On the one hand, the movement is largely anti-feminist and anti-liberal. And yet many in the movement choose to attack, above all else, traditionalism and social conservatism.
Obviously, traditionalists need to understand why this is happening. Here is an important and emerging political movement that is deeply critical of men's place within liberal modernity and yet the focus of attack is often the small number of traditionalists who have criticised this modernity.
I think part of the reason is as follows. Imagine you're a young man who has come to the realisation that the society you live in has chosen to serve a feminist agenda at the expense of men. What is one of the first questions such a man will ask?
I think the young man is likely to ask the following kinds of questions. Why do the powerful men in society allow this to happen? Why don't the male political leaders or church leaders or business leaders put a stop to it? Why are ordinary men left to deal with the consequences alone?
The way such questions are answered is important. Imagine if the young man makes the common assumption that the establishment is conservative and therefore, being conservative, powerful men are either out of touch with the new reality of young men's lives or else protective of women, rather than men, in an old-fashioned, chivalrous way.
That might make you feel abandoned by the "conservative" men who ought to be protecting your place in society. The men who have real power to do something about the situation, and who as the "fathers" of society ought to care about what their "sons" are going through.
A variant of this kind of argument has been made by Paul Elam. Elam asks why powerful men have supported feminism. His answer is that it has to do not with politics but with biology. Traditionally, he writes, alpha men controlled society, using beta men as enforcers, with omega men being the sacrificial drones. However, when their wives demanded power for themselves, the alpha men decided to give up being alphas. In order to maintain their sexual status, they agreed to be the beta enforcers for their newly alpha wives.
Elam concludes that traditional masculinity, with its division into controllers, enforcers and drones is therefore at the root of the problem. What's needed is a radically new type of man never seen before in human history, one who transcends biology. Once again, we have arrived at a position that is radically anti-traditional.
I don't think these are the right answers. First, the political establishment is not conservative but liberal. The powerful men in society are not at all traditional in their thinking. They are not out of touch, chivalrous fathers giving too much support to their daughters rather than their sons. They are men who have adopted a particular principle of political rule, a liberal one.
Here are some leading political philosophers pointing out the dominance of liberalism within the political class:
John Gray, a professor of politics at Oxford: "We are all liberals nowadays."
Alastair MacIntyre, a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame: "Contemporary debates within modern political systems are almost exclusively between conservative liberals, liberal liberals, and radical liberals."
Steven Kautz, a professor of political science at Michigan State University: "Classical and contemporary liberal teachings ... dominate our political discourse. America is still now, or perhaps now more than ever, somehow a liberal regime ... we are somehow all liberals."
There is no commitment to traditionalism from our political leaders or from powerful men. Even someone like the former Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, saw himself primarily as an agent of change. His first criticism of his successor, the current PM Kevin Rudd, was that Rudd hadn't undertaken enough "challenging reforms" unlike his more worthy Labor Party predecessors, Keating and Hawke.
We are talking about men who are driven to change society along liberal lines. They should not be looked on as the conservative fathers of the tribe, representing a traditional attitude to gender or to anything else for that matter.
Nor does the argument from biology work well. First, it's not true that society can be so easily divided into controlling alpha males who sacrifice omega males via enforcer beta males. The easiest proof of this is that Western societies have been strictly monogamous for many hundreds of years. Monogamy requires the most powerful of men to give up much of their advantage in sexual selection in favour of the well-being of society as a whole.
Imagine you are a powerful, wealthy older male. The truth is that you could easily attract a number of young women as mates. If only 20 to 30 percent of the best placed men decided to do this, then the so-called omega males would miss out on the chance to marry and have families. This, though, would leave a lot of men without a responsible or productive stake in society.
The "alpha" males in the West did not choose to exploit their advantages. They accepted the rules of monogamy. All men had the chance to marry and raise families and the vast majority did so. Western civilisation benefited as a result.
Nor is it at all clear that it was women in the home who pressured their husbands to hand over power. Most of the feminist agitators in history were single women, a disproportionate number of them were lesbians. They had no powerful husbands to leverage. And why would a powerful, married man living in a monogamous culture need to worry about sex selection anyway? How would he benefit by transferring the alpha role to his wife, whilst he adopted a beta role? Is this something that an alpha man would contemplate anyway?
And is it really true that men in power nowadays are merely beta enforcers? It doesn't look that way to me. There still seem to be plenty of men in the political elite who choose to exercise real power. They just don't exercise it to the benefit of men.
Why not? The answer is that these men rule by the principles of liberalism. For a very long time, there was an effort to quarantine what these liberal principles would be applied to. They were to be applied to public rather than to private life. The family was meant to be a separate, non-liberal realm.
But it was hard to maintain this distinction. It's not easy to separate the public and the private. If education, for instance, is the public realm and is ordered on liberal principles, then it will be thought that boys and girls should be educated along similar lines and toward similar ends. It's then difficult at the end of this long process to claim different ends for men and women within the private realm of the family.
And once the public realm had been transformed, feminists began to argue that the "personal is the political," meaning that there is no true distinction between public (political) and private (personal) life.
And so the family was subject to the same principles of liberalism as applied elsewhere.
And this is where the logic of the situation takes over. Feminism is liberalism applied to the lives of women. It is the attempt to maximise female autonomy, even if this harms the family or relationships between men and women. Female autonomy is maximised when women are made independent of men, whether through careers, preferential divorce laws, or state welfare.
If powerful men rule through the principles of liberalism, and these principles are applied to male/female relations, then powerful men have no principled basis to reject feminist demands.
That is the most consistent answer to why powerful men act in favour of feminists, even as many young men feel abandoned by the current situation.
What does this then mean as far as strategy goes? First, it's correct that it's not enough to target feminists themselves. It is the powerful men in society who enable feminism - but not because they are out of touch conservatives, but because they are men who are bent on reform along liberal lines.
Second, it's true as well that a certain kind of "new man" is required (though not one who transcends biology). Given that we can't rely on liberal elites, we need to encourage a type of man who doesn't limit his efforts to the private, domestic sphere, but who also devotes some time and energy toward change at the public, political level.