President Donald Trump “represents the return of the patriarchy,” popular fitness entrepreneur Elliott Hulse declared at this weekend’s 21 Convention, a gathering of so-called “red pill” men dedicated to revitalizing masculine influence in society. A muscular New York native and father of four with nearly 800,000 YouTube subscribers, Hulse gave an impassioned presentation entitled “Defending Marriage in a Degenerate Culture.” Marriage and fatherhood were the focus of this, the 16th such conference organized by Anthony Johnson’s 21 Studios, billed as “The World’s Ultimate Event for Fathers.”
While most of these guys are Trump supporters, the “red pill” is not about politics in the usual sense. The phrase, borrowed from the 1999 film The Matrix, refers to seeing through socially accepted illusions to understand the brutal truths of human nature. A major popularizer of this concept as applied to male-female relationships is Rollo Tomassi, author of the 2013 book The Rational Male and its sequels. Tomassi was introduced at the 21 Convention as the “godfather” of the red-pill community. “A lot of men are finding the red pill because they’re looking for answers,” Tomassi said during an on-stage discussion with popular Tulsa radio talk-show host Pat Campbell. Often the experience of divorce or the break-up of a romantic relationship leads men to discovering the online community known as the “manosphere,” where Tomassi’s books about “intersexual dynamics” are widely read. Campbell says he’s heard from men who say their lives were quite literally saved by reading The Rational Male. “They were ready to end it all, zero out,” Campbell told me, describing men — typically in their 40s — who were devastated by divorce. Tomassi has become a regular weekly guest on Campbell’s morning program on Tulsa’s KFAQ-AM.
“The feminization of culture” has developed a woman-centered “gynocratic ideal” in Western societies, Tomassi explained to an audience of about 100 men attending the conference. This creates a concept in which fathers are regarded as superfluous in their children’s lives, an effect compounded by the fact that 77% of teachers are women, so that children are raised under female authority, with little effective male influence in their lives. “The systematic disempowerment of men” in modern culture, Tomassi said, is a major cause of what he called “the ‘Lost Boy’ generation” of young men lacking the ability to live productive, independent lives and form successful relationships with women.
Men gathering together to discuss such problems shouldn’t be controversial, but the feminist reaction to the red-pill community has been to denounce them as woman-hating misogynists, demonizing them as complicit in “toxic masculinity” and even blaming them for mass murderers like Elliot Rodger, who committed suicide after his 2014 shooting spree in Isla Vista, California. Referring to the pickup artist (PUA) and men’s rights activist (MRA) online forums that Rodger had sometimes frequented, feminist Amanda Marcotte condemned these sites as a “breeding ground for misogynist resentment [that] may even be encouraging violence against women.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has created a “male supremacy” category of hate groups and, while the 21 Convention hasn’t been added to the SPLC’s list, the venue of the Orlando event was kept secret to avoid protests or other hassles. I heard no “misogynist resentment” during the discussions in the conference room at a resort hotel here this weekend, but perhaps my sensitivities aren’t tuned to the dog-whistle frequencies of feminist paranoia.
Who are these guys? Well, one couldn’t help noticing that many of the 21 Convention speakers and attendees are in prime physical condition. A major concept of red-pill philosophy is understanding what Tomassi calls the “Feminine Imperative” where women’s natural preference for hypergamy (“marrying up,” preferring men of higher socioeconomic status) takes on toxic forms in a culture where traditional morality is condemned and female promiscuity is celebrated as “empowerment.” With the understanding that women prefer high-status “Alpha males,” men who go to the gym and develop a superior physique are in a better position to negotiate relationships on their own terms. This relates to what is known in the manosphere as “sexual market value” (SMV), which is central to understanding women’s mating strategies in terms of what Tomassi calls hypergamy optimization. In a culture where feminism’s influence has encouraged women to be both shamelessly promiscuous (“liberated”) and shamelessly selfish (“empowered”), men are valued only as sexual commodities and/or as suppliers of financial resources. Beggars can’t be choosers, and a devotion to physical fitness is part of avoiding the pathetic plight of the “Beta male” loser in the ruthless competition of the contemporary sexual marketplace. This made many of the red-pill guys somewhat conspicuous as they swaggered through the hotel lobby with pumped-up pecs and brawny biceps.
However, the toxic influence of the Feminine Imperative is such that even robust and high-status men are vulnerable to exploitation by cunning and immoral women. The 21 Convention’s organizer Anthony Johnson (whose Twitter handle, not coincidentally, is @beachmuscles) has told the story of his own divorce in a YouTube video entitled “Marrying Medusa” that has gotten more than 350,000 views. Other men at the Orlando conference had their own stories to tell. At a Saturday night reception, I found myself talking to a handsome young military officer who related how his three-year marriage unraveled shortly before an overseas deployment. Describing the sexual behavior patterns that are increasingly prevalent among young people, the officer said, “I’d call it barbaric, but that would be unfair to barbarians. It’s degenerate.” Speaking of his own past errors, he chuckled. “I was Captain Save-a-Ho,” using a term defined by Urban Dictionary as a man who attempts to redeem women who are “damaged goods.”
Feminists never acknowledge how common it is for bad women — selfish, dishonest, and cruel — to wreck the lives of well-meaning men who naïvely trust them. While elite universities now expect male students to silently endure feminist lectures about “toxic masculinity,” nothing is said on campus to warn young men about the perils of toxic women. In this sense, the 21 Convention and the “manosphere” in general function as an alternative education system, teaching men how to navigate the treacherous waters of the dating scene.
Why should such education be so controversial that the location of this weekend’s gathering had to be kept secret? Perhaps because, as Tomassi writes in his third book, The Rational Male: Positive Masculinity, “in our female-primary social order, it is only women who are allowed to speak with authority about intersexual dynamics and… any man attempting to apply a measure of critical thought to those dynamics will immediately be accused of male bias and misogyny.” In other words, feminists claim a monopoly on relationship advice, and because red-pill guys challenge that monopoly, they are accused of “hate.” This is somewhat analogous to the feminist reaction to Trump’s presidency. Because Hillary Clinton deserved to be elected — she was entitled to be The First Woman President, according to her feminist admirers — Trump must have “stolen” the election and his presidency is therefore regarded as illegitimate, a “threat to democracy.” Everything Trump does is wrong, according to this feminist belief, and it doesn’t matter to them whether his policies are actually good for women (e.g., Friday’s headline: “Unemployment Rate for Women Falls to Lowest Since 1953”). Feminism is based on a zero-sum-game mentality, where male success is always bad for women; feminism therefore seeks to eliminate opportunities for men to succeed, celebrates male failure, and expects these failed males to eagerly embrace their status as “Beta” losers. The red-pill guys who gathered in Orlando refuse to comply with that agenda.
“This is where the pendulum begins to swing back,” the muscular Elliot Hulse declared from the 21 Conference stage. “Very important work is being done here.”
When Hulse hailed Trump as the symbol of this shift, his pronouncement was met with applause. Red pills, red hats — it’s probably not a coincidence.