Why I Unliked The Art of Manliness


Of course you've heard of The Art of Manliness. At this point every American male has. Yes. Every single one. A few years ago I got a lot of "do you know about AoM?" Now no one asks, because of course I know. They are the acknowledge masters of the man-website game. Website founder Brett McKay gives TED talks and writes books. They dominate. They rule. They have the power.

The majority of AoM stories are great. "How To Deal With A Job You Don't Like", or "What You Can Learn From Your Grandparents". Good stuff, and the stuff they made their name on. It's still what they do.

But the language that's used over there has shifted. It's all power language. Dominate. Rule. Power. All stuff that has been at Art of Manliness from the beginning, but is emerging more and more, especially as they get philosophical. AoM has always been a combo Victorian/Stoic Pagan thing, and certainly not Christian. Not that they'd pretend to be.

Now they're going big with it, and it's too much for me.



Here's a sampling of what's been showing up in my Facebook feed.:
If you want to succeed and dominate, to separate yourself from the pack and become the last man standing in any area of life, it’s no longer enough to bounce back from adversity and volatility – to simply be resilient. You have to bounce back stronger and better. 
The study of war is the study of life, because war is life in the rawest sense. It is death, fear, power, love, adrenaline, sacrifice, glory, and the will to survive. As Virgil put it, “the sword decides all.” 
As people perceive your charismatic Power and invite you into their circles of influence, you’ll gain in real world power, which will make you feel and demonstrate more charismatic Power – setting off a virtuous cycle that leads to greater and greater success. Offering an impression of power mainly comes down to enhancing the things humans are wired to home in on when trying to determine someone’s level of it: body language and appearance. Here’s how to do that, along with a few other proven Power-boosters. 
Fighting FOMO: Four Questions That Will Crush the Fear of Missing Out 
Manliness at AoM is about conquest: succeed, dominate, separate, stronger, better, war, raw, will to survive, charisma, power, influence, fighting, crush, fear, greater and greater things.

I'm just not in a mood to be exposed to up-by-the-bootstraps masculinity. It poisons real masculinity. If you're reading an article on chivalry, will it be poisoned by sexual self-interest? If you're reading an article on the appreciation of poetry, will it be skewed by self-promotion?

I'm interested in strength, not power. I'm interested in humility, not charisma. Power and charisma are great things, but what's informing what? Truth, beauty, and goodness lead to strength and humility. Strength and humility lead to power and charisma. That's the direction I want to move in. So I've unliked The Art of Manliness.

Comments

  1. Good thoughts. I appreciate it, thanks

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  2. I am a daily AoM reader (it's the first place I drift to when slacking off from something I ought to be doing instead), but I understand and have experienced the issues you bring up here. AoM is very much a Lifehacker-esque site, so eventually the going big/bootstrap/domination mentality was bound to come out, or at least become more gratingly apparent. There's nothing wrong with being skilled in a multitude of manly things, but if you don't have the character to handle being more talented than others, it's liable to create problems. I'll continue to regularly read AoM, but I appreciate the perspective you provided here. It aptly put to words a lot of what I had thought when reading the AoM before.

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  3. As a man, when I have to read an account from ANOTHER man to BE a man, then I am no longer my OWN man. I have become the paper tiger of another man's masculinity. God wants us to be the unique MEN that he has created us to be - not carbon-copy clones of a power word dictionary.

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    1. Quite right. There's a lot of wanting-what-others-have going on.

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    2. Couldn't one apply this to Christianity and say as a Christian, if I have to sit in a church and listen to another Christian ramble on about how to be a better Christian, you are no longer uniquely connected with God, but instead a paper tiger of another man's idea of Christianity?

      I say learning from others is just a part of the process. Take it with a grain of salt; Don't follow it to the letter.

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  4. I really liked your conclusion of what true manhood is. I was wondering if you were going to talk about it. Great articled dude.

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  5. I'm fairly certain the McKays are technically catholic (lapsed maybe?). That being said, I sieve through their website the same way I do all other websites (including all the officially "Christian" ones) -- I take the good and leave the bad. Being human, it is impossible to hit a home-run on all fronts. I thoroughly appreciate the work they have done in the past and for that reason and the current pathetic cultural manifestation of "manhood". I am willing to wade through some philosophical differences now — if I see a long term change, I might "unlike" them, but for the time being, I am willing to offer them grace. I make mistakes too, I'd rather my readers not treat me like a game of hot potato. There is a difference between pointing out a problem and giving up problem as a lost cause. One is wise.

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    1. Sure. I'm not trying to save AoM, though. They've turned unsavory for me, if others still dig it, cool.

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  6. I think Robert Sproul's comment about AoM becoming more like "Lifehacker for Men" is very accurate. AoM has become a large blog, generating a large income and must churn out too much content to have all of it be completely germane to the topic of masculinity, especially when that blog has become large enough that it must push multiple updates daily. When I left Lifehacker, we were publishing 25 posts per weekday. At that level you have more curated content than original, which is why AoM has been pushing out into topics like "how to escape from handcuffs" and "Outfitted and Equipped" posts which are thinly-veiled adverts for their sponsors. I think the term "signal to noise ratio" might apply.

    That said, I still read AoM (and Lifehacker!), maybe not every post, but they both feature enough worthwhile content that I can pick and choose that which is applicable and ignore the flotsam. Smaller and more nimble blogs, such as JtG, are more relevant to my overall worldview and interest set, and thus I rarely miss a post here. The trick is to pick up enough momentum to establish a living but not enough to sell out. I think MrMoneyMustache.com is a good example of this; check out that site if you haven't already.

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    1. OK, I'll definitely check that out! :-)

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  7. To me, I find that AoM entirely misses what it is to be a man. They tell you how to look, dress, and have the physique of a man. How one looks isn't what make a man though. A man is his virtues, morals, values, how they act when no one is there to judge what they do.

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  8. I have to disagree with you on this one. I think of AoM as a great and well-needed source of information for all young men today. So many good skills, attitudes, and interests that I thought were lost in our society, they're trying to bring back into play. However, I do see where you're coming from. I guess we all see things differently, and I never thought too much about the power and charisma points you brought up; but for me, I see more good things than bad with AoM. As for the Christianity part, the Bible is on their "100 Books Every Man Should Read" list, and many of their articles guide you on how to merge your faith into your daily life and things of that nature. But, compelling blog nonetheless.

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