“The truth is that were ‘redpill’ MRAs really in Keanu Reeves’s shoes they never would have made it out of The Matrix. Seriously, when have they ever believed a black man and a woman telling them their entire reality is an illusion?”—Dan Fincke
“The hunting and trying of witches was,” philosopher Martha Nussbaum maintains, “a common phenomenon throughout the seventeenth century, both in New England and in Europe.” Most of the accused were women. Most of the tortured were women. Most of the executed were women. But you knew that. The image of the most typical victim of a witch-hunt is—sadly, tragically—burned into our collective historical consciousness. What’s far less known is the identity of the accusers. Recent research has shed light on this: “The most typical sort of accuser—the witch’s alleged victim—was,” writes Nussbaum, in Liberty of Conscience (2008), “not a pubescent girl, although Salem has made this case famous. Far more common were accusations by young adult men just setting out in the world to make a life for themselves, and not yet married. (Marriage in New England tended to be late for men, whose fortunes had to be securely established first.) Young men were perhaps the most insecure group in Massachusetts and Connecticut society—expected to become financially secure, but not yet confident in their control over the necessary things in life. In their remarkable and detailed allegations of attacks by a witch, who is said to torment their bodies and control their actions, such young men externalize their own vulnerability. They are not insecure because life is hard: no, it is someone else’s fault, the doing of some stigmatized outsider. If only this person can be removed from the community, they will have the secure control they seek.”
There are some striking similarities between the type of dude who blamed all of his problems on witchcraft in the seventeenth century and the type of dude who blames all of his problems on feminism in the twenty-first century. In Unlocking the Iron Cage: The Men’s Movement, Gender Politics, and American Culture (1996), sociologist Michael Schwalbe maintains that the type of guy who gets into men’s rights activism is, well, a type: he’s a bit of a slacker, not terribly motivated, kind of passive, sort of lazy—and yet he’s always assumed that he’d do well in life. He’s always assumed that he’d come out on top, that things would just fall into place for him. But alas, he finds that he’s pushing 30—or, gasp, maybe even 40—and things still haven’t worked out for him. As one of my buddies put it last year (in all seriousness, after one too many beers): “Sometimes I look around at my life, and I think, fuck, dude, I’m almost 40: WHERE’S MY MONEY AND POWER?!”
The men’s rights movement is not a movement that comprises all types of men. Nor is it a movement that appeals to all men. You won’t find a representative cross-section of men at a typical men’s group meeting. Far from it. Very few men of color present. Very few working-class dudes. Very few recent immigrants. Very few gay dudes. Nope, your garden-variety men’s rights activist (MRA) looks, at least superficially, a whole lot like me: he’s white, middle-class, native-born, and downwardly-mobile. He isn’t doing as well as his parents, and he’s pissed.
There are plenty of plausible explanations for the MRA’s troubles. He could blame capitalism, the stagnant economy, the steep decline in real wages, or the widening gap between rich and poor. He could blame the government. He could blame globalization. All sorts of things really. But the kind of dude that gets off on the men’s rights movement isn’t interested in any of these explanations. Nope, he’d rather blame it all on a witch . . . or a bitch.
—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2016)