I have been told on several occasions that I am “a leader” within the loose collection of individuals around the world that is described as the Men’s Human Rights Movement. And, apparently, as some people will characterize me, I have further been informed that I have a responsibility to exclude the worst of the crazy and the most reprehensible of the dirtbags from this movement.
I am also reminded that my friend and colleague Paul Elam has also publicly rejected the notion that he is “a leader” or “the” leader of the men’s rights movement. I understand much better now how he feels. I’m not responsible for you people; the idea that I’m somehow in charge of you is absurd. Although AVfM has on multiple occasions criticized and disavowed people calling themselves MRAs and saying crazy things, I don’t view it as my job to constantly seek out and find all potential crazies.
However, recognizing all that, it’s also true that within the large and growing sphere of the men’s human rights movement, the writings and opinions of a handful of individuals are sometimes given significant attention and weight within the movement, and to some degree, outside the sphere of the MHRM. Returning to the admonition, most recently from a non-MHRM friend, that I as some sort of leader must police the crazies and the bad actors at the fringe, I will offer an opinion on one small group of bad actors.
Enter from stage right, a group of people calling themselves Manhood Academy. A reading through their website suggests that rather than being a part of what we think of as a human rights movement, the members of Manhood Academy are a part of the pickup artist (PUA) community. This is first among the reasons why I have never previously bothered to pay Manhood Academy any attention. This is also why commenters from Manhood Academy find themselves banned in some MHRM forums, including AVfM. Repeatedly spamming links to your own (seemingly) PUA-themed site is an off-topic distraction in a community attempting to address workplace death, corruption in the family courts or systemic male-targeted abuse within the educational system. However, they are apparently not PUAs. At least, this is what they insist.
Last week, I returned home from work and found a message waiting for me in my Skype window. One of the rolling meetings I participate in had been discussing a post made on the website Reddit, from a member of Manhood Academy. The post included the following:
“You cowardly pieces of shit would never DARE to make these false claims face to face in a live debate because you know you would finally get called out on your lies!”
The obvious question springing from this outburst is, what false accusations? Indeed, whether false or otherwise, what accusations? And this question leads us to the center of an understanding of the people calling themselves Manhood Academy. But it’s not the answer to “what accusations” which shines the light, rather it’s the lack of an answer.
On seeing the rather snotty accusation of cowardice and fear of engaging in debate, I responded almost by spinal reflex. And yes, I typed it in all caps.
“CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. NAME THE TOPIC, NAME THE TIME. I LIVE IN VANCOUVER BC, I WILL DEBATE IN PERSON, FACE TO FACE, OR ONLINE BY VIDEO.”
Of course, what followed was not a debate. The farce which followed my acceptance of a debate challenge revealed just what Manhood Academy and its members are, as well as informed the title of this article. “Manhood Academy: selling social incompetence”.
The same night, after posting my acceptance of the challenge, I spent over an hour in the Manhood Academy website’s chat room, trying to convince the individual who had challenged me to actually join a debate. This guy called himself “the professor”, and after about an hour, he finally joined me in a video conference.
And then we had our debate. Well, not so much. What we had began was a civil conversation, but when I made it clear I perceived Manhood Academy as a PUA site, the professor, a 20-something man wearing a hoodie, devolved to a patient with an unending and monotonous repetition of elementary school yard insults like “you pussy”, “you’re my bitch”, “you’re a faggot”, “you’re a moron”, and so on. Remember, these are the guys claiming their mandate is to teach social competence. From the front page of their website:
“You are drowning in a sea of confusing advice, prescription meds and chronic insecurity. You’re obsessed with your appearance and ruled by your unstable emotions. You dread talking to women, resent your peers and couldn’t care less about the world.
“In short, you feel stuck and unable to do anything about it. Your frustration is understandable. We’re here to cut through the bullshit. Manhood Academy is the only accredited worldwide social education center in existence today. It is specifically designed to train men like you in social competence.”
The site provides a link to a free ebook, encapsulating the syllabus provided by Manhood Academy.
Section 1 is a fairly straightforward trashing of the gender ideology of feminism. It’s here that most men’s human rights activists will find agreement with the ideas proposed by Manhood Academy proponents. The first section addresses feminism with the following chapter headings:
What is Feminism?
Feminism Deforms society
Feminism Emasculates Men
Feminism Ruins Social Interaction
Why Feminism Persists
However, the following sections of the site’s free ebook propose what can only be described as a traditionalist and authoritarian doctrine of male control of women in all social interactions.
Authority, the proper male form.
Creating and maintaining order
Rewarding and punishing
How to punish
Refusing to punish
The effects of punishment
How to reward
Types of reward
Examples of Managing expectations
The emphasis appears to focus primarily on dating, relationships, and sex from a male-authoritarian point of view. The only real difference between standard PUA rhetoric and Manhood Academy appears to be an infatuation with patriarchy, as it is cartoonishly described by radical feminists. Prior to meeting these individuals, I always thought feminist rhetoric on the topic of patriarchy was delusional. But these guys really exist. And they’re apparently teaching what they call social competence. However, I call what was demonstrated in our so-called debate social incompetence.
During that so-called debate, I really did try to ask questions, such as “what is your goal in this debate”. However, despite repetition and rephrasing of that question, the only response was iterations of “to teach you that you’re my bitch.” And these guys claim to be teaching social competence. But they also, in their own free ebook, espouse a doctrine of male-only leadership, but also, male utility, provision and caretaking of everyone else through that so-called leadership. This appears to be nothing except pick-up artistry wrapped up with an entrenched trad-con ideology. However, if that’s all Manhood Academy was, we could simply and politely disagree with them. As both PUA and traditional conservationism in a patriarchal view of relationships are both, in the view of many MHRAs, uninteresting and wrongheaded. But everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and ideas live or die based on their currency in the marketplace.
So what’s with the endless and tedious recitation of childish insults by our hoodie-wearing friend, Manhood Academy’s professor? In fact, one of the repeated insults from the professor was that I was crying, in his words, “like a little bitch”. The only explanation for this I can think of is that our professor, working from an adolescent view of what he imagines an alpha male behaviour to be. Possibly, in the household where professor Manhood is still growing up, being childishly insulting is what passes for the exercise of authority. Unfortunately, attempting to dominate by a string of schoolyard insults, he placed himself into the role of child, and forced me into the role of a too patient parental figure.
On the other hand, the social incompetence demonstrated was so far over the top, the entire Manhood 101 enterprise may simply be a parody, indistinguishable from the cartoonish accusations of what the men’s rights movement is, common from radical feminists. Whichever is the case, whether truly incompetent PUAs and trad-cons, or whether Manhood Academy is an excessively foolish parody, they’re no part of the men’s human rights movement.
Editor’s note: feature image by Dustin moore. –PW