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Is the Men's Rights Movement driven by the rage of the rejected?

Memorial in Marysville
Memorial in Marysville

Was Marysville school shooter Jaylen Fryberg trying to exact revenge on a girl who had rejected him? Various news accounts suggest that Fryberg was reeling from a recent breakup; a number of angry, anguished, and frustratingly enigmatic recent comments on Fryberg’s Twitter account seem to back this up.

So it may be that the shootings on Friday were yet another reworking of an old story.

It’s no secret that many men, for an assortment of reasons, react badly and often violently to romantic and sexual rejection. This can range from self-described “nice guys” of OkCupid sending vicious messages to women who say no all the way to angry men who stalk and harass and sometimes kill ex-wives and girlfriends. Women who leave abusive relationships often suffer greater violence at the hands of exes unwilling to let them go.

I’ve written before of the striking ways that Men’s Rights Activism recapitulates the logic of domestic abuse; it’s no coincidence that so much MRA “activism” consists of harassment of individual women. So the question naturally follows: does the rage that drives so many MRAs come from the same dark place in the psyche as the rage that so many romantically and sexually rejected feel towards their exes?

Think of the fury many divorced MRAs feel towards their exes and women at large. Think of the self-pitying rage of “nice guys” MRAs in their teens and twenties who feel they’ve been unfairly “friendzoned” by stuck-up women.

As I pondered the tragedy in Marysville, I found myself thinking again about a disturbing short story written by A Voice for Men’s Paul Elam several years ago (and which I posted about recently).

In the story, you may recall, a jilted husband tells the other men in an anger management group session just what had landed him there. His story, as rendered by Elam, is a melodramatic and often mawkish tale of a man betrayed by a narcissistic “hypergamous” wife who left him for his business partner while he had been out of town at the funeral for his father. Oh, and she stole all his money, to boot. (Elam is not what you’d call a subtle writer.)

When the story’s hero finally confronts his ex, whom he finds ad his business partner’s house, she comes to the door in a nightie and tells him she left him because he just wasn’t cutting it in the sack. Then she makes a point of refusing to kiss him goodnight (and goodbye) because, she tells him sadistically, he probably wouldn’t like “the taste of another man’s cock on her lips.”

And so, the hero tells the other angry men in his group, he punched her in the nose so hard he broke it.

It’s clear Elam identifies wholly and completely with the hero, and we are supposed to see his punch as a form of righteous justice administered to his sadistic, emasculating ex.

There are a lot of angry divorced men in the MRM – including some with several divorces in their past. The standard MRA explanation is that these men come to the Men’s Rights movement after being “raped” — their word, not mine – in divorce court, or kept apart from their children by angry exes.

But I don’t think that’s it. Many of the angriest don’t even have any children. I suspect that the rage they feel is more like the rage of Elam’s hero – a rage borne out of a deep sense of sexual humiliation and the loss of control over the women who have rejected and abandoned them.

The anger of many younger MRAs seems to have a similar psychosexual source. These are the young men who rage against “friendzoning” and wax indignant about “false rape accusations” and “yes means yes.” In their mind, women are the “gatekeepers” of sex, and this frustrates and sometimes enrages them.

On some level they feel that women are collectively depriving them of the sex that they deserve, and they feel resentful they have to, in their mind at least, jump through so many hoops to get it. Some, I suspect, think that there’s no way they can actually “get” sex without cutting a few corners, consent-wise, and resent feminists for making this harder for them.

The self-righteous rage of the rejected is a dangerous thing. It’s dangerous when it’s directed at individual women. And it’s dangerous when it’s directed at women at large.

 

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Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
7 years ago

The thing that holds all of this together, like saran wrap around a rotting steak, is power. Men are taught from birth that they should have power (of various flavors, sexual power being one). Some messages include the coda that they deserve and are entitled to it; others that they must work for it and fight for it. It’s this conception of power as a male thing – that power is linked with maleness, so that only men can/should have it, and all men can/should have it – that surrounds all of this.

And, like saran wrap, it’s invisible until you question how this rotting steak is in one piece and go to investigate the mechanism.

This is why I said on the other thread that this murder was political, and nobody is “politicizing” it except the shooter. Politics is the process of allocating power, just as economics is the process of allocating material resources. Wherever power is in operation (which is nearly everywhere) politics is also in operation.

ikanreed
ikanreed
7 years ago

She totally didn’t leave him because he was the kind of guy to punch the women in his life.

Nope, it was because she was a feeeeemale with no control over who she chooses to be with. Money acts and mind control.

