Did you miss me, gentle readers? (All four of you; hi to Mom and cousin Mike.)
Yes, it’s been a while; we hope you’ve been entertained by the narrative stylings of the Spastic Tactician while Your Editor of Least Conviction spent a pleasant week in a goat field in Oregon where with wide-eyed wonder he observed and documented the social friction between bands of armed Vikings and drunken pirates. And he did return and immediately begin work a piece on this topic, which has been three-quarters finished for weeks and has now become his infinitely massive mental Sisyphean rock. It absolutely will, he swears before God and mankind, be posted complete with photographs and well worth the wait (or your money refunded!), and in the meantime here is a cute picture of a goat:
Besides bouts of fitful keyboard-pecking and hiding in bed in utter anguished despair, I also started thinking about why Internet culture looks more and more like the No Stinky Girl Cooties Allowed BoysMens Club, except not actually cute or funny in the least. And the more I thought about it, the more the needle on the mental gauge floated upwards towards that red line labelled “Thoroughly Pissed-Off”.
Because as soon as I started thinking about it, I realized that it wasn’t just Internet culture; it’s the mainstream culture. Popular “comedians” who think it’s funny to tell a female heckler that she should be raped. Popular radio talk-shot hosts who call a young woman a slut and a prostitute because she thinks her friends should get birth control pills through the insurance they’re already paying for. Wall Street Journal assholescolumnists who doubt the women whose husbands and boyfriends died shielding them from bullets in the recent Aurora shooting were “worthy of the sacrifice”. And I realized that what I had been thinking of as a phenomenon of Internet culture was merely the Internet’s tendency to collect and distill the crazy poisonousness of the mainstream culture.
Those of you out there with lives and less inclination to stare at the abyss might be unaware that there’s a mostly-online subculture called Men’s Rights Activism. Now the proposition that men have rights is, I hope, uncontroversial. But it seems that what concerns this group is not so much the rights of men as does bringing the status of womenfolk back into the 50′s — not the 1950s, the year 50 A.D.. That women are no longer slaves and concubines but are generally permitted to make their own life choices and (especially) sleep with, or not sleep with, sexual partners as they choose, sends them into fits of frothing rage. They might be merely pathetic instead of contemptible if they didn’t make a habit of cheering on and making heroes of men who kill or threaten to kill their estranged domestic partners, or who set themselves on fire when things don’t go their way in family court.
They are mostly young, overwhelmingly white, and tend to be quite socially isolated and interact mostly with each other; they earnestly reassure each other that the world is half feminist concentration camp run by Andrea Dworkin and Mary Daly, and half singles nightclub as imagined by someone who has never actually been to one but who does watch Jersey Shore a lot. They spend a great deal of time emoting about the horrible injustices men face, such as how women are not required in the United States to register for the draft board, and — by far the worst injustice of all — that women just won’t sleep with guys like them and instead prefer the attentions of “alpha males” and “thugs”. You can read all about these fellows at David Futrelle’s blog ManBoobz, and it’s as fascinating as it is horrible. But it increasingly seems to me that focusing on guys like this is misplaced: despite the depth and breadth of their crazitude, online women-hating “Men’s Rights” crusaders are not a cause of anything, only a symptom. They wouldn’t exist outside the context of a mainstream culture that all too often seems to find hatred of women perfectly acceptable.
Now, perhaps I’m failing to notice the long-term trend, here: this is, after all a reaction of the privileged towards losing some of their privilege, and they seem louder and more virulent now because women have achieved more relative power. I’m also, no doubt, paying insufficient attention to economic effects. The destruction of the middle class no doubt left a lot of men with an unhealthy combination of lots of free time and a need to find something — someone to blame. And maybe if and when the economy recovers in a way which restores employment, many men will have better things to do with their time blame women for the ills in their lives. And yet it still seems like there has been a clear trend that the more historically disadvantaged groups catch up to them, the stronger and more hateful the backlash among the Aggrieved Straight White Dudes grows. I see no movement towards accepting the fact that (to borrow John Scalzi’s excellent analogy) in the grand MMORPG of life, their character class has received a slight nerf and is no longer totally overpowered relative to everyone else. Instead, their dudgeon seems to have steadily increased for decades, to the point where it taints Western culture in a distressing and newly unpleasant way. I grow weary of waiting for my fellow straight white guys to grow up and get over themselves.