Thar she blows...
October 9, 2014 2:20 AM   Subscribe

A manifesto for the new man: how the Great White Male can stay relevant The days of the Great White Male are numbered. So how should men live now? Stephen Fry, Mary Beard, Andrew Marr, Margaret Atwood and others offer their survival tips.
posted by infini (194 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Great White Males may never die but if they are not to go the way of the panda – living as confused, captive totems of power in hermetically sealed palaces while the rest of us gawp, giggle and adopt their likenesses as ironic headgear – they might consider adjusting to a future in which women and people of colour are equal players."

I assume this message will be directed in an equally entertaining manner to the Great White Males of Saudi Arabia, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, ISIS, etc.
posted by Decani at 2:34 AM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Of course he is only there to present an illusion of balance in this litany of trendy right-on-ness but Tony Parsons has it about right: men are the new "easy target".
posted by epo at 2:52 AM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


You would think there's nothing new under the sun to say about Great White Males. And then you would be surprised:
Stand on the head to fertilise the blood corpuscles to prevent baldness.
posted by Bugbread at 3:06 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Relevance is a canard. In the end we are all dust. The future is a wasteland. To prepare for the inevitability of a world post-white-male-supremacy is to willfully ignore the inevitability of a world post-life.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:20 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


men are the new "easy target".
posted by epo at 10:52 AM on October 9


I have been a very noisy critic of sexism, particularly of the male variety, and of regrettable male attitudes towards women. But as soon as people start playing the game of denouncing entire groups based on features they have no control over ("white", "male", "old" etc.) they have become part of the same problem, as far as I'm concerned. They're no better than the traditional sexists, racists and ageists.
posted by Decani at 3:23 AM on October 9, 2014 [42 favorites]


Oh dear, just because white men are being taken off the pedestal they've occupied for the entire history of Western civilisation doesn't mean they're the new 'easy target'. They're an easier target, sure. But they sure as fuck haven't taken, say, black men or black women's place.
posted by Quilford at 3:28 AM on October 9, 2014 [74 favorites]


They're no better than the traditional sexists, racists and ageists.

Yeah. Except for the complete lack of structural, historically-entrenched support for their position.
posted by iotic at 3:38 AM on October 9, 2014 [79 favorites]


Quilford: "They're an easier target, sure. But they sure as fuck haven't taken, say, black men or black women's place."

Apples and oranges, right? Or you're hanging out with the worst assholes in the world. Black men and black women have things so far worse that it's not even worth counting the ways. But we're talking about "easy target" as in "totally socially acceptable to insult in public", not about crushing systemic injustice, right? In that one tiny limited case, you'd still say it's more socially acceptable to make jokes about black men and women than white men?
posted by Bugbread at 3:38 AM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


In that one tiny limited case, you'd still say it's more socially acceptable to make jokes about black men and women than white men?

Depends who your friends are.
posted by Quilford at 3:42 AM on October 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


Yeah. Except for the complete lack of structural, historically-entrenched support for their position.

Wait, so it's better to be agist / racist / sexist if everyone disagrees with you?
posted by YAMWAK at 3:43 AM on October 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


Ah good. I was triggered by muddgirl's comment on Louis C. K. in the Nickelodeon douche thread to say something about the struggle to be a man, but this thread is even better suited.

Because I don't believe I'm the only white man who has no real problems adjusting to a new and exciting world in which he actually has to take into account those who aren't, who doesn't want handwringing about the role of the white man in today's society and who thinks all this overwhrought philosophising about it is so much cack?
posted by MartinWisse at 3:56 AM on October 9, 2014 [52 favorites]


There is also something really dumb about Tony Parsons listing a bunch of dudes whose race was generally incidental to their work as a defence of white men in general, but I can't quite put it into words.
posted by Quilford at 3:56 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mean, most of this is just whinging by people being asked to think about others for once in their lives.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:57 AM on October 9, 2014 [23 favorites]


Wait.
I was supposed to be in charge all this time? And no one told me?!?!?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:07 AM on October 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


There is also something really dumb about Tony Parsons listing a bunch of dudes whose race was generally incidental to their work as a defence of white men in general, but I can't quite put it into words.

It bothers me because it seems to be saying: you don't have to worry, the western world is in good hands (they just happen to be white).

The real problem for me is that it completely ignores all the lost potential. If just the portion of the western world that consisted of white males could have done all that, just think about what could have been done if everyone had those same opportunities.

Don't celebrate Shakespeare, Dickens, Newton etc. Mourn for all their intellectual equals who were never given the opportunity to prove it.
posted by YAMWAK at 4:08 AM on October 9, 2014 [19 favorites]


Yeah, no. White man here. Asian wife. Mixed-race children. Best friend is black (no, really). Defining people by arbitrary traits they don't choose is crappy. Even if those people aren't historically oppressed.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:08 AM on October 9, 2014 [17 favorites]


Another deck of stereotypes thrown across the table for funsies that will do nothing to change anyone on either side's actions towards our patriarchal society. And in the process get a lot of us around here to fight about it.
posted by digitalprimate at 4:09 AM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


So "irrelevant" in this context means "possibly no longer told 100% of the time that they are actually more relevant than everyone else"?

Yeah, can't really roused to care about that particular issue.
posted by kyrademon at 4:20 AM on October 9, 2014 [19 favorites]


But as soon as people start playing the game of denouncing entire groups based on features they have no control over ("white", "male", "old" etc.) they have become part of the same problem, as far as I'm concerned. They're no better than the traditional sexists, racists and ageists.

--

Defining people by arbitrary traits they don't choose is crappy. Even if those people aren't historically oppressed.

--

I don't see people here denouncing entire groups; that's a red herring. The "Great White Male" is, I don't think, a proxy for all white males, but for white males who have a vested interest in our current power structure. If you don't, good for you. Besides which, "same problem"? Being made to feel mildly guilty for something you have no control over is not the problem. The problem is a society that effectively disempowers whole groups of people. Rape culture, housing and employment discrimination, the War on Drugs, etc.

As Margaret Atwood put it:

"This world is home to countries where a girl will literally get acid splashed in her face or get . . . stoned or get . . . killed just for showing some skin or having an opinion. I know of no present country or culture where a matriarchy will do the same to men for getting uppity with his ideas or daring to flash a patch of scrotum. That is privilege. And it is woefully real."

So really, if you think your mild discomfort over being lumped in with all those other "bad" white guys is THE SAME THING as being raped, disfigured, or killed for daring to fight against privilege, then you might want to reconsider that. On the other hand, if you don't think it's comparable, why even bring it up?
posted by xigxag at 4:22 AM on October 9, 2014 [47 favorites]


Also, I feel like we're ignoring the rather crucial word 'Great' which indicates to me that we're talking about white men who dismiss the idea that they have massive privilege or have deliberately chosen to pretend it doesn't exist.

I'm a white man. But I'm not a Great White Man. And I agree, defining people by arbitrary traits they don't choose is crappy. I don't think that's what this article is doing though.
posted by Quilford at 4:23 AM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I now read "doubleplusgood" for "relevant"
posted by thelonius at 4:28 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


We try to keep quiet during these discussions and wait for our power structure to fade and expose the one underneath it. Best to let others speak now and save our energy for the next fight: against capital.

Anyone else wonder why we didn't get Social Security and Medicare/medicaid until we had both suffrage and civil rights?
posted by The White Hat at 4:30 AM on October 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


Grayson Perry wrote a really good article in the same issue, which I think addresses the subject in a much more useful fashion (oh, just noticed it gets linked to in the opening para).

The use of relevance here really irritates me, and I don't quite know why - possibly because I think they mean 'power', but they're too mealy-mouthed to say it.
posted by YouRebelScum at 4:32 AM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


The cover in the FPP is crap, with a figure that looks like Ed G Robinson, which most people in my generation wouldn't have a clue about him unless they watched classic WB cartoons with their parents on Cartoon Network, and even then, the parents need to know who he is.

Some of the advice below is top notch, and incidentally I have, prior to reading it, taken the second half of Rowan Williams comment to heart. Jon Snow and Alastair Campbell as well.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 4:34 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Tony Parsons has it about right:

Sorry, but defending the contributions of white males by citing Normandy is approximately 180 degrees away from right. Recall the base principles of the people on the other side.
posted by Etrigan at 4:35 AM on October 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


Losing a little influence means you're no longer relevant? I think the problem is losing some privilege, not relevance and confusing privilege for relevance. White men who are concerned about this are part of the problem.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:36 AM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Anyone else wonder why we didn't get Social Security and Medicare/medicaid until we had both suffrage and civil rights?

Medicare was signed into law in 1965, but Social Security was started by Roosevelt in the 1930s, well before the period we think of as the Civil Rights era, and as described in Ta-Nehisi Coates' article in the Atlantic:

The omnibus programs passed under the Social Security Act in 1935 were crafted in such a way as to protect the southern way of life. Old-age insurance (Social Security proper) and unemployment insurance excluded farmworkers and domestics—jobs heavily occupied by blacks. When President Roosevelt signed Social Security into law in 1935, 65 percent of African Americans nationally and between 70 and 80 percent in the South were ineligible. The NAACP protested, calling the new American safety net “a sieve with holes just big enough for the majority of Negroes to fall through.”

GI Bill? Same thing:

Though ostensibly color-blind, Title III of the bill, which aimed to give veterans access to low-interest home loans, left black veterans to tangle with white officials at their local Veterans Administration as well as with the same banks that had, for years, refused to grant mortgages to blacks. The historian Kathleen J. Frydl observes in her 2009 book, The GI Bill, that so many blacks were disqualified from receiving Title III benefits “that it is more accurate simply to say that blacks could not use this particular title.”

It would be a mistake to downplay how extensively those kinds of institutional and structural racism permeated the US in ways that are still visible. The recent expansion of Medicare under the ACA was made optional, allowing states which happened to have large black populations to opt out, for example.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:15 AM on October 9, 2014 [20 favorites]


I think the "Great" modifier is critical, and it would have been helpful if it were actually articulated rather than just sort of throwing the entire phrase out there like a hunk of red meat. If you look at references to the "Great White Hunter," which to me describes a specific sort of overarching sense of entitlement, privilege, exploitation of others, greediness, monopolization of resources, assumption of superiority, etc., etc., all while entirely claiming for themselves complete moral, spiritual and intellectual supremacy, and even nobility.

This sort of "great" white man is becoming a dinosaur and figure of ridicule, but is much different than just regular White Guy, though there are obviously discussions that can be had about how the average white dude may benefit or suffer from a) the Great White Male paradigm and b) its collapse.
posted by taz at 5:33 AM on October 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


Most of this was ridiculous, but I agree with Rowan Williams' piece.
posted by michaelh at 6:04 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Gender, racial, sexual etc. critiques of entrenched power structures can be good at revealing systemic bias and sparking conversation among people who like to debate such things. But these are critiques predicated on destruction or revision of old ideas. There's no positive, prescriptive view of how a radically restructured society should look or operate.

Men are pointy sticks in a society that no longer values the uses for which evolution sharpened us (aside from what, war?). We've convinced ourselves we're essential and uniquely suited in all manner of ways that we're now being told we're not. And much of that is valid and we need to learn to adapt. We need a shared set of virtues that transcend race, gender, sexuality and bind us together as communities large and small. And men need to learn to articulate a new positive role for themselves in that world.

I really appreciated what Rowan Williams had to say about that.
posted by echocollate at 6:14 AM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]




Wait.
I was supposed to be in charge all this time? And no one told me?!?!?


