What looks like a picture of the Grinch holding a gun
May 17, 2016 5:24 AM   Subscribe

It’s easy to mistake the beta rebellion for a youthful, but otherwise undifferentiated, variation on the bad old tradition of patriarchy. Yet the phenomenon bears the unmistakable signs of a new, net-bred brand of misogyny. [...] But how, exactly, does "hegemonic masculinity" accurately sum up a scene explicitly identifying as beta male? [violence].
And can "traditional ideas about gender" really be bursting forth from an Internet culture that also features gender-bending pornography, discussions about bisexual curiosity, and a male My Little Pony fandom? What’s more, can a retreat from the traditional authority of the nuclear family into an extended adolescence of videogames, porn, and pranks really be described as patriarchal?
-Angela Nagle in The Baffler.
posted by postcommunism (73 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
I may change my answer once I RTFA but, uh, yeah? I can think of nothing more redolant of patriarchy than the privilege of having an eternal adolesence.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:35 AM on May 17, 2016 [36 favorites]


Feedback loops matter. They redefine your expectations, this could be used for good. But also, 4chan.
posted by DigDoug at 5:52 AM on May 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


These violent imbeciles have stolen so much from me: comic books, video games, the word "geek" itself. They've made it unsafe to like or enjoy anything. No matter what it is, assuming it hasn't already, it will inevitably be seized upon as an identity marker by the worst people that humanity has to offer.

If men must be divided into "Alphas" like Donald Trump and "Betas" like Ed Gein, then I shall be an Omega: a sad remnant of an uncivilized past, of value only as an object of pity and a warning to others.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:05 AM on May 17, 2016 [22 favorites]


FoB = Charlton Heston.
posted by biffa at 6:10 AM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is that what this shit is about?
posted by odinsdream at 6:16 AM on May 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


They've made it unsafe to like or enjoy anything. No matter what it is

Hmm I mean yeah but Nah not really man
posted by todayandtomorrow at 6:17 AM on May 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


I don't know what's more frustrating for me here. The incoherent (masculine) nerd rights movement. The equally myopic biases of "Tumblr feminism" (although to be fair, the focus on representation, categorization, and appropriation builds on its history as a fandom site, and the previously mentioned feedback loops). Or thinkpieces trying to explain them in terms of each other.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:22 AM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Nothing new under the sun - this is just our old friend ressentiment, "a reassignment of the pain that accompanies a sense of one's own inferiority/failure onto an external scapegoat. The ego creates the illusion of an enemy, a cause that can be "blamed" for one's own inferiority/failure. Thus, one was thwarted not by a failure in oneself, but rather by an external "evil.""

Of course it's patriarchal - the whole point is to feel this cringing resentment of conventional men and their imaginary successes and to turn that into a lifeway. It's like when I was in college and didn't drink - I didn't avoid drinking for any intrinsic reason, I just avoided it because "they" - the jocks, the normals - drank, and god knows I didn't want to be like them. The whole thing centers what it purports to move past.

It's certainly possible to be bisexual and like My Little Pony and call yourself a beta and not be obsessed with differentiating yourself from "alpha" men, but that doesn't seem to be what's going on here.

As usual, hatred of women is used as a chip in a game about masculinity.

God, I remember Before Internet 2.0 when geeks were geeks, man. Some of them were assholes, but in general male IT people and gamers and comic book fans were okay, they were weirdos, they might wish they had girlfriends but they didn't hate women. Those were the days - I would always know that I'd be friends with the IT people at work, because we would share a bond of nerderie.
posted by Frowner at 6:26 AM on May 17, 2016 [79 favorites]


A possible bit of counter-trolling that could be done here is to suggest that Alpha/Beta ideology has links to Omegaverse Fanfic (NSFW) which in turn is furry porn without the fur.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:29 AM on May 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


If men must be divided into "Alphas" like Donald Trump and "Betas" like Ed Gein, then I shall be an Omega: a sad remnant of an uncivilized past, of value only as an object of pity and a warning to others.

Too late:
After the Rodger massacre, a thread appeared on TheRedPill called “Omega man kills 6 and commits suicide.”
posted by srboisvert at 6:32 AM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Fuck.

(See what I mean? They ruin everything!)
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:38 AM on May 17, 2016 [13 favorites]


furry porn without the fur
What a country!
posted by thelonius at 6:44 AM on May 17, 2016 [13 favorites]


this is just our old friend ressentiment, "a reassignment of the pain that accompanies a sense of one's own inferiority/failure onto an external scapegoat.

