After a solid week or so of filtering relentless male rage and mounting misogyny, I feel inspired to write a piece calling out one of the biggest problems we face in the developed world today. Conservative White Men.
That’s it. You can all go home now. Thank you for reading. Feel free to buy me a coffee… or a glass of wine to calm my frayed feminist nerves. Or a puppy. A puppy would do.
I mean, really, I could make this a short-form piece and end it right there; the biggest problem we face in the world today is men. Fragile, entitled, predominantly white, men. But that would belie the fact that men of all descriptions have always been a problem.
Indulge me in a random experiment. Look away from the screen and right now, just off the top of your head, run off a list of despots and dictators…GO!
Here’s mine, in no particular order: Stalin, Gadaffi, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Mao Zedong, Adolf Hitler, Manuel Noriega… Julius Friggen Caesar… Ghengis Friggen Khan. God. And I truly am just letting them pop into my head.
What about serial killers? Geoffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, Ivan Milat. The Boston Strangler, The Yorkshire Ripper, The Angel of Death. God.
Now the mass murderers? No, I can’t be bothered either. We all know it’s going to be men. Did anyone else come up with God by the way? There’s another topic worthy of its own focused piece. Piss that dude off and at worst he’ll drown everybody’s ass. At best he’ll just settle for your firstborn. The fact that God is created in the image of man is not lost on me at all, which is why I thoroughly reject religion and the tokenism of female ordination too. But hey, while we’re on the subject of religions, wanna run off a list of cult leaders just for the hell of it?… GO!
David Koresh, David Miscavige, David Berg, Charles Manson, Joseph Smith, Warren Jeffs, L. Ron Hubbard, the orange Bhagwan dude…. lots of Davids by the way. Lots of Americans. But don’t get me started on that one.
Power and control
I think it’s pretty clear that males have a bit of an obsession with power and control. But, putting truly violent power-hungry men aside, let’s also consider the men in power who didn’t hunger for it, because they didn’t need to, it was handed to them on a silver platter the moment they were born and their little penises launched their first stream of piss into the face of a woman.
In my accidental poem — a piece of prose calling for female leadership — I mentioned that throughout history men have written the laws that moulded the society we live in today. And, despite all our wonderful achievements as a species, the world we see around us today is badly broken.
“For without my body new life cannot survive. My body. My choice.
Does that make you uncomfortable you harbingers of destruction?
You writers of laws, of constitutions… of rights?
The rights of men.”
~ Excerpt from I Am She (Step Aside Men)~ by me
So here we are, the Grand Culmination, Humanity 2021; a world struggling under the fallout from environmental degradation, bubbling global social unrest, and widening gaps in wealth. Even men are suffering as a result of the structures they created. But will they admit it? Will they accept help? Will they, heaven forbid, take directions?
For the last couple of hundred years humans of all descriptions have bravely stepped up to say “hey, we have something of value to offer society; a different perspective on what it means to be human,” but the response from the dominant culture of the straight white male has been “WHOA! We’re men. We can handle it! We know what is best, for everyone! And don’t you dare suggest otherwise because if you do, why, we’ll… we’ll….we’ll literally fall apart in our outrage…or kill you. Yes, there’s always that.”
Which brings me to the point of this piece.
The rise of white male fragility
Fragile Masculinity. It’s a great term. Academically, fragile masculinity is the deep anxiety men feel when they are seen as anything less than what society, the one they have created, considers masculine. You can read about it here. Or for something a little easier to digest, The Good Men Project published this piece here.
But in all the academic posturing there seems to be a contextual, perhaps urban use of the term which is being overlooked and it relates more to the way men respond when their authority, their position as the dominant group in society, is questioned. They cry. Not the tender tears we hope men will one day feel comfortable shedding, but toxic tears of white-hot rage. Did I just say white again?
By naming up the anglo-Saxon shade of the problem, I want to make it clear to the BIPOC men; you’re not off the hook, men of all colours are a problem when it comes to toxic expressions of masculinity. But as research (and anecdotal evidence as experienced by myself and pretty much every woman I know) tells us, right now conservative white men (CWM’s) are at the heart of our problems.
A planet gone soft…
Rampaging climate denial is one of my particular interests and an excellent example of topics that reduce men to tears. While I was studying climate change at university a few years ago I came across a fascinating study published by Sweden’s Chalmers University, the world’s first global research network established specifically to understand what drives climate denial. According to the study, western men — conservative, white, western men, and notably, American ones — are at the forefront of climate denialism. They feel besieged by changes to the society they created, and lorded over, and have benefited from for so long. Their world is coming undone, and it’s not the threat to the planet that has them running around arms waving in Kevin McCallister panic, it’s the threat to their social position in that world. In short, the level of social and economic upheaval required to address climate change scares the shit out of them. They are losing control.
“…it was not the environment that was threatened, it was a certain kind of modern industrial society built and dominated by their form of masculinity.” ~Jonas Anshelm and Martin Hultman*
Over the last 180 years; perhaps longer; but at least since the inception of feminism, social movements have improved equality, held men accountable, and drastically changed the status quo. The world, as seen through the eyes of white men, is being controlled by women with nefarious intent. And it is not just because women are leading the charge in all sorts of social movements — which they definitely are, particularly climate activism — it is because manly white men see the world as becoming more female: compassionate, collaborative, passive, tender. The academic term for this is “feminised”. The male term for this is “weak”.