Anyone with a elementary school level of literary interpretation skills would recognize the unreliable narrator of a jilted lover.

Kevin K
Kevin K
7 years ago

There was a meme a while back about “testosterone poisoning”, and in a sense, I think that’s true of these guys. They don’t attribute any agency at all to women.

If you’re older that … what … 13? … you’ve been in a break-up of some kind. These guys haven’t figured out how to handle it. And they get in this rage-filled negative feedback loop, amplified by the shrill voices of Elam, JB, et al. Nothing good can ever come of it.

kirbywarp
kirbywarp
7 years ago

I honestly think most of the MRM (the majority that some might call ‘moderate’) doesn’t even really face rejection from women. I think they feed off of the anger of the rejected, “learning” what the world is “really” like from them, which in turn removes any incentive for them to go out into the world themselves. It’s like they feel the rejection just by being told about it, without needing to experience it, and act as if it was them personally that were rejected.

Doug
Doug
7 years ago

A good bit of the anger stems from the fact that boys and men are taught that their self-worth depends on which women and how many women are willing to have sex with them. (Although, as this site amply demonstrates, the “willing” part gets left out in way too many guys’ minds.) When a woman won’t have sex with you but will have sex with someone else, it’s evidence that the other man is better than you. And that’s unacceptable to the egos of a lot of guys.

In the case of the “nice guys” and the nerds, additional resentment comes from hearing things like “it’s what’s on the inside that counts” or that being a kind person or a smart person or a hard working person are important but seeing (or at least having the impression) — particularly at a younger age — that the girls seem to mostly be pining over, chasing, and perhaps having sex with the handsome guys with good muscles and an advanced ability to manipulate sportsballs of various types. Because women aren’t going for them in the way (they think) women are going for these other guys, they conclude that they are worth less than those other guys and that the stuff about being considerate, hardworking, smart, or anything other than muscular and athletic was just so much bullshit.

A lot of that is misperception and projection. The athletic guy has to deal with bullshit too. (As does everyone else – including the women you want but won’t have you and the women you ignore). And, if you are a love starved guy who is fixated on a particular girl or woman that isn’t too into you, you are going to focus on the ways in which the guy she happens to choose differs from you and resent those differences – even if those differences are merely incidental to why her preferences fell the way they did.

I’m not sure how feasible it is, but disentangling a man’s sense of self-worth from the number or identities of women who have sex with him would – I think – do a lot of positive things for society.

Or maybe that was just my (dimly recalled) experience as a younger man. I’ve been happily married for a long time. My discontent from the various girls and women who were not as interested in me as I was in them seems so unnecessary, not to mention unjustified on my part, now.

freemage
7 years ago

Yup. It’s nothing but rage-boners, all the way down…

Zolnier
Zolnier
7 years ago

A lot of MRA’s I think don’t even bother trying to get together with someone before taking on the rejected role.

M. Tremblay
M. Tremblay
7 years ago

MRA rhetoric, for me at least, always seemed to revolve around monoplaces outrage at women having agency, coupled with unintentionally honest whining about women leaving Nice Guy MRA in favor of supposed “bad guys”. So my answer to the title’s question is yes. Yes it is.

Unimaginative
Unimaginative
7 years ago

It’s like they feel the rejection just by being told about it, without needing to experience it, and act as if it was them personally that were rejected.

This. The thing that boggled me the most about Elliot Rodger was that he wanted to kill women for rejecting him, and he hadn’t even approached them. He just assumed that they’d reject him.

Also, I spent a bunch of time this weekend on When Women Refuse ( http://whenwomenrefuse.tumblr.com/ ). It’s not just men who’ve been rejected by their long-term relationships. It’s men who are told are told No Thanks when they offer to buy a woman a drink, or are told Hands Off when they grope a woman on the dance floor. Even if they don’t know the woman. Even if the woman is obviously there with somebody else.

What makes these men think that this is okay behaviour? The fact that they keep getting away with it.

M. Tremblay
M. Tremblay
7 years ago

Last post should have read “misplaced” instead of “monoplaces”. Go to hell, autocorrect…

CJ
CJ
7 years ago

I dunno… I’ve met some MRA types (the elusive sort that you can actually have something resembling a conversation with) who aren’t resentful over rejection. Instead, they have some sort of persecution complex and seem to need this crap to feel validated. Or it’s kind of like Sartre’s take on racism: it’s done so that when someone feels powerless they can blame it on someone else that they’re actually able to pick on.

