There’s been a lot of talk in the past few years about the anti-feminist response movement glibly dubbed Men Go Their Own Way (MGTOW). Presumably, much like early feminism attempted to proclaim, the self-proclaimed members of MGTOW want nothing more than to simply be left alone and judged according to their own merits. An admirable enough cause, though misguided and, I think, an extension of the very problem that it seems to try to address.
Their premises are simple enough. So feminists want women to be treated as individuals, free of the pesky restrictions on ‘womanhood’ that bring clarity and definition to the term? Well, great; it turns out that men have basically always wanted the same thing and are no longer willing to put up with the third-wave feminist misandrist nonsense. Unwillingness to entertain feminism’s wild accusations and blatant lunacy is something any man worth his salt will profess, but the solution offered by MGTOW only further fragments and deepens the already existing gulf between the sexes. And their first mistake was buying into the very notion of the ill-defined term ‘the individual’, popularized by the Enlightenment and the early modern philosophers of the seventeenth century.
Modernity has conditioned us to believe that men can be considered in a vacuum, that the bonds they form can be decided upon, and that there are no greater consequences to one’s actions than those that can be felt in life. Politically, this mindset manifests in the concept of the individual, and likewise, the individual’s antithesis, the collective. On one hand, modernity insists, the collective must conquer the individual in order to give way to a commune utopia, founded on collectivization and central planning and governed by the theoretical principle of absolute collectivized democracy. On the other hand, the triumph of the individual will over his peers, the embrace of singular greatness, and a Randian, anarchical triumph of the solitary individual—colloquially called “Man” but ultimately indistinguishable from ‘woman’ in any significant way—would lead, defenders of this tract claim, to its own form of anarcho-capitalist utopia in which all individuals were free to choose and to exert their agency in the pursuit of material wealth. Naturally, there are compromises and various middle grounds offered in the political sciences, but the general conflict is frequently depicted as above.
This is the typical caricature of the divide between the modern Left and Right, but that’s a gross misappropriation of terms. Both are fundamentally views of the Left—anarchism and communism presuppose the same metaphysical background, and the variability between the two is of little consequence to the soul of Man. In any case, the question of who—or what—this ‘individual’ they refer to is remains the same.
But a man is not born in isolation. He doesn’t spring forth from a cloning vat or spontaneously come into being from the dusty cosmos. He is born from a mother, he grows and hopefully meets a girl, sires a couple kids, grows older, and eventually he dies. A healthy man cannot be considered fully independent of his role as a son, a husband, a father, or a patriarch, any less than a healthy woman cannot be considered fully independent of her roles as daughter, wife, mother, or matriarch. These are defining characteristics of identity, and attempts to divorce the elusive notion of the ‘individual’ from them will only invent another avenue of misery.
Man grows. For the first decade and a half of his life, he is a child, and more specifically, he is a son. A child does not exist without sex and sex remains a cornerstone of that child’s identity. Sons take after their fathers as daughters also take after their mothers, and while both parents raise their children, the roles that either plays remain distinguishable. The family cannot be considered independent of its parts, and the identities of the people involved likewise cannot be considered independent of who they are in that relationship.
So the man grows. By his late-teens, he remains a son, but he is no longer a child-son. Puberty and the anarchic yearnings of rebellion have already stirred, but within a few years they settle down and by his third decade of life, the son is easily self-sufficient. Here his transition into a husband is nigh, assuming he can find a wife to settle down with. The time he has spent as a man, unrestricted by significant obligations to his parents and unfettered by a wife has historically been quite short—rarely more than six or seven years.
So the man grows. Entering into union, he provides for his wife and she provides for him. They have children, and his role as husband transitions into one as a father. As the roles change so too does his identity. He comes to be defined by his wife and his children, as his priorities and his responsibilities now include theirs. It is an inextricable definition; he cannot be considered in isolation from these people in any meaningful or universal fashion beyond very simplistic terms of biology.
So the man grows, but he never ceases to have been a son or a husband or a father. And likewise, never in any case is a son equal to his father. The rights of the father are passed on through generations just as the knowledge, wealth, and birthright are passed down; they are handed down bit by bit as the man grows and as the father recedes from his life and eventually into memory. To speak of universal rights is to ignore this fundamental and natural procession of Man, to say nothing of the dues owed to women on the same subject. It is not my purpose here to outline what rights apply to whom, only that rights are slippery terms that must be subjected to scrutiny before being considered universally.
Where then now is the individual? There are individual men, surely, but they are husbands before they are some abstract ideal, or they are fathers, or sons. The transition from one into the next is seamless. Likewise with wives, mothers, and daughters. How can the definite concept of the individual be extracted from these?