Boy howdy I wish I'd bought stock in ressentiment back when it was cheap; because there's nothing but a bull market in it today to as far as my eyes can see.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:48 AM on May 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


The beta-uprising mythology is the idea that Chad gets all the Stacies, or 80% of women want to mate with 20% of men. Therefore Stacy is inflicting pain upon the beta by making a poor choice, or going for a gymbro Chad (who, it is assumed, is going to cheat on her and treat her poorly because he is a jock) when she could make the more mature and thoughtful choice and mate with an ultimate gentleman beta (a niceguy) but instead she friendzones him. I suspect that most of these guys are actually scared of the idea of sex and intimacy, and buy into this mythology as an excuse for the fact that it is they that are making a choice, born of fear, to not seek a relationship with the opposite sex out. They tell themselves they are desperately attempting to get laid, but they take no steps that would logically result in sex or a relationship. Couple that with the silly hyper-masculinity that they have been fed by pop culture since birth from action movies and video games, and you get the beta uprising.

Thankfully, I imagine that 90% of these guys dip a toe in this water between 16 and 19 and then grow out of it to eventually fall somewhere on the spectrum of decent human beings.
posted by ND¢ at 6:53 AM on May 17, 2016 [25 favorites]


I'm 80% sure I've come across this article before at some point, and it strikes me as if the author is trying too hard to map the dynamic that exists on 4chan onto the mainstream political spectrum. There's just not enough of a correspondence to say anything really meaningful.

I get that 4chan is hard to explain to someone who isn't "in the know", but trying to explain it using terms like "counter-culture" will necessarily miss the mark. To use terms like "conservative" or "liberal", or even "libertarian" implies a decision to participate in a movement or cause larger than oneself. While these people might in actuality be part of a social or political movement by virtue of their actions, I very much doubt that they would see themselves as belonging to any particular group.

In short, I don't think that this is a very good article, and I don't really appreciate the tacked on false equivalency between the *chans and tumblr at the end.
posted by phack at 7:07 AM on May 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Isn't that one of her conclusions though, that it doesn't map well onto the political spectrum?

And people who are explicitly rejecting mainstream culture are counter-cultural by definition. Sure it's not the same as the counter-culture of the '70's. But why would it be?
posted by Zalzidrax at 7:17 AM on May 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Jocks, Geeks, Normals and Bros, oh my!
High school ended a long time ago for most of us, guys.
posted by jonmc at 7:28 AM on May 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


I think there's something interesting in the article, though - the way it points out that you can separate some things that are usually joined with sexism from sexism. You don't have to be anti-abortion to be a misogynist, for instance. I guess what's new about this beta business is simply that it can be very libertine while still hating women - not that this is new, there have been plenty of libertine social formations that hate women.

But I think there's novelty in that at the moment, the sheer availability of porn and other sexually explicit stuff and the increasing respectability of sex work* mean that this type of fellow can plausibly imagine having complete sexual access to women without ever having to have any human-equal relationships to women. He can imagine - even if he can't afford or can't access - relations to women that are totally commercial and totally on his terms, and that do not inconvenience him socially. No need to hide a mistress or hide your visits to sex workers, or hide your porn habit - it's possible for him to dream of having women as he has video games. Which allows him to imagine a life of total contempt for women - he imagines he'll never need to treat women with love or respect because in an ideal world he'd simply buy whatever women servants he wanted.

Obviously this don't real, but it's a much more plausible dream right now that it was, say, when I was a kid - if you had a mistress or a porn habit, etc, it had to be a dead secret if you wanted to have commercial success.

Also, robots. I mean, it's also possible to imagine that in ten years you'll just buy a realistic sex robot or three and then you'll be free of the feminine forever and ever, without actually having to give up heterosexual sex.


*Which doesn't mean that porn is bad or sex work is bad; you can smother someone with a pillow, too, but I wouldn't want to sleep without one.
posted by Frowner at 7:28 AM on May 17, 2016 [23 favorites]


This feminism certainly has things to answer for; in addition to its penchant for sabotaging its own allies, it must be challenged on the damage it has done to university life with its militant opposition to free speech.

