The “War on Men” and the Difference Between Thinking and Feeling

The “war on men” is a familiar lament from Stage 2: it is an impassioned response to what Stage 2 perceives to be a Stage 3—feminist—“attack” on men and masculinity, indeed an attempt to destroy men and masculinity.

Typically, Stage 3 responds with something along the lines of “we are not attacking men, rather a specific form of masculinity that is dangerous and abusive.” When Stage 2 does not accept this, Stage 3 interprets this as evidence that Stage 2 wants to defend its right to be dangerous and abusive. Read out of context, those Stage 3 responses are reasonable, but in reality they hide a number of problems.

The first problem is that while the Stage 3 person stating “we are not attacking men, rather a specific form of masculinity that is dangerous and abusive” may be sincere, there are more generally a broader spectrum of intentions. At one end of the spectrum exists such sincerity, while at the other end are people who outright damn all men. The middle of the spectrum is inhabited by what might be described as a “strategic ambiguity” where people say one thing, but mean another (“I say I don’t damn all men, but most everything else I say gives that impression”). Let us give Stage 3 the benefit of the doubt and assume it does not wish to damn all men. There remains a further problem.

People typically respond to others with feeling rather than thinking. While someone at Stage 2 might be able to understand–and potentially even agree with—the statement “we are not attacking men, rather a specific form of masculinity that is dangerous and abusive,” it may still feel that men are under attack. Let me tell you, one has to do a LOT of thinking at the moment to counter the feeling that men are under attack, and most people do not have the capacity or inclination to do a lot of thinking. Furthermore, it is something of a paradox that Stage 3 does not understand that Stage 2 responds with feeling rather than thinking, because as I have discussed recently, Stage 3 is very keen on demanding emotions from men (yet clearly does not see them when they are demonstrated).

So Stage 3 has a choice. Either it can continue as it is, making fine logical distinctions about critiquing certain masculine behaviors but not men in general, or it can do a better job of acknowledging how men respond to these critiques with feeling. It really depends on whether Stage 3 privileges articulating its anger or optimizing the possibility of enabling solutions: you cannot do both at once.