Grim publicity — GQ’s recent article on AVfM and the “manosphere”

Just finished reading an article put out by GQ magazine (“Are You Man Enough for the Men’s Rights Movement?”; March 2015 edition; written by Jeff Sharlet) that is REALLY unflattering to the Men’s Rights Movement, particularly AVfM (A Voice For Men). Wow. I can tell you right now that that one’s not going to go over well in the public. Basically lampoons the whole movement and particularly that organization and those who attended its conference near Detroit last year.

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An image from the article on GQ.com

Huh. I’m not sure how to respond on that one. The photography made everyone look very grim. Sage Gerard was painted as a real weirdo (and in his defense, here’s an audio clip he uploaded of his conversation with Jeff Sharlet), though Paul Elam didn’t fair much better. And the man referred to therein as Factory came across as one hell of a crude dad. Wow. The Honey Badgers came off seeming pretty inventive with the stories and claims they reportedly shared. And then of course there was the bit about a registered sex offender who drove many hours to attend the conference to defend his “right” to sexual access with 12 year olds.  Hrmmm…

That was a hit piece. Probably wasn’t a good idea to talk to those people, especially not so casually as though they were bound to see and appreciate the perspectives of the MRAs. And one reason I say that is the author of the article went so far as to talk down about the VFW where the conference was relocated to, as if that had any real relevance whatsoever. Those details gave me the impression that the guy wasn’t approaching this journalistic project in good faith entirely. But then again, MRAs aren’t an easy bunch to relate with. I certainly have had enough trouble with most I’ve encountered online thus far (but then again, I myself am not the easiest person to relate with either).

Gonna have to side with Bernard Chapin on this one in so far as agreeing it wasn’t a good idea to let their guards down around these particular journalists. Better to strive to keep all communications very professional and above-board with such people going forward, lest that movement continue being publicly smeared.

But then again…I’m torn on this one, because I honestly understand why so many people take issue with the writings of Paul Elam and his tactics, plus plenty of what’s put out there by those who choose to follow him. Stated it before and will state it again — I don’t believe he’s a leader worth following. The man has some serious hostility issues and a problematic worldview. Sure, plenty of feminists do too, but that doesn’t negate one’s own. And I recognize I have my own issues as well, hence why I don’t call myself an activist and learned to keep outside of movements. Because I don’t like having my frustrations harnessed by others to help propel their own agendas. Winds up stealing one’s own power too often, IME, and leads to feeling invested to where one’s identity winds up wrapped up in a political game being driven by others. That can lead to a nasty wake-up call on down the road. Better to handle one’s own problems and pain among people who actually care about you, who aren’t just trying to use you to build power and influence for themselves.

Glad to have not been very politically active in feminism during the years I was attracted toward that, and glad to have figured out since then that gender-bent movements in general are most alluring to broken, damaged people wishing to cast blame off of themselves and onto another group they view as rivals. I don’t personally find the matter very funny — mostly unnerving really. And that’s why I watch this sort of thing unfold now, because it’s so bizarre, particularly among the men’s rights end of the spectrum since it’s all accessible online. And it’s true that there are some truly toxic people attracted toward it who can’t help but turn off nearly everybody else in the general public who find out about their past crimes and want no part in being affiliated with them. As in the case of those who argue for a reduction in the age of consent. I could never go for that, no way. Won’t stand side by side with and defend people who push for such selfish measures either. Cannot and will not. And their involvement alone is enough to taint an entire movement when people find out they’re present.

Hmmm…  This story may bring more attention to AVfM and the MRM, but I do not think it will be the kind of attention they really want or need, at least not for those within their ranks who are more concerned with fairness under the Law and being granted equal access to their children during divorce proceedings.

And this is where I keep coming back to the idea that the men’s rights movement deserves better quality leadership and needs to critically assess what their priorities are and who and what they’re willing to defend here. Because not all concerns men might have are created equal, as should be obvious. Same holds true among women. As proves true with most movements, it looks like this is another case where those within wind up doing more harm to their own cause than the “enemies” they claim to be rivaling. It’s a matter they’re undoubtedly going to have to confront eventually.

