Perhaps more characteristic than the content itself (which can vary quite widely) is the underlying ideology, which champions self-improvement, the exposure of counter-cultural "red pill" truths about sexual dynamics, and a return to traditional gender roles for men and women. Sites like Return of Kings and Chateau Heartiste are typical of The Manosphere.
Recently, a reader asked whether I agreed with a post she'd read, claiming that women should read Manosphere websites (the post was written by a girl). By doing so, the post argued, women can learn a lot about men, and therefore more effectively attract the kind of man they want. What follows are my thoughts about this theory…
Let me start by explaining that I know about The Manosphere because I used to read it. I still do occasionally, as some of the blogs are still on my Blogger feed, and they often publish posts with titles that are hard to ignore, such as "6 Reasons Why Fat Women Are Defective."
In any case, the first thing you need to realize is that, in spite of the constant attempts to prove the contrary, The Manosphere is written by men who are bad with women. At least, it is written by men who have a history of being bad with women. I know this in part because being bad with women was how I discovered The Manosphere. But you don't need this "takes-one-to-know-one" perspective to see that posts titled "The Age of Flakes" or "How to Get Rid of Approach Anxiety" are written by guys (and of course, for guys) who have a lot of room for improvement.
Let me emphasize that I see nothing wrong with this. When a guy wakes up in his early twenties and realizes that he has crippling anxiety about talking to women, it is usually due to causes that were somewhat beyond his control - the way his parents raised him, for example. The fact that these guys are taking steps or even strides towards changing that fact is laudable. I am not mocking or pointing fingers here; I am just pointing out that the basic characteristic common to the authors of Manosphere sites is that they have a history of not getting the kind of reactions from women that they want, which leads to the more important point: Manosphere writers come from a place of discontent with respect to what women think about them. A small subset of them might have learned a handful of techniques that get them to a point where they feel proud of their success with women, and a select few beyond that might have genuinely overcome their underlying sense of inadequacy with respect to women. But the rest still feel this dissatisfaction, even if they don't recognize or admit it.
Now, there are two ways a man can react when he is disappointed with his success with women. The first is to recognize an inadequacy within, and work towards improving. The second is to blame that lack of success on women or circumstance, and give up. In The Manosphere, you'll find both. When I first discovered some Manosphere websites, I was looking for other men who had the first reaction; and I found enough of it to keep me interested for a while. But it was the realization that the majority of the writers were indulging in the second reaction that ultimately caused me to stop reading. In the same way that I eventually stopped appreciating Taylor Swift because I heard enough of her songs to realize that she has a major victim syndrome, I was turned off by The Manosphere's writers once I read enough to recognize what lies behind most of their complaints: dissatisfaction with themselves and the need for a scapegoat.
Let's look at an example to illustrate this: if a guy is approaching girls and they are rejecting him by turning immediately to look at their phones, there are two ways of explaining what is happening. The first is for the guy to admit that he is approaching these girls awkwardly, or that he is dressed poorly, or that something else is wrong. Then he can either work to improve or lower his expectations accordingly. The second way is to blame it on women or smartphones – or both. A nice way to confirm this opinion is to read (or write) an article claiming that "Women Who Own iPhones Lose The Ability To Love" and read all of the affirming responses in the article's comments section. Of course, the guy has to overlook the fact that the positive comments come from other men who've been similarly snubbed by girls, and are similarly looking for confirmation that it wasn't their fault. You, meanwhile, read such an article and are left wondering if maybe your phone is preventing you from attracting men. The reality, of course, is that your instinct to look at your phone all the time says much more about his timidity in approaching you than anything about your receptiveness.
I am not saying that all men in The Manosphere hate women. I am not even saying that any one of its writers hates women. But I am saying that The Manosphere is built on the tiny feelings of satisfaction that its thousands of readers – many of whom are normal guys who have a fairly healthy relationships with women – feel every time they can laugh or take a jab at what has caused them pain at some point in their past: women. I know because I've felt the temptation to do so myself, and I've seen the same tendency manifest itself as a wide spectrum of self-supporting-yet-delusional beliefs (held by men and women alike, and not necessarily related to dating). Men like reading The Manosphere for the same reason that women like songs that tell them weight isn't so important when it comes to attracting men: because it's easier than admitting that they're going to have to work harder.
I can absolutely see how a girl would be drawn in to The Manosphere. In a world of sappy, sugar-coated, "everything-is-going-to-be-all-right" dating advice, the stuff you read on The Manosphere stings just enough to be believable. You might even applaud yourself for pushing through your initial distaste for what you read in order to learn from the "harsh truth" beyond. But just because the truth is often harsh doesn't mean that harsh claims are necessarily true. Just because everyone else lies to you to make you feel good about yourself doesn't mean that the person who makes you feel bad about yourself isn't full of shit too. And as I explained above, there are good reasons to believe that a lot of The Manosphere is full of shit. What seems like a collection of articles written by men with absolutely no motivation to lie to you is actually a collection of articles written by men who feel shunned and mistreated by women in general (or at least have a history of feeling that way), and therefore have an underlying desire to believe that the playing field of sexual dynamics is tilted back in their favor. There is a reason why reading The Manosphere makes you feel like it kind of sucks to be a girl. What better way is there for a guy in his 30s to compensate for the feelings of sexual impotence he felt in college (when he was surrounded by beautiful girls he couldn't get) than by inflating the importance of youth when it comes to female attractiveness? The assertions of The Manosphere are simply too convenient to be completely believable.
Yes, it is partially true that society has lost sight of what these guys call "red pill" truths; I am not denying that. But the very fact that they use metaphors from The Matrix should hint at the fact that many of them have issues with attracting women; and the almost singular focus on pointing out female shortcomings should suggest that maybe, just maybe, they hold their world-view because it conveniently puts them back into the place of power they feel so incapable of occupying. Ever notice how the most ardent modern-day Feminists are fat and ugly? The most vocal authors in The Manosphere are the masculine manifestation of exactly the same phenomenon: the phenomenon whereby people subconsciously choose beliefs that reassert their importance and agency in the world. The modern Feminist says "I am not good-looking enough to compete with Victoria's Secret models, so the standards of beauty they idealize must be inaccurate and unfair." The Manosphere writer says: "I am not getting the attention from women that I want; it must be because the girls in my country are selfish and entitled."
I don't want to paint the whole Manosphere in a bad light. From what I've read of his stuff, the guy who writes Chateau Heartiste seems pretty damn smart, and I admire Roosh's drive and bold individualism. There are definitely a lot of intelligent guys writing some very insightful stuff in The Manosphere, and there is a lot that both women and men can learn from reading it. The problem is just that there is a lot of bad mixed in with the good. And although it might be easy to identify the posts that are flagrantly wrong, even the sharpest readers will have trouble distinguishing the truth in the grayer areas.
So I am not going to tell you not to read The Manosphere. I've never liked the idea of censorship, and who the hell am I to tell you what to read anyway? But if you do choose to read The Manosphere, you need to recognize that you are walking through a minefield of ideas, where a lot of what you'll read is colored by the authors' need to feel sexually powerful. Yes, occasionally the complaints you read about women on those blogs will be honest and accurate expositions of things that women are doing wrong; but more often than not they will be frustration-fueled attempts to blame someone or something else for the fact that the author can't get the kind or quantity of girls he wants. That being said, being aware of the mindset behind what you read in The Manosphere should go a long way towards being able to distinguish the truth from the wishful thinking. So my advice is simple: keep this fact in mind, and read carefully.
One last note, especially for the men reading this: most of the good information contained in The Manosphere, and a lot more besides, minus all of the posturing and complaining, can be found on a website called Animus Empire. Women, of course, can find the good without the bad on blogs like this one.