ಠ_ಠ
posted by LogicalDash at 7:30 AM on May 17, 2016 [42 favorites]


It's like these people are stuck in an eternal John Hughes film circa 1989. Jocks, normals, nerds, what??? My life hasn't looked like this since I was in 7th grade. I want to show them the rogues gallery of all the freaks I've dated and let touch my boobies. Though I'm sure I would get relegated to the "not a 10" pile and thus my proclivities do not count.

but they didn't hate women
Iiiiii am not so sure about this.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:31 AM on May 17, 2016 [19 favorites]


Also, as marriage becomes both more impossible and more not-a-requirement, that changes the imaginary relationship to women - you don't need to assume that you will have to get married because of social pressure, and you probably can't afford marriage anyway. So there goes one more expectation of actually knowing a woman on a sort of equal footing.
posted by Frowner at 7:32 AM on May 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


To use terms like "conservative" or "liberal", or even "libertarian" implies a decision to participate in a movement or cause larger than oneself.

Trump has very clearly made himself into the model candidate for this group. He's tapping this anger and willingness to blame others for one's own problems, while at the same time refusing to get pinned down by the social and religious conservatives.

Angry young* men who feel like failures are his core constituency.

*some are 50-yr olds, but this is how they self-identify. Call them Peter Pans---they reject most "adult" male customary roles.
posted by bonehead at 7:34 AM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


I call them manbabies.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:36 AM on May 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


My theory is that, in many cases, someone's political ideology (or religious belief, or youth subculture, or whatever) is not so much what determines their behaviour, but rather an ex post facto rationalisation of their behaviour and orientation (much of which comes from reacting to other people around them). I.e., most people respond to the people around them, and then, if necessary, fit an identity around that to rationalise it and minimise cognitive dissonance. (All your peers are Tories? You'll probably be a Tory; unless they all gang up on you and snub you, in which case you may become a Whig, New Labour or, if sufficiently angry and inclined to mass vengeance, a Bolshevik. Or if your parents were Republicans but the cool kids at university are Trotskyists, you might become a Trot-until-graduation. If that cute Trot boy/girl you fancy rejects you, you might ragequit the Trots and become a Tankie, a Syndicalist or an Objectivist. And so on.

I suspect that the presence of right-wing fringe ideologies in the “beta rebellion”, where it exists, is an example of this problem. Some undersocialised male nerds are trying and failing to engage socially, but when they fail, becoming convinced that it's feminism/the Cathedral/Cultural Marxism that's stacking the game against them, and ragequitting the whole idea of progress. Others are becoming confused, and easy prey for recruiters from various ideologies and agendas.
posted by acb at 7:37 AM on May 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


I don't really appreciate the tacked on false equivalency between the *chans and tumblr at the end.

The whole last section about tumblr feminism bugged me. It puts a false dichotomy between "real" feminist concerns (equal pay) and "tumblr" feminist concerns (cultural appropriation, knitting, etc). Cultural appropriation is an actual thing that causes actual harm to people. Yes, there can be a holier-and-more-liberal-than-thou aspect to feminists on tumblr, but they sure as hell didn't invent the liberal circular firing squad. And one can mange to both be interested in coloring books and knitting and still want to fight for equal pay. It's not a zero sum game. Feminists need stress relief too. I think so many of the problems with tumblr feminism stem from the platform itself, which is great for sharing images and not great for having complicated discussions about intersectionality.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 7:38 AM on May 17, 2016 [38 favorites]


Feminists need stress relief too. I think so many of the problems with tumblr feminism stem from the platform itself, which is great for sharing images and not great for having complicated discussions about intersectionality.

And in addition stress relief, if academic/theoretical debates don't work their way into the more popular/accessible parts of life, what's the point?
posted by HeroZero at 7:42 AM on May 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Faint of Butt: (See what I mean? They ruin everything!)

What you're looking for is "Gamma Male." I think this whole classification scheme is stupid, but this is where we are.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 8:00 AM on May 17, 2016


No, I'm pretty sure this is a Gamma Male.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:08 AM on May 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


I don't know. I've seen a lot of really bad theory on tumblr supported through echo-chamber discussions and pushed to the point of harassment of other users.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:14 AM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is that what this shit is about?

He sure ain't mastering the blade with those spindly little arms. He looks like he can barely lift the thing.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:26 AM on May 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


To follow up on JustKeepSwimming's comment, what I've seen in the brief trips into Tumblr feminism that I've seen is an emphasis on intersectionality. It isn't just equal pay for women, but recognizing that women of color get and even shorter end of the stick than white women. It isn't just safety for women but recognizing that things are even more dangerous for trans* women and trying to address both and make sure that trans* women don't get left behind/thrown under the bus. I don't doubt that internal dissension gets heated, but on the whole, I've seen an acknowledgement that feminism is about more than white, middle/upper class, women.