That's why it's called an "invisible" backpack.
posted by drlith at 6:30 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Tony Parsons's response may be an annoying troll, but on the other hand, at least it acknowledges white male supremacy is hardly on its last legs.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:32 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's always interesting to me to see the reactions of people who aren't used to thinking of themselves as members of a group when they see other people noticing their membership in that (or those) groups.
posted by rtha at 6:33 AM on October 9, 2014 [36 favorites]


The problem is that the people responding either didn't understand or didn't agree on the meaning of the question. Some people are talking about the Great White Male. Some people just seem to be talking about white males. Some people just about males in general. So there are some great comments, some "?" comments, and some terrible comments.
posted by Bugbread at 6:58 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


#NotAllGreatWhiteMen
posted by kmz at 7:01 AM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


The strongest writerly advocates for women are men

Well, duh.
posted by jpe at 7:03 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


This sort of "great" white man is becoming a dinosaur and figure of ridicule, but is much different than just regular White Guy, though there are obviously discussions that can be had about how the average white dude may benefit or suffer from a) the Great White Male paradigm and b) its collapse.

Yeah, taz pretty much nails it.

I agree with the underlying ideas of the piece, but as an article unto itself, it's a missed opportunity. Not enough of the responses were related to the concept of saying "how" to be a Great White Male, even if just as an ironic rhetorical gambit. Instead, it just seems like they asked a bunch of people to briefly respond to the idea that the Great White Male is fading. That's not even getting into taz's point, that the article itself never really delineates between the idea of a Great White Male, as opposed to an Average White Dude, as opposed to white men in general as a class.

...

That's why it's called an "invisible" backpack.

You're not wrong, but an even bigger issue is the fact that "privilege" is generally about group characteristics, and not individual cases. White privilege and male privilege are not "disproven" by the fact that there are plenty of white guys who are not listened to, are not taken seriously, not in charge, etc., just as the fact that Barack Obama was elected President did not mean that racism was over.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:06 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


They're no better than the traditional sexists, racists and ageists.

Yeah. Except for the complete lack of structural, historically-entrenched support for their position.


It's like you didn't think about this at all. It's exactly Decani's claim that targeting against the current of historically-entrenched power doesn't itself turn essentializing rhetoric around race and gender into a healthy, morally upstanding practice. Maybe that's debatable, and there can be some value in certain gross (racial, gender) stereotypes when they're pointed correctly, but you're just hammering the table with exactly what is explicitly acknowledged in the thought you're responding to.
posted by batfish at 7:08 AM on October 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


It's always interesting to me to see the reactions of people who aren't used to thinking of themselves as members of a group when they see other people noticing their membership in that (or those) groups.

Absolutely! I mean, to be perfectly honest, I'll go even further and admit that I find the obvious discomfort this realization evokes to be downright glee-inducing. So, so many white dudes spend their entire lives, cradle to grave, laboring under the misguided belief that theirs is the blueprint for all of humanity, having internalized the notion that much of the ease with which they have been silently guided through life is available to all... because to them, "white men" stand in for the value of "all." There is very little, if any, explicit recognition that even their most intractable hardships are lessened by virtue of birth. And as Bonnie Greer wrote, "One of the characteristics of the Great White Male is the assumption of complete attention."

Unfortunately, this innate blindness to the inherent validity and worth of other perspectives often has ghastly ramifications for people who were born outside of the default, with "why can't he relate to a white guy, too?" on one end and, oh, I dunno, centuries of slavery and femicide on the other. I think one of the most insidious aspects of the proverbial invisible backpack is the fact that white men are almost never raised to be deferential (even anxious) at all costs, while people of color and women almost always are.

So when a person of color expresses fear or mistrust of the police/authority state, a certain set of white men loves to tell them that there's nothing to be afraid of, that they've never had problems with the police, etc. As for women, as WidgetAlley's amazing comment from a few threads over so eloquently expresses, "You do not choose to put yourself in the hazard zone, because it is everywhere. [...] You do not get to leave the zone. Ever." Unfortunately, whenever we gather the nerve to talk about this, the Great White Male is prone to helpfully reminding us that we're allowing ourselves to be victimized and should stop being so fearful.

So I'm deeply enamored with the quote from Kwame Kwei-Armah, because it speaks a great and too often invisibilized truth:
The first thing that springs to mind is how much time I actually spend thinking about the grouping. The power they hold; how to negotiate around and with that power; and how annoyed at myself I so often get for allowing such a significant amount of my mental bandwidth to be taxed in this way. I wager I am not alone.

I often wonder, however, if there is a collective realisation of the fear evoked? And if so, is there a white, male equivalent to, say, me crossing the street at night at the sight of an elderly, white female approaching, or pitching my voice five octaves higher to signal, "You are safe with me"? Is there?
Well, is there?
posted by divined by radio at 7:12 AM on October 9, 2014 [17 favorites]


As a trans woman I would like formally to welcome men to the "easy target" club. Enjoy being constantly dehumanised :)
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:21 AM on October 9, 2014 [14 favorites]


Watching the delicate white male snowflakes in here get themselves in a tizzy over being labeled is pretty great but they'd have a heart attack the first time they were stopped by cops for being in the wrong neighborhood at night or driving the wrong kind of car in that neighborhood or wearing the wrong clothes in the wrong part of town or looking suspicious in any part of town or...
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:29 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Why does this article primarily feature white men? Sigh.
posted by latkes at 7:29 AM on October 9, 2014


You would think there's nothing new under the sun to say about Great White Males. And then you would be surprised:
Stand on the head to fertilise the blood corpuscles to prevent baldness.

I'm not sure that would work. And so it must be said.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:31 AM on October 9, 2014


As a trans woman I would like formally to welcome men to the "easy target" club. Enjoy being constantly dehumanised :

OMG, stop oppressing us. Or we'll have to retreat to our higher wages, being in charge of pretty much everything, being the default for everything in entertainment, and being oblivious to everything.
posted by kmz at 7:32 AM on October 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


Ghostride The Whip: "Watching the delicate white male snowflakes in here get themselves in a tizzy over being labeled is pretty great"

I just can't understand this mindset. Saying "This is no big fucking deal. It's just a few words. You still have all the money, all the power, all the privilege, all the rights. Compared to that, being the butt of a joke here or there is insignificant" — that, I understand. It's saying "what's happening to you is bad, but it's bad like a papercut. What's happening to other people is bad like vivisection." But saying "Watching this is pretty great" is saying "This thing which I say I think is bad, I don't really think is bad. I just think it's just bad when it happens to certain ethnicities/genders. When it happens to other ethnicities/genders, it's actually a good and amusing thing." I don't understand the mental process there.
posted by Bugbread at 7:38 AM on October 9, 2014 [14 favorites]


I often wonder, however, if there is a collective realisation of the fear evoked? And if so, is there a white, male equivalent to, say, me crossing the street at night at the sight of an elderly, white female approaching, or pitching my voice five octaves higher to signal, "You are safe with me"? Is there?

Well, is there?


From comments in this article

"Whenever I see a group of white guys in suits walking down the street, I involuntarily clutch my stock portfolio statements a little more tightly."
posted by lalochezia at 7:39 AM on October 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


Watching the delicate white male snowflakes in here get themselves in a tizzy over being labeled is pretty great but they'd have a heart attack the first time they were stopped by cops for being in the wrong neighborhood at night or driving the wrong kind of car in that neighborhood or wearing the wrong clothes in the wrong part of town or looking suspicious in any part of town or...

Oh stop. Just stop. If you think a single white male poster in this thread is not abundantly aware of their immense good fortune to be born white and male in America, you're intentionally deluding yourself.
posted by echocollate at 7:40 AM on October 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


i get it, we get to pay the karmic tab for a thousand years of shitty behavior. y'all get to mock us for our attempts to relate because we never experienced the non-stop terrordome of being you. let's keep those partitions high, let's keep that anger sharp. we don't get to be brothers because you don't think we've paid our dues.

i don't want to join the flat-faced bigotry that opposes you guys but jesus, i wish fuckin' sesame street had given me a heads up on this. *signals to the guy who gets to make fun of my whining to start it up*
posted by gorestainedrunes at 7:46 AM on October 9, 2014 [18 favorites]


"This thing which I say I think is bad, I don't really think is bad. I just think it's just bad when it happens to certain ethnicities/genders. When it happens to other ethnicities/genders, it's actually a good and amusing thing." I don't understand the mental process there.

This is precisely why I'm uncomfortable with these discussions framed purely as power dynamics. It's an incomplete framework. It's not a principle or a prescription for societal evolution, it's just a critique—an enormously valuable critique, and a necessary one. But if one's vision for society is just a zero sum game for who calls the shots, I find that really depressing, and "Yea, fuck you, see how you like it" is not my idea of healthy dialog.
posted by echocollate at 7:46 AM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


i thought it was kind of sad how flippant some of the responses were. bonnie greer totally made up for it though.
posted by young_son at 7:49 AM on October 9, 2014


It's not "fuck you, see how you like it", the glee from the tizzies is glee from seeing justice being served. That justice isn't white guys being attacked, it's white guys losing an unjust advantage just for being white, and anyone who feels irritated because they can't see the difference deserves to feel irritated and it's funny to see them feel irritated.
posted by deathmaven at 8:01 AM on October 9, 2014 [14 favorites]


Watching the delicate white male snowflakes in here get themselves in a tizzy over being labeled is pretty great but they'd have a heart attack the first time they were stopped by cops for being in the wrong neighborhood at night or driving the wrong kind of car in that neighborhood or wearing the wrong clothes in the wrong part of town or looking suspicious in any part of town or...

If you come up as a white teenager in an urban working/middle-class type environment, you almost cannot avoid at least some experiences that fit some of these descriptions. I don't know what your background is, and I definitely don't want to have a contest about who's been chased or taken a beating in the wrong neighborhood more times, or claim any kind of moral equivalence for my own experience, but it's worth keeping in mind that when you're talking to categories, the way you are here, you really don't know who you're talking to.
posted by batfish at 8:10 AM on October 9, 2014 [15 favorites]


I just can't understand this mindset. Saying "This is no big fucking deal. It's just a few words. You still have all the money, all the power, all the privilege, all the rights. Compared to that, being the butt of a joke here or there is insignificant" — that, I understand.

But you don't understand it enough to say, "It warms my heart to see people who have been crapped on get a chance to laugh at the powers that hurt them, so much so that I laugh along with them even if it sometimes seems to lump me in with those powers (although I know that they're mostly not laughing at me personally, and to the tiny extent that they are, I totally deserve it)."
posted by straight at 8:14 AM on October 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


It's not "fuck you, see how you like it", the glee from the tizzies is glee from seeing justice being served. That justice isn't white guys being attacked, it's white guys losing an unjust advantage just for being white, and anyone who feels irritated because they can't see the difference deserves to feel irritated and it's funny to see them feel irritated.

Oh? Which unjust advantages for being white have we lost in this thread and are now irritated over? Which of us is denying our white privilege and getting in a tizzy because the enlightened among us have pointed it out? Because based on my reading of the thread you made that shit up.
posted by echocollate at 8:16 AM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


The first time I was told I was a white man, I felt anxious, distinct, sick to my stomach. I still get the feeling, after years and years of being aware of my whiteness, my maleness, that occasionally people are looking at me and forming judgments based on my skin color and my sexuality. Judgments like, "I bet he doesn't entirely grasp the difficulties that many people go through based on systematic oppression," and, "Something tells me this guy might, at some point, try to argue with me about concepts which I, as a woman/person of color, take for granted, because my lived experience makes me know that they're true whereas for this guy it's all a matter of intellectual abstraction." I will readily admit that it does not feel 100% good to try to make what you feel is a meaningful point, only to be dismissed with some remark along the lines of, "Yeah, but you're a man," or "Yeah, but you're white."