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Sage Gerard wrote a rebuttal on AVfM shortly after the GQ article came out.

[Updated the next day: For the record, I’m not swayed by what the journalists claimed about Sage. They really went over the top in trying to make him out as a creep, it seemed to me. Don’t know the guy personally obviously, but basing that on what I’ve picked up on from him online so far.]

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March 2nd, 2015: Read a little more on this topic and came across these screenshots of the journalist Jeff Sharlet (viewable in the comment section of that post) that make it more clear what biases he was operating with.

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10 Responses to Grim publicity — GQ’s recent article on AVfM and the “manosphere”

  1. vklaatu says:

    TL;DR The denial on both sides of the gender war is growing more tedious by the hour.

    Men are more extreme, so the manosphere attracts men in denial. Treating sick men like monsters is a reallyBAD idea. The women in AVfM are closer to healers, and I have talked to a few on their radio show, than any feminist I have talked to anywhere, EVER.

    The PR for that conference may have been a catastrophe, but the journalist response to it was still incredibly immature. Feminism is the mainstream. How many women actually try to understand men. I’m tired of trying to explain men. That’s why I’ve been working on a case study of sorts comparing Thoreau, De Sade, Tesla and Byron, in a similar style as Colin Wilson’s “The Outsiders.”

    Men are just more extreme than women, and I aim to defend that. You know as well as I do that feminism, aside from women simply trying to insure they have the legal rights they deserve, has always been more about stigmatizing men as brutes, starting with the temperance movement, 150 years ago. I have enough respect for other species to tell feminists that yes, men are animals too, and if they don’t like it then they are the ones who need to grow up.

    My problems with AVFM are their politics and the way they provide an echo chamber for many very broken men. This is also my case against many other feminist echo chambers.

    Yes, I have great big honking chip on my shoulder about this. Too many women fail to see that many men need Edward Hyde in order to keep Henry Jekyll alive, and it has nothing to do with “the patriarchy.” Camille Paglia has had the guts to say this and for this she has been vilified. Emma Goldman herself thought it absurd to have gender relationships neutered to the degree that a men are supposed to sanitize their feelings about women. And yet decades later we have had how many radfem lunatics writing material that has infected contemporary gender relations?

    UGH. When I finish the piece I’ve been writing about this mess, I want to put the whole damn thing behind me. I’m already a few thousand words into it.

    • Byenia says:

      Gender relations are sticky terrain. I personally can’t make absolute statements about which sex is more extreme and which vilifies the other more.

      Broken people + echo chambers = a situation where negativity keeps ramping up and people begin embracing irrational extremes, regardless of which sex is involved.

      Agreed that the goal shouldn’t be to neuter gender relations or coerce men into sanitizing their feelings about women. Repression hasn’t worked thus far and just seems to lead to more problems on down the road.

      BUT…humans are capable of being quite destructive as well, and that’s no small matter either. There’s reason to call out certain behaviors in others, and, indeed, when it comes to some behaviors it’s clear that, if carried out, an unjustifiable amount of harm is done (as in the case of pedophilia and hebephilia, that being one prominent example). To even be affiliated with men who defend such activities is to wind up dismissed right along with them by the general public. Though people at AVfM claim they aren’t familiar with the man mentioned in the article and I don’t doubt plenty of them wouldn’t support the guy or deem his idea to be worthwhile activism.

      Hence why the article was indeed a hit piece. And that’s for MRAs to sort out amongst themselves in going forward.

      We all have our dark sides, but let’s not pretend they’re all created equal. I’m with you in that I like to explore human nature and try to grasp who and what we are and what factors may lead us in which directions. But even if we’re driven in certain ways, there are still obviously limitations on how we can express those animalistic urges, if we’re to hold any claims to being a civilized species anyway. It’s a big question of where to draw the lines and how to manage who and what we each are in ways that hopefully prove less psychologically and physically traumatic for others. And that’s a tightrope there — no easy answers, no full consensus.