And I don't know about you all, but I'm a gamma rabbit. (from Mefi's own jscalzi)
posted by Hactar at 8:26 AM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


No, I'm pretty sure this is a Gamma Male.

Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I'm really awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas...
posted by leotrotsky at 8:29 AM on May 17, 2016 [29 favorites]


I keep having to take breaks from the OP because reading about Elliot Rodgers and his ilk still scares the shit out of me. The shadow of self-invoked male rage is never far from my mind.

The most obvious characteristic that standard-issue male supremacist patriarchy and the plight of the "beta male" have in common is that under both conditions, women are never, ever human beings. We are forever othered, at best no more than pawns, objects, carnival prizes to be awarded to the men who cash in the most tokens or tickets and at worst, no less than psychologically castrating harpies who are too unattractive and/or un-feminine to fuck and thus either contemptible or beneath contempt.

The willful failure to realize that female people are also, y'know, people is also what many, many Before Internet 2.0 IT geeks, gamers, and comic book fans had in common with the era's most flagrant misogynists. If a steadfast refusal to view women as human can't be considered equivalent to a raging river of woman-hating on its face, it's certainly one of the ugliest, most painful tributaries.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 8:30 AM on May 17, 2016 [31 favorites]


odinsdream: Is that what this shit is about?

That's pretty much exactly what that shit is about. Per leotrotsky, it's not really about "studying the blade" (this is how you actually draw a katana), and I have no fucking idea what the creator of that thing means by "mastering the blockchain" (he actually mined a Bitcoin when it was practical to do so? Or paid for his cheap knockoff sword with one?), it's really about wanting the world to burn so that you can laugh at the ostensible Kool Kidz before you use up the Clif bars in your bug-out bag. It's about the sort of person who thinks that this is utterly righteous. (Back in the day, not long after Watchmen was published, I met someone at a comics shop who thought that Rorschach was a straight-up hero, no "anti" about it. He also plastered the walls of his trailer with pictures of Kristy McNichol. I'm a little afraid to think of what he's doing now.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:52 AM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


this is how you actually draw a katana

Not enough UZ!
posted by ND¢ at 9:13 AM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


leotrotsky: "Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I'm really awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas..."

(rings elevator chime)
posted by boo_radley at 9:40 AM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's an interesting social group and I think the writer gets in some good points but it seems like it's a hard group to penetrate and really understand. I wonder how much they really understand themselves.

As a subculture, it seems like such a dead end in every way. I think I understand why the Gamergate response is so strident, because its supporters are people who have painted themselves into a corner and the only nourishment and enjoyment they get in life is from something like a video game. They can be good at them, find comfort in them. They've probably slipped from their parents' middle class world to a lower class existence working shit jobs and given up on non-internet socialising. It's a big deal for them, because everything else is frustration and failure. They are a consumer subculture, not a creative one, so once the things they love and societal norms start changing there's no recourse.

And they still live a comparatively cushy life on Mount Patriarchy, even if it's at the bottom slopes. As that structure gets attacked and eroded, the bottom-feeders are going to be falling into the void first, before those living on top start noticing the gravity of the threat. So of course we're going to hear the betas/omegas howling before the alphas. That's what I like to tell myself anyhow, that all this is just a prolonged, unpleasant death rattle.
posted by picea at 10:28 AM on May 17, 2016 [18 favorites]


Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki.

You may have the beginnings of a YA dystopia series here. Get writing before these guys make our real dystopia worse than it already is....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:29 AM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


You may have the beginnings of a YA dystopia series here.

*ahem*
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:31 AM on May 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


*ahem*

What? Pocket the money, then blame the editors if anyone notices.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:08 AM on May 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


You may have the beginnings of a YA dystopia series here. Get writing before these guys make our real dystopia worse than it already is....

0_ó
posted by odinsdream at 11:13 AM on May 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


What? Pocket the money, then blame the editors if anyone notices.

I mean, it worked for the Hunger Games. *cough*
posted by leotrotsky at 11:54 AM on May 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Delta Delta Delta, can I help ya help ya help ya?