On the other hand, the first time I read excerpts from The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, I cried for an hour, called my father and asked him how the fuck my education got away with telling me racism had ended in the 60s, and then moped about for, Jesus, a good solid week. And it seems like the ratio of women I know who've been sexually assaulted to women I know who haven't is a solid three-to-one, which becomes much closer to flat-out four-to-none if you include women who have been nearly assaulted but managed to get away.

I feel more strongly about either of those things than I do about people who occasionally make snarky comments or write snarky articles about my white maledom. And shit! I don't have to experience any of that. Imagine how I'd feel if I actually had to deal with just a day of being attacked, judged, and oppressed for some fundamental trait in myself that I never asked for and didn't have any say in. I bet I'd be pretty miffed, to say the least!

People who can't understand the difference between the so-called "individual racism" of making comments about people who belong to groups which are the cultural majority and "institutionalized/systemic racism" where it's an entire culture fucking with you in ways both intentional and completely unconscious are one of my least favorite categories of people in the world. I don't even care if they call me a bigot for saying so.
posted by rorgy at 8:17 AM on October 9, 2014 [24 favorites]


Grayson Perry wrote a really good article in the same issue, which I think addresses the subject in a much more useful fashion (oh, just noticed it gets linked to in the opening para).
...
posted by YouRebelScum at 7:32 on October 9 [+] [!]


Important to note too that he guest-edited this issue of the magazine. It's the bit of context I was looking for. The piece linked to in the FPP was a little confusing to me without it.
posted by beau jackson at 8:21 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


deathmaven: "That justice isn't white guys being attacked, it's white guys losing an unjust advantage just for being white, and anyone who feels irritated because they can't see the difference deserves to feel irritated and it's funny to see them feel irritated."

Ok, that makes sense, but then I wonder who Ghostride the Whip was talking about, because I see lots of that in comments on various sites, but I haven't been getting that vibe from anyone in this particular thread, and his comment was about folks in this thread.

straight: "But you don't understand it enough to say, "It warms my heart to see people who have been crapped on get a chance to laugh at the powers that hurt them, so much so that I laugh along with them even if it sometimes seems to lump me in with those powers (although I know that they're mostly not laughing at me personally, and to the tiny extent that they are, I totally deserve it).""

Well, this isn't really about me personally feeling lumped in or anything (I'm saying I don't understand this when mindset period, whether it be Indians and Pakistanis, Protestants and Catholics, or the issue that comes closest to me, Japanese and Koreans). And no, I don't really understand it "enough" for it to warm my heart to see someone do something they say they think is bad. I guess I'm just a cold-hearted person or something.
posted by Bugbread at 8:26 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


What has the Great White Male ever done for us? Shakespeare and Dickens. Picasso and Matisse. Morrissey and Marr. Jagger and Richards. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the worldwide web.
Man, I know he can't actually be serious, but whenever this argument pops up I imagine the dude gazing on, say, the collected Shakespeare and nodding contentedly to himself.

"Well done, us."
posted by postcommunism at 8:28 AM on October 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


as soon as people start playing the game of denouncing entire groups based on features they have no control over ("white", "male", "old" etc.) they have become part of the same problem, as far as I'm concerned. They're no better than the traditional sexists, racists and ageists.

The especially strange thing about using this article to dust off this familiar old argument is that it's actually full of plenty of really good advice! See Rowan Williams above all, Jon Snow except the bit about standing on your head; and Andrew Marr, to begin with.

There are many reasons (noted by others here) why pointing out that white men are a privileged group, and even satirizing them, doesn't mean you're "no better than the traditional sexists". But even if that argument were correct this piece wouldn't be quite the right target for it.
posted by oliverburkeman at 8:33 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's a mix of great, good, weird, and slightly annoying. Nothing particularly egregious.
posted by Bugbread at 8:41 AM on October 9, 2014


Well, okay, except for the Shakespeare guy. That one was pretty bad.
posted by Bugbread at 8:41 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many heads would explode in here if they saw a "male tears" mug.
posted by kmz at 8:43 AM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Where is the promised manifesto? Is there some worthy stuff embedded in the usual back and forth? Here's what resonated for me:

From Rowan: "...men need to discover or rediscover friendship" and "...the infantilism of many driven and able professional men who can’t, or won’t, take responsibility for building and securing the human environment of workplace or home".

From Marr: "Be brave and be kind and if the two collide, choose kindness."

From Greer: "...make the potential Great White Male understand that he is not the sine qua non of human existence; that he can, in fact, take a back seat."

Consideration and responsibility in one's emotional life, courage and kindness, being willing to be out of the spotlight, those are concepts I can use as a roadmap, for myself and others. I particularly like Rowan's construction of "infantilism" for being unwilling to "do emotional work".
posted by bonehead at 8:45 AM on October 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


The days of the Great White Male are numbered.

What about the days of the Not-So-Great White Male? Here I am. Torn between a fear that they are doomed to irrelevance and unnumberedness and a desire to say "The NSGWM can fuck right off too."

So! From the bottom of my heart and the top of my head, my ten favorite Not-So-Great-White Males

Moby Dick's unamed Sub-Sub-Librarian. (Can't get much more NSG than that. But I must presume from the context that said librarian is white and male.)

• Bartleby the Scrivener. Another Melville type, true; but I forgive myself because the topic is titled "Thar she blows ..."

• Leonard Bast. Working class, unhealthy, crushed by the very books he wished to learn from. Oh, the irony.

•Will Barret. Déjà vues, fugues, tries to kill himself in a cave. Never was quite right.

• "Fred" of A Fan's Notes. I mean, who doesn't love Frank Gifford?

• George, from A Single Man. If you had to teach George's students, you'd probably want to drown yourself, too. (Though living in a Tom Ford designed world might ease the pain a little.)

•Adrian Mole. Narrowly edges out Moss Goodman in the stretch.

• Edmund B. Ratner. The world's smallest perfect fat man.

• Bucky Wunderlick. Keep in mind, the Globke menaces.

• And, lastly, my favorite Not-So-Great White Male is ... Me! Because if I'm not my own favorite Not-So-Great White Male then whose will I be?

Thank you for your support.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:53 AM on October 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


> Yeah. Except for the complete lack of structural, historically-entrenched support for their position.

Metafilter puts on robes and wizard hat, mutters incantation that makes our kind of creepy totally OK.
posted by jfuller at 8:56 AM on October 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's not either/or, ffs.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 9:11 AM on October 9, 2014


justice being served. That justice isn't white guys being attacked, it's white guys losing an unjust advantage just for being white

I would hope the goal, at least ideally, would be that everyone gets to share those advantages, not have them taken away from white people. Fair enough to think that's not realistic in all aspects, but I mean, if we're wishing, let's wish the police stop oppressing anyone, everyone's vote counts, etc.
posted by spaltavian at 9:11 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's always interesting to me to see the reactions of people who aren't used to thinking of themselves as members of a group when they see other people noticing their membership in that (or those) groups.

Since there was a lot of confusion about why this might be nice to see for some folks, I think the salient factor is the groups vs. "default" framing. The glee comes from seeing people who consider themselves "defaults" realizing that they are easily classified into a subgroup just like everyone else. When this happens, they tend to decry group classification altogether, in some (usually well-meaning!) attempt at returning themselves to default status while hopefully bringing everyone else along with them (to be charitable). "Why can't we just all be people?" etc etc.

The important thing to realize is that people who recognize themselves in these groups don't generally want to escape the classification altogether; I'm perfectly happy being a queerish woman, for example, and I don't mind being classified as such because it's simply true. I don't mean to speak for anyone here, but in my experience most people in whatever minority are actually pretty comfortable with their group status, they just wish that they didn't experience so many disadvantages as a result of it. So it comes off really strange to hear white men say they don't want to be classified in a group AT ALL, when literally everyone who isn't a white man is classified by the precise way in which they diverge from that "default." Like it or not, everybody can be classified into these broad groups. That doesn't mean that everyone in those groups has the same experience or advantages, of course, but those terms are still meaningful.

Nobody's saying you guys want to stay the default or consciously consider yourselves as the default, but that's the implicit message when there are complaints about being grouped with other white men in even the broadest sense. We talk about group demographics all the time, why should white men be excluded?

In other news, this thread reminds me of NOFX's Don't Call Me White.
posted by dialetheia at 9:14 AM on October 9, 2014 [19 favorites]


To add: that's not to say I don't get the oppressed have gallows humor, and that in certain contexts, it's important just to express anger and/or frustration, without having to make that expression palatable to everyone (i.e., white men).
posted by spaltavian at 9:14 AM on October 9, 2014


QED spaketh the brown woman with an exotic accent but you can't hear it because all fingers type alike.
posted by infini at 9:18 AM on October 9, 2014


So it comes off really strange to hear white men say they don't want to be classified in a group AT ALL, when literally everyone who isn't a white man is classified by the precise way in which they diverge from that "default." Like it or not, everybody can be classified into these broad groups.

This sort of reminds me of Maslow's hierarchy of needs; if you're not living in fear, you're focused on self-actualizing. I mean, this is an observable benefit of privilege; expressing yourself, being comfortable being unique, thinking of your existence as "me and the world". Not sure its' about a need to be the "default" human as much as it's about the privilege of knowing you can color outside the lines.
posted by spaltavian at 9:22 AM on October 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


I would hope the goal, at least ideally, would be that everyone gets to share those advantages, not have them taken away from white people.

Yeah... I got the feeling from that thread about southern schools, where someone lamented that after leveling the funds for all the schools,
"rather than some kids going to really great schools and some kids going to really bad schools, all the children go to mediocre schools"
that there are a lot of people who never really thought about what leveling out unjust inequities would actually mean.
posted by deathmaven at 9:25 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I would hope the goal, at least ideally, would be that everyone gets to share those advantages, not have them taken away from white people.

The problem is, that it doesn't always work like that. Some of the advantages white people and\or guys have come at the direct expense of other people: we can't have a greater diversity represented in art and culture and without white people getting a smaller percentage of the representation; we can't have everyone be listened to equally and still have men be socialized to talk over women; And we can't talk about how to do away with the oppressive system that white men, as a group, benefit from and (often passively) participate in without acknowledging that white men are a group.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:27 AM on October 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


The problem is, that it doesn't always work like that. Some of the advantages white people and\or guys have come at the direct expense of other people:

That's unquestionably true, (like I said in rest of that post, totally fair to say that's not realistic in all aspects) but I don't think a lot the most pressing things- crushing poverty, police brutality, the Drug War, domestic/community violence- are actually zero-sum.
posted by spaltavian at 9:39 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ah, you're gonna miss us when we're gone.

(Perhaps the wrong pronoun? I'm white and male, not sure about the great part, though sometimes my wife says I am. I do wish people would define their terms before making blanket statements.)
posted by IndigoJones at 9:49 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


That's unquestionably true, (like I said in rest of that post, totally fair to say that's not realistic in all aspects) but I don't think a lot the most pressing things- crushing poverty, police brutality, the Drug War, domestic/community violence- are actually zero-sum.

People aren't being gleeful that white guys are experiencing crushing poverty, police brutality, etc. They're pointing out the humor of white guys complaining about being grouped together by the very attributes they use to identify others. You're right that nobody needs to experience crushing poverty for the end goal of all people being treated equally, but we do need to group white guys together as white guys to discuss the system that's been established to the benefit of white guys as a group.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:51 AM on October 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


> I particularly like Rowan's construction of "infantilism" for being unwilling to "do emotional work".

