The Decade of Enduring Male Fragility
January 29, 2020 8:14 AM   Subscribe

The onus doesn’t need to be on women to fix [harassment]. Women are already doing enough just by enduring it, and continuing to speak out. "They were stronger than they should ever have had to be. But then, there are the rest of us, who watched these women get harassed over the decade and thought “I really don’t want that to happen to me.” How many of us just learned to be afraid, or to be silent?"

"In an Amnesty International poll from 2017, 76 percent of women said they changed the way they used social media after being harassed. Thirty-two percent of women said they’d stopped posting content that expressed their opinion on certain issues.

Because of this, some very important voices are lost. The UN High commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, noted, “Online campaigns against women human rights defenders and organizations aim to damage their credibility as advocates, to diminish or obliterate the power of their voices, and to restrict the already limited public space in which women's activists can mobilize and make a difference.”
posted by stoneweaver (129 comments total) 87 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have this open in another tab - Why Do Men’s Legacies Matter More Than Women’s Safety?

Almost immediately after Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez tweeted out a link to an article about the 2003 rape accusation against Kobe Bryant, who died on Sunday alongside his 13-year-old daughter and seven others, the harassment began. Sonmez was harangued and threatened, her address posted publicly. In fear for her safety, she checked into a hotel.

On Monday, the Washington Post put Sonmez on administrative leave, noting in a statement that the paper was reviewing whether her tweets violated their social media policy, and saying that she “displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues.”

posted by amanda at 9:04 AM on January 29 [55 favorites]


I just had lunch on Sunday with a (cis female) friend who tried to float the, "but now that women don't need men to survive, aren't guys the ones REALLY suffering" shit. I am so, so, so tired. I'd send her this article, which makes so many salient points so much better than I could, but she'd probably feel it was just ol' peakes, at it again.

This is a woman who, despite screaming down a cab driver who was rude to us one night and then on another occasion berating a group of dudes who laughed at her, is very quick to assure anyone listening that she's "not, like, some angry feminist." I have a lot of impatience and contempt for that attitude, but knowing where actually being a feminist gets you, I really shouldn't.
posted by peakes at 9:08 AM on January 29 [31 favorites]


I work in higher-ed education and the amount of "but MEN are the minority in education fields!" and "but MEN are so discriminated against for education jobs!"
Especially post-MeToo, the idea that men are "equally" harassed out of teaching jobs because no one trusts men with their kids.

All.The.Fucking.Time.
Guess how many men are full professors in my College of Education.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:32 AM on January 29 [66 favorites]


I don’t know what to do anymore. I wish someone could tell me it’s getting better, or will get better, but...I have eyes.

I feel like maybe if I understood why men hate us so much, maybe then we could do something about it. And then I wonder, why aren’t there millions of words on this already?

I mean, I know why. But seriously think about that. It’s just taken as a given. But why? Why do they hate us so much? Across the whole world, for most of recorded history, there’s men hating, brutalizing, and exploiting women. Why?
posted by schadenfrau at 9:57 AM on January 29 [63 favorites]


sometimes you just gotta dance in the woods in a bacchic frenzy unto the ecstatic climax of sparagmos
posted by poffin boffin at 9:59 AM on January 29 [22 favorites]


"... there’s men hating, brutalizing, and exploiting women." Don't know much about the particular forms with women but there's is a whole litany of behaviors and attitudes to keep the "down" groups in their place. It's a *constant* effort. Against the very real pushback(s) that also constantly happen. Saw it a lot growing up. Mostly against Black people, it was real open then. But then I started noticing "...to the moon Alice!" among all the other crap. And the arguments such as how much was "too much" to hit your wife/girlfriends. It went on and on...


It *is* better now but plenty of people want the "good old days" back. And are working on doing that. What ultimately gives me hope is most of them are due to die off fairly soon. Makes me *really* wonder about the supposed benefits of life extension.
posted by aleph at 10:20 AM on January 29 [4 favorites]


What ultimately gives me hope is most of them are due to die off fairly soon.