      • vklaatu says:

        Brief rant about the absurdity of primitivism…

        We are nature. Nothing is ever outside nature. Thinking that we are is ludicrous. Homo sapiens can’t even begin to compete with the incredibly destructive forces of nature, much less the brutal savagery you can find when two ant hills collide. Nature is what it is, neither good nor bad. I have always been fascinated with mound building termites. They are species that shares most of its genetic lineage with TERMITES. Then again, I don’t believe we can ever master fire. It masters US. And this too is neither good nor bad.

        Back to back to dudes and dames…

        I’m not a fan of generalizations either, but them amount of male outliers that are presented in behavioral extremes, good and bad, is simply larger. Camille Paglia’s statement “There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper” is a generalization in itself, but it is what it is. I may disagree strongly with much of what Bob Black has written, and as much as I love and support science, I can’t help but agree with this line from “The Libertarian as Conservative:”

        “If your language lacks poetry and paradox, it’s unequal to the task of accounting for actuality. Otherwise anything radically new is literally unspeakable.”

        That could be construed the ultimate two street in terms of describing the behavior of both men and women.

        • vklaatu says:

          Correction: Termites share most of their genetic lineage with roaches. Sorry about that.

        • Byenia says:

          “Nothing is ever outside nature.” Yes and no. Nature is the ultimate matrix, yes, but we do at times aim to delineate between that which is naturally occurring and therefore part of a wider symbiotic system that spans far back in time versus that which is human-made throughout our process of creating ways of life unique to our species (which stems from drives within us that are innate to our species). To acknowledge the results of human strivings (or the manifestation of counter-productive impulses that arise when we feel obstructed) is not to negate the role of Nature as the ultimate playground we’re incapable of ever fully escaping from.

          I would agree that Nature is neither good or bad. But we humans do place valuations on ourselves and one another, as apparently became required once our species became sufficiently distinct from the rest of the animal kingdom.

          And then there’s the civilization project of the last several thousands of years. While in Nature it may be a neutral development not differentiated from the development across other species, it still is our own to manage and make sense of and to try to direct. To simply throw our hands in the air and declare all to be “natural” and thereby at bottom “neutral” is to diminish the importance of living and acting as highly sentient beings with complex social structures. In our human societies, all is not neutral, nor can it deemed as such if we’re to pursue our higher potential.

          I realize that much in life winds up being a paradox that we can’t entirely comprehend, and such is our fate. We still must manage it so far as we’re able and to the best of our abilities, as is required for our psychological and social well-being. Otherwise our existence becomes futile.

          Yes, the number of male outliers when it comes to behavioral extremes is larger. I wouldn’t dispute that. And from that I believe is where feminist indignation gets its fuel, though not their group alone, mind you. The religious have been fueled by this realization as well, as are nearly all of us. And this is why so much attention is paid to the question of behavioral aberrations especially in respect to males. As can only be expected from thoughtful, inquisitive, territorially-protective creatures. I won’t pretend to be an exception in this regard.

          • vklaatu says:

            We like pretend that meaning is intrinsic in things we create or do. I prefer Camus’ interpretation of the myth of Sisyphus. We do things because we can and there is little else to do but keep pushing the boulder up the hill. Then again, I think Waiting for Godot says more about the human condition than all the Shakespeare I’ve ever read. And maybe it’s why I preferred instrumental music over vocal music since I first started demanding an asnwer to the question “WHY?”

            I’m not a humanist. Nor am I an anti-humanist, post-humanist, or trans-humanist. We’re just another animal and I’m ok with that. I’ve spent enough time with enough animals and studying even more animals to that’s a good thing. Eventually we will either evolve or disappear. I work to help people understand that change is the only reality and we exist on a vast spectrum of spectrums with ends we must try to understand but might never understand.