Rowan Williams was the best:
most men need to discover or rediscover friendship – not the semi-competitive jostling of colleagues, but conversation, shared leisure, exploration of the world without the edge of anxious rivalry or obsessions with power
Okay, the idea that men in particular need that is perhaps underselling the universal value of conversation and shared leisure and exploration, and it ignores the barriers to them in Western life which are not gender related, but in the context of men specifically oh boy is he right. The petty aggression that is presented (and often outright romanticized) as the default male social mode is deeply alienating. Butch bro-types are exhausting to hang out with; man, I just want to have a beer and talk about how Far Cry 3 simulates an even more cartoonish version of the pasty adventure tourism it pretends to satirize. Leave the macho jockying for CoD.

Which of course is a bit unfair, because what's the script there? What are the values presented for male friendship in popular culture? If it's not a buddy-buddy ad/movie/show/magazine with dudes signaling allegiance to lowest-common denominator machismo where lack of successful signaling is a punch line, it's a "serious" story about some dudes who gravely band together to inflict violence externally.

And what are the popular alternatives? Robert Bly? E.M. Forester? The IT Crowd? David Bowie?

I'm exaggerating the problem (#NotAllMaleFriendships), but there absolutely is a default to which Williams is responding, and he's right that
At the other end, it comes through in the infantilism of many driven and able professional men who can’t, or won’t, take responsibility for building and securing the human environment of workplace or home, creating an emotionally nourishing setting.
Maybe you can't lay all that at the feet of the Great White Male model (a lot of it is embedded in the Average White/Other Male model), but it's not like the GWM helps.
posted by postcommunism at 9:58 AM on October 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


i am an individual, not a demographic, thank you. the risk in treating me as part of a monolith is the tacit permission for me to do the same to others when it suits me. everybody has a tale of woe that would bring tears to the eyes of a sphinx.
posted by bruce at 10:00 AM on October 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


That's unquestionably true, (like I said in rest of that post, totally fair to say that's not realistic in all aspects) but I don't think a lot the most pressing things- crushing poverty, police brutality, the Drug War, domestic/community violence- are actually zero-sum.

People aren't being gleeful that white guys are experiencing crushing poverty, police brutality, etc.


I didn't say that anyone was; and if you read my other comments you'll see I haven't objected to grouping white guys together for these sort of sociological purposes. Words are being put into my mouth here, so I'm going to bow out.
posted by spaltavian at 10:08 AM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


You know, I'm just going to try to have a little fun with my last few years in charge personally. Just kick back and let it all sink in. Partake in some free erotic adventure content tailored just for me, smoke a cigar, drink expensive whiskey in my nice clean bathtub. Maybe take a long walk in the middle of the night anywhere I want. Maybe I'll do a startup? Who knows! It will all be over soon, so I'm going to take it easy. Have fun running things, everybody else! (once the time comes) And enjoy, presumably, accidentally stomping on my face until you get tired. Gosh knows I did.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:19 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


But some of my best friends are white males!
without the edge of anxious rivalry or obsessions with power
Yeah, it is one of those games I never learned how to play, but even then, somehow I catch myself playing it.
take responsibility for building and securing the human environment of workplace or home, creating an emotionally nourishing setting
Perhaps this is telling -- but I really have no idea what he even means by this.
posted by smidgen at 10:21 AM on October 9, 2014


I'm a target? News to me.
posted by brundlefly at 10:26 AM on October 9, 2014


Yeah, it is one of those games I never learned how to play, but even then, somehow I catch myself playing it.

I enjoy it sometimes as a bonding exercise, but when it is non-stop the line between it and bullying gets super hard to detect so more and more I just am not interested. If I feel like being competitive I would rather play an actual game or sport as a team and bond that way.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:27 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Anytime I am feeling a little better than terrible, I like to read an article like this to remind myself that most of the world hates me, even though they have never met me. It not only reaffirms my anipathy towards all people equally, it tempers any misguided common cause I may have imagined I had with them.
posted by FenderBellyBodine at 10:27 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Fifth and sixth comments of what will likely be a long and complex thread

I have been a very noisy critic of sexism, particularly of the male variety, and of regrettable male attitudes towards women. But as soon as people start playing the game of denouncing entire groups based on features they have no control over ("white", "male", "old" etc.) they have become part of the same problem, as far as I'm concerned. They're no better than the traditional sexists, racists and ageists.
posted by Decani at 3:23 AM on October 9 [30 favorites +] [!]

Oh dear, just because white men are being taken off the pedestal they've occupied for the entire history of Western civilisation doesn't mean they're the new 'easy target'. They're an easier target, sure. But they sure as fuck haven't taken, say, black men or black women's place.
posted by Quilford at 3:28 AM on October 9 [43 favorites +] [!]


They seem in opposition to each other, yet I favorited both. I think I like where this is heading.
posted by philip-random at 10:29 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Anytime I am feeling a little better than terrible, I like to read an article like this to remind myself that most of the world hates me, even though they have never met me. It not only reaffirms my anipathy towards all people equally, it tempers any misguided common cause I may have imagined I had with them.

Assuming you're a black woman or Roma, neither groups explicitly came up in this article, let alone delved into the implication of global emnity.
posted by deathmaven at 10:34 AM on October 9, 2014


Assuming you're a black woman or Roma, neither groups explicitly came up in this article, let alone delved into the implication of global emnity.

Forgot to qualify...most of the first world with the economic means to advertise/transmit their socio-political opinion hate me.

My bad. Put it on my tab, please.
posted by FenderBellyBodine at 10:39 AM on October 9, 2014


Awww, you think the 2nd and 3rd world don't hate you? That's precious.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:44 AM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Forgot to qualify...most of the first world with the economic means to advertise/transmit their socio-political opinion...

That's...supposed to change things in what direction?
posted by deathmaven at 10:46 AM on October 9, 2014


The only thing that bugs me a little is that the generalization seems to let others off the hook. Not only the White Male will have to evolve -- it's not like black men are lacking in misogyny or white women are lacking in race privilege.
posted by smidgen at 10:46 AM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's true, black men and white women usually aren't criticized for their social failings as a whole, including misogyny & homophobia/racism & classicism.
posted by deathmaven at 10:49 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh stop. Just stop. If you think a single white male poster in this thread is not abundantly aware of their immense good fortune to be born white and male in America, you're intentionally deluding yourself.

But ... but I wasn't born in America.
posted by walrus at 10:49 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


That's...supposed to change things in what direction?

My terrible snark is terrible.

What was meant as a tongue and cheek observation about me being a White Male who has tried very hard not to oppress or disenfranchise anyone getting lumped in with the rest has been articulated poorly and delivered worse.

I am a bad person and I feel bad.
posted by FenderBellyBodine at 10:50 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Awww, you think the 2nd and 3rd world don't hate you? That's precious.

I assume they do, but for different reasons.
posted by FenderBellyBodine at 10:51 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Which is not to say I think you have to include every group all the time in criticism. If I read "White Male" as the most ready example and prototype for privileged obliviousness rather than an exclusive group, then the article makes more sense to me.
posted by smidgen at 10:51 AM on October 9, 2014


Deathmaven - I don't care what you think; I shall go to my grave as an unrepentant classicist!
posted by Captain l'escalier at 10:53 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I wonder how many heads would explode in here if they saw a "male tears" mug.

How about a shirt?

I LOLed over the choice of typeface. I've been using Bookman Italic Swash for the titles of many of my projects going back to a 1979 printed newsletter.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:57 AM on October 9, 2014


but we do need to group white guys together as white guys to discuss the system that's been established to the benefit of white guys as a group.

Really? Is this what we need to do? Meh. This is why I think I'm gradually coming around to the Walter Benn Michaels theory that identity politics is a sort of false flag operation for neoliberalism. Progressives telling white guys that the truly salient thing about them (in terms of self-interest, opportunities etc.) is being white guys--which, btw, the most privileged, affluent, educated etc. white guys have been thoroughly enculturated not to dispute--isn't to me an obviously healthier project than when republicans pull the same trick to mine resentment. More to the point, if the system is so fucking great for white guys qua white guys, why shouldn't they just walk away from your lecturing ass?
posted by batfish at 11:09 AM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Don't be tribal.

The world doesn't hate "you", it's your tribe they can't stand, because that tribe kills the other tribes without mercy day in and day out, and has for centuries. Most likely, you can go almost anywhere in the world and if you're nice, people will be nice to you. The idea that people hate you and want to kill you because of your skin color and gender is not unique to one tribe, but it sure does seem to drive a lot of white male tribalism. My question is, is that fear of being hated something that is used as impetus the murder/rape/pillage of the other, or does it just help justify it in people's minds after the fact? Both?
posted by cell divide at 11:15 AM on October 9, 2014


Anytime I am feeling a little better than terrible, I like to read an article like this to remind myself that most of the world hates me.

"Just because 43 out of 44 U.S. presidents have been white men doesn't mean that reverse racism/sexism is dead."
posted by drlith at 11:20 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Rowan Williams' remarks hit me to the core. I'm pretty isolated out here, a liberal surrounded by red state hunting fanatics that drink piss water instead of beer and are certain Obama is coming for their guns. And now that I've given up on the NFL I've got even less to talk about with the locals. Thank Cthulhu for the Internet because it's sometimes the only sanity I get.
posted by Ber at 11:27 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Progressives telling white guys that the truly salient thing about them (in terms of self-interest, opportunities etc.) is being white guys

As opposed to socialists telling middle-class people that the truly salient thing about them (in terms of self-interest, opportunities etc.) is being middle-class people? It seems to me that the phrase "the truly salient" is a hang-up here, but I'm probably not thinking things through.

which, btw, the most privileged, affluent, educated etc. white guys have been thoroughly enculturated not to dispute

It isn't obvious to me that this is actually so.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:37 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


As a white man, I'm not comfortable when people complain about "white men" as a group. That should be instantly understandable, right? But I can definitely live with this discomfort. I really don't feel threatened by this. It may not be something that I enjoy, but I can certainly tolerate it if it is beneficial. I can even tolerate it if the effect is neutral, and traditionally oppressed groups just need to blow off some steam. Totally understandable.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about this topic in the last few months, because it keeps coming up in one form or another. In the end, my real reservation is that this sort of talk may be counterproductive in the long run. I'm not going to take up this space reproducing my thoughts in detail, because that would just be long and indulgent. The tl;dr version is that I am concerned that feminists and such are addressing the symptoms more than the causes, which lends itself to the pendulum swinging back the other way. Also, alienating the moderates.

Ultimately, I think the most successful civil rights movements are the ones that speak to the broadest conception of human dignity. In the US, this approach dovetails very nicely with the best of American ideals, and thus has universal appeal. I feel like I'm barely seeing this kind of approach these days; occasionally you get someone pointing out that feminism is good for boys, too, but I feel like this is mostly lip service.

Of course, this is bound to come off patronizing to some. Well, what can I do? That's just what I think. I don't expect anyone to listen to me, so if you don't like my opinion, you have nothing to fear. I am not a part of these movements, but for what it's worth, I think we share common goals. So do a lot of Americans, and I think that's why these movements are succeeding at this time. In light of that, my concerns may be misplaced. But I see a lot of opportunity for the middle to sour on these projects. Time will tell.
posted by Edgewise at 11:42 AM on October 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


The tl;dr version is that I am concerned that feminists and such are addressing the symptoms more than the causes, which lends itself to the pendulum swinging back the other way.

My first thought when confronted with most contemporary feminism is, "You shold read the Rebel by Albert Camus." Then my next thought is often, "The issues you are concerned about are issues of justice, not gender. Issues which, incidentally, I totally agree with you about. Why do you need to indirectly vilify me when before you start your argument I am on your side?"

