at all. The good news for men seeking that greater balance is that you don’t have to sacrifice doing in the process. Most men really MUST do in order to be healthy. But there is a distinction to be made here between healthy and unhealthy doing.
It’s one thing to act from a spontaneous sense of self, and yet another to operate from compliance with the wishes of others because you were raised on a narrative of utility. Those living the narrative of utility must first become conscious of that before giving themselves over to an exploration of being, and if that consciousness is not first achieved then it’s guaranteed that your attempts at being will be interrupted by internal guilt or by shaming from those who have most to lose from you walking off the plantation.
As per Lao Tzu we don’t stop doing but rather become more conscious of our motives so that doing can emerge from a different center – not gynocentric duty, but conscious choice grounded in the ability to be.
One of Lao Tzu’s main disciples Chuang Tzu elaborates the topic:
Heaven does nothing: its non-doing is its serenity.
Earth does nothing: its non-doing is its rest.
From the union of these two non-doings
All actions proceed,
All things are made.
How vast, how invisible
All things come from nowhere!
How vast, how invisible-
No way to explain it!
All beings in their perfection
Are born of non-doing.
Hence it is said:
“Heaven and earth do nothing
Yet there is nothing they do not do.”
Where is the man who can attain
To this non-doing?4
Remaining with our fictional character Lao Tzu a little longer, let’s consider the traditional tea-making ceremony he helped to found. Just as Barbie is famed for her tea parties where she teaches girls the arts of being among friends, Lao Tzu is credited with the first Chinese tea ceremony, a ritual centered in the experience of stillness and presence. We may be reluctant to talk about a ‘Tao of Barbie,’ with her narcissistic overtones, but the tea drinking ceremonies of the Chinese and Japanese cultures deserve a nod to the Tao of Lao Tzu.
Taoism, like most ancient religions, talks about the balance between work and repose. By way of contrast, while Barbie also teaches girls that a work/life balance is possible, it’s not certain that Barbie takes the work part of that equation very seriously.
To summarize, a common element running through all narratives about men is doing. We hear it in phrases like “All work, no play,” “Don’t just sit there, do something!,” and “No rest for the wicked.” Men slave for gynocentric culture as its saviors, fix-it men, martyrs, protectors, laborers, office-workers, and heroes – all narratives based on doing. But there’s good reason for men to break from the cycle of servitude to enjoy some moments of being – being for themselves. It’s time we stopped for a cup of tea: ritually made, mindfully sipped, with or without friends, and without a need to watch the clock for the next round of work.
 On Dr. Warren Farrell’s website the phrase “Women are human beings, men are human doings” is credited to his book Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say. Elsewhere he explains: “I think the source here is yours truly. In the late 1960s, when I began speaking in this area, I used to say this. Although I’ve checked a dozen books of quotations and believe I created this, I wouldn’t bet my life on it.” (p.275).
 Jan Abrams, The Language of Winnicott; A Dictionary and Guide to Understanding His Work (1996)
 Wikipedia: Wu wei (June 5, 2015)
 Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu (1965)
Perspectives on MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) – a significant post-gynocentrism subculture based on the principle of male self-determination.
Post-gynocentrism relationships between men and women are possible and even desirable for many people. The following articles explore how relationships can be revisioned.
Articles (mostly from AVfM) exploring post-gynocentrism culture. Each article presents a post-gynocentrism paradigm for individual or collective existence.