            Indeed: it’s no more acceptable to deflect attention from women’s shitty behavior than it is men’s shitty behavior. People provoke each other People have limits. People change. I’ve known three reformed male murderers. And I’ve known far more women who made many people’s lives, men and women, a living nightmare. Those women were shielded by their manipulation of the sympathy of almost everyone around them… except me, for the most part.

            In many other species, the females are to be respected or they will destroy you. So why is it that we coddle women when they can cripple their offspring in ways that few men would dream of? I thought your answer to RBK’s whining about how women in general aren’t nice and safe any more was brilliant: they never really were. More men may murder other people’s children, but then again, more women murder or aid in the murder of their own children. Medea is not a cliche.

            I’ve seen more men reform than I have seen women reform. Yes, I know this is anecdotal. Am I supposed to ignore my own experience? Statistics be damned, for once in my life I have to pay attention to what has been right in front of me my entire life. And by reform I mean learning from mistakes, mistakes being times they stepped over their own and other people’s boundaries. It’s not a cliche to say that we deal less harshly with women. There’s considerable evidence of that to go around, no matter what the solipsistic mainstream and radical feminists say. And when women do enable men’s shitty behavior (OMFG do they!), how is it that everyone lines up to punish the man, and ignore the woman?

            This turned into a rant about women. I don’t like it, but I needed to do it. The only solution I have is for more men to be educated on how to say NO more often to women, because too many men really do have no spine in regards to women. And no I don’t getting violent is the answer. Leaving her or throwing her out his life is the answer. It certainly works for me, and rarely has any one been stupid enough to challenge me on this strategy. I do get tired of the hearing “well she was the wrong girl for you in the first place” As if there is a right one? I think for many people there is only the companion who is right for them at that stage of their life.

            • Byenia says:

              We can be really abstract about this, but it won’t change the reality as it’s experienced on the ground by individual living people and our need to set values on actions and resources.

              Humans are potentially dangerous creatures, no question, and it can play out in countless ways, regardless of one’s sex.

              Males and females enable all sorts of unproductive and even destructive behaviors in one another. But in regard to sex offenders who crave access to children, as stated before on this blog, I largely favor a scorched earth approach in dealing with them. Both sexes be damned on that one. You may have a very different set of values perhaps, but this is one of mine.

              Companionship and compatibility divvies up however it does. Some people are only compatible for a short while, others manage to stay enamored with one another throughout their entire lives. *shrugs* It is what it is.

              • vklaatu says:

                There’s very little that’s abstract about facing your own mortality when you hit middle age. You start asking more questions about the meaning of everything, which is very, VERY far from abstract. And you often wonder why you bothered to care what other people think in the first place.

                What you’re getting at is the issue of consent. I question whether or not people under the age of 16 can give it. Many favor taking it on a case by case basis. And I wasn’t trying to defend the guy who wanted access to twelve year olds. People like that baffle me. I just don’t understand them.

                I don’t have many answers for dealing with pedophilia and murder. I only know that people can and do change.

                • Byenia says:

                  I’m in the existential panic/crisis zone myself and can relate…

                  Some people do change. Not pedophiles though usually. Which tells me that sometimes people can get so psychologically broken that there may be no way to repair it. And this serves as a strong caution to me that we do what we can to not break one another so severely to begin with. Which then calls for severe measures in handling such individuals. Not so much about punishment or venting anger and disgust as it is recognizing that some people refuse to let others live in relative peace and thereby bring a harsh fate upon themselves. Or at least that’s my view on that.

                  Though, it deserves to be noted that I don’t necessarily in all cases take such a severe attitude when it comes to the crime of murder, depending on the circumstances, since there we do see much more evidence of perpetrators capable of being rehabilitated and coming to terms with the nature of their crimes. Sometimes at least. And not all murderers are necessarily worthy of scorn to the same degree, IMO. But we each draw our lines in the sand however we do, based on what we value and care most about preserving and upholding.

                  “And you often wonder why you bothered to care what other people think in the first place.” I wonder this all the time. Because on some levels it’s obvious that we’ll never all be even remotely on the same page. And I suppose that too is just another fact of life we must somehow accept.

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