Admittedly, I may be simplifying things because my perspective is from me and not another, but fwiw there it it.
posted by FenderBellyBodine at 11:46 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Man, I know he can't actually be serious, but whenever this argument pops up I imagine the dude gazing on, say, the collected Shakespeare and nodding contentedly to himself.

"Well done, us."


(my interpretation of great white males in this article is shorthand in for the current and historical power structure of the industrialized west)

Uhhhh, maybe he is saying that the legacy of 'white males' isn't just oppression and gleeful laughing at the misfortune of whatever group isn't 'white males'. Maybe white males have also greatly added to the cultural, material and scientific legacy of mankind (of which it is available to all groups-mostly through the efforts of white males). If you are going to put 'white males' (and yes I am a white male, but definitely not one of the top 20% of white males these articles always seem to think is the sum total of white males) in a group and judge them for their failings it would be just and honest to also judge them for their contributions, and maybe also their reluctant and hesitant willingness to give up their exalted status with remarkably little bloodshed or strife compared to historical standards (arguing over the internet and Fox News do not compare to armed revolution or things like Tienanmen square).

All of this is not to say things aren't or shouldn't change. I personally find the rather stilted and confining emotional roles open to me as male in the USA somewhat confining and unsatisfying and I for one welcome our new (to be determined) overlords.
posted by bartonlong at 11:51 AM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


The world doesn't hate "you", it's your tribe they can't stand, because that tribe kills the other tribes without mercy day in and day out, and has for centuries. Most likely, you can go almost anywhere in the world and if you're nice, people will be nice to you. The idea that people hate you and want to kill you because of your skin color and gender is not unique to one tribe, but it sure does seem to drive a lot of white male tribalism.

Listen, if you think "Fuck your kind, but oh you're OK" is a smart approach to tackling entrenched privilege, you're nuts. I can recognize my privileged position as a white male, support justice and equality for all, and with zero hesitation tell you that's a fucked way to tackle the problem. And blithely sneering in response, "Hey, don't be so sensitive," isn't going to win you any PR battles. Because it's dumb. It's the kind of thing someone who doesn't actually interact with other human beings on a daily basis would say.

My question is, is that fear of being hated something that is used as impetus the murder/rape/pillage of the other, or does it just help justify it in people's minds after the fact? Both?

I haven't murdered, raped, or pillaged anyone recently, so I'm probably not qualified to answer your question.
posted by echocollate at 11:58 AM on October 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


Really? Is this what we need to do?

O.k. how do you say "this group of people has benefits that this other group doesn't" without grouping them? I guess if you're o.k. with the way things are, then no you don't need to mention that white guys are a group. I mean, if you want to change a system for the better it's more efficient to view it as a system rather than a bunch of random events that just sort of happen sometimes.

I would say that what I do and how I treat other people is more important than the fact that I'm a white guy. The question then becomes, what shapes how I act and what I do? Lots of things, including the fact that as a white person I have certain experiences that I wouldn't otherwise have, same goes for being a male. They're not the only factors, in what I experienced but they are big factors. If we're going to discuss who I am, and why I am who I am, there's going to be plenty of space dedicated to the effects of me being a white male.

Also, it's important to note that I'm not just told that me being white and male is all that matters by people fighting for social change. I'm also told that by people who like the current set up. If I get a raise that I wouldn't if I was a woman, then my gender is what determines my worth to the company, not my actual work. If as a white person I get the benefit of the doubt from LEOs, then my trustworthiness is determined, not by my actions, but by the color of my skin. I mean, if there's a "them" there has to be a "us" for "them" not to be a part of.

That said, why SHOULD I fight a system that benefits me instead of pretending it doesn't exist? From a purely selfish point of view, because it also harms me. I mean, yeah I don't get a ticket when I'm pulled over for a burned out headlight and had put the wrong proof of insurance in my car, but when I live a society where everyone else can't trust the police I'm going to be way less safe than if I lived in one where they can. Sure, it's nice that I'm pretty much guaranteed that I can find a book told from (more or less) my perspective about people (more or less) like me, but think of how many great stories are left untold because they involve the wrong kind of person. For that matter, I should fight the system because I'm not ALL of the things that the system's set up to benefit, and you can't take apart one piece without the whole thing coming down.

But, that's not why I, as a white guy, don't just walk away from people talking about how the benefits I have as a white guy aren't available to everyone, and often only exist to the detriment of others. I don't walk away because I'm also a human. We're social animals, and are motivated by lots of things other than self interest, including concern for others. So in the long run, I don't walk away because I want our society to be a just an equal one, even if that means that occasionally I get described as part of a group rather than as an individual.
posted by Gygesringtone at 11:59 AM on October 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


How to be a white guy:

Be as much like Louis C.K. as possible.
posted by Sara C. at 12:10 PM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


The tl;dr version is that I am concerned that feminists and such are addressing the symptoms more than the causes, which lends itself to the pendulum swinging back the other way.

Feminism recognizes the Patriarchy, the global hierarchical system that encompasses all distribution of power, including racism, sexism, classism, corporatism, etc. Feminists aren't confused about the symptoms vs the causes, that's the complaint of someone confused by the title "feminist" (which admittedly is confusing, but no it doesn't just mean "girl power" and there is indeed a glut of literature explaining its tenets that makes a single book recommendation as an attempt to counter it absolutely ridiculous).
posted by deathmaven at 12:11 PM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I haven't murdered, raped, or pillaged anyone recently

Way to let down the team, dude.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:13 PM on October 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


As opposed to socialists telling middle-class people that the truly salient thing about them (in terms of self-interest, opportunities etc.) is being middle-class people? It seems to me that the phrase "the truly salient" is a hang-up here, but I'm probably not thinking things through.

Another way of saying it might be: what sortal gives the best picture of where someone's political interests lie? Rightwingers (implicitly or explicitly) make the appeal to working class white men: hey guys, trust us, we're all white men here! Likewise, identitarian progressives say: you white men there, you all better recognize how good you've had it qua white men, the end of which shall be nigh when we have our druthers! The suggestion is that these are in some ways symbiotic projects (that we have refined over decades of concurrently exploding inequality and destroying the safety net).
posted by batfish at 12:13 PM on October 9, 2014


That said, why SHOULD I fight a system that benefits me instead of pretending it doesn't exist?

What's wrong with just a basic sense of justice?
posted by deathmaven at 12:13 PM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Also can I just say how much I heart Mary Beard?
posted by Sara C. at 12:15 PM on October 9, 2014


Listen, if you think "Fuck your kind, but oh you're OK" is a smart approach to tackling entrenched privilege, you're nuts.

I read the comment you're responding to as describing how things are, not advocating what they should be.
posted by rtha at 12:19 PM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Quilford: In that one tiny limited case, you'd still say it's more socially acceptable to make jokes about black men and women than white men?

Depends who your friends are who is in the room.
IME, at least.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:26 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Maybe white males have also greatly added to the cultural, material and scientific legacy of mankind


Maybe the opportunity to make those additions, and/or to have them recognized and appreciated and remembered, is at least partially a function of white/male privilege?
posted by DiscountDeity at 12:30 PM on October 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


Uhhhh, maybe he is saying that the legacy of 'white males' isn't just oppression and gleeful laughing at the misfortune of whatever group isn't 'white males'. Maybe white males have also greatly added to the cultural, material and scientific legacy of mankind (of which it is available to all groups-mostly through the efforts of white males). If you are going to put 'white males' (and yes I am a white male, but definitely not one of the top 20% of white males these articles always seem to think is the sum total of white males) in a group and judge them for their failings it would be just and honest to also judge them for their contributions,

Yes, we understand that the average white shithead gets the physic and social benefits of the works of a tiny number of exceptional people. That's what "well done, us" is making fun of.

and maybe also their reluctant and hesitant willingness to give up their exalted status with remarkably little bloodshed or strife compared to historical standards (arguing over the internet and Fox News do not compare to armed revolution or things like Tienanmen square).

You got some huge blinders on, dude.
posted by deathmaven at 12:33 PM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


My first thought when confronted with most contemporary feminism is, "You shold read the Rebel by Albert Camus." Then my next thought is often, "The issues you are concerned about are issues of justice, not gender. Issues which, incidentally, I totally agree with you about. Why do you need to indirectly vilify me when before you start your argument I am on your side?"


Huh. My first thought when confronted by most contemporary feminism is to...y'know, listen to and consider what's being said. It seems more polite than being condescending and defensive.
posted by DiscountDeity at 12:34 PM on October 9, 2014 [20 favorites]


Feminists aren't confused about the symptoms vs the causes...

That's like, your opinion, man. (a) I don't think you can speak for all feminists, and (b) I'm allowed to disagree with you.

...and there is indeed a glut of literature explaining its tenets that makes a single book recommendation as an attempt to counter it absolutely ridiculous).

This is one of the things that I find problematic about the current feminism. If your movement requires academic credentials to join the conversation, you're shooting yourself in the foot. I feel safe basing my statements on what self-declared feminists actually say. If the literature says something different, it's still a lot more constructive to address what is being said, because that's what's actually important.

This is very much in line with what I was saying about how well feminism can sell itself to the middle, long term. You need to be able to have a persuasive conversation with someone who isn't already well-versed in your precepts, because otherwise you're talking only to people with whom you already agree.
posted by Edgewise at 12:38 PM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


y'know, listen to and consider what's being said.

I guess what I should have said is:

Whenever I am confrontd with most contemporary feminism in written form I take my reading spectacles from my pocket, put them on my face, ensuring that the right ear stem goes behind my right ear, and similarly with the left stem and ear, then clear my throat (which isn't required for reading, just a strange habit of mine) then I let my eyes pass over the written words, doing my whole converting text into thought thing, then I let those thoughts kind of roll around a bit in the grey matter, doing what I can to filter the incedental impressions to the background so as to focus on the main points of style, tone, and content, frequently I find those ideas to be basic revolutionary concepts which posit that a reversal of membership in existing power relations will solve all immediate problem, which is of course terribly naive and well examine in Camus wonderful work on revolution called 'The Rebel'. Now, in the case of spoken argument, it depends entirely on whether they are somehow mediated or issueing from a living, breathing, wholly present person...

I'm sorry, did you mention condescending and defensive for some reason?
posted by FenderBellyBodine at 12:41 PM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Another way of saying it might be: what sortal gives the best picture of where someone's political interests lie? Rightwingers (implicitly or explicitly) make the appeal to working class white men: hey guys, trust us, we're all white men here! Likewise, identitarian progressives say: you white men there, you all better recognize how good you've had it qua white men, the end of which shall be nigh when we have our druthers! The suggestion is that these are in some ways symbiotic projects (that we have refined over decades of concurrently exploding inequality and destroying the safety net).

Without disputing this picture's accuracy, this strikes me as A) a negative critique, offering no alternative of its own, and B) a negative critique of how identity politics have historically been used, as opposed to one of faults within the theory of identity politics itself. It seems to me that an identitarian left could still make an appeal to working-class white men as members of the working class, though I'm open to the possibility that this is in fact a pipe dream.

Admittedly, you've only offered a summary, which I may be misreading because of my unfamiliarity with these arguments, so I'll leave a thorough argument to better-informed and more intelligent people than me. I'll give Walter Benn Michaels a look.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:41 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


The issues you are concerned about are issues of justice, not gender. Issues which, incidentally, I totally agree with you about. Why do you need to indirectly vilify me when before you start your argument I am on your side?

I have a difficult time taking seriously someone who claims to be my ally when they decide they are better placed than I to direct what aspects of my marginalization I should prioritize.
posted by rtha at 12:45 PM on October 9, 2014 [19 favorites]


I'm sorry, did you mention condescending and defensive for some reason?