I guess you could say that’s still about rejection, but on a societal level.

friday jones
friday jones
7 years ago

Every time you remind me of Paul Elam’s fiction writing attempts, a single tear tracks slowly down my cheek.

Bina
7 years ago

I call bullshit on Elam’s just-so story. If she left him because “he wasn’t cutting it in the sack”, but then had “the taste of another man’s cock on her lips”, isn’t that an awful lot like her catering to the man’s tastes, rather than he to hers? I mean, I understand that lots of people like performing oral sex on their partners (I have, too), but it seems more of a favor to the other person than to oneself…which is why that narrative rings false. The dude is mad because she’s not sucking HIS cock, not because he’s sexually unable to please her? Yeah, that makes a buttload of sense. >eyeroll<

zennurse
zennurse
7 years ago

When my youngest son was 13-17 he was morbidly obese, over 300#. He had depression and social anxiety as well. He was not only an outcast when he started high school, he was ignored by the school itself. He stopped going to school completely and took the messages off the machine and notices out of the mail. The secretary to the vice principal knew where I worked but never reached out. There is a longer story here of course but we got the help we needed and found alternatives. He never had a date in high school, never had a prom, never had a girlfriend.

When he was almost through the hardest part of that process, he created his first website; this was pre- Facebook. After the “jump” where he talked about his favorite games and whatever, he linked to every resource he could find for every issue he thought might affect someone stopping by, suicide hotlines, depression resources, that kind of thing.

I agree that there are societal pressures that can influence the way men deal with rejection but there are also ways to adapt which we all must do. My sons father, when I had to explain that our child had terminal cancer and did not want anyone but me at the hospital, responded by saying,” Hearing that makes me feel like I have cancer”. I will never forget it as long as I live.

weirwoodtreehugger
7 years ago

It’s rage at being rejected combined with being self absorbed. They can’t imagine that somebody else could possibly be experiencing pain and insecurity. Particularly when that somebody else is a woman. How many times have we heard manospherians make the claim that women can’t suffer from depression? They need to tell themselves that their suffering is unique and they need to tell themselves that it’s the fault of somebody else.

It reminds me of the Buffy episode “Earshot” in which she temporarily gains the ability to read minds and must use that ability to stop what she thinks is going to be a school shooting.

I can’t find a video clip of her speech to Johnathan so I’ll have to just past the text in instead. Anyway, it’s relevant.

Buffy: You know what? I was wrong. You are an idiot. My life happens to on occasion, suck beyond the telling of it. Sometimes more than I can handle. And it’s not just mine. Every single person down there is ignoring your pain because they’re too busy with their own. The beautiful ones. The popular ones. The guys that pick on you. Everyone. If you could hear what they were feeling. The loneliness. The confusion. It looks quiet down here. It’s not. It’s deafening.

bbz
bbz
7 years ago

Boys seem to be raised to feel entitled to any woman’s attention, at any time. Perhaps it’s harmless when they are young and the women they encounter are mostly family members, neighbors, or teachers–women who feel some responsibility for those boys. It’s not harmless later on.

estraven
estraven
7 years ago

WWTH, I love that episode.

tedthefed
tedthefed
7 years ago

I agree with the people who’ve said that they don’t even consider women enough for women to be the true source of their anger. They’ve just tied up their self-esteem in “getting” sex, so they feel like failures.

But another factor that I’ve always been struck by: A dearth of emotional intelligence. So many people seem to presume that anger is a natural and appropriate response to rejection, unpopularity, or not getting what you want. But it’s not! There is an emotion for that, and it’s called disappointment. And disappointment, isn’t angry, it’s sad. There’s this leap from disappointment to rage that makes no sense. Either they are so hair-trigger, they get angry at everything, or they can’t tell the difference between sadness and anger.

Doug
Doug
7 years ago

Boys are taught that “sad” isn’t an appropriate emotion — outside of maybe grandma dying or something. They are taught that “angry” is an emotion which, even if not exactly encouraged, is at least acceptably masculine.

weirwoodtreehugger
7 years ago

I had forgotten until I purchased the DVDs and listened to the commentary that Earshot had been pulled off and aired later. The day it was originally scheduled to air happened to be right after the Columbine shooting. Personally, I think they should have still aired it. Because of the reasons outlined in the discussion we had about “politicizing” tragedies in the other thread.

Also, it was a crucial episode for Buffy’s character development. It’s a step in the process of going from girl to women. She’s not just teaching Johnathan that everybody experiences pain. She’s learning that herself. Contrast that with the beginning of the season in “Dead Man’s Party” when she doesn’t even realize that Willow was going through things other than worrying about Buffy while Buffy had run away.

