Culture warrior Mark Tapson challenges the Left’s claim that male chromosomes create toxic masculinity — and offers an antidote to this misandrist view.
The Speaker’s group that I co-chair hosted a wonderful speaker today: Mark Tapson. If that name sounds familiar to you, it’s because you’ve seen his writing on quality conservative websites such as Front Page Magazine, the now defunct Truth Revolt (which is making way for a different, even better project), Breitbart, etc.
As is true for me, Mark is a former Democrat who found the cognitive dissonance between his values and the modern Democrat party too difficult to tolerate. Unlike me, he is not a gadfly but is, instead, a really deep thinker and a very knowledgeable man. Today, the thoughts and knowledge he shared with us revolved around the culture war on men and ways to counter the deep damage this war is inflicting on our fathers, sons, husbands, and brothers. Moreover, if these men are the primary victims, every woman in each man’s life becomes collateral damage.
The talk was wonderful. Mark is a very engaging speaker — he has a pleasant voice and his tone walks the fine line between lecture and conversation. You know he’s standing there educating you, but it feels as if you’re just at a party listening to the most interesting man in the room. Add knowledge and passion to the mix and you’ve got a talk that flies by. I was absolutely stunned when I realized that he’d been talking for 40 minutes. It felt like half that length. If we hadn’t had to clear the room, I think my group would still be there listening to him.
So what did Mark talk about? I didn’t take notes, so the rest of this post will be a little ragged, since my memory is more surreal than photographic. Anything intelligent in this post is Mark’s. Any mistakes or stupidities are mine.
Cultural Marxism is engaged in a full-out attack on roughly 50% and the damage is very real. Men have always been more likely to die on the job, because they take more dangerous jobs and, if that job is soldiering, death is a given. However, in today’s world, men are also more likely to commit suicide, to be victims of crime, to drop out of school, to have mental illnesses, and to be homeless. Not only does cultural Marxism fail to view this with appropriate horror, it believes these trends are a righteous punishment visited on today’s generation of men for patriarchal sins in the past.
At schools,in the news, and in the entertainment world — all entities over which the Left gained control during the culture wars — Americans are constantly taught that men are violent, insensitive, dangerous, oppressive and, in the modern parlance, the embodiment of “toxic masculinity.” The recent rash of mass shootings has escalated the rhetoric against men, because women (unless Muslim) tend not to do mass shootings.
Mark horrified the room by reading a litany of headlines blaming the Parkland shooting on “toxic masculinity.” It turns out that, while many conservatives have focused on the Left’s attack on the Second Amendment whenever there’s a shooting, there’s been a parallel attack that sees Leftists saying, “let’s not just get rid of guns, let’s ‘demasculinize’ men too.” It’s irrelevant to Leftists that the vast, vast majority of men and gun owners are not crazed killers. What matters is that shootings provide a justification for saying that manly men and guns have both got to go.
This full-court press against what constitutes manliness is a culture war phenomenon, rather than a genuine effort to end mass shootings. After all, if the Left really wanted to end these shootings, it would focus, not on guns and XY chromosomes, which are common to half the population; instead, the Left would look at the small number of significant common denominators binding shooters, such as long histories of mental illness, broken homes, fatherlessness, psychotropic drugs, etc., not to mention the fact that law enforcement in many cases failed spectacularly to stop known wolves.
According to Mark (and I heartily agree), a vibrant society needs vibrant men. The nuclear family is the strongest social group and multiple nuclear families are the foundations of a functional nation. Our American men, however, are not vibrant, and I’m not just talking about the crime and education issues. Mark reminded us that the military has had to revamp basic training because the young men coming in are physically weak and mentally lacking any discipline. Today’s millennial males lack the handshake/grip strength their fathers did and are roughly as strong as their female peers.
Speaking of those female peers, these young men have unhealthy relationships with women. They no longer see women as life partners for sex, companionship, and children. Instead, women are either there for transient sex or they are the enemy. According to Mark there is a subculture of incredible misogyny that has risen up as a result of the dominant culture’s attacks on men. One example is the loosely organized group of men who call themselves “MGTOW — Men Going Their Own Way.” The group’s website describes itself as follows:
M.G.T.O.W – Men Going Their Own Way is a statement of self-ownership, where the modern man preserves and protects his own sovereignty above all else. It is the manifestation of one word: “No”. Ejecting silly preconceptions and cultural definitions of what a “man” is. Looking to no one else for social cues. Refusing to bow, serve and kneel for the opportunity to be treated like a disposable utility. And, living according to his own best interests in a world which would rather he didn’t.
That statement shows that a strong subset of heterosexual men is very angry at women. And really, who can blame them? The dominant culture is very mean to men.
Another example of the war on men is the change in the Boy Scouts of America. It’s now “Scouts BSA,” with the promise that the “B” part will soon be gone. Meanwhile, the Girl Scouts retain their gender identity. This is not about equality, says Mark. It is, instead, about erasing men and manliness from the picture.
The problem isn’t limited to America. It’s infected all of Western culture. One of the things men used to do was protect their women and children. That wasn’t just because of “ownership.” It was because Western manliness had developed to expect men to protect those smaller and weaker than themselves. In Europe, though, on New Year’s Eve, as 2015 turned into 2016, thousands of women, especially in Germany, were sexually assaulted by the new Muslim refugees.
In a normal, healthy society, these attacks wouldn’t have happened in the first because European men would have established that any attacks on European women would result in instant and unpleasant reprisals. Then, if the attacks had still happened, the European men would have demonstrated the reprisals in a way sufficient to deter future attacks.
