Today's influencers weren't the first to warn about the masculinity crisis
Tucker Carlson’s two-and-a-half-hour interview with Andrew Tate on Tuesday evening was wide-ranging, but the core theme was hard to miss: masculinity in crisis. Opening with a theatrical monologue, Carlson implored audiences to imagine themselves as sixth grade boys: “What are you hearing right now? […] Female qualities are virtuous. Masculine qualities are oppressive. That’s the message. […] The male body itself is shameful. […] It amounts to mass conversion therapy.” It’s pretty scorching as hot-button media issues go, but what is interesting is that many of these discussions hark back to similar conversations black Americans were having decades previously.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a 1991 PBS interview with an African American writer named Shahrazad Ali. In the video, Ali fiercely defended the importance of family, squarely placing the blame for the breakdown on black women (and by extension, feminism’s influence on them). In her view, black Americans were living under a dysfunctional matriarchy. Evoking the image of the entitled black “welfare queen”, it was her opinion that African American women were promiscuous, often single mothers who had no respect for black men and routinely emasculated them.
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Her prognosis of the situation echoed that of the then-often cited Moynihan Report, a controversial 1965 study contending that the prevalence of single-parent households, particularly those headed by black women, was a significant factor in both the cycle of poverty and social problems within the black community. Moynihan also suggested that the absence of father figures and the consequent lack of male role models had negative consequences for the wellbeing of black children.
Ali’s solution was that black women would have to clean up their act. Her advice on how that would be done — which included “wisdom” such as submitting to your husband and accepting that they would cheat because that’s how men are — horrified the interviewer. To me, she sounded exactly like today’s white anti-feminist influencer H. Pearl Davis (sometimes dubbed the female Andrew Tate), who has, in fact, used a similar line.
Ali fit into a larger tapestry of black writers and thinkers who form the roots of what today is known as the “black manosphere”. These writers and thinkers largely agreed with the Moynihan Report: black masculinity needed to be revitalised. According to online personality Man of Tomorrow, methods for rebuilding the foundation of black masculinity differed: some were more nihilistic, encouraging men to treat women like the “hoes” they were or to at least “correct” them. Others, meanwhile, sounded like “socially conscious” dating gurus in preaching a more traditional pro-family message.
But most of them shared one core belief that distinguished them from more mainstream black figures like Thomas Sowell or Barack Obama, who have also rhapsodised about the importance of family stability: namely that the root of the problem, first and foremost, was women. It would be wrong to say that there was no contemporaneous white equivalent, and in fact, as writer Nicole Young notes in her Elle article “My Brush With the Black Manosphere,” many black men in this community share talking points that originated in white communities.
However, today’s most popular (and most mainstream) figures seem more influenced by the black manosphere in content, style, and form. One key example is Tate himself, the face of pro-masculinity content. He is neither fully white nor fully American, so his influences will, naturally, be different. Another is that anytime content is successful — like that of Kevin Samuels — imitators are bound to follow.
But there’s another factor here, too: the issues addressed by the black manosphere — such as widespread emasculation, single motherhood, the absence of positive male role models, and the perception of women as promiscuous and untrustworthy — now have broader resonance beyond the black community. These problems, which were initially perceived as specific to black men, are now seen by some as challenges faced by all men. And what better evidence than Tucker Carlson’s interview with Andrew Tate, which, at the time of writing, had 13 million views.