What you need to know:
- There's a local online community that is based on "reclaiming masculinity."
- What reclaiming masculinity means includes treating women as terribly as possible and defining maleness based on the most ridiculous of standards
I rewatched one of my favourite movies this week-The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. I watch it when I need to be inspired on the days when I'm down on my confidence. It's a biopic covering the enigmatic hacktivist and computer scientist who was involved in the creation of RSS Feeds, Creative Commons, and Reddit among other brilliant things. He was one of the smartest men who ever lived. He committed suicide at 26 after he was arrested and he was facing 35 years in jail after he was caught trying to illegally download Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) academic journals.
He didn't believe that academic articles should be behind a paywall, which makes sense. I was obsessed with Aaron at some point and I went online to read every single thing about him. He was almost a god to me. He could do no wrong. He was my icon and he probably touched the bit of me that was embarrassed that I wasn't as brave as I thought I should be or that I could be. I wished that I could meet him one day but never got to. More and more though I'm glad that I didn't meet him because the internet era has changed our perspectives on very many celebrities.
We're all looking for people to admire and people who we can be like and sometimes those can be hard to come by. So for many idols, it's in many ways an extension of themselves or who they think they are.
When I was part of a local tech mentorship programme back in 2018, called Kamilimu, I interacted with a lot of young men who were looking for someone to look up to and I realised that there is a gap. The gap is there for all of us to see online. Young men are increasingly looking for people to look up to and it's led to people following the most dubious of characters online for direction on how to be a man-incels. Who are incels you ask? They are members of an online community of young men who consider themselves unable to attract women sexually, typically associated with views that are hostile towards women.
There's a local online community that is based on "reclaiming masculinity." What reclaiming masculinity means includes treating women as terribly as possible and defining maleness based on the most ridiculous of standards including bathing in cold water, not using emojis in your texts, and not waking up later than your wife. The online cult also includes the 1900 standard for what ideal women should be, including not wearing make-up, not earning more, not living in urban areas, and everything else you can think of if you took a ride in a time travel machine.
These are the men who feel that female empowerment is attacking them personally and it is driving them to get control in their lives. The easiest way to do this is by trying to tell men that society is trying to dictate who men should be and that they are their saviours.
Young men in need of men to look up are searching for role models in the wrong place that is the online battalion of online strangers. The online squad has stepped in to offer solutions for men who lacked guardianship in an unfamiliar space.
We need to provide role models for the younger men because they're looking for it from online bootleg versions of virulent racist white men who are gaining popularity from being proud of being terrible human beings. The younger men are stuck because they want people that they can connect with and these are not to be found in their immediate spaces. When we think of mentors for younger men, people usually refer them to pastors and other uptight older people they can't open up to and don't aspire to be like.
It's a beautiful thing to have people to look up to but it's more important to critically analyse who they are and what impact they will have in society. We are shaped by the people that we admire. Based on the messages I get every other week particularly from single parents asking me if I could mentor their boys, there's a massive problem. Younger men are growing up trying to figure the world alone and older men in their lives should step up.