That's all I came here to say.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:54 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, one obvious answer to the question of the FPP is that "hegemonic masculinity" is a blunt theoretical tool unable to account for the varying class differences among men. "Geek masculinity," has its roots in an economic class relationship of highly technical and educational labor (or aspirations to that as a vocation). A fair bit of the "beta rebellion" has to do with conflicts in class norms and resentment of perceived status. The dark side of misogyny, racism, and a sense that men of other classes are undeservedly getting more sex or better quality sex isn't new either. Great Gatsby and Madame Bovary come to mind as prior art of the sexual resentment.

I don't think that things like Bronies, bisexuality/heteroflexibility, and other forms of "feminine" counterculture are as significant as the author thinks, because all of those things are culturally constructed to different degrees and have gone in and out of fashion without significantly changing class status. Frankly, a bunch of guys calling each other "f*g" while whining about women who won't fuck them don't impress me as all that gay or bi. But see, what I did just did there was do my own flavor of class-based gatekeeping.

At any rate, this is one case where I think feminist needs some good old marxism in order to understand why "betas" simultaneously resent women and other economic classes.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:14 PM on May 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


the sheer availability of porn and other sexually explicit stuff and the increasing respectability of sex work* mean that this type of fellow can plausibly imagine having complete sexual access to women without ever having to have any human-equal relationships to women.

The piece that the article misses is how narrowly defined the acceptable type of woman they want sexual access to is. It's entirely physical/visual, and very definitely driven by porn, air brushing, etc. They're pissed at the women on Tumblr for working to make it acceptable for women to not be constrained by those ideals of feminine beauty.

This shit wouldn't scare me so much if I didn't keep running into it in the wild. Amongst late thirties highly educated professionals. Colleagues, which is even worse.
posted by susiswimmer at 2:40 PM on May 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


Madonna/whore complexes are in full play too.
posted by bonehead at 3:25 PM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


New 'Beta Male' section from NYMag's @TheCut seeks to prove that men can write messy sprawling personal essays too

i get the shock value
but honestly i don't think it's ethical for nymag to be publishing spree killer manifestos
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:17 PM on May 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Frankly, a bunch of guys calling each other "f*g" while whining about women who won't fuck them don't impress me as all that gay or bi.

At least back in the day /b's level of comfort with queerness was perhaps not unlimited but pretty high. But then I've known a pretty diverse set of people (WOC, trans, etc.) who would admit to being on 4chan back in the day - I'm not sure they would be now with the spread of honest-to-god Nazis on /pol and so on.
posted by atoxyl at 4:17 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


> New 'Beta Male' section from NYMag's @TheCut seeks to prove that men can write messy sprawling personal essays too

What I appreciated most from the OP was:
Along with the presupposition that misogyny must spring from conservatism often comes the notion that transgression and countercultural gestures are somehow incompatible with it. But women have long figured in the countercultural imagination as agents of conformity and avatars of a vain, mindless consumerism. It seems to me that this is the tradition that 4chan and the wider beta-sphere, perhaps unknowingly, are really carrying on.
Because everything I've read recently about the alt-right presents it as the new weird conservatism, but ignores the flavor of more, uh, traditional countercultralism that you can find all over the place in the subculture that 4chan has (to greater or lesser extent/accuracy) become shorthand for. The Norman Mailer cite is accurate; One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest much more so. (lol cuck-oo amirite.) Think of books like A Fan's Notes or The Dice Man, and then think of /r9k/ or redpillers.

That sort of fiction and messy personal essays by "betas" aren't new, but they're also hardly the exclusive domain of the right. The alt-right is right, sure, but the ethos is more of a synthesis than gets credited. If you scroll back through what's normally considered progressive counterculture you definitely find predecessors.

(OP's claim that "betas" are a counterargument to the idea of patriarchy is perhaps a bit less pointed.)
posted by postcommunism at 5:47 PM on May 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Is that what this shit is about?

Thank god I'd already been inoculated by seeing that picture. Otherwise I'd be cringing so hard I'd be bending into a non-Euclidean shape like a triangle with four sides.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:48 PM on May 17, 2016


The piece that the article misses is how narrowly defined the acceptable type of woman they want sexual access to is.

Which is really sad for everyone and shooting themselves in the foot. When they create this culture where they convince each other only a tiny percentage of women are desirable, they cut themselves off from a lot possible relationships they might have found very satisfying.

