By now, you're probably at least peripherally aware of "Nomadic Thinkers", the Brisbane startup / gym exclusively for men that is being mocked ruthlessly by just about every outlet in Australia. It generated a predictable amount of ridicule because, well, the idea of a safe space for men in the tech industry is laughable, on account of how the entire tech industry is a safe space for men.

Given that the nerdosphere is currently jammed right up with blokes, what would possess people to think they needed to make a man-exclusive hub for people to lift weights and work on building their "Uber but for bacon" app? Well, according to their website their motivations are pretty altruistic:

"The primary objective of Nomadic Thinkers is to offer a holistic preventative intervention framework to address men related issues associated with physical and mental health. This will be achieved by providing a community and space for men to develop in three key areas,

1. health and fitness,
2. business and financial independence,
3. a positive worldview with increased emotional intelligence.

These in turn will build resiliency and support factors that contribute to the prevention of suicide, depression, domestic violence and family abandonment."

So far, so good, if a bit vague. In theory it sounds a bit like one of those men's sheds - the collaborative workspaces where men can go to work on projects and potentially build up healthy relationships with the men around them - except Nomadic Thinkers probably has a Nintendo 64 in the break room or something.

They responded to the backlash in a statement today, essentially reiterating their position that they are trying to address men's issues with mental health:

"Unfortunately, it has come across that we trivialise the significance of domestic violence and depression. We would like to express our apologies as this is not the case. Our intention is and has always been to highlight the seriousness and social costs of these issues, and take an immersive and proactive approach towards action."

Again, seems like a pretty good thing, but digging into their white paper about the social impact of the startup is where shit begins to get weird; while they describe men's issues with mental health, suicide and domestic violence as a result of how masculinity discourages intimate communication:

"Importantly a major supporting factor for the environment based nature of the social impact framework is that men are less likely to engage in help-seeking behaviours around emotional problems. Moreover, ‘It is argued that social norms of traditional masculinity make help-seeking harder because of the inhibition of emotional expressiveness influencing symptom perception of depression.’"

They, for some reason, blame this on society demonising masculinity:

"The study concludes that, unless addressed, the effects of negative discourse on the selfidentity and self-esteem of men, and especially boys growing up, are potentially devastating and that the longer-term and wider social implications will also be costly’. Nomadic Thinkers aims to provide education around a positive view of masculinity."

There's a whooole bunch of pseudo-scientific nonsense in there, in addition to some weird cult-esque diagrams:


This sounds eerily familiar to the MRA-y, anti-feministy bullshit about how society doesn't let anyone be a "real man" anymore because people hate men etc etc - and it turns, that's because this is exactly those same people.

While their website was pretty ambiguous, their blog was 100% not. Unsurprisingly, they switched it to private after the backlash (supposedly for "copyright" reasons), but luckily Google cache has been our friend and saved these beautiful posts for all the world to see.

In a lovely post entitled "WHY THERE IS STILL HOPE FOR MEN IN THE WEST", they dig into the dangers of finding a "quality mate":

"That being said the risk of finding a quality mate is high. With increasing divorce rates and laws such as no-fault divorce and Disney's absolute destruction of what Love and real relationships are with an obsession with infatuation."

Putting aside the fact that describing a partner as a "mate" makes you sound like a villainous 'Star Trek' alien, I don't think Ariel is to blame for your relationship issues pal.

They then go into how you can avoid those dangers:

"Another way of looking at this is taking a proactive role in leadership in your relationship setting ground rules at the beginning is vital. But how do you get to that point? If you are well versed with ROK and other manosphere blogs the best way you can do this is by increasing your sexual marketplace value SMV, do this via increasing your traits as a provider and protector and increase your desirability making it easier to find a quality woman."

If you're not intimately familiar with the MRA world, "ROK" is Return Of Kings: the men's rights website run by fedora king Roosh V, who you might remember from his article arguing that rape should be legalised. If you've not come across the terms "sexual marketplace value" and "manosphere" before: yes, these people are that gross.

But wait, there's more! Here's an incredible gem that says that feminism is a wonderful thing, before proceeding to say that everything about it is bad:

"Further more, not only have we lost our roles but it is becoming common place for men to be persecuted for expressing their masculinity. PRETEXT: Feminism is a wonderful thing, equality is great and necessary, men and women are absolutely equal opposites (the need to pretext is evidence of the following). 

"Alas, as is so common in human nature, feminism has gone past it's desired point and is polarizing to the extreme other end. We have become a culture that praises androgyny, glorifies gender role removal and tolerates all beliefs and choices... except from traditional (conservative I guess) views. 

"To deny that men and women are different, that they think and behave differently.. and enjoy different things, is absurd - this has somehow become the social norm however."

It's difficult to believe that someone would dare shit talk androgyny, in this, the year that Bowie died. They then go on to blame the destruction on the family unit on 'Everybody Loves Raymond' (I'm paraphrasing):

"With the media pushing images of passive men, the clumsy dad, the goofy and dim-witted boyfriend, the incompetent boss, men are being seduced into a placated and listless expression of themselves. Is this so bad? Yes, absolutely! This is the reason we have an unprecedented rate of marriage breakdowns.. show me a woman who respects a guy that gets walked all over?"

Ultimately their argument is that for men to be happy and healthy, women need to stay at home and look after the kids while the men go out and fuck bears and wolves to death:

"We believe in a practical approach to masculinity and manhood. We believe that conservative gender roles (though they have been chastised) have endless historical evidence of unarguable success, we also believe that these roles can be brought to the modern culture without removing the good work (true) feminism has done (we are not enemies guys!). Our philosophy of masculinity is this:

"Men are physical and practical creatures. We require camaraderie and social time with other men (without female chaperones). We need to provide for ourselves, then our families and the our communities (in that order as we mature further), this give us purpose. We need to protect, this gives us self-esteem and fulfills our biological needs."

OK, maybe this blog is just old and not really that related to the startup - except it turns out these were written by the two directors (Matt Paul and Samuel Monaghan) expressly to advertise Nomadic Thinkers, and both posts that I'm quoting from were written less than a month ago. Stellar stuff.

I guess the lesson here is that if something on the surface sounds like it is extremely some MRA bullshit, there's a very good chance it might turn out to be some MRA bullshit.

The high rates of depression and suicide among men are very serious issues, and it is crucial that we address them, but this is not the way. Speaking for myself as someone living with bipolar disorder, the key to solving these sorts of things isn't getting together to wrestle in a mancave, it's creating a culture where men don't feel like they have to put up a facade.

Reinforcing this idea that men can only talk to other men in the context of lifting weights doesn't help fight any stigma, it just lessens the chance that men will feel comfortable expressing how they feel or what they're going through with the people they are close to, regardless of gender.

PS "Nomadic Thinkers" is a shit name.

If you're struggling, support is never far away, you can give Beyond Blue a call on their 24/7 hotline at 1300 22 4636.

Photo: Nomadic Thinkers.