If you think furious, unhinged, virulent misogyny is exclusive to older men then I suggest you spend a single weekend as a female-sounding person in voice chat on a game like overwatch where broken-voiced teenage boys will make you wish the human race never existed.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:28 AM on January 29 [156 favorites]


No I do not think so. I used to be one. That crap is *always* there with the young men. How's it's funneled into the adult mechanisms to keep the groups in their place is what I hope has a lot of die off.
posted by aleph at 10:30 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


dude, wtf are you doing, coming into this thread to tell a bunch of women — and I quote — “it *is* better now”?

Stop. Just stop. I don’t even have the energy to explain what’s so fucked up about that, so please, if you care at all, take the time to do your own research. Otherwise just fucking stop.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:36 AM on January 29 [52 favorites]


That crap is *always* there with the young men.

No, it isn't. Those young men were taught to hate women by older men through our culture.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:36 AM on January 29 [50 favorites]


"I used to be one" => young man.
posted by aleph at 10:37 AM on January 29


As a young women watching carefully, I don't see enough men speaking up to one another about this and enforcing that it isn't okay. I have zero faith that male fragility will ever change without men making it change, and a few shining exceptions won't change the aggregate patterns at all.
posted by sciatrix at 10:37 AM on January 29 [61 favorites]


“ I mean, I know why. But seriously think about that. It’s just taken as a given. But why? Why do they hate us so much? Across the whole world, for most of recorded history, there’s men hating, brutalizing, and exploiting women. Why?”

This isn’t universally true. In many, if not most, tribes on Turtle Island (the americas), women were the decision makers and tribal elders. They decided things like where to live, what to plant, who to cooperate with, etc etc. There are examples of matriarchal societies still extant, although they are mostly low contact or no contact.

Western men and western society promulgates hatred of women. It is one of the ills of colonization that has infected culture. It’s not a given. Interrogating why it seems so, what examples we are given to emulate, and the fact that it seems universal is truly part of the work we need to do to unwind it.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:37 AM on January 29 [39 favorites]


It should be noted that the author, Jennifer Wright, is no stranger to harassment herself, and no doubt this piece will bring her more hate. Previous pieces of hers that attracted all the hate include Abortion Is Not Murder.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:37 AM on January 29 [15 favorites]


Yes, and I used to be one too. Which is why I know that misogyny is not the natural state of the adolescent male - that it, like any other hate, has to be taught - and that this is done through the instruction of older men through our culture.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:39 AM on January 29 [18 favorites]


Yeah, it's not just old men. This bullshit is virulent amongst younger types too. Even among the supposedly progressive types you still get the fucking "make me a sandwich" jokes and when someone speaks up about it they get laughed off, as if that small bit of misogyny doesn't help the bigger loads of crap go down.
posted by dazed_one at 10:39 AM on January 29 [17 favorites]


I'm honestly more afraid of male fragility than I am of open, confident sexism. Fragility can explode based on what a given man thinks I might think privately, not what I say or do, and it is so much harder to predict and manage. And fragility responses are absolutely just as dangerous to women in terms of career, livelihood, and our lives themselves as malevolent, confident sexism ever could be. They are in no way an improvement on sexism generally.

Consider your responses accordingly, gentlemen.
posted by sciatrix at 10:40 AM on January 29 [87 favorites]


What's worse is that when you point out that the left very much has its own sins to deal with in regard to sexism and misogyny, they look at you as if you are crazy, and not pointing out a basic truth of our society.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:42 AM on January 29 [27 favorites]


For what it's worth.. a monthly discussion group I attend has been focused on two main themes the past few months: climate crisis and gender crisis.. as in, if we can't get past this now, we will not survive into another century. The group is mixed age and I'll say "fairly" diverse.

The other anecdote is the Robbie Burns dinner where the "Toast to the Lassies" was an appeal that we finally put that crap behind us. Let this be the century we end gender, or at least end the constructs that keep us all trapped.

I mean, for what it's worth..
posted by elkevelvet at 10:47 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Western men and western society promulgates hatred of women.

i like to blame monotheism personally but admittedly i have an Agenda
posted by poffin boffin at 10:48 AM on January 29 [33 favorites]


Western men and western society promulgates hatred of women. It is one of the ills of colonization that has infected culture. It’s not a given.