It's like they don't even know that when you get to know someone as a person, they can become attractive to you in ways you wouldn't have anticipated at first glance. There's this huge range of human sexuality that you might not know even exists if all you know is porn.
posted by straight at 5:50 PM on May 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


These threads kind of hit close to home to me, since as a pretty introverted, nerdy guy I see kind of a twisted version of some of my own thoughts in these people. I think if it hadn't been for coming out as bi making me reexamine how differently I viewed men and women - and I prior to that I wouldn't have said I did; this stuff is insidious! - and my mom and her friends being good role models of intelligent, capable, and implicitly feminist women, I fear I'd see myself reflected here a lot more.

And I think that the comments to the effect that all people who might be susceptible to this form of thinking are the worst of the worst and only care about women that look like porn stars are a little bit off the mark.

Because it doesn't matter whether you like conventionally attractive athletic types or bookish sorts who don't fit classical beauty standards if you think you have an important opinion on the right way for women to look and to act.

It doesn't matter if you just want sex or really do want a relationship and someone to care for and look after if you think women are the gatekeepers and whether someone accepts or rejects a date is not a function of whether they're feeling it but a decision based on and a statement of your worth as a man.

And it doesn't matter whether you think women are people if you let those insecurities about women being gatekeepers who are judging you, and disdain for things that are too 'girly' take the place of empathy with your fellow human beings - who happen to be women.

It seems like it's so easy to end up objectifying women in society without even noticing because these nasty assumptions are so deeply rooted. And I can't think of a lot of role models working to the contrary.
posted by Zalzidrax at 5:53 PM on May 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


The point about how these men can't be part of the patriarchy because Bronies struck me as really interesting, because one of the overall effects of some of the male Bronies has been to make My Little Pony fandom unwelcoming both for the target audience - young girls - and for the women who grew up within this fandom (myself included; I still own my gen1s). I'll never forget a fellow fan remarking that Bronie culture led to someone questioning her geek cred about My Little Pony because she was a woman when she had been in the fandom since she was five or six (same as me).

I see the shift of men taking over My Little Pony, increasing the pornographic content, and cred-checking women as a sign that if anything of actual quality is created by women for women, men will still try to take it away from us. My Little Pony was good, was quality, was fun and interesting and awesome and they wanted it - and sexism/patriarchy dictated if men wanted it they could take it while pretending the women were never there.

And frankly, media discussions that focus on the men (because SEXISM) have reinforced that My Little Pony is a male fandom, now, and wasn't a fandom until men arrived and became newsworthy.

See also: a ton of genre/geek things.

It's depressing.
posted by Deoridhe at 8:29 PM on May 17, 2016 [20 favorites]


These threads kind of hit close to home to me, since as a pretty introverted, nerdy guy I see kind of a twisted version of some of my own thoughts in these people.

And I feel very much the same way, as a very introverted nerdy girl. I think we might even get along in real life...

But, I think we can all agree that the guys who are actually killing people actually are the worst of the worst. (And there is significant overlap between the groups discussed in the article and those that focus on the importance of appearance in society to an unhealthy degree.)

And beyond that, there is a not insignificant group that is ruining the dating pool for the rest of us who would like to see people as people.
posted by susiswimmer at 9:05 PM on May 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yes, the Brony thing strikes me as missing the forest for the trees. Masculinity is a mostly arbitrary set of cultural signifiers adopted by communities of men for the purpose of distinguishing in-group/out-group relations with women and other communities of men. That includes lipstick, wigs, and platform shoes just as much as shaved heads and football jerseys. It's been both. There's nothing magical about "traditional masculinity" that makes 4chan betas different because the fashion and frippery has changed.

Shortly following the Brony question is this one:

What’s more, can a retreat from the traditional authority of the nuclear family into an extended adolescence of videogames, porn, and pranks really be described as patriarchal?

The nuclear family actually isn't all that traditional. It's a side-effect of post-WWII prosperity, urbanization, and increased mobility. And I don't know. Can the reemergence of extended family structures as an economic consequence of declining real wages and concentration of wealth vested into a minority be called "patriarchal?" Cross-culturally delayed marriage, aka "extended adolescence" for men is entirely patriarchal, ensuring that sons become "established" before starting families.

Those seeking to defend their ideological turf will say that the killers are measuring themselves against a damaging masculine ideal, but at what point is this stretching the hegemonic masculinity theory so far that it becomes tautological—and a rote explanation for all bad male behavior?