Women are not only taking half the jobs (how dare!) they are also smashing through the glass ceiling. As business leaders women are doing a better job than men. Women can be found now in all levels of government. Gays (feminised men according to the straight ones) are getting married. Indigenous peoples — cultures that traditionally valued gender diversity but had previously been conquered and set on the right path by the white man— have launched land rights cases, and won. Petite women have sat in the most powerful seats of justice and now “belong in all places where decisions are made.” Women have begun to resist marriage, take control of their bodies, reject motherhood, play football, join the armed forces, raise kids alone, and basically, go their own way.
Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW), pronounced mig-tau, is the organised male response to this perceived new feminist utopia. So, while women get on with being women, by contrast, MGTOW adherents have popped the “red pill” in their petulant mouths, followed it with their thumbs, and resolutely sworn an oath to abstain from any and all relationships, including sexual, with women; the ungrateful enemy. They’ve got better things to do, they claim. They will no longer “bow, serve and kneel” to feminism, they declare. They’re men; manly men focused on manly things. And with their declaration of “self-ownership, where the modern man preserves and protects his own sovereignty above all else” they’ve patted each other on the back, bellowed a collective hooyah! and toddled off to the comforting blankie of the manosphere where the best thing they can find to do is… obsess over women and opine that “men are no longer revered or respected.”
Seriously. Revered? They want to be revered?
And there’s the irony. Women are constantly told that we are too emotional, it’s one of many reasons put forward by men to explain why we are not, nor ever should be, in charge. You laughed, right? Don’t. Georgetown University found that one in eight Americans actually agree. It’s laughable. I mean, look at the current man in charge who has thrown the most ginormous hissy fit in modern history because he lost an election. Not to mention the Twitter tantrums every time anyone directed even the tiniest of insults his way.
Fragile masculinity is more than what the Good Men Project describe as pressure on men, by other men, to be more manly. In its urban colloquial use, it is also highlighting the childlike outbursts of rage men display over not getting their own way.
One of the dictates of masculinity is that men, heterosexual manly men, are in charge of women. But not just their women; the wives and daughters, girlfriends and sisters, they’ve personally laid claim to. They feel entitled to be in charge of all women. Because in that mixed up place where society and religion meld into one big toxic glob of inequality they believe in their conservative white male hearts that it is their god-given right, a right they will often try and paternalise with “responsibility”, to have dominion over us; for our own good you see.
So here we have a clash. Fragile masculinity puts pressure on men to be manly and dominate women. But when women walk away, independently of them — reject them, climb out from under them and, e-gad, thrive in a world of their own making with nary a thought or scrap of “revering” directed toward men — fragile masculinity turns into all-out fragility of a specifically male kind.
Thumb sucking, blanky hugging, foot-stomping petulance. And nowhere does it show itself more glaringly than on the internet. Hindered by the tyranny of distance created by the computer screens that prevent them from physically assaulting us, they resort to childish taunts and intended insults. And when I say childish, I’m really not kidding. Ever been told by a complete stranger you’re just a lonely cat lady? Who can’t get a man? And you look like you’re 70? You can just imagine them stamping their foot and poking their tongue out as they furiously punch the keyboard before congratulating themselves on their bravado. “Yeah, that’ll show her,” he tells himself, following it with a congratulatory grunt.
And when you don’t respond as they want you, which often means not responding at all, their tantrums get wilder and wilder. I mean you know men, they’re so emotional, right? So they tend to get really shrill and hysterical as their tantrums escalate. “Look at me, look at me,” they cry. “Centre your world around me. Your conversations around me… What? You’re talking about women? Women’s experiences? Women’s rights? But.. but what about men? What about me?”
Seriously, the internet, as Sir Tim Berners Lee recently stated, is not working for women. There is no place online (let alone off it) where women can publicly discuss being a woman. Where she can express an opinion. Share a photo. Play a game. Or even begin to open her mouth without men interjecting with derailing comments, sexualised insults, and reference to cats. Why? Because women exist; independently of men; without seeking or needing their approval. And this is deeply upsetting to the fragile male.
It’s pathetic that women cannot speak without men being so offended that they try to hound and harass them into silence.
It’s pathetic that the most dangerous thing a woman can do in an abusive heterosexual relationship, is leave.
It’s pathetic that a teenage girl is abused and threatened by adult men just for caring about the planet she lives on.
It’s pathetic that when women discuss women our conversations will be literally swarmed by outraged abusive men; our inboxes filled with rape threats and suggestions we kill ourselves from men so confident in their manliness that they go by the name of Dave2653594325.
It’s pathetic that other men, the “good men”, look the other way. Or worse, feign support, throw in a mansplain for good measure, and then lose their shit when we don’t offer them a cookie for being good boys and helping us understand our own experiences.
I am so tired of male rage. I’m so tired of the mental energy that I have to spend filtering it out. I’m tired of being told the best solution is to just get off the internet. That I stop being so political. That the best and safest way for a woman to exist in this world, online and off, it to shrink herself. To be quiet. To smile. To not take up too much space, space that is there for men to spread their metaphorical legs into.
And I’m disappointed. Disappointed that men, a group so permeated with privilege, squander that privilege on rage. And against what I ask?
I strongly suspect it has something to do with sandwiches.
© Sarah J. Baker 2021. All Rights Reserved.
*The 2013 Swedish study worth reading if you can get your hands on it:
A green fatwā? Climate change as a threat to the masculinity of industrial modernity