I’m not a historian (though now I’m tempted to ask historians...somewhere), but unless what I was taught in college about ancient China, for example, was just wrong, this is just incorrect and weirdly unhelpful in the way it dismisses and erases misogyny not committed by western societies.

No one has a monopoly on misogyny.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:52 AM on January 29 [54 favorites]


i like to blame monotheism personally

I’ve heard it was agriculture, but every time I try to look into it I get too depressed by a) it’s not a question people care so much about that a reasonable answer isn’t easily googleable, and b) reality
posted by schadenfrau at 10:54 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Western men and western society promulgates hatred of women.

True, but I can add that the Chinese side of my family didn't learn what misogyny exists within solely from the west. My great grandfather had 3 wives and made sure each one gave him at least one son. The fucking patriarchy isn't a uniquely western construct.
posted by dazed_one at 10:56 AM on January 29 [25 favorites]


I work in higher-ed education and the amount of "but MEN are the minority in education fields!" and "but MEN are so discriminated against for education jobs!"

The blithe ignorance of those statements is *almost* amusing.

Yep, in public school education, the majority of teachers are female. In the US, 89% of elementary school teachers are female; by the time you get to high school, that number's down to about 65%. But, at the college level, women are only 40% of the faculty at master's-level colleges and 33% at doctoral-level universities. [1]

I read this as "society still prefers that women perform the task of raising our kids, and the men get to take over when the students are adults".

[1] Numbers for public education are from 2015-2016 school year while the college numbers are from 2011, so they may not completely represent current reality
posted by hanov3r at 10:57 AM on January 29 [33 favorites]


And men in higher ed are notorious for sexual harassment and other kinds of inappropriate conduct. I've lived and observed it, don't @ me. (kidding on that last don't @ me bit)
posted by wellred at 11:01 AM on January 29 [12 favorites]


On the other hand, we do have documented cases of Western colonialism importing and promoting misogyny in indigenous peoples; for example, the Iroquois nations famously horrified Europeans upon contract, and efforts to force a more European understanding of the rights, responsibilities, and restriction of women began immediately.

The point that cultural variation does exist in terms of misogyny is really the most important thing, though. If cultural variation exists, we have half a hope of moving our culture in a more egalitarian direction. If it didn't, things would be rather darker. Happily, variation exists in spades across cultures separated in both time and space.
posted by sciatrix at 11:02 AM on January 29 [28 favorites]


I think it's important to be able to say "this time and place is/was better than that time and place", because that's one of the ways that we can think through causes and strategies. If we live in a society with private property, women are as a group better off if all women can own private property, have their own bank accounts, etc. That's a material improvement because women can, eg, rent their own apartments, give money to other women, fund social causes, maintain some privacy about their lives, etc.

Something I've mentioned before on here: There's a novel by feminist-adjacent British novelist Margaret Drabble called The Realms of Gold, published in 1975. In it, archaeologist Frances Wingate resolves a midlife crisis and solidifies her relationship with all around sterling woman-supporting guy Karel Schmidt, who gets a divorce over the course of the novel. The text never gives us any hint that we're meant to see him as anything but a great guy - he's supportive of Frances, he cares for her when she's sick, he's attuned to her needs, he's a great dad, he's emotionally present, he is a caring and concerned teacher, etc etc. And he hits his wife "when she provokes him". Margaret Drabble apparently takes it for granted that a kind, loving New Man of a guy can hit his wife provided she is verbally unfair enough.

I have never met any liberal, feminist-adjacent woman of my own age or younger who would take that for granted, and I doubt very much that Drabble would take it for granted in 2020. It was shocking to read about the hero hitting his wife when I first read the novel in 1996, and it's even more shocking now, to the point where I hesitate to recommend the book.

I mean, my point is that things do change; history isn't just a fall from some pre-agriculture state* of grace. Things get better and get worse; they get better for some people or in some ways or they get worse for some people or in some ways. For instance consider the abolition of welfare in the US - women are a lot more vulnerable in all kinds of ways and across different classes because the [crummy, low quality] social safety net is gone. The welfare state itself isn't necessarily a specifically feminist project, but it gives women power through giving them assistance and security.