Well, one way around this is to focus on the material and ideological power relationships and see how the men in question construct their fashion and frippery in support. I frankly, don't see that the masculine construction of videogames, porn, trolling, or Bronies is all that different from the masculine construction of sports, cars/motorcycles, chess, poker, science, science fiction, fiction, comics, drag, rock and roll (including punk and metal), barbecue, politics, and philosophy as a short list of examples.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:19 PM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Bronies were not so much an acceptance of femininity as a panty raid on it. It was dudes forming a raiding party, taking over a feminised space and asserting their dominance of it.
posted by acb at 3:04 AM on May 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


Because everything I've read recently about the alt-right presents it as the new weird conservatism, but ignores the flavor of more, uh, traditional countercultralism that you can find all over the place in the subculture that 4chan has (to greater or lesser extent/accuracy) become shorthand for.

Conservatism has a way of latching onto movements and killing off the weirder, more open-minded aspects of them, subsuming them to authoritarian homogeneity. Witness coffeehouse Christianity/Jesus Freaks in the sixeventies, for example; they started off as hippies/seekers who didn't reject Christian spirituality and ended up as another doctrine-enforcing arm of American Christianity. The alt-right's embrace of geek culture may be the same sort of thing.
posted by acb at 3:09 AM on May 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


At any rate, this is one case where I think feminist needs some good old marxism in order to understand why "betas" simultaneously resent women and other economic classes.

I would like to subscribe to your newsletter, i assume it is entitled "Feminist Marxist Magical Girl Team Up!"

Those seeking to defend their ideological turf will say that the killers are measuring themselves against a damaging masculine ideal, but at what point is this stretching the hegemonic masculinity theory so far that it becomes tautological—and a rote explanation for all bad male behavior?

I really don't think it's a stretch at all, because the whole alpha-beta worldview is itself a symptom of hegemonic masculinity. It's a hegemonic paradigm which these guys are not actually rebelling against. They are not rejecting the paradigm; they're just resenting it. The bullets are not aimed at masculinity, or hegemony, but at the people who they think have more power in this paradigm. Every conversation they have is predicated on this paradigm being true.

Rejecting this worldview would mean rejecting "dominance" or "power" as the most valued trait; it would mean valuing both themselves and others for what traits they have. If they were rejecting this worldview they would stop obsessing about women as status objects!

Some of this seems like a nascent effort to do so. Like, the Men Going Their own Way. I actually support that decision. I fucking wish I could Go my Own Way and never see another man again for the rest of my life and still have a decent life and career. I sympathize.

-
Masculinity itself (in Western culture) has always had room for at least two kinds of men - two ideals to choose from. The philosopher and the warrior, in the classic dichotomy. As recently as the 1800's you had the ideal of the Renaissance man, well educated in the arts, science, literature, etc. There was the idea of "sensibility" which translates directly to "feels" - that men were expected to exercise their emotional range, feel their feels, and become more manly by doing so. (cites)

More recently there's the archetype of the masculine tech geek - think Tony Stark. (There are definitely others but honestly these guys just don't stick in my head.) Like in the OP: "In the information age, the tastes and values of geeks are elevated above the masculine virtues of physical strength and material productivity that preceded them." Much like the "sensibility" guys, they're allowed some fluidity in gendered traits because manly men Do What They Want, or something. This archetype is just a hairs-width away from the "beta" archetype these guys are angry about. See if you can spot the difference. cuz now i'm out of time
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 5:01 AM on May 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


MGTOW is one of those things which looks nice enough in theory: a bunch of dudes who realise that their sexual attention towards women is unwanted, and that not having a girlfriend doesn't make them any more of a loser, and resolve to leave women the hell alone and stop measuring themselves by whether they have sexual access to them; what's not to be liked, right? Except where it crosses over into a resentful masculine separatism and festering resentment against the mythical castrating gorgons from whom they have separated themselves.

Civilised MGTOWs should probably resolve to have female platonic friends, for the sake of not regarding women as the Other, as an enemy on the other side of a dividing line.
posted by acb at 6:06 AM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Isn't Tony Stark basically Howard Roark/John Galt with superhero paraphernalia?
posted by acb at 6:06 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Tony Stark is a great example. The aspiration is to be Tony Stark but the reality is usually Dilbert. And since the running theory for geek masculinists is that socio-economic status is tied to great sex, of course they're going to resent "normies" who have "cheated" them out of both economic independence and sex with women.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:47 AM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Or in other words, I agree that the alpha-beta paradigm affirms one of the core structures of patriarchy: higher-status men get more women and more attractive women. Their "revolution" is little more than a dream of a meritocracy or technocracy that puts them in a higher status position.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:55 AM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Their "revolution" is little more than a dream of a meritocracy or technocracy that puts them in a higher status position.