No, no reason at all. Tell us again about how you're being vilified by feminists who don't understand their movement as well as you do.
posted by DiscountDeity at 12:46 PM on October 9, 2014 [14 favorites]


The issues you are concerned about are issues of justice, not gender.

Hey, it's the new "it's not racism, it's classism!"

frequently I find those ideas to be basic revolutionary concepts which posit that a reversal of membership in existing power relations will solve all immediate problem

Oh I see, you were reading the Strawman's Feminism Handbook.

and maybe also their reluctant and hesitant willingness to give up their exalted status with remarkably little bloodshed or strife compared to historical standards (arguing over the internet and Fox News do not compare to armed revolution or things like Tienanmen square).

This is quite possibly the most ignorant thing I've read since... well, it's hard to keep track of since there's been so much in this thread already. State violence against minorities is rampant to this very day in the goddamn US of A, not to mention everything within the last 50 years alone.
posted by kmz at 12:48 PM on October 9, 2014 [15 favorites]


To me it's just trying to make people empathize and second-guess themselves more. It's a lot easier for people to empathize if they've been hurt for no reason, but kudos to those that went out of their way to learn about other's situations. See other people as others like me with differing experiences, instead of problems.

America is built on that quite-often false premise of individuality and self-improvement without requiring outside input. If you're pressed for time to prevent immediate casualties, that can have benefits, but we are not a pioneer world anymore. We have no destiny to lead, just one to listen.
posted by halifix at 12:55 PM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: Remarkably little bloodshed or strife compared to historical standards.
posted by DiscountDeity at 1:08 PM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Shakespeare was a black woman tho......? or nah
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:17 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


take responsibility for building and securing the human environment of workplace or home, creating an emotionally nourishing setting

My take on this: lots of men feel that being as strong leader means being harsh and uncompromising, and mistake leadership with discipline. We are talking about GWM here, captains of industry all, in their imaginations, if nowhere else.

What Rowan is saying, is that isn't enough, that the Glengarry Glen Ross asshole boss isn't a good model for boys and men. We should look for fathers and leaders who balance that drive with compassion, who go the extra mile to make people feel included, who take the time to listen. Those are the sorts of behaviours we should exult. Manhood doesn't, shouldn't mean being a dickwad.

It intersects with Marr's point too: be courageous and be kind---in the crunch choose kindness.
posted by bonehead at 1:17 PM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I can't see any other explanation for the defensiveness that predictably pops up in every discussion about white male privilege besides either individual self-importance or some interest in preserving that privilege.
posted by osk at 1:24 PM on October 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


Listen, if you think "Fuck your kind, but oh you're OK" is a smart approach to tackling entrenched privilege, you're nuts

I'm not talking about tackling anything, I'm describing how the world is-- a previous commenter said that the world hates him, I was attempting to explain that (most likely) no one hates him, they hate the actions of people who look just like him. Confusing the two perpetuates the problem.

I haven't murdered, raped, or pillaged anyone recently, so I'm probably not qualified to answer your question.

You're doing the exact same thing I was saying isn't beneficial-- you think I'm attacking you, but I'm not, at all. I think it's precisely because you don't murder people to get money that you're well situated to study the situation and help change it.
posted by cell divide at 1:38 PM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Hey, it's the new "it's not racism, it's classism!"

There are plenty of detailed arguments that say this, and while I, also, don't agree with them in totality, I think treating it like it's obviously untrue -- like one believes the moon is made of cheese -- is unnecessarily dismissive and kind of thoughtless.
posted by smidgen at 1:52 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can't see any other explanation[...] besides either individual self-importance or some interest in preserving that privilege.

It's too easy to say that white men have what's coming to them -- and they do -- there is a correction in attitude that must take place. However, acting like defensiveness is somehow a fatal personal weakness or veiled interest in repressing others, is not really compassionate, or understanding of human nature. Defensiveness at first, as I view it, is a natural consequence of making that shift in perspective.
posted by smidgen at 1:59 PM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Holy crap there are a lot of White Male comments in this thread that would have been totally understandable (if still unbelievably ignorant) on Metafilter five years ago but now not so much.

I mean, wow. I'm kinda boggled.
posted by tzikeh at 2:34 PM on October 9, 2014 [15 favorites]


is not really compassionate, or understanding of human nature.

I suppose you're right. I don't have any compassion for those who don't have any damn reason to be whining. Sorry, but I just find it annoying and it's downright shitty when it serves to distract from the discussion of these issues. If I wanted to listen to white guys whine incessantly I could turn on Glen Beck or something, but that's not why I'm here.
posted by osk at 2:36 PM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think an article about White Males deserves responses from white males, including ones that don't have tumblr accounts. In a thread about other people or other situations? hold the mayo. this one? like a whole damn jar of it.

I'm kind of amazed on how many people are skirting straight-up call-outs and generally being kind of shitty towards others with no mod action.
posted by gorestainedrunes at 3:01 PM on October 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


I can't see any other explanation for the defensiveness that predictably pops up in every discussion about white male privilege besides either individual self-importance or some interest in preserving that privilege.

Then you're being willfully obtuse, because nobody is defending their privilege, we're critiquing the rhetorical models for framing ideas. You might not think it's important, but I disagree. And if Whatever whitey is the sum of your rebuttle then maybe you should pause and give it further consideration. Or not. It makes no difference to me.
posted by echocollate at 3:02 PM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


[...] on Metafilter five years ago but now not so much

Makes you wonder whether in-group snark is really a corrective, or whether it just serves to create an echo chamber, doesn't it?
posted by smidgen at 3:19 PM on October 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


Patriarchy, the global hierarchical system that encompasses all distribution of power, including racism, sexism, classism, corporatism, etc

I've used the term a lot recently because I've found it to be a useful concept, but I never understood it to include *everything* we don't like in power relations. My impression is that it was dealing with oppression of women and the roles that creates. For example, racism & classism don't seem to fit under that umbrella. Whereas sexism is tautologically included and corporatism could be seen as an extension of sexist male dominance.
posted by smidgen at 3:34 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


"...we're critiquing the rhetorical models for framing ideas."

Which is all fine and dandy, if you actually have some corrective action to offer. Otherwise it is simply a negative critique which does nothing to address the problem. It is also a common tactic to deflect discussion away from the original subject and on to the tone argument (among other 'arguing in bad faith' methods).

So tell me: what is your alternative? What would make this subject more palatable for your delicate sensibilities?


Look, I get it. No one wants to be called out as "the bad guy." In each individuals own head, we are the heroes our stories, and heroes are not bad guys. Everything you do is justified because of those unique circumstances and you handle everything in your life to the best of your abilities, because you are a Good Person.

But you are not a Good Person, unless you are actively conscious of how you affect the world around you. You are not, by default, good. No one is. There are no innocents here. Everyone has the capability of doing bad things, even if they don't know they are doing them. And yes, a lot of us are saying "hey, you know, white men, as a group, kinda suck." But we are discussing a group, not an individual. This is an important difference. Statistically, the behaviors that are associated with white men are true. If it makes you feel any better, you are part of the rounding error of +/- 5% that are not a shitty person. So when people are referring to "white men", they aren't talking about you, individually, they are talking about all those other guys who are assholes.

Now let us expound on the actual subject, which is about how you can show all those assholes how to be a better person, instead of armoring yourself some righteous indignation about how you don't like being laughed at (and seriously, no one likes being laughed at, unless they are a comedian), or spoken to like you did something wrong (which you may or may not have done, but that is completely besides the point).
posted by daq at 3:40 PM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


When you say you are not talking about individuals but instead 95%+ of people in a group it seems like you are kind of trying to have it both ways. You are saying with odds that I would bet my house on the person you are addressing there is likely an asshole.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:48 PM on October 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


I am telling you to lie to yourself so you can address the subject without feeling like someone is directly attacking you.
posted by daq at 3:50 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


But you are directly attacking them, you are calling them assholes. There is no obligation to ignore that.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:58 PM on October 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


To be fair, one could make the distinction between being an asshole and acting like one. Perhaps it's easier to put the defensiveness in check if you think of it that way.

I think there is a responsibility on both sides to take things less personally. If you are invested in the idea of a patriarchy, it should be easy to see that some asshole-ish behavior is not only unconscious, but not obvious to the perpetrator. And likewise, if you are not, it should be easy to see that what the person perceives as asshole-ish behavior is going to make someone angry and allow for that.

Both are hard, but otherwise you just have crazy people screaming at each other.
posted by smidgen at 4:06 PM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


To be fair, one could make the distinction between being an asshole and acting like one

A highly overrated distinction on Metafilter and one I've seen basically nowhere else I've ever been, and not one that seems to me to have been made in this particular case.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:12 PM on October 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


It was more of a suggestion of a distinction that could be made, not that people were necessarily making that distinction here yet.
posted by smidgen at 4:22 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can't believe I'm seeing a straight-faced defense of stereotyping.
posted by rustcrumb at 4:28 PM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh my god, people. Please apologize to each other, or just be damn compassionate. All of this discussion right now obviously is not doing anything to directly combat racism and is also very opinionated/personal, but if it really bothers you, say it in a friendly manner. Look, I'll start. I apologize unequivocally to everyone talking in this thread, be it guy, girl, black, asian, cat, or great white male whale. Each person can receive a free hug from my hug machine, but be aware that it is still buggy and occasionally gives hugs at twenty miles/kilometers/cubits per hour.

Right now we're not talking about an generally extremely sensitive subject (in context I mean; racism is always sensitive). It's shouldn't greatly harm anyone no matter what you say, as long as it's been reviewed with self-awareness. So please don't tell other people to shut up with their valid points, and declare victory by declaring that it is in fact a binary debate and the other side is empty; tell them to explain why they feel that way and thank them for being comfortable expressing their thoughts here.
posted by halifix at 4:33 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Why is it that a movement that is supposed to be aimed at equality and social justice seemingly preoccupied with othering every member of a majority group that might function as an ally if you don't say 95% of "them" are assholes? If you want to effect change, why not just focus on people who are genuinely problematic? I mean, if I were engaged in trying to disenfranchise the modern feminist/LGBT/SJ/whatever movement, the best way I can think of is to attack other groups who are likely to be supportive of the movement "naturally," thereby moving the needle towards thinking the social justice movement is a bunch of shrill harpies who think I'm an asshole because I happen to be white and male, despite my actions, lifestyle, and beliefs.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:34 PM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Why is it that a movement that is supposed to be aimed at equality and social justice seemingly preoccupied with othering every member of a majority group that might function as an ally if you don't say 95% of "them" are assholes?

Because sometimes we need to blow off steam, and as people who move through life having our very existence belittled at all times, it just doesn't seem like that big a deal?

Also, don't you remember the Straight White Guy motto? "Jeez, it's just a joke, c'mon..."
posted by Sara C. at 4:46 PM on October 9, 2014 [14 favorites]


If you want to effect change, why not just focus on people who are genuinely problematic?

Why is it whenever we try to talk about the systemic nature of sexism (for instance), we are called on to...ignore the systemic and institutional nature of it, like it's really just this problem committed by some troublemaking individuals?

Why is it that when people try to talk about their experiences with sexist/racist/homophobic behavior and harassment they are often chastised if they name kinds of perpetrators (overwhelmingly men, overwhelmingly white) because that is "othering" people and that is apparently worse than acting in sexist, racist, or homophobic ways? Why is it that when some particular of us try to talk about our experiences and how they are different from and frequently worse than the experiences of some other types of people - well, we aren't supposed to specify those types of people, because that's othering!
posted by rtha at 4:48 PM on October 9, 2014 [19 favorites]


I am enjoying all the indignant "I am white male, hear me roar!" purple prose that's coming out of this discussion, however. Even though you know if it was a woman using the same kind of rhetoric to state her case, she'd be dismissed as ridiculous and whiny and insular. Whoops, just mad again.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:54 PM on October 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


What do you think racism and sexism is? You are literally, and without irony, practicing it in its most orthodox and traditional form if you are saying white males as a group—35% of the population in America, much higher in Europe—are condemned because of their race and sex.