The reason I'm saying this is that if misogyny really is a steady-state thing everywhere that there's modern agriculture and government then there isn't really any hope and we might as well pack it in. Identifying change, for better and for worse, is really important.



*I think it's the state, actually. Like, the state state. The process of state formation, meaning hierarchy, systematic agriculture and forcing people into living in cities/long-term settlements, seems plausibly to me to give rise to misogyny, class hierarchy and racism, even though all those things change over time.
posted by Frowner at 11:06 AM on January 29 [39 favorites]


I’m not a historian (though now I’m tempted to ask historians...somewhere), but unless what I was taught in college about ancient China, for example, was just wrong, this is just incorrect and weirdly unhelpful in the way it dismisses and erases misogyny not committed by western societies.

Well, I used to be a historian - and yeah, sexism in pre-colonial east and south Asia was much worse than in, for example, north-west Europe at the time. I'm not saying that north-west Europe wasn't sexist - it was deeply patriarchal. But traditional Asian cultures had even more separation of men and women and devaluing of daughters than north-west Europe. Even into the 19th century, there is no evidence in Europe, for example, of feeding daughters less even when food was tight. Family ties were counted through both women's and men's families, which really changes the family relations.

Colonialism has a lot to answer for, including genocide. But introducing patriarchy to Asia is not one of those things.

As for whether "it is better today" - it is. Again, that doesn't mean that it's good, it's just that it used to be even worse, especially for subaltern women. I remember reading an entry in Samuel Pepys' diary where he sexually assaulted his wife's maid - and when his wife caught him, the maid was fired. He was mad that he could no longer sexually assault her. It's not that sexual assault in the workplace doesn't happen - of course it does - but at least we think it's bad.

When I think of my experiences as a person who presents as female, as compared to my mother and grandmothers - I feel lucky. I know that I have have so many more opportunities than they have. Even in the 1970s, my mother was denied entry to high school courses on the grounds that they "weren't for girls"; my mother-in-law was let go for being a married woman. These things are alien to me.

Things have gotten better - but they aren't as good as they should be, and we're seeing a backlash which is itself really scary.
posted by jb at 11:11 AM on January 29 [32 favorites]


Good thing my comment in no way even casually referenced Asia or China. And y’all coming in to blow it off because somewhere across the world from what I was talking about negates my comment??? Like y’all know that not all non-European cultures are the same, right? This is some weird tired bullshite that gets pulled to dismiss the idea that anyone could be more enlightened that white people.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:28 AM on January 29 [21 favorites]


Also, in follow up to the whole Sonmez fiasco, the Post has reinstated her in the most mealy-mouthed way possible. Sonmez is not taking this laying down:
Sonmez issued a tough statement in response to the lifting of her suspension: “I believe that Washington Post readers and employees, including myself, deserve to hear directly from Marty Baron on the newspaper’s handling of this matter.”
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:28 AM on January 29 [18 favorites]


Another bit of anecdata: I've recently been listening to an audiobook on the history and culture of ancient Mesopotamia - and, wow, was that society sexist.

Misogyny is not clearly linked to monotheism - neither ancient Mesopotamia nor pre-modern China or India were monotheistic. I'm not entirely convinced by the agriculture or state formation arguments.

I'd be more inclined to look at household structures and how they affect the relationships (and relative power) between men and women. I've been aware for a while that there was a significant difference age at first marriage for women in NW Europe, compared to southern Europe and Asia. This was connected to the nuclear household structure, whereby a man created his own household upon marriage (rather than living with his parents) - and he was more likely to marry a woman closer to his own age. It's not a huge difference - average age of women at first marriage in pre-modern China (c1700) was about 17, and it was in the early-to-mid 20s for English non-elite women about the same time. But the power relationships were very different: in China, she moved from her parents' house into his parents' house, where she was one of the lowest status people and cut off from her family. In England, she became the female head of house - subject to her husband's authority, but in authority over all other members of the house (servants, children) even if they were male.

