Men want to stand out.
That doesn’t always mean they crave notoriety or awards, only that they wish to be exceptional. We have a need to compete, even over something as unserious as an electrified tabletop version of football. Honing an unusual skill, rising to the top of our profession, creating a piece of art or technology that becomes part of the zeitgeist — there is no shortage of pathways to fulfill this core ambition. But few, if any, are easy. So we might fall back on flimsier claims to distinction: our IQ, popularity on social media, sexual prowess and, of course, feminism.
The stereotype of the straight “male feminist” who can articulate a progressive view on sex and gender without changing his misogynist behavior is well-worn territory. There remains, however, an underexplored side of his superficial pandering. It’s not really enough to praise women as strong, intelligent, capable and deserving of any right afforded to men; he also needs a dose of misandrist self-loathing to separate himself from a hopeless gender. By condemning other men as a group, he signals a rare case of male enlightenment. He is “not like the other boys.”
This rhetorical move — because, let’s be honest, that’s all it is — represents both a natural expression of the drive to outflank rival men and an internalizing of those glib, sweeping “ugh, men!” posts that generate viral engagement for women on Twitter. A certain man hoping to demonstrate his refinement and value can read those disparaging comments as a challenge to adopt the same attitude: Get in on the man-bashing, and people might almost forget that you’re a man yourself. To the Red Pill community, this is the kind of soy boy humiliation that feminism has aimed for the whole time, yet in practice, the man-hating man gives more than a hint of machismo in his proclamation. He thinks he’s toppling a sacred monument, or bravely defecting to the righteous camp amid some eternal conflict. He has the thorny resolve of an iconoclast. He is through the looking glass, wrestling with a paradox that no one else would dare to face.
In other words, it takes a “real man” to condemn his fellow men.
The man who does this may be disingenuous, but he isn’t necessarily lying. It’s altogether understandable that men who don’t stalk, threaten, harass, abuse or assault women are disgusted with men who do, though their outrage may amount to little besides the frustration that these unspecified villains “are giving the rest of us a bad name,” or exposing men as a whole to greater scrutiny. On the other hand, the perceived failure of this gender to clear the lowest of bars presents a clear advantage: By doing the bare minimum and repeatedly comparing yourself to far shittier dudes, you place yourself on a pedestal. It’s a distorted echo of the “nice guy” problem, where men insist that the absence of a girlfriend is due to their surplus chivalry and straight women’s foolish preference for fuckboys — an ego-preserving form of sexism. It likewise matches the “not all men” answer to #MeToo narratives, a callous recentering of the male perspective as women seek to heal from man-inflicted trauma.
Another parallel is the “cool girl” trope, in which a woman cleaves herself from other women by modeling herself as “one of the guys.” She swears, drinks beer, plays poker and watches sports while remaining unquestionably feminine and heterosexual in appearance and desire. (That phenomenon has also made possible its inverse: the “Pick Me” woman, who advertises her eagerness to perform domestic submission in line with the values of 1950s housewifery.)
The “I can’t stand other guys” guy has managed an unholy meld of these positions. He both identifies with women through (largely implied) allyship, and as a “lone wolf” departing from his fraternal pack, tries to evoke the rugged individualism of masculine tradition. It’s likelier that he’s a common misanthrope — holding to a baseline cynicism about humans regardless of identity — and simply exploits this emotion for maximum social benefit. Whereas “I hate people” is the motto of a moody teen, and therefore readily dismissed, “I hate men” can still gain traction as an edgy or incisive protest (notwithstanding wider backlash to this sentiment as a lazy and counterproductive cliché). A man wielding the phrase can hope to at least sound interesting.
It’s hard to see this as anything other than vague and hollow rage. If a man disavowing other men isn’t explicitly privileging himself, he may be dissatisfied with his lot in life, blaming those he considers the winners of a nasty, zero-sum game. Most crucially, he is neither interrogating his own character nor conceptualizing a better alternative to the male condition he finds so repugnant. It’s natural to feel embarrassed by people you feel are misrepresenting you, but the actual work comes after that, and stems from one question: What are you going to do about it? Because, I’m sorry to say, men are not going to improve unless men commit to the cause. And that requires a solidarity that is lost whenever one of us says “I’m not like the other boys.”