The simplest answer is that it can’t. The concept can only be invented, altering the original term and contorting it to fit the inhabitant of some idealistic Earthly utopia suitable for the collectivists and anarchists alike. The purpose being to undermine the value modes and roles that husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters play within the context of the family. Remove the family and all that is left is the choice between the State and chaos. Collectivists chose the state; anarchists chaos. And those on the middle ground can never make up their mind which they’d prefer more.
This avenue we can already see at work. More and more, young people shun marriage and family life. Sons and daughters invoke greater degrees of freedom from their parents under the guise of liberation, indulging instead in wanton fornication and a permanent state of mental pubescence. Our culture’s willingness to entertain the thought of subsidized university education—opening the door for a de facto mandate on governmentally-regulated schooling from ages six through twenty-two—only exemplifies the efforts to keep men and women from connecting in any meaningful fashion. Our behavior and actions determine and are determined by the roles we fulfill; these roles give definition and clarity to identity. Attempts to keep men and women preoccupied with unnecessary educational requirements, career-oriented benchmarks, and bureaucratic appeasements become the form into which their identities are molded. This is part of the illusion of permanency about ages of the mid-twenties and thirties. From about college up through until just shy of hitting forty, any sense of being a son or a daughter, a husband or wife, or a father or mother is stripped and instead supplanted with being an employee or student, or worse, a faceless stand-in for a human being blandly labeled as an ‘individual’—the Common Man, perhaps, or something even more vague and horrifying.
Union in marriage is considered something of a magical chore. Men and women enter into marriage now out of convenience and some ambiguous sense of godless, hedonistic love or obligation, and they leave the union in the same manner. Open relationships are pushed with increasing fervor in the media while marriages in which no union is fundamentally present are endorsed by the government. As the decline in the family accelerates, the very concept of marriage has turned from a holy union before God, the bringing together of two families and two people into one family and one flesh, to a mere quasi-business nonaggression pact in which the security of a bed and roof are provided for but not necessarily guaranteed. It’s no wonder then that welfare is such an easily-acceptable substitute for a husband today.
And these efforts are not even all that persuasive, but they are firstly and fore-mostly metaphysical; remove from him the notion that he is fulfilled through his union with his wife, and man will cease to find interest in her beyond the physical and fleetingly short act of coitus. Likewise, remove from her the notion that she is most fulfilled through his union with her husband and the raising of their children, and she will be liberated not only from the demands of wifely and motherly bonds, but also from the sort of freedom that only motherhood can grant. Today’s heresies aren’t merely ones of governmental control. They are ones fundamentally about the destruction of the family, which translates today into the destruction of identity and an attempt to destroy the soul.
Today’s rhetorical individual is now the portrait of the hipster nu-male and his pseudo-girlfriend neo-feminist cohabitant. Liberated from such oppressive social structures like tradition, bonds of family and friendship, and especially that tedious scrap of bureaucratic paper called marriage, they stand in an almost-open relationship, enjoying the fruits of webcam audiences and failed software development start-ups, sipping coffee in pajamas without defined responsibility to either each other or themselves. They are neither daughter nor son to their parents—not in any meaningful way, at least, calling home periodically but finding ways to skimp out on pitching in or helping out their old folks who, admittedly, helped throw them onto this course of irresponsibility in the first place. They are neither husband nor wife, unwilling to commit to even themselves much less one another, failing to conceive of a future beyond growing a bank account or renting out a larger apartment. And they are neither father nor mother, even on the off chance they have a child and stay cohabitants long enough to see that child raised to some semblance of adulthood, the child remains an accessory to augment their own self-indulgent lives.
This ‘individual’, grandiose in ideal and pathetic in reality, used to be an object of scorn. He is a fleshy vessel living away in his little apartment surrounded by gizmos and his hobbies pretending that he’s living a fulfilled life. But this life is even worse even than that of a child; a child at least has a place in a family and has a path of development toward which he grows and from which he matures. He is never without bonds, only without memories of them and only without those that have gone unrecognized. But the ‘individual’, cordoned off in his living cube and subsiding off of whatever irreverent bits of consumer culture or government handouts he can scrap together, lacks both.
This is not to say that all men are destined to be husbands and fathers, nor that all women are destined to be wives and mothers. There are those select few whose paths in life lead them straightaway to the greater service of humanity and the direct service of God. But the pursuit of worldly hedonism in the form of your spiritually unmoving and vacant meat popsicles and the pursuit of holiness in a monastery or missionary aren’t remotely comparable.
Men who Go Their Own Way are only buying into the very same premises of soulless culture-rot that birthed feminism. It is a futile and self-immolating attempt to even the stakes, and in typical leftist fashion, the evening of stakes in this case is to simply bring the problem even closer to those who are affected most by it. Instead of helping themselves, MGTOW merely insulates themselves like scared children and bathes them in the same denial that feminists have been languishing in for decades. They abandon the natural order, and so long as that order is abandoned, only death, misery, and self-deceit will remain.