And then when I think of societies I know much less well - like Mosou of China who practice matrilineality and "walking marriages", or the Iroquois, who are also matrilineal and matrilocal (men move in with their wife's family, not the other way around) - I see the difference not in whether they have agriculture or not, but in how households and families are structured. (That said, from the bit of specific Iroquois history I know, I don't find the argument that they were traditionally matriarchal (aka ruled by mothers) convincing - they seem to have divided authority between older men and women, and they had different domains. But I am happy to be corrected by someone with better knowledge.)
posted by jb at 11:35 AM on January 29 [7 favorites]


Gotta say, an entire thread of whether or not ancient POC were shitty towards women in a thread about an article about the US in the last decade is entirely and extremely alienating. Peak white fragility response to my one comment saying No All Societies Aren’t Like This, and tbh an embarrassment to everyone here.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:43 AM on January 29 [57 favorites]


[Gentle nudge maybe steer back toward the article (which is about the present day anglo-american internet) rather than ancient history or global surveys of who had misogyny first.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:45 AM on January 29 [13 favorites]


That crap is *always* there with the young men. How's it's funneled into the adult mechanisms to keep the groups in their place is what I hope has a lot of die off.

Right.

When men say things like this, I think about Gamergate, and how the way women responded to that seemed to trigger a lot of dismissiveness among men because "this crap is always there with the young men", and a lot of handwaving away of the concerns that a big batch of enraged, entitled young men being groomed to weaponize their hatred might be a dangerous thing.

It's five years later and the seeds planted with Gamergate grew into the Proud Boys and a host of other extreme right wing groups and individuals, many of whom are actually holding positions of power in our federal government right now.

So tell me again about how this is going to die off when it reaches an "adult mechanism".
posted by palomar at 11:51 AM on January 29 [82 favorites]


palomar: the old "boys will be boys" argument :(
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:55 AM on January 29 [7 favorites]


I literally just had, in 2020, a discussion in another Internet corner that was "I get that women feel safer when I cross the street so I'm not walking behind them at night, but it makes me have to Do A Thing and I feel judged because I'd never be a bad guy!" and like genuinely. Genuinely. He partway got it but he still wanted women to validate that it was just as ~offensive~ that we'd assume he was a bad guy. This is 2020 and we're still, even for allyship, often at the level of "well I'll do it but I want you to know it is An Effort for me to accommodate you, really the same level of discomfort here."
posted by nakedmolerats at 12:13 PM on January 29 [39 favorites]


Vox just published an interview with Peggy Orenstein on her upcoming book on boys and how they're shaped by culture. I thought this response was interesting:
There is a lot that has changed for young men. Obviously, they’re engaging in the conversation about consent. Obviously, they see women and girls as deserving of their place in the classroom, or in leadership, or on the playing field of professional and educational opportunities. Nobody is going to say, “Girls don’t belong in college,” or something like that, anymore.

At the same time, when I asked them about the ideal guy, it was like they were channeling 1955. The conventional values like dominance, aggression, wealth, athleticism, sexual conquest — and, particularly, emotional suppression — came roaring back to the fore.

In some ways, those have actually grown more entrenched. I actually saw a similar dynamic when I was first writing about girls: We were telling them, on one hand, to stand up, speak out, claim your power, all these things. This was in the early ’90s, yet we hadn’t really stopped telling them in a kind of deeper cultural way, in a more entrenched way, that they should see themselves as about their appearance and that they should be more deferential. The contradictions between the new and the old were creating such tension and conflict within them.

I feel like that’s where we are right now with boys. They’re getting a profoundly mixed message that is simultaneously more egalitarian and in some ways more restrictive than ever before.

Boys will say that the source of those restrictive messages are their parents — particularly their fathers. They would say, “My dad said to man up or not be a little bitch.” More of them would say things like, “My dad was not homophobic or sexist. I didn’t learn toxic masculinity from him, but I did learn the emotionally stunted side of masculinity. He was more of a kind of ‘sigh and walk away’ kind of a guy than the kind who would ask you what was going on. And I learned to not have those conversations from him.”
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:15 PM on January 29 [40 favorites]


the amount of "but MEN are the minority in education fields!" and "but MEN are so discriminated against for education jobs!"
Especially post-MeToo, the idea that men are "equally" harassed out of teaching jobs


I am reminded again, as I often am, of RBG:
"When I'm sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, 'When there are nine,' people are shocked. But there'd been nine men, and nobody's ever raised a question about that."
Always happy to have a conversation with anyone about equality. It's unlikely to end the way they want.
posted by phunniemee at 12:18 PM on January 29 [56 favorites]


I used to have a blog about comics* and I mostly only hung out and interacted with the good parts of the Internet so I didn't really get that much hate directed toward me.