Okay. I’ll try to bring this back on topic so it doesn’t look like I’m just seeking an excuse to fangirl over Buffy. All teenagers are self absorbed to some extent. A big part of growing up is learning that while your own feelings are important, other people have their own feelings that are every bit as important as yours. Most people learn to get over themselves and start trying to see things from other’s perspectives. MRAs, PUAs, MGTOWs and GGers (can we officially include gamergate as a part of the manosphere now? I don’t think it’s going anywhere) never learn this lesson.

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
7 years ago

Emotions are gender-coded (and isn’t that a fucked-up concept in itself). Anger is coded male, while compassion and empathy are coded female. Women who suffer some offense and react with anger are punished and, separately, punished if they fail to display sufficient empathy. For men it is reversed: men are gender-policed when they respond to an offense with something other than anger, and insulted as effeminate if they are empathic.

But note the system. Anger is a emotion that leads to action. Empathy is a supportive emotion that does not directly impel action. Women are not supposed to be active (and display and utilize power, which is needed for action). Men are supposed to be active, and only men. Women are meant to be supportive, but not to act themselves.

It ultimately comes down to power, and who is meant to have and use it.

vbillings
7 years ago

I’m still struggling to wrap my mind around why some men behave like this. I think CJ is right and it might be more of a persecution complex than necessarily rejection? Just as MRAs feel that they’ve lost rights because women have gained them, getting rejected is an extension of that loss of rights, to them, I think? Like, loss of the right to a woman’s body?

Reading that totally phony Elam story, I can’t help think of my boyfriend, who is divorced. His ex didn’t treat him well before the divorce, either, but he has never once threatened violence or expressed that he was somehow cheated out of something he owed. In fact, he acknowledges his own shortcomings in the relationship and has learned and grown since then. He treats me with respect and care, and is very conscientious of consent.

I guess I bring this up because the more often tragedies like these happen, the more I’m searching for a fix. We know what the problem is (men who feel entitled to women and resent not getting them) but I don’t know how to ensure men end up like my partner and not like these MRAs.

Aunt Edna
Aunt Edna
7 years ago

Is the sky blue? Do birds sing?

estraven
estraven
7 years ago

WWTH, you’re so right. One of the big things we have to learn in life is that other people have their own center of consciousness. If a person can’t come to terms with that, then that person will not ever be mature. When I was in grad school, we had a cookie exchange in this one seminar that was mostly women. I had been a “brain” in high school, thus not in the in crowd. But as the women in that class told their stories, it turned out that no one had had an adolescence free of pain, not even the homecoming queen. But you know what? We go on and do things and make our way in the world and don’t sit around griping that people don’t appreciate us or whatever. We get past it. But some of these MRA types don’t seem to ever get past it. They are so caught up in playing the blame game that they never take responsibility for their lives. Worse than that, they blame other people for their lives being less than satisfactory.

sunnysombrera
sunnysombrera
7 years ago

I’m going to go out on a limb here and throw out a thought, an idea, a theory if you will. Please do debate with the following:

I think that a subset of boys arent raised to handle their emotions as well as girls are. The constant rhetoric that they must bottle it up, be a man and follow the manly man’s status quo means they don’t get equipped with knowing what to do when they grow up and those emotions are still there. Or worse, when they’ve now putrified and are messier than before (the emotions, not the boys). This status quo is held up by both genders, albeit not everyone. They’re not taught how to grow from their past experiences, only to quit whining and do as they’re told like it never happened.

Girls have more of a community amongst themselves where they can express themselves and establish sounding boards, where they have friends and mentors to help them sort through troubles or trauma and develop themselves. But on the other hand girls do get a degree of “suck it up”/gaslighting/victim blaming, mostly from boys but also from other girls, when facing problems such as harassment or sexual assault or crimes against them that are mainly perpetrated by menfolk (don’t want to upset the manly men’s feefees). This also plays into the rage at women because guys have Elam have been taught all their lives, by whatever circles they ran in, that women are supposed to revolve themselves around mens happiness. Hence, the tantrums when they don’t.

Combine the two and you have grown ass men who act like whiny brats because thy never learned to handle themselves in the context of reality. They’re stuck in a fantasy land where the world revolves around them and everything is determined by their own emotions. Deep down they never learned how to grow in character, which is why you have toddler like MGTOWs who say they reject the expectations placed upon men. I agree with rejecting gender boxes, but not with expecting everyone else to fit neatly into their ideals. Pot. Kettle. Black.

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