The Problem with MGTOW
I first entered the men’s improvement realm about ten years ago. I was entrenched in my own self-improvement because for the first time in my life I was finding emotional freedom. My crippling depression and deep self-loathing had lifted. I was finding the right answers to happiness and cultivating and as part of that process I deliberately started looking for people to associate with that were like-minded. A lesson that I learned early and a principle that I will always stand by; you will be like those that you associate with.
I found a group called “No More Mister Nice Guy,” which was based on the book written by Dr. Robert Glover on nice guy syndrome. I was initially open to doing exploring the world of men’s work, in part, because I grew up with an older sister who was a feminist and I was exposed at a young age to the truth that feminism is in fact about hating men. My sister was cruel and hated me simply because of something that I was born with and so it’s really no wonder that I learned to hate myself.
In the long run, I ended up running this group with a couple of other guys and it ended up sending me down the rabbit hole of men’s work. I’ve had brushes with various types of men’s communities and movements. It was a few years ago that I encountered MGTOW and for those of you that don’t know, MGTOW stands for “Men Going Their Own Way” which is basically a subculture of men that are more or less walking away from the traditional systems of marriage and relationships with women.
As someone who has been into self-improvement and personal growth, as a licensed clinical therapist and as someone that has been bouncing around the men’s work realm for about ten years, I have a few concerns about MGTOW but before I get to that I first want to make it clear that I don’t disagree with their gripes and I believe that many of their points are valid but my issues with the movement, in general, is that I don’t necessarily think that it’s a movement that really helps men be better.
It more so looks a lot like something that has shown up because of a cultural vacuum. Unfortunately, it does seem like males have been disbanded and have become largely nomadic and MGTOW is a place for the nomads to gather. MGTOW is providing a sense of unity and strength to males when they have struggled to have these beneficial elements. In this community, we stand firmly by the idea and demonstrable fact that men band together well and male bonding is a healthy aspect of male psychology. In a way, MGTOW is providing something that males desperately need in a space where it is strikingly obvious that women aren’t welcome.
Again, I don’t disagree with their gripes, their stances or the need that MGTOW is trying to fill but I see it falling short in a number of ways.
I don’t dispute that the system has been giving men a raw deal. This is a stance that I don’t take lightly or go to easily because of how strong the opposite narrative are but statistical data doesn’t lie. Men dominate statistics in areas of chronic addiction, chronic incarceration, chronic homeless and suicide, just for starters. Don’t get me started about family court. As a therapist, I’ve heard all the stories and seen all the cases first hand. I continue to grow increasingly uncomfortable with how these statistics are conveniently ignored.
But regardless of all of this, I am also extremely firm on my stances about attitudes, emotions and beliefs around being a victim, even when those stances have some legitimacy to it and here’s why. Taking on a victim stance warps people and never in good ways. It’s really important to not view yourself as a victim, even if you are one because it will become a massive barrier in your ability to move past it and find a better life. Victim mentality keeps you stalled out and living in the past and the worst thing of all, victim mentality tends to become an identity and when you see yourself as a victim, it tends to warp your world view. I contend, strongly, that the most abusive people in the world are those that see themselves as victims.
I don’t love MGTOW because there are veins of victimhood narratives in it. It doesn’t help or serve men to convince them that they are victims. It actually gives them a greater sense of powerlessness and hopelessness.
Black and White Thinking
AWALT is an acronym commonly used in the MGTOW community and it stands for “all women are like that,” meaning that all women are selfish, deceitful and greedy but social science has shown us that black and white thinking is problematic, no matter how you slice it. It’s too easy to fall into the thinking that it’s okay when we do it but I take issue with categorizing people and applying black and white thinking and painting in broad strokes. That has always proven to be problematic as well as just flat out inaccurate. We, as men, don’t want to automatically be categorized as people who are violent and sociopathic just because we’re men and it doesn’t absolve this issue by returning it back onto women. MGTOW men seem bitter and it seems like they act out of that bitterness. Not that I blame them, I’ve felt bitter too but black and white thinking is just a bad way to live.
Life is a complex and abstract mural of subtlety and nuance. Nobody achieves personal peace and empowerment when they refuse to see those gray areas and I have to disagree with any movement that rubs out the finer details. Males won’t achieve greater power and authenticity as long as they allow these currents to carry them off. This black and white thinking tends to perpetuate the bitterness and powerlessness states that we have found ourselves in. It feels powerful to be angry and bitter and yet little actually changes for the better because of it.
There’s no Action
As far as I can tell, MGTOW men just sit around and complain. Over and over they rehash the double standards and blatant hypocrisy that is propagated by the social justice bullies. MGTOW seems to have just deteriorated into a bitch and moan fest. Again, I don’t disagree with a lot of their talking points but complaining isn’t just completely useless, it’s actually working against these guys and they don’t seem to realize it.
When we cycle the same angry and bitter points of argument over and over again we are actually creating madness, the kind of madness that is associated with being crazy because the lines that define reality become more and more blurred. Part of me is glad to see that the MGTOW movement has picked up as much steam as it has, I just wish those men would band together to mobilize and take action. For example, collectively, these amassed people could work together to create shifts in the family court system. Imagine what would happen if these men worked to advocate custody rights for fathers or demand the courts recognize parental alienation? It would be so refreshing to see the MGTOW men stand behind these kinds of initiatives instead of sitting around and complaining. If you believe yourself to be powerless, you will act that way and it will perpetuate to the people around.
Even on more basic levels, MGTOW men could advocate personal improvement and self-empowerment. They could embrace the powerful acts of personal accountability and individual strength as well as individual resiliency. They could encourage each other, support each other and empower each other but instead, they’ve deteriorated into sounding like women haters and the last thing that I would ever want to do or become in my life is the male version of feminism. I abhor the idea that I may end up mirroring that type of behavior and that way of being. Feminists seem hell-bent on one objective. To see the total and utter failure of men and MGTOW is starting to look like the same thing with the shoe on the other foot and it’s hard to get behind something like that.
For all the guys out there that identify with MGTOW and support this philosophy, I have a challenge. I wouldn’t ask you to abandon your ideals and your values because I believe it’s important for a man to stand by what is important to him but spend two weeks, just two weeks, focusing on your own personal power. Instead, immerse yourself into the principles and practices of personal empowerment and growth. Focus on what you have control over and how you can better your daily experience. Unplug from the social justice bullies for two weeks. Stop listening to them and ignore them entirely. Instead, push the positive messages that empower people.
What if you changed the station for two weeks and at the end of those two weeks you took an honest inventory of your values and beliefs? Ask yourself how you’re feeling. Do you feel more positive, empowered and optimistic? Earlier in this article, I mentioned that when I was younger I struggled with depression and images of self-worth. Because I believe I am a couple of miles further down the road than most in this regard let me give you a little bit of insight. It’s okay to be angry and bitter for a season but that’s not where you can set up a permanent residence because self-fulfilling prophecies are a real phenomenon. Being bitter and angry can help us feel strong but it ultimately perpetuates a greater sense of powerless. You can choose to look through different lenses. You can choose, right now, to immerse yourself in the philosophies that bring growth, empowerment and positivity for so many people.
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