I pre-ordered Men on Strike by Helen Smith months ago, and it arrived a couple of weeks back. This week I took a break from the Trivium to read it for review here. Reviewing this book is somewhat difficult, because its greatest weaknesses are also it greatest strengths.
So, first off, I did not care overly much for the book and, had I not already accepted her premise as true, I would have found her argument unconvincing. It was an easy read, being light, breezy, and short, in the way pop-academic books are. If you have spent a decent amount of time in the manosphere, there is not a thing in this book that will be new to you; I learned nothing from the book.
But that is exactly what makes this book important and good.
This book was not aimed at me, a hard-hearted INTJ and a denizen of the manosphere. According to the prologue, it is aimed at men who think something may be wrong, but can’t put their finger on what, but I think this is only a part of the target audience. This book was perfectly made for the average, decent-hearted female who generally likes men, but has some cultural unthinking sympathy towards modern feminism.
With that audience in mind, the book is likely a slam-dunk. The same things with the book that disappointed me are perfect for this audience.
My first critique was the anecdotal nature of the book. While each section usually beings with a few statistics showing the nature of the problem, the book is not one of in-depth analysis and convincing arguments. It is primarily a work of rhetoric made up mostly of anecdotes. Most of the book is of the nature of ‘such-and-such man I met at the gym said this’ and ‘male commenter on a website said that’. Helen herself wrote it is a call to action not a research study.
But the anecdotal nature, while unconvincing to me, is also its greatest strength. If you’ve ever spent time debating with others, you find that most women (and a goodly number of men as well) are rarely convinced by logical arguments backed up with facts and statistics. You are not going to convince the kind of person who likes to read Jezebel or Gawker with logic and facts. On the other hand, they are often moved by personal stories and anecdotal evidence. So, for your average person who is more feeling than thinking, this book would likely be convincing.
The second weakness/strength is that nothing is new here; everything in this book has been said a million times in the manosphere. I learned nothing, but I’m not most people; most people haven’t been to the manosphere, let alone written a manosphere blog. The red pill is foreign to the vast majority of people, and this book provides an easily digestible, mainstream-friendly summary of some basic red pill knowledge.
The third weakness/strength is the nature of the writing. The book was very light and breezy in the vein of most works of pop-academia, but even more so than usual, to the point where I found it too light and too breezy. I found the tone was lighter than even Malcolm Gladwell. The writing actually reminded me of reading Jezebel, except not evil and not as filled with repellent, hollow snark. That being said, there was still a small amount of feminine snark, which I found occasionally off-putting, but it was minor and didn’t negatively effect the book overly much. Also, Men on Strike was also short at about 200 (smallish) pages in a somewhat larger than normal font size; again, a light read.
A fourth weakness/strength I found is that in it’s breeziness, the book occasionally feels somewhat disjointed. Sometimes, within a greater topic, there will be rapid changes between sub-topics; occasionally there were paragraphs that didn’t really seem to follow from the previous paragraphs or one idea was picked up, then quickly abandoned for another. At times it felt to be written almost as a stream-of-consciousness, or at least a stream of consciousness that was edited to be more readable. Given the short-attention span of many in today’s phone-junky culture, this might not necessarily be a bad thing for many.
A major strength of the book is that it was written by a woman. There can be no trite dismissals of Men on Strike by retarded ideologues because it was written by ‘bitter’, ‘resentful’, ‘angry’ men (who are virgins with small dicks). While I still expect accusations of ‘sexism’ and ‘misogyny’ from the particularly ideologically dense, the fact that a woman wrote this will head off many of these accusations and will make the stupidity of the accusers plain to most reasonable people.
One disappointment of the book is, when discussing college, she talks as if it is an good which men are being unjustly driven from rather than the scam it is. Given that Helen’s husband literally wrote the book on this topic, you’d think she would have at least mentioned it.
In conclusion, I think Men on Strike is important and should prove to be very useful in the war for the masculine. She’s not reactionary or pro-patriarchy, but she is a libertarian who supports freedom and masculinity, and that’s sufficient. Her ideas are solid and this book is not one of those concern-trolling books that pretends to be pro-men, but is just arguing for a more comfortable slavery. I regret saying the negative things I’m saying, because what Helen produced here is great for its purpose and is a useful tool for the masculine reaction. The book is not bad, but is not really my style. I don’t regret reading it as it was a minimal investment and easy to read, but can’t recommend it to the kinds of people who would be reading my blog.
I would highly recommend this book as a gateway to the red pill for squishy scalzified-liberal-types who aren’t entirely emasculated or for potentially sympathetic women. Of course, these kinds of people are probably not reading this review and would probably be insulted by it if they did, so that recommendation is kind of pointless, but if you know these kinds of people and want a “nice”, easy-to-swallow purple pill to give them, get them a copy of this book. It will be a very low investment of time/effort on their part and won’t have the same immediately off-putting effect that places filled with “angry” men like Dalrock and Roissy have.
If you’re new to the manosphere and are honestly wondering what all these “angry, bitter men” are ranting about, read this book, it may prove enlightening.
The things about the book I found I disliked are probably its greatest assets, hence, the odd, contradictory nature of this review.
Also, I would like to note that Helen used the phrase “Uncle Tim” a number of times in the book, which made me smile. Is this phrase going to become more mainstream? We can hope.
If you are a somewhat regular reader of this blog and/or occasionally go through my Lightning Rounds, reading Men on Strike will be a pointless waste of time and money for you; I can not recommend it.
On the other hand, it you’re new to the red pill and wondering why all the anger, this book is a good a place to start. If you are red pill and know someone, particularly a potentially sympathetic women, to whom you want to give a kindly introduction to the red pill, but worry that Roissy, Rollo, or Dalrock might be a bit too harsh, this is the perfect book for them. If you find yourself discussing the red pill and people are curious or interested in knowing more, point them towards Men on Strike.