Under the new Western norm, though, the very first thing that happened was a cover-up. Then, when that didn’t work, the government urged women to go about in groups, avoid certain parts of town that were once open to them, to dress modestly, and to wear temporary tattoos saying “No.” (There was a collective gasp in the room when Mark said that last thing.) In other words, with German men standing silently by, the government urged women to become sharia compliant to protect themselves.
Some men, though, did feel compelled to act. Here’s a video of those men in Holland, making their statement:
When Mark described the above scene, of Dutch men marching in skirts to show they cared, the room collectively gasped again. These men are not safe havens. These men have been trained to be women.
Thus, what Mark commented on is something I’ve long noticed and that worries me a great deal. Where Henry Higgins once sang “Why can’t a woman be more like a man,” today’s cultural Marxists are insisting that men must be more like women. Their inherent qualities, which are intrinsic to the DNA, must go: the energy must be squashed, the competitive instincts stifled, the curiosity muted, the strength destroyed, the protectiveness denigrated.
All of the above are neutral qualities — energy, competition, curiosity, etc. — that should only have values applied to them because of the uses to which they are put. In Leftist world, however, because those qualities can be used for evil as well as good, the Left contends the qualities are inherently evil and must be stricken. This is all of a piece with Leftism. Because guns can be used both defensively and offensively (they are neutral, with the morality belonging to the actor, not the gun), Leftists announce that guns are inherently evil and must go. For the last 50 years, therefore, cultural Leftism has been determined to strike down as evil any of the neutral qualities more common to men than to women.
Mark, however, has a different and better idea: He wants to revive chivalry. Chivalry arose in 11th and 12th Century France to channel raw masculinity. In those days, the knightly class was a brutal class. Chivalry’s earliest purpose was the art of war: Physical prowess and loyalty to king and comrade. Peasants were slaves and women were sex objects and baby machines.
It was the combination of church and powerful women in the French court that encouraged the knights to attach softer attributes to chivalry: take that strength and loyalty and use it, not just to fight the external enemy, but to care for the weaker people at home. Don’t slaughter the peasant, but protect the pilgrim (which is how the Knights Templar started). Don’t rape the women; treat them like angels, and then reap the rewards. (And of course it’s true that all men were not knights in shining armor, but what mattered was that it was a cultural norm to which men aspired.) While those knights remained brutes by our standards, chivalry tamed them until modern warfare and the end of feudalism drove them out of fashion.
The whole notion of chivalry got a second chance in the 19th century, primarily thanks to Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. (If you haven’t read it, you must. It’s a wonderful book.) This book — more than Dickens, more than Harriet Beecher Stowe — was the most popular book in the 19th century English-speaking world. (Another gasp! from Mark’s audience.) Scott almost single-handedly created the modern notion of a true gentleman: someone who is polite, courageous, honorable, and will go the extra mile to save and serve those weaker than he is. Women, in return, are expected to appreciate these manly virtues and to counter them with feminine virtues of compassion and nurturing.
Three things, says Mark, killed 19th century chivalry: The sinking of the Titanic, which caused a debate about whether “women and children first” was a reasonable standard; the unbelievable slaughter of WWI’s trench warfare, which had nothing to do with neo-Medieval visions of glory in battle; and Third Wave women’s lib. The first two made men question whether there was a virtue in being cannon fodder; the third told men that they had no virtue.
Even though the Victorians’ neo-chivalry is dead and gone, Mark suggests we try it again. He has a list of seven qualities to which we can all aspire, but that will work especially well to tell men in our society that they have value. I didn’t write the list down, but I distinctly remember that service, courage, and honor were on it. These virtues (or values) do not stifle men’s innate instincts — their combativeness, their predatory qualities, their physicality, their competitiveness — but, instead, channel them for the greater good.
Mark acknowledges that the culture war is over and that we’ve lost it, but he thinks there is room for an insurgency. At the top, it would help if wealthy people would start new magazines, or TV stations, or create new movies selling these virtues. At the bottom, where we are, we can help the insurgency by speaking to the young men in our world about the way in which their natural masculinity can be a force for good and honor.
I can assure you that my summary, above, does not do justice to Mark’s speech, but here’s the good thing: He just finished writing a book on the subject, which will be out sometime later this year. If the book is as good as the preview (and I consider Mark’s talk a definite preview), it will be a book well-worth reading. You’ll want to read it and you’ll want to buy friends a copy too.
I have a few more comments I want to make. When I told my sister about Mark’s talk, she asked “Why did men let this happen to them?” That’s an excellent question. Considering that men are aggressive and powerful, how did our culture manage to browbeat them?
As I see it, there are a few things at work here. If you start indoctrinating people when they’re young, you can effect changes. Tell little boys often enough that their innate qualities are bad and you’ll see a few possible outcomes: They’ll force themselves into meekness; they’ll start hating themselves so much they’ll insist they’re not male at all, but are female; or they’ll embrace the negative stereotyping either become actual brutes or non-brutish women haters. What you won’t have, though, are good men.
That’s not to say there are no good men in society. There are many, as the mass shootings show. While the Left is talking about the “toxic masculinity” that leads to mass shootings, more observant people are noting the innumerable acts of bravery surrounding those shootings — and that a disproportionate number of those brave actors are men. Just think of Jim Shaw, the man who charged and took down an active shooter. Or think of the ROTC cadets at Parkland who, at 14 years old, had so much chivalric, manly honor that without hesitation they sacrificed themselves to save their fellow students. That’s the antithesis of toxic masculinity.
A society that demeans men becomes a society with toxic men. A society that uplifts men, that gives them values and a code by which to live, is going to be a society that gets the best out of men. The Leftists want us to be the former society; Mark wants to give us a road map to being the latter.