Absolutely! Although I would quibble that economic status is actually a factor... I definitely run into this poison often, and amongst economically successful men. Because the economic success should mean they can get sex with women without actually having to treat them like people, right? And they are so ticked when they find out it doesn't actually work like that.
posted by susiswimmer at 7:01 AM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


The aspiration is to be Tony Stark but the reality is usually Dilbert.

“We all want to be Taylor Swift but most of us are only ever going to be Pizza Rat.”
posted by acb at 7:04 AM on May 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


But I think that there's also a white straight (or straight-priviledged/passing/whatever) dude piece here - the idea that you can have it all, and if you don't have it all that's either because you've failed (unacceptable! shatters your very self!) or because someone has done you wrong. So strong is this idea that it's not even dented by class - no reason to say "huh, all else aside, I probably won't have it all because I'm from a prole background and my knowledge of history and labor politics suggests that even brilliant, skilled working class people rarely rise".

The rest of us already know that we can't have it all, that historically people like us don't get to have it all, and that even leaving all issues of privilege aside, even if you're doing very well you tend not to have every piece of your life perfect. Like, I don't feel that the world is actively doing me wrong because I am not rich, widely respected and possessed of many hot sexual partners. I do not feel that this is the normal state of affairs that I deserve automatically.

The resentment comes from the sense of deprivation; the sense of deprivation comes from the belief that merely by being straight, usually white cis men with an interest in technology, they ipso facto deserve to get everything they want. This belief is straight up patriarchy.

I often think about how basically the X-Men, most superheros, and most contemporary SF adventure is wealth fantasy. It's not just about adventure or heroism or even getting the girl - it's about having so much money that you can do anything you want. That's the deal with Professor X, that's the deal with Tony Stark, that's the deal with the Avengers and so on as soon as they are on the government payroll, that's the deal with all the Stargate-variant-series heroes. The background is that of course one is so wealthy that one never needs to worry about money, always has the best as a matter of course, etc. It's part of the fascist aspect of those series, and it's part of their appeal.
posted by Frowner at 7:06 AM on May 18, 2016 [13 favorites]


Straight up white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, actually - drawing on one's bell hooks.
posted by Frowner at 7:08 AM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


There's nothing magical about "traditional masculinity" that makes 4chan betas different because the fashion and frippery has changed.

The problem is that, in common with a lot of political commentary in the US (and elsewhere), if you cannot focus on hard facts like class and race you inevitably end up with fripperies like this, that you end up talking about political groups purely in the sort of media they consume, where somebody who likes comics and MLP cannot possibly be rightwing as we're still stuck in 1950ties narratives about culture.

It's a hegemonic paradigm which these guys are not actually rebelling against. They are not rejecting the paradigm; they're just resenting it. The bullets are not aimed at masculinity, or hegemony, but at the people who they think have more power in this paradigm. Every conversation they have is predicated on this paradigm being true.

They don't attack the hierarchy, they just want a world with them on top in the same hierarchy. It's not that the system is unfair, but that the system is unfair to you; classic breeding ground for fascism.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:13 AM on May 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


They don't attack the hierarchy, they just want a world with them on top in the same hierarchy. It's not that the system is unfair, but that the system is unfair to you; classic breeding ground for fascism.

“The difference between Heaven and Hell is which end of the pitchfork you're on.”
posted by acb at 7:46 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]



I'm pretty sure we can talk about someone's attitude towards the media they consume.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 8:24 AM on May 18, 2016


MartinWisse: "They don't attack the hierarchy, they just want a world with them on top in the same hierarchy."

100% this. They're not even for a second thinking of using the master's tools to dismantle the master's house -- all they want is to break in and take over as masters themselves.
posted by mhum at 12:01 PM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Civilised MGTOWs should probably resolve to have female platonic friends, for the sake of not regarding women as the Other, as an enemy on the other side of a dividing line.

You're talking about them like they're dudes who realize that they're the problem. They are not. The closest model to to their theories is lesbian separatism, and they legit believe themselves to have the same grievances actual women actually have.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:10 PM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]




Speaking of ressentiment, I must mention a book I only just discovered: Greg Gutfeld's Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You. What do you say about an adult man who apparently lives in terror that someone somewhere thinks he isn't cool? Who's written a book about it? I don't know. I guess you just roll your eyes and turn away.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:47 AM on May 26, 2016


« Older Caramel sugar   |   Kaleva's stories Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments