Is “Art of Manliness” Sexist?

Imagine my surprise to log on to Culture War Reporters to jot down my Tuesday post, only to find Elisa having already written something. I can only imagine that her cutting in on my territory means that she’s looking to start a fight so vicious, bloody, and prison-lunch-line-shanking-ly brutal it will make the combined carnage of the fall of Masada and the genocide at Wounded Knee look like a slap-fight between a couple of elderly Mennonites.

But I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to make good on my promise last week- to investigate and determine whether or not Art of Manliness is sexist.

Of course, before we begin we have to define what “sexism” is. The obvious answer would be discrimination/prejudice against women, but it has got to be more than that. The stereotyping of women (regardless of whether its positive or negative) has also got to be a part of sexism, just as much as it would be a part of racism or any other form of bigotry.

Now at first glance, Art of Manliness really doesn’t touch on the subject of gender relations all that much. For every one of their articles on subjects such as “What to Wear on a First Date“, there are ten articles on how to shine your shoes, shuffle a deck of cards, hitchhike around the US, make maple syrup, and even a world history of shaving. On the whole, the blog is far more invested in trying to break from what it sees as a culture totally lacking in strength, competence, and independence.

But of course, you really can’t devote an entire blog to what makes a man a man without every once in a while stumbling across the subject of women.

For example, take a look at “Women and Children First? Down with the Ship?” or “Womanly Things We Wish Women Still Did“. In both cases, the author simply brings up the subject, allowing the readers to duke it out in the comments section on whether or not the old cry of “Women and children first!” is still right or fair (or if it ever was to begin with).

On the whole, Brett McKay (the principal author) understands that the subject of feminism and feminist issues are still quite controversial, and only more volatile in the venue of his Art of Manliness blog. For the most part, he either allows his readers to debate such questions as “should men hold doors open for women?”, or refers the issue to his wife (and co-author) Kate. Indeed, from everything I’ve read on the blog, it would appear that the single most “edgy” post on gender roles (“What Can Manly Men Expect of Women?”) really doesn’t do anything more than point out (what the author sees) as a double-standard in what men and women can ask of each other. In fact, I’ll stick my neck out there and say that the author makes some solid points on women’s issues and feminism.

When I was in college, my house was once visited by a collection of female students bearing cookies that they had baked for the men of the campus. The self-titled “Domestic Divas” claimed their mission was to call for a return to “Biblical” roles for men and women, and a rejection of “feminism”. My reaction, and the reaction of every sane man and woman on that campus, went sort of like this:

As many pointed out, this well-meaning but idiotic group had ignored the fact that their ability to be at college (or to speak to men without us having spoken to them first) was a direct result of feminism. And while perhaps not as extreme as in the case I just cited, this basic problem seems rather prevalent in our culture- many women seem to take the struggles and hardships of their predecessors for granted. The (few) benefits of 1950s society are looked back on fondly, but the abuse, neglect, and degradation is completely forgotten. I don’t think Brett McKay is sexist for decrying equality in gender roles combined with inequality in social expectations. McKay isn’t stating that its a woman’s place to dress up for a date, but simply that its as an appreciated gesture as flowers or getting the door.

No, I think Art of Manliness is sexist for completely different reasons.

And in the defense of the authors of the blog, I don’t think it’s anything intentional.

My main issue comes down to this. Art of Manliness is a good site. Heck, it’s a great site. The information is useful, the writing is concise and simple. The subject matter is instructive and edifying. Only it’s directed solely at men.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I don’t think both myself and the males of my generation could stand to toughen up a bit…

I just don’t think that the characteristics or skills in the blog are in any way unique to men. Starting fires, shooting guns, shuffling a deck of cards, picking out a good scotch, backing up a trailer, breaking down a door, wrestling alligators (yeah, that’s an article)- these are all things just as useful to women as they are to men. There’s even an article titled “How To Parallel Park… Like a Man!“.

See, I’d imagine that we’d just call that “Parallel Parking”, since driving isn’t exactly exclusive to men or something men are just better at. And I don’t want to hear the whole “Men are evolutionary predisposed to having better spatial judgment” schpeel. First, if it’s correct, it just means men are more likely to have better spatial abilities- it’s not universally true. Second, just because I’m six feet tall doesn’t mean I stand a chance against a five foot NBA star in a basketball match- training trumps negligible physique every time. I’m a man and a relatively new driver- I’d bet that every woman driver in the city I live in can parallel park faster and better than I can.

Case in point…

The real problem with Art of Manliness isn’t so much the content but that the content is labeled as being “for men”. Even the abstract qualities brought up in the blog are good for men and women alike. The post on the virtue of justice uses an illustration in which justice is depicted as a woman, for ****’s sake. Bravery, intelligence, perseverance, leadership, heroism- can you really tell me that these aren’t just as admirable in women as they are in men?

(Just as a final note, I want to thank and recommend Reaction Gifs, from where I frequently borrow my illustrations- it’s a neat site, check it out).


32 responses to “Is “Art of Manliness” Sexist?

  1. This discussion, like so, so many is hanging in mid-air.

    The reason is that questions such as “what is a man?” and “what is a woman?” and “are the two different and in what ways?” and “is it wrong to treat men and women differently?” are all questions that raise the most fundamental questions of God’s existence and our nature as either mere animals or creations in the image and likeness of God.

    If there is no God and we are simply complex material accidents of a natural evolution then as the atheist Sartre said, “Existence precedes essence” — we simply exist and we are free to define ourselves any way we like. In this case, there is no “essence” of manhood or womanhood, no human “nature” that we ought to aspire to and live out. But of course there could well be a distinct masculine and feminine “nature” if a personal God created us and has an idea of what a man and woman should be.

    But further, if we assume an essentially naturalist framework (which is the case with nearly all discussions of this sort in our post-Christian world) what are the grounds for complaining about sexism at all? Like the Marquee de Sade is to have said, “Nature has made men stronger than women; we can do with them whatever we like.”

    Your article assumes the usual modern definition of “sexism” — when for all you know men and women OUGHT to be treated differently. For all you know, God created male and female, masculinity and femininity, and WANTS the two to be different, to have different strengths and (in general) assume different roles in life. Only a woman, for instance, can be a mother and only a man can be a father. For all you know it is RIGHT that men would make sure that women and children are in the life-boats first. For all you know the almost universal stereo-types about male chivalry are almost universal because they are rooted in something true to who we are.

    My point is that this subject can’t really be discussed without discussing ultimate worldviews. It’s just hanging in mid-air otherwise.

  2. I agree that AoM is sexist for different reasons. It bothers me that AoM encourages men to try new activities simply by marketing them in a “manly” way and saying that it is “manly” to be able to write a letter or iron clothes. This implies that masculinity is better than femininity.

    Instead of encouraging men to be better men and more manly men, I wish they would encourage men (and women) to be better humans.

  3. Maybe not the most on-topic comment, but it’s “case in point”, not “case and point”.

    • I try to read over my co-writer’s articles for stuff like that, but I don’t always get to all of them. Thanks for letting me know, and consider it fixed.

  4. Great post. I have just one quibble. Sexism is “prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically [*not exclusively] against women, on the basis of sex”.

    Otherwise, I really liked this. Keep up the great work 🙂

  5. Pingback: Culture War Reporters

  6. Yeah and when women like me get deleted, because I give a woman’s point of view. Especially when my comments and words are not offensive and really not as snarky as some of the men commenters are.

    Sexism really is alive and thriving on the internet.

    • Feminist sites give guys the boot for respectfully presenting views not being in 100% concordance with the site *all the time.* Even for asking questions.

      • That may be so, but we can’t justify one person’s sexism with the sexism of someone else, y’know?

        • No. Either party’s sexism is not justified ever, but I believe that Mark was attempting to illustrate that this sexist behavior is not exclusive to men groups.

          So sexism maybe alive and thriving on the Internet, but feminists, and blacks, and muslims, and really any group you can think of are perpetuating the “hate” in one way or another. And I probably wouldn’t consider it necessarily sexism or any form of hatred. Human beings in general typically ignore or shut out information that doesn’t entirely align with their views. I’ve very rarely held civil and open discussions on feminist sites. My family and I are black, I’ve found that I couldn’t hold a civil discussion with them about the Trayvon Martin case. Anything I had to say that didn’t align perfectly with their thoughts were “the white man’s lies”. And once I had a woman shout at me “I didn’t ask for reason!”.

  7. The key about Art of Manliness is one that many people misunderstand.

    Classically, there are three distinctions when using the word man: man as opposed to woman, man as opposed to animal, and man as opposed to boy.

    It is the latter that AoM seeks to help with. This has also been explicitly mentioned by Brett. Art of Manliness seeks to help men as adults, rather than children. Viewed in this context, the site makes much more sense. He’s not trying to tell men how to live in contrast to women, nor is he saying that any of the skills on the website are the sole domain of MEN as opposed to WOMEN. They are skills for MEN as opposed to BOYS; or, as ADULTS as opposed to CHILDREN. It’s a site to help guys grow up, since as we can all agree, there is a significant lack of that today.

    I hope this clarification has helped.

  8. Get a job faggotrons.

  9. Regarding the sexism of the site: I think that it’s only sexist if you a) think there are absolutely no differences between men and women, except for non-brain related biology and learned behavior, and b) the presence of people who aren’t a clearcut member of a gender binary means people can never use gender binary as a framework for anything.

    I don’t really think those are completely clear-cut issues.

    • I won’t argue that there’s no inherent difference between the minds of men and women, but only that these differences aren’t pronounced or universal enough to merit any societal response. As for the gender binary issue, that would seem to be justifying my own point- but could you expound a bit more on what you mean by it?

  10. Thomas Heurlin

    Well, you’re better than most feminists, you don’t scream accusations, you bring up valid arguments which I respect but partly disagree with. (The argument itself, not the bringing up part.

  11. My problem with this is that to me it looks like a another case of self-segregation in our society. I’ve read the comments and yeah, ok, so it’s really about being a good “Man” as opposed to a “boy”, and about what makes a adult man. But why not be about being a good adult as opposed to a child? Being a good grown up? About being mature? This is simply a human thing. By placing things in the context of “men over boys” it still makes it look like that the things they talk about are exclusive to men.

    I believe this segregation is what’s ruining our society. The day any child can go into a toy isle and feel comfortable picking up any toy and feeling like any toy is appropriate for them (except by reasons of age), and that they can go to school and share those toys with both male and female friends who share their interest, is the day enough progress will have been made. Such kids will be more likely to go on to become adults who all understand and get along with each-other much better… adults who feel less insecure and more free and comfortable in the eyes of society regardless of what they do.

  12. The reason this website is “for men,” and so many other websites and ideas are popping up “for men,” is because men’s place in society has been incredibly fuzzy and ambiguous. Young boys grow up not knowing what they should do or be as a man. Women have made drastic progress in society actually fairly recently, and even more recently (in the past 5 or 10 years) we have seen women actually surpassing men in academics, many careers, and even young women out-earning young men. And yet the media doesn’t portray these advancements on the part of women very much and the vast majority is still led to believe that women are oppressed and/or disadvantaged. Don’t get me wrong– both sexes are disadvantaged in different ways. But young men are not seeing the world that the media and the feminist narrative is describing. Furthermore, even younger men, and young boys, have no male role models to look up to as someone to emulate. What does it mean to be a man in today’s society? Throughout history, it doesn’t matter what culture or time period you look at, the transition between boyhood to manhood was something that needed to be proven, whether through brave acts of courage or through military service or through becoming a provider. Womanhood was always simply a matter of physically maturing, but as a man you had to exemplify in some way that you are no longer a boy.

    And yet now the culture has changed, the world has changed, gender norms have changed, and while women have benefited in many ways similar changes have not been implemented or made for men. THAT is why so many men’s communities and sites and personal development are springing up. Because at the end of the day these sites aren’t so much about men as they are about masculinity. Men have no clue how to access their masculine sides. They don’t know what masculinity is or means or what it means to be a man. That is why the pickup and seduction community thrives (for better or for worse). Because men are looking for male role models more than ever before. That is why MGTOW is a thing now, also– because in today’s crazy society, where do men even fit in anymore? And that is why “Art of Manliness” has come up as well. Boys do not know what it means to be men. Teaching “children” to become “adults” is important as well, but each person, in becoming an adult, must balance the femininity and masculinity in their lives, and websites like this are men’s silent yet urgent reclaiming of their masculine sides. With that said, if a woman wants to read it and learn from it– more power to her. But don’t try to demean or condemn perfectly healthy and respectable communities like this which are necessary at this point in time for young boys learning to become men and using capable male role models to do so. It’s healthy, it’s respectful, and it’s in no way misogynistic– THIS is the “positive masculinity” that FEMINISTS have been calling for. Young boys NEED male role models. A young girl might look up to Sylvia Plath, but a young boy won’t be able to identify with her experiences. They really do need strong male role models now more than ever. Please don’t take that away from us.

    • Nobody is demeaning A. It is true that men don’t have role model and men are lagging. This is because men are still obsessed with manliness and masculinity. Reverting to lost art of manliness is not a solution. It’s, in fact, the problem. It sends a message that men who adhere to standards defined by society or other men are “men “. Those who deviate from these rules are made to feel lesser. Men are still looking for a purpose within the confines of “masculinity”, when masculinity and femininity hold little value.
      Men should be taught to listen to inner voice than blindly following advice from charismatic men. Men need to be psychologically independent. In many cases, men who blindly follow “role model” become useful tools for terrorist leaders and dictators.

  13. The author of this article makes a very subtle fallacy regarding what the contents of the Art of Manliness is trying to convey. Many people misunderstand it’s sole purpose. It is not to distinguish men from women, but to help propagate men from from boys. Which if you haven’t been paying attention, we need a lot more of these days. Strength and honor.

  14. Let’s face it guys. The AOM guy watched too many episodes of Leave it to Beaver and took his high school history books at face value. His world view is all wrapped up in a tight, neat little box. In his little household these may work. But it’s a complex world out there and his absolute truths about right, wrong, truth and justice just seem dated and childish. I do enjoy the articles that teach me how to do stuff though. He should keep the moralistic masturbation at home though.

  15. Bloody hell, people really can be offended by anything. Art of Manliness is a site about skills all men should have, and advice for them. It doesn’t matter if the stuff is useful to women. If you want equality, write a piece on how sites marketed exclusively to women are sexist.

    • I’m certainly not offended by Art of Manliness- I actually quite enjoy the site. My point was simply that it was continuing an unnecessary separation between men and women. I don’t think the authors do it on purpose, or have anything but the best intentions. It’s just something which, by and large, I think we need to move past as a culture.

    • And who is Mr Mckay to decide what skills men should have?

  16. im with you, the first time i saw that site and specially the ”return of royals” i almost puke…on the Modern Age and still thinking like that? Thank you for separate men and women more….plus there are a lot of people dont identify as a woman or a man and they can be sincere,drive a car like a pro and be good at job…the same with women.The same goes for a supposed ”the art of womanliness” …i am a woman,i am not supposed to be one if i am not ”femenine” or if i don’t want children?That kind of sites are just …..dumb.Better learn how to be a human,a person.

  17. I like to think manliness is used like humanity. Hu-man-ity is just a name but everyone falls into it, just as man-liness encapsulates all that all people should strive toward.

  18. The reason why the Art of Manliness is directed ‘soley’ on men is because the Men of Today have simply forgotten many of the characteristics that made them once great (minus the ones that discriminated and oppressed women). The AoM blogs is not trying to “isolate” the entire Female gender on purpose, okay, it’s simply there because Men actually have a “Masculine model” of the past to resurrect, looking back, you’ve got historical figures like Teddy Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ben Franklin, Chuck Yeager, Martin Luther King Jr, Muhammed Ali. Great Men who were Great for Men AND Women. And don’t get mad because these figures had a penis, it’s not their fault. And it’s not like there weren’t any great historical female figures either, let’s see now, oh yea, Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth I, Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt (aka “Badass”), Rosa Parks (aka “Superbadass”), and i could go on. I want to quote this page from this website that i think you guys and gals should read… “At the Art of Manliness, they’re looking to the past to resurrect the masculine model of days gone by, examining the lives of men like Teddy Roosevelt, Ben Franklin and Chuck Yeager. But “reviving the lost art of womanliness” is a tricky endeavor. There are many positive examples of women in history to encourage, inspire and educate today’s women, but there’s also a whole lot of baggage. Though examples of strong female models from history exist, there isn’t a feminine model of ages past to resurrect. Women’s position in society has changed a lot since the days of Abigail Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt–a lot more than that of men. Eleanor Roosevelt recognized this, and wrote, “Women have one advantage over men. Throughout history they have been forced to make adjustments.” By the way gals, the page i found belongs to probably a female version of AoM and probably is solely focused on “WOMEN”.

    Now for the love of god, ladies, stop bashing men for wanting to tap into their roots, we’re not trying to go back to the part where we slap ya if the salmon wasn’t cooked right, we’re trying to only tap into the areas that gave men strength and dignity while providing good examples of humanity and encouragement.

    • And when did men happen to be great? Most men were never great. They simply served as underclass for privileged minority who used them to win wars, build monuments and generate taxable products so that the privileged could hold power and live comfortably. There were always some role models who brainwashed men to behave in a way that made them “useful”. In return, these men got patriarchal privilege at home. What we consider our “roots” is simply a mindset thrust upon men to make them useful and disposable.

  19. To AOM you’re only a man if you have a good beard, drink scotch, dress conservatively, build furniture, and wear the pants in a relationship. Anything that deviates from the “norm” is a deficiency in one’s manliness.

  20. Im a strong feminist, but I love this site. I never thought it was sexist, because I always interpreted “manliness” to be somewhat tongue in cheek. The accompanying illustrations are playfully “old-fashioned,” which seems to poke fun at the whole concept of this information being just “for men.” Yes, these skills are traditionally masculine. But the very fact that it’s being distributed through the internet equally accessible to both men and women kind of flips the whole institution on its head. To me that’s the whole point. It’s ironic. Now the ladies can learn these things and be “manly” woman-folk.

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