Is institutional racism a problem? Yes. I think so, and I have thought so since I was a small boy. I do what I can to fight against it. As noted above, my family is interracial and my best friend since childhood is black. There are many, many people like me. Why throw away our respect and friendship by acting high and mighty because (presumably) you were born non-white and non-male?

I mean, if you're a white female, guess what? You were just as complicit in institutional racism in the U.S. as white men.

If you're a non-white male, guess what? You got the vote in the U.S. fifty years before women.

There is plenty of blame to go around in history; all we can do is be decent to each other in our daily lives. Being decent to each other includes not being sexist and racist. Not being sexist and racist includes not acting like anyone who happened to be born with pinkish skin and a penis is, by virtue of sharing these traits with the rich, powerful rulers of Western civilization, somehow complicit in your oppression. Come on.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:56 PM on October 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


all we can do is be decent to each other in our daily lives

That is so far from all we can do that I don't even know where to begin.
posted by rtha at 5:05 PM on October 9, 2014 [20 favorites]



Without disputing this picture's accuracy, this strikes me as A) a negative critique, offering no alternative of its own, and B) a negative critique of how identity politics have historically been used, as opposed to one of faults within the theory of identity politics itself


That's right. There's not supposed to be something to sit in the seat now occupied by identity politics. Ordinary progressive goals about human welfare will do. And, while I think WBM actually does kind of want to critique "the very idea" of the identity constructs this politics proceeds through, it's sort of beside the point to ask whether the critique shows that all possible such systems are dysfunctional or just the actual one, which is in fact where we live.
posted by batfish at 5:09 PM on October 9, 2014


You guys got that the whole piece is a tongue in cheek jokey humor thing, right? I mean, the advice ranges from "hang upside down to avoid going bald" to "here's a funny poem full of penis jokes" to "kill all men lol" to the archbishop of Canterbury giving some relatively thoughtful advice about how folks can be more decent to each other.

None of this is like legit thoughts about how white men should be eradicated from the face of the earth.
posted by Sara C. at 5:18 PM on October 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


Also, don't you remember the Straight White Guy motto? "Jeez, it's just a joke, c'mon..."

I remember that it's a really dumb motto people use as an excuse for hurtful comments?
posted by Drinky Die at 5:30 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sara, it seems safe to say at this point that most everyone in this thread has been successfully trolled by this "lame with bits of amusing" piece
posted by batfish at 5:32 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sara C.: "Also, don't you remember the Straight White Guy motto? "Jeez, it's just a joke, c'mon...""

Wait, so that defense is cromulent? Wha?!

rtha: "Why is it that when people try to talk about their experiences with sexist/racist/homophobic behavior and harassment they are often chastised if they name kinds of perpetrators (overwhelmingly men, overwhelmingly white) because that is "othering" people and that is apparently worse than acting in sexist, racist, or homophobic ways?"

Who is saying that making fun of white people is worse than acting in sexist, racist, or homophobic ways? Are we talking about other sites (in which case, yeah, I can totally see people saying that), or are we talking MetaFilter (in which case I cannot remember ever having seen that)?

Sara C.: "None of this is like legit thoughts about how white men should be eradicated from the face of the earth."

I'm thinking that people are more bothered by the discussion here than the content of the site referenced. Like, on the actual link I found maybe one or two people offensive on the anti-GWM side, and one or two people offensive on the pro-GWM. The anti-GWM offensiveness was really really mild. The pro-GWM offensiveness was stronger. So, despite the linked site being ostensibly anti-GWM, the net offensiveness was pro-GWM. Which was surprising. But I don't think the friction in this thread is coming primarily from the linked site, so much as the discussion in the thread itself.
posted by Bugbread at 5:35 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


You guys got that the whole piece is a tongue in cheek jokey humor thing, right?

This. And also, that it's really meant to be read as a sidebar to Grayson Perry's main article (a couple of people said this upthread, but didn't seem to get noticed).

THAT article makes serious points about contemporary Britain, noting the dominance of white, middle-aged, middle-class (in the UK definition) men (though I'd also suggest that Perry should have considered the upper class, given Cameron, Osborne, Johnson, etc). It's worth reading. It certainly doesn't attack anyone for being merely white and male. There's more to it than that.
posted by Pink Frost at 5:39 PM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


If you want to effect change, why not just focus on people who are genuinely problematic?

I don't really buy that people are by and large truly blaming all white males for the existence or perpetuation of white privilege. In my opinion most of the time, that idea is a gross exaggeration of what people are actually stating. Still, it does happen. And when I see it in an article, usually penned by some well educated, (not-necessarily-white-)privileged individual, I find it immensely irritating. It strikes me as a kind of vapid, insincere, self-congratulatory way of asserting one's race-and-feminism cred. Writing "all white men are bigots" does not entitle the author to a get-out-of-racism-or-feminism-free card, and I agree with you that I don't find it particularly productive, except in terms of being provocative.

On the other hand, if someone thinks that a few people indirectly calling him an asshole is a valid excuse for turning his back on an entire social justice movement, then he *is* genuinely problematic. And also, an asshole.

the risk in treating me as part of a monolith is the tacit permission for me to do the same to others when it suits me.

The interesting thing about these kind of threats is that they only make sense if the speaker already believes in his privilege. I mean, what you're saying is you (and other members of your non-monolithic group) are so important that the rest of us piss you off at our own peril. Anyway, come on, nobody's really waiting for permission to be racist or sexist. "I was totally going to behave with dignity and humanity, but seeing a few random people on the internet behave otherwise has brought me down the dark path of racial retribution."
posted by xigxag at 5:44 PM on October 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


Who is saying that making fun of white people is worse than acting in sexist, racist, or homophobic ways? Are we talking about other sites (in which case, yeah, I can totally see people saying that), or are we talking MetaFilter (in which case I cannot remember ever having seen that)?

We've had a lot of discussions here (there was a recent meTa, too) about how calling someone racist/sexist or saying that they said a racist/sexist thing is so terrible that there is almost no way to be careful enough in doing it. There was also this fpp (and a subsequent meTa), from just about a year ago, which was to some clearly satirical and hilarious and to others clearly serious and misandrist.
posted by rtha at 6:03 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


rtha: "We've had a lot of discussions here (there was a recent meTa, too) about how calling someone racist/sexist or saying that they said a racist/sexist thing is so terrible that there is almost no way to be careful enough in doing it."

Yeah, I remember those, and I remember some folks saying being called sexist/racist/homophobic is terrible. But in one of those threads, and here, I've seen people say that others are saying it's worse than actually engaging in sexism, racism, or homophobia. It's the "worse than" part that I don't think I've actually seen on Mefi, but maybe I'm just reading the wrong (right?) threads
posted by Bugbread at 6:13 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Who is saying that making fun of white people is worse than acting in sexist, racist, or homophobic ways?

I don't think that it's so much that any one person is saying that. It's that the aggregate reaction to making fun of white people comes off as much passionate than the reaction to the sexism, racism or homophobia which has engendered it.
posted by xigxag at 6:19 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


xigxag: "It's that the aggregate reaction to making fun of white people comes off as much passionate than the reaction to the sexism, racism or homophobia which has engendered it."

I guess, but I don't see that as indicating people think it's worse. I spend more time per week complaining about the shitty weather than I do about homelessness, but I hope nobody hearing me thinks that means I think a rainy Saturday is worse than the fact that people are dying of exposure and starvation.
posted by Bugbread at 6:25 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


But, wait, I'm not trying to argue down your position, it really was just a question about "who's saying that X is worse than Y". If the answer is "That conclusion is being drawn from the fact that people are complaining about X more than Y", then my question is answered, and thank you.
posted by Bugbread at 6:27 PM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Someone should probably explain the reasoning behind why the male tears thing is not obnoxious, patronizing and hypocritical, so we can all enjoy the joke.

I've read so many feminists here on Metafilter comments about how men should be able to show their feelings and not bottle things up and how the patriarchal idea of a tough guy is bad for everyone. I assume that isn't just lip service, right?

So how exactly does that sterling aspiration turn into gleeful, 'Hey, everybody, let's all gather round and make fun of men who show emotion! We can get shirts made!' ?

posted by misha at 6:53 PM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


emotion at losing some of our privilege, or just having it pointed out, is the implication of the phrase, as far as I've seen
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:56 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


misha: "So how exactly does that sterling aspiration turn into gleeful, 'Hey, everybody, let's all gather round and make fun of men who show emotion! We can get shirts made!' ?"

I don't think it's making fun of men showing emotion, it's more an "ironic misandry" thing. The "tears" part isn't the important part, it's just a proxy for "discomfort/sadness/suffering/etc.". But drinking a cup of suffering doesn't make sense. Drinking a cup of tears does. Hence tears.
posted by Bugbread at 6:58 PM on October 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


Oh god seriously if the worst thing that gets hurled at you in the course of a day due to your gender is a mug that says "MENS TEARS", you lead a charmed fucking life.
posted by Sara C. at 7:01 PM on October 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


Now I've got a mental image of selling bottles of water labeled "Bottled Up Men's Emotions".
posted by Bugbread at 7:01 PM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Statements to both sides:

1. Sorry that our arguments are attacking you. It’s definitely true that some people who could become more aware can be alienated by statements about groups, and it’s unfortunate that it happens. However, please realize that we can’t really discuss things without (often involuntarily) hurting someone, and that being able to take criticism and humor is also a good indicator of a person who can reflect on actions and empathize with different viewpoints. The other side has also been hurt a lot more frequently. Please treat the other side with respect, because we all want to be listened to. Hopefully what we say is of interest or insightful.

2. Sorry if I am acting like I’m trying to silence people. I’d prefer people to speak more fully, actually, and I often forget to statements when I post. I can definitely see where you are getting your anger and derision from. I can see how my world view is biased because oppressed groups have a lot more valid reasons and experiences because of unfair treatment. I’d prefer that in general we treat others with more respect in Metafilter, and hopefully the other side will do the same. This is entirely my opinion. I’m pretty sure that the majority of people here love snark and more concise arguments.

Ok. Running away now. I need to calm down. Interpret as you wish.
posted by halifix at 7:05 PM on October 9, 2014


Now I've got a mental image of selling bottles of water labeled "Bottled Up Men's Emotions".

Perhaps Man Feelings can perform the jingle...
posted by MikeMc at 7:13 PM on October 9, 2014


a mug that says "MENS TEARS"

Those mugs remind of a time I commented somewhere online that my SUV runs on the tears of orphaned Iraqi children, some people failed to see the humor. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
posted by MikeMc at 7:18 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I know a lot of men professionally who I am confident (and with some of them, certain, as they have actually told me) would swear up and down they are not sexist, that they respect women as equals, etc. This does not stop them from: interrupting me, talking over me, explaining things to me, not soliciting my input the way they do with other men, promoting less-qualified men ahead of me, penalizing me for things they do not penalize other men for, and so on and so on. And this is just my professional life. I'm not even touching my personal life. In other words, I do not know one man who would say they are sexist and I think most of them truly believe they aren't sexist. But saying you believe in equality and actually behaving as though women are equals are of course two different things.