But I did notice my interest in posting things declined around the time of Gamergate. And that was for a variety of reasons (my life had changed, the collapse of the blogging era/etc.) but I also think seeing a lot of this unfold just made me think "nope, this isn't worth it."

And I think a lot of women who were in a similar position to me did much the same -- not so much that we left the Internet entirely but just kind of faded away. For me, it was mostly a hobby. Why let myself be a target for something I was doing, essentially for "fun"?

It's not that I let these men win (there are no winners here) so much as I needed to protect my own mental health.

I really think the effects of that are going to be felt for a long time but I do hope young women find voices that they can relate to. I'm not sure where they are anymore, though, except in smaller social media communities.

*Well, I mean, it's still there. I just don't update it.
posted by darksong at 12:19 PM on January 29 [24 favorites]


I've been hearing "well at least this will die out as the perpetrators die out" about all sorts of topics for most of my life. So far as I can tell, it's a way of saying "I don't want to have to do any work on this at all". I haven't heard anything that shows me otherwise.
posted by XtinaS at 12:26 PM on January 29 [54 favorites]


Sorry, I should have been clearer, but my comment was that the status of women in Mosou and Iroquois societies was and is better than it had been in traditional European societies - and I think that is related to household structures and matrilineal practices. I've had a long-standing interest in household structure and how these affect gender roles and status - and I think its very relevant to the status of women in contemporary societies, which continue to be shaped by economic and social expectations.

The misogyny of the internet is itself a strange mixture of traditional misogyny, and a new, virulent misogyny that is actively seeking recruits. It's hard to explain without sounding like a conspiracy theorist, but a friend has been researching online hate networks, and the incel movement has been infiltrated by white supremacists who are using young men's general dissatisfaction with aspects of their lives (and who hasn't been angry and unhappy when they were between 14 and 17?) and tieing it first to misogyny and secondly to white supremacy. This isn't something that is going to die out - the members of these groups are young and recruiting younger people all the time.

As the FPP notes, the solution is not in the hands of women: it's in the hands of men. But I think that just saying "stop harassment" isn't going to be effective. We can ban it, push it out of our public spaces (and I am fully in support of this) - but we also need to deal with the cancerous ideas that are spreading it, and we also need to create positive narratives that are as powerful to replace them.
posted by jb at 1:29 PM on January 29 [17 favorites]


NoxAeternum: Thank you for the links and quotes. They express better than I can how toxic masculinity continues. But we also can't just replace toxic masculinity with a vacuum of masculinity - we need to nurture positive (as well as diverse) masculinity.
posted by jb at 1:35 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


"That crap is *always* there with the young men."

I really should know better at this age but I don't. What I was talking about was *not* the violent misogyny that *is* so often in young men nowadays. When I was growing up that was *much* rarer in that age group. What I was talking about was the "crap" that *was* there that then grows into...

It took longer then. Now it doesn't. Shutting up now.
posted by aleph at 1:38 PM on January 29


aleph, the point is that misogyny in boys isn't just "there" like some sort of natural law - it's taught to them by older men, both directly and through culture. This is something that Orenstein points out in her interview - they perform toxic masculinity because that's what they are taught masculinity is, even when it harms them. Orenstein makes a point that a lot of men have had sexual encounters of dubious consent, but society says they can't speak up and say "I don't want this."

To break the cycle, we need to stop teaching boys toxic masculinity.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:50 PM on January 29 [14 favorites]


But we also can't just replace toxic masculinity with a vacuum of masculinity - we need to nurture positive (as well as diverse) masculinity.

Orenstein brought that up too:
For mothers, it can feel really sweet and really good seeing your boy express vulnerability. But if we’re not careful about helping boys process their own emotions, rather than processing their feeling for them, and feeