How are women manipulating men? How does feminism undermine masculinity?
According to Rollo Tomassi, the author of The Rational Male, the women’s rights movement is being used to undermine men’s power and masculinity. To that end, women have designed social practices geared towards upholding their dominance. Tomassi asserts that those social practices now pervade every social institution and convention, including media, religion, law, and education.
Here’s how women manipulate men through the feminine agenda, according to Tomassi.
How Women Manipulate Men Through the Feminine Agenda
Tomassi says the ultimate aim of the feminine agenda is to keep women in a position of power, which is how women manipulate men into prioritizing women’s needs and sexual strategies over their own.
(Shortform note: Is women’s goal really to be in a position of power, as Tomassi says? Possibly not—most efforts in women’s rights movements have focused on increasing women’s safety and gaining access to equal opportunities. Those goals included increasing women’s access to education and securing legal protection against rape and domestic violence.)
Women must constantly assess the qualifications of the men around them to ensure they’ve got the best protector and provider they can possibly attract. To guarantee they are positioned to constantly assess men, women promulgated a narrative—through the women’s rights movement—that women’s needs and wants take precedence over men’s. This is why, Tomassi argues, we take for granted that “women come first” and expect men to set aside or suppress their personal ambitions, needs, and desires.
(Shortform note: There are conflicting views on whether the “women first” ideology benefits or constrains women’s social standing and influence. Some contend that it actually reinforces the notion of male dominance by suggesting that men must accommodate women’s inherent weakness and ineptitude, putting women first to make up for their apparent inferiority. For example, men are taught that it’s chivalrous to open doors for women and spare them from hard physical tasks like moving furniture and mowing the lawn. The implication is that women are fragile and need men to take care of them.)
Women Hold Dominance
Now that this “women first” narrative has taken hold of our culture, Tomassi explains, women are in the dominant position, which enables them to manipulate men and set the “rules” for men’s behavior. Men, consequently, are in the subservient position, relying on women to guide them on how they should think and act—because, they’ve learned, their role is to ensure the comfort, safety, and approval of the women around them. So, instead of following their own impulses and needs, men constantly compete with one another to impress and attract women.
However, the rules set by these dominant women are always shifting. Depending on the circumstances, women expect men to be alternately strong, intimidating protectors; gentle, supportive partners; reliable, stable providers; and exciting, alluring studs. These shifting rules, says Tomassi, keep men off-balance and disconnected from their value as a man.
How can men fulfill all of these contradictory demands? They can’t. Why do they try—and why do they sacrifice their ambitions and natural urges in the process? Tomassi says it’s because they believe the lie women have told them—that this is how they will get the sexual access they desperately desire.
Why Men Are Complicit in Advancing the Feminine Agenda
As the feminine agenda took hold, women designed social practices—now dominant in our culture—that uphold the “women first” narrative. For example, women manipulate men in the judicial system because judges favor mothers in the vast majority of child custody cases. They also rarely require women to pay alimony even when they’re the primary breadwinners.
(Shortform note: As Tomassi notes, the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s did indeed result in significant changes throughout most social institutions to increase women’s safety and opportunities. For example, women gained increased access to education, politics, the workplace, birth control, and legal protection from domestic violence and rape. Despite these changes, gender disparities persist. In the judicial realm, gender stereotypes lead to laws and rulings that sometimes favor women (which Tomassi highlights) and sometimes favor men. For instance, only six countries in the world have laws that give women and men equal access to work rights.)
Thus, men are socialized to view women-serving ideals and behaviors as normal—even desirable. Tomassi says most men have been so thoroughly manipulated by the feminine agenda that they fully accept and perpetuate it. This is why most men agree that “real men” put women first and willingly sacrifice their own needs to accommodate women. For example, they believe they are “doing the right thing” when they financially and emotionally support a woman’s children, even when another man fathered those children.
Conflicting Messages About Masculinity and Their Consequences for Men
As feminist principles gained a foothold, people started to challenge assumptions about male superiority and the value of traditional masculinity norms. Simultaneously, women gained access to a wider range of acceptable behaviors. Contrary to previous eras, women could be assertive, play aggressive sports, work in physically demanding jobs, and earn lots of money —and still be considered feminine. As women’s range of expression widened, it became harder for men to distinguish themselves as uniquely masculine.
What behaviors and qualities can men use to prove they are manly enough? There is no clear answer, and many scholars, health professionals, and social researchers expand on Tomassi’s observation of women manipulating men’s masculinity is negatively affecting men and boys. Let’s look more closely at some of these consequences.
As men grapple with conflicting messages around masculinity (and try to heed these messages to gain sexual access to women), many attempt to embody traditional masculine norms, which include dominance, aggression, stoicism, and independence. But many men who try to adhere to those standards to an extreme degree suffer severe consequences: According to research, men who strongly adhere to rigid views of masculinity are more likely to be depressed, disdainful, or lonely—and are less likely to seek support because they see it as a sign of weakness. Further, when men feel trapped by unattainable expectations for masculinity, they’re more like to engage in violent behavior such as rape, emotional abuse, and physical violence toward women.
Many scholars and psychologists are now exploring how to help men and boys navigate all of this uncertainty and struggle. Some suggest inviting men and boys to think and write about the kind of men they want to be and what they want to be remembered for. This activity invites men to reflect on how their behavior affects others so they can replace harmful norms for masculinity with healthy expectations. Others say it’s important for people in positions of authority—parents, teachers, and health professionals—to highlight seeking help as a sign of courage and independence, which could dismantle the notion that “real men” don’t ask for help.
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Rational Male summary :
- How women use a feminine agenda to manipulate men
- Why sex should never be a transactional arrangement
- Why men don't need long-term relationships