And you know what really affects me, as a woman? A society and culture that is shaped by millions of small...tiny...micro things that happen on a daily basis that maybe wouldn't be big deals in isolation, but when taken in the aggregate shape a cultural mindset that still devalues women's work, bodies, autonomy, expression, etc. When a man talks over a woman every time she tries to speak up in a meeting, he 1) shows the other people present that women's input isn't as important as men's input, which in turn 2) teaches the woman who spoke up that she will be embarrassed if she tries to speak up in meetings. Which not only discourages her, but 3) discourages any other woman from speaking up because they either (consciously) fear being not taken seriously or (unconsciously) they never see women speaking up and internalize it somehow, e.g. by thinking their opinion isn't as important or they're not as smart. Keep in mind that no one in the room - not the interrupter, the woman speaking or any other meeting participants, both men and women - need to even be consciously aware this is happening for it to subtly affect their opinions and perceptions of the roles of women as participants in meetings. This in one tiny example of millions and this is how we are socialized and it is the status quo. To fight this kind of unconscious bias that we all have requires constant vigilance on everyone's part, and I think that the vast majority of people don't do it - not out of any kind of malicious intent (though there are obviously actively racist and sexist people out there), but because they just don't know.

I have every reason to believe that most of the people on Mefi are much more enlightened wrt these issues than people in general. I also like to think of myself as being pretty enlightened. Which is why it was really uncomfortable and upsetting to me awhile back, as a female white feminist, to start reading about what black feminists were saying about people like me. I mean, I get I have white privilege and all, but I would never dream of myself as being in any way demeaning or oppressive to people based on race. But then I read somewhere online an article a black feminist had written about white women and her experiences as it related specifically to race differences between women and I thought it was really poignant and heart-wrenching and well-written. And then I went and read the comments and holy shit, the comments from white women. Liberal, feminist white women. People I thought knew better. And I've read a lot of similar back on forth things on Twitter between black and white feminists. And I think my eyes were opened a little bit. Because I saw just a small piece of the absolute fucking bullshit that black women have to deal with every single day that I as a white woman don't have to deal with - from their supposed allies. But what it really opened my eyes to is how much I actually don't know about how deeply ingrained bias is and how much it can impact and hurt the lives of others without anyone realizing they're doing anything wrong. And how I am by no means exempt from that bias - even if I like to think I am. Because no one is.

So I think the lesson I've learned ( up to this point, anyway) is that it is very important for me to just listen to what people have to say about their experiences and hope to learn something so I can better position myself not to contribute to it further. Do people sometimes say things about me and my white privilege which I find kind of inflammatory? Yes. But there are a lot of people out there that put up with some shit that I can't even imagine. I also know I can never be fully aware of my own bias and if or how I act that out on a daily basis. How I react to people voicing their very justified frustration on how power structures continue to hurt them is one thing I have control over. And not reacting with NOT ALL WHITE FEMINISTS indignation is the very least I can do. I try to understand. I listen. I try to learn.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:22 PM on October 9, 2014 [24 favorites]


Look around you; we White Males have totally fucked the world, and I see scant evidence that males of other ethnicities would have done much better.

But I think women would have, and will in the future if they get a chance -- they'll have to wrench it out of our hands though, because we are about as determined to ride it all the way down to the Apocalypse as Slim Pickens on that H-bomb.
posted by jamjam at 8:05 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Remember that Eddie Murphy sketch where he disguises himself like a white guy and it turns out they don't have to pay for the bus and get free shit everywhere? I bet there were a bunch of dudes going "THATS RIDICULOUS WE DONT GET TO RIDE FOR FREE WHAT CLAPTRAP. IM CALLING THE TELEVISION STATION I DONT CARE WHAT TIME IT IS. LEAVE ME ALONE MONA I KNOW WHAT IM DOING"
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:42 PM on October 9, 2014 [15 favorites]



Now I've got a mental image of selling bottles of water labeled "Bottled Up Men's Emotions".


I'm like 95% sure that they sold these at The Sharper Image back in circa 2004.
posted by xigxag at 8:44 PM on October 9, 2014


But then I read somewhere online an article a black feminist had written about white women and her experiences as it related specifically to race differences between women and I thought it was really poignant and heart-wrenching and well-written. And then I went and read the comments and holy shit, the comments from white women.

I can very much relate to this. Any time I wonder for a second if racism and sexism are alive and well, all I have to do is look at any youtube video where there is a black person or woman in the video. Given the sheer volume of horrible shit on one of the world's most frequented sites, I must assume that it represents something significant. It's excruciating to read, but I'm glad it's there to give me the kind of insight that I don't think I could find anywhere else. Seriously, I recommend this as a way of convincing anyone who greatly underestimates the continued influence of this kind of thinking.
posted by Edgewise at 9:13 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Someone should probably explain the reasoning behind why the male tears thing is not obnoxious, patronizing and hypocritical, so we can all enjoy the joke.

I've read so many feminists here on Metafilter comments about how men should be able to show their feelings and not bottle things up and how the patriarchal idea of a tough guy is bad for everyone. I assume that isn't just lip service, right?

So how exactly does that sterling aspiration turn into gleeful, 'Hey, everybody, let's all gather round and make fun of men who show emotion! We can get shirts made!' ?
"

I'm gonna assume that it was this kinda earnest maundering that got my comment deleted. #whataboutthemenz

But since you seem to be translating not getting it into another one of those secret evils inflicted by the matriarchy, lemme limn some layers of irony.

First off, I'm a straight white guy. Even for being a self-professed feminist, I still catch myself (or am caught by others) doing shit like triggerfinger articulates. The first thing I'm doing is making fun of myself.

The second thing I'm making fun of is the hyperbolic, obtuse and oblivious complaints. Like, say, thinking that talking about Great White tears is both making fun of men for showing any emotion (what) and beyond the pale.

It's an ironic and cartoonish response to complaints that are tedious to take seriously and fairly evidence of one of the central critiques of the "Great White Men," an inability to not see oneself as the norm, the center of attention.

Positioning it as making fun of men for showing emotion is true so far as all displays of emotion are equally legitimate. They're not.
posted by klangklangston at 10:05 PM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm gonna assume that it was this kinda earnest maundering that got my comment deleted. #whataboutthemenz

I think it was more because you made a joke about an event in which 100 people died in a tragic fire than anything about male tears or teh menz.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:08 PM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Potomac Avenue, I think of that skit whenever some oblivious white dude protests that he never had anything handed to him and he's had to work hard to be where he is. Some people hear "privilege" and imagine a giant pile of cash being pushed toward them across a banker's desk.
posted by brundlefly at 10:15 PM on October 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I flagged your comment, klangklangston, but it wasn't because it was being flippant about man tears, it was because it was being flippant about a bunch of real deaths of innocent people.
posted by Bugbread at 10:21 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm gonna assume that it was this kinda earnest maundering that got my comment deleted.

You being kind of dickishly in poor taste was what got your comment deleted, for the record. You made, in the immortal words of Paul Reiser, a bad call; please drop it already.
posted by cortex at 10:41 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wait.
I was supposed to be in charge all this time? And no one told me?!?!?


Well, not *you* in particular, of course, goodness no, I mean, I'm sure you wouldn't want the responsibility. It's okay, some people have other strengths.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:54 PM on October 9, 2014


But I think women would have, and will in the future if they get a chance --

It's probably going to be a case of "Yeah, the biosphere only has five years to live. Here- you fix it, while we take off for Mars with our sexbots."

"And based on this thread, that's immediately going to be followed by "...what? Don't judge me!"
posted by happyroach at 12:47 AM on October 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


And yes, a lot of us are saying "hey, you know, white men, as a group, kinda suck." But we are discussing a group, not an individual. This is an important difference. Statistically, the behaviors that are associated with white men are true. If it makes you feel any better, you are part of the rounding error of +/- 5% that are not a shitty person. So when people are referring to "white men", they aren't talking about you, individually, they are talking about all those other guys who are assholes.

You're one of the good ones! Why are you getting upset? I just said you were one of the good ones!
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:49 AM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


This thread has seen the deployment of the equivalents of, 'You think that's a problem? There's starving children in Africa, so your problem can't be taken seriously and you shouldn't care about any problems that aren't as bad as the starvation,' 'This group of people sucks. Oh, not you! I didn't mean you. I meant, you know, all the bad ones,' and even (though somewhat facetiously) 'I was just joking, so you can't take offence,' - all arguments that have, historically, gone over poorly.
So it would be quite easy to believe that for some people, the main problem with the patriarchy isn't that it and its accompanying injustices exist, so much as that they weren't able to be part of the oppressing.

I mean, that's an uncharitable read, but it's disheartening to see - again, an argument that pops up here time and again - commenters defending their right to be insulting about people based on something inherent to how they were born. It's really not hard to only aim at the people who are harmful, rather than coming across as believing the only problem with the current system of inequality isn't the inequality, merely who is in charge of it.

(Of course I'm well aware, as many of the other commenters have also explicitly stated, that there is no real equivalence between the negative effects of these sorts of comments to the actual rampaging inequality borne from the patriarchy. But to echo yet other frequent refrains, it's possible to care about more than one thing at a time, and to think it's possible to fight something bad without sinking to its level.)
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:10 AM on October 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Wait.
I was supposed to be in charge all this time? And no one told me?!?!?


The meetings are every third Wednesday @ 6:30 local time. Don't you read your e-mail? Get your shit together bro!
posted by MikeMc at 10:33 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


But I think women would have [done it better], and will in the future if they get a chance

I have far less confidence in human nature. I believe that whoever is in power will be reluctant to share it -- and that woman in power (exclusively) would be no better than men (or whatever category you care to name) in power. Furthermore, I don't think this is actually controversial -- from shitty women CEOs, to suffragettes voting for prohibition, to hippie communes turned bad to Buddhist terrorists.

I think it's fairly obvious that the problem is unchecked power. Assuming dominance games will just disappear because the "right" people are in charge is assuming too much and will bite you in the ass -- I think it's been well established that setting powers against each other is better than assuming power does not exist -- leaving a vacuum that will eventually be filled at random.

Also, this smacks a little bit of putting woman on a pedestal, which has its own kind of sexism surrounding it.
posted by smidgen at 1:22 PM on October 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


If you see women having the kind of power in their own lives men of almost all cultures have sought to deny them virtually since the dawn of civilization as "putting them on a pedestal," you have been thoroughly and successfully indoctrinated by the Patriarchy.
posted by jamjam at 5:23 PM on October 10, 2014


That's not remotely what he's saying, though. I'm not even sure how you managed to interpret it that way.
posted by Bugbread at 5:59 PM on October 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


And yes, a lot of us are saying "hey, you know, white men, as a group, kinda suck." But we are discussing a group, not an individual. This is an important difference. Statistically, the behaviors that are associated with white men are true. If it makes you feel any better, you are part of the rounding error of +/- 5% that are not a shitty person.

Wait, 95% of white men are shitty people? Everyone is just suppose to stipulate that and move on?
posted by spaltavian at 3:28 PM on October 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Don't get too worked up about that comment, because, frankly, it doesn't even make sense. By which I mean, "+/-5%"? Around what point? 100%? In which case, the percentage of shitty people could be as low as 95%, but it could also be as high as 105%? Unless we're using high school football coach mathematics, that's impossible. So +/-5% around some other number (x), which must be between 5% and 95%. Paired with the "as a group" comment, we can revise that to be that x<95%, and x>56% (if it were 55% or below, the negative margin of error is such that it could produce a shitty ratio of 50% or below, which would conflict with the "as a group" comment).

Ok, so between 56% and 95% of white men kinda suck. That seems fair, since 56% to 95% of every race and gender sucks. It would be odd for white men to be the odd men out (so to speak). Maybe that's not what daq meant, but it's not really clear what daq meant, so no reason to get upset about it.
posted by Bugbread at 5:22 PM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


« Older Call Her Name   |   Coming soon to a health store near you? Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments