Years ago, MGTOW was being promoted as a quasi-political movement, promising to “instill masculinity in men, femininity in women, and limited government” (source here). We shall open by briefly dispelling the inherently contradictory nature of these grandiose manifestoes.
Isn’t the point of going your own way to make your own decisions? How do such men all get together and agree on political libertarianism? The idea of “go your own way” types self-organizing to garner the mass appeal that would result in political power is transparently ridiculous.
The manifesto was purportedly written by an eccentric netkook from the ‘couve, pseudonymed Rob Fedders – which explains the logical feebleness of all this.
In any case, it might be useful to examine MGTOW, some ten years after it was first declared to exist, to examine what it actually is, and to figure out what might have kept it from catching on.
When the popular media or our feminist critics describe MGTOW, it is always in terms of what might be called “the marriage strike.” The dramatic transgenerational change (source) in statistics reflects the cheapening of the institution of marriage and is a source of amusingly hysterical articles, written by women, who pretend not to understand the writing on the wall they’re hitting.
When we talk about Men Going Their Own Way, we necessarily include all those men who self-identify as MGTOW. Many of these men have never been interested in marrying a woman. Some of these guys are playboys who get their sexual needs met without marriage, some are asexual, some are gay. None of these men here described made some sort of conscious decision not to marry a woman because marriage is a bad bargain. They simply had other inclinations.
This is not a new phenomenon. Lifelong bachelors include some of the greatest men in history, from Isaac Newton to Ludwig Wittgenstein.
It is a collective evolutionary strategy to convince every man that marriage and family is the norm, and this is accomplished by social and fiscal sanction on bachelors. In newspapers as recently pressed as the early 1960s, one can find advertisements in the “help wanted” section declaring that management and professional jobs were available for married men only. Lines of credit, mortgages and business loans were generally declined to bachelors. Membership in civic organizations like the Free Masons, Elks, Kiwanis, etc. were also unavailable to unmarried men.
While women had little to do with any of these incentives to marry, they collectively became used to their benefits specific to women. When women embraced feminism, en masse, beginning in the late 1950s, they surely assumed those benefits would remain intact, despite the radical social restructuring proposed by their leaders. (Whether the leaders of the feminist movement knew about the eventual and potential consequences of their proposed policies is another post entirely). As TFW liked to remind us, women are unaccustomed to pondering cause-and-effect scenarios.
Now that we have all enjoyed a couple of generations of social “progress,” and the fruits of feminism are coming into view, women are naturally concerned. Popular media and MGTOW blogs both (almost unanimously) declare the collapse of marriage to be the result of a conspiracy by men to deny women the benefits of marriage. What motivates this? Women find this conspiracy theorizing to be preferable to the truth: that the lack of “good men” who are ready to “commit” is an organic result of the lack of marriagable women. Few men want to be financially and legally responsible for a banged out ho’. That is the painful truth that far too many women can’t handle.
This presents a dilemma to men who self-identify as MGTOW. Either they can indulge in a bit of satisfactory schadenfreude, and claim to have been part of this illusory marriage strike, or they can admit that there is no such thing as the marriage strike, and be faced with explaining to some unstable woman that she’s not marriage material based on her lack of merit. As many have noted, criticizing women doesn’t feel very good. The average dude feels like he’s kicking a puppy when he approaches the topic. In context, it’s easier for most men to play along.
So, if MGTOW isn’t equivalent to “the marriage strike,” then what is MGTOW?
We say that MGTOW is the set of all men who aspire to the Socratic ideal of the examined life. These men consciously and actively participate in life. They deliberate at length, before acting decisively to ensure their own happiness.
To live an examined life is the necessary and sufficient condition for MGTOW. Moreover, there are no other conditions for being an MGTOW.
One does not need to be a political libertarian to be an MGTOW. One can identify with MGTOW and be a conservative, liberal, socialist/communist, anarchist, libertarian, or political agnostic. In fact, a plurality of political views is expected, given that every man’s ‘way’ is essentially his own, and doesn’t need to conform to any other man’s.
One does not need to shun women to be an MGTOW. One doesn’t even need to shun marriage. Admittedly, the married MGTOW I’ve known of have usually been men who emigrated to some foreign country with more amenable marriage laws, and married a traditional local.
Occasionally a married man will find MGTOW late in life, after he’s already married. It’s unreasonable to expect such a man to divorce his wife, simply because he found he was a member and identified with the general aims. The idea of protesting frivolous divorce, by getting a divorce, is a contradiction in itself.
Part of the function of living as an active participant in life is the sober consideration of social constructs — like marriage — on their merits, rather than blindly accepting institutional obligations because some ruler or “guru” says that such things are necessary, good for you, or are otherwise in your own best interests. Different men have different goals
While different men have different goals, the overall telos of MGTOW is popularly known as “ghosting.” I would argue that this is an inborn, low-level aspiration of every healthy man, though in the MGTOW phenotype, it seems specifically pronounced. Where the average man is often overwhelmed with other inborn tendencies (specifically, the drive to mate, marry and raise a family) and with cultural conditioning driven by peers and mass culture, men of the MGTOW type seek freedom above conformity.
This renunciation instinct (my term, but I think it fits) often arises in adolescents. You probably knew a teenage boy who dreamed of building a cabin in the woods, or fantasized about catching a rocket-ship to a distant planet where he could start over, and carve out a completely autonomous space for himself as a colonist. This psychological state, punctuated by absolute narcissism, in which the individual’s ego subsumes the world, eventually collapses. The deflation occurs when the MGTOW realizes that he will never be able to provide himself the life he wants on his own merits, or with his own strength. Ever tried to design and build a refrigerator in a remote cabin in the woods? How about synthesizing antibiotics?
The recognition of one’s reliance on others necessarily constitutes the world in opposition to oneself. This is the source of the (real or perceived) angst which accompanies the general MGTOW discourse, particularly among people who just found the philosophy on a web page. Men are faced constantly with choices, driven by conflicting and ambiguous impulse. The world — that is, the social order — is experienced as a limiting and negative experience for the young man, and illustrates daily the impossibility of satisfaction, the limitation of freedom, and the disruption of pleasure. It is seen, rightly or wrongly, as a threat, as something to rebel against. Ones needs must be fulfilled from the other, which is untamable and uncontrollable by the individual ego.
Note: This is the first in a three-part series about the social movement MGTOW. When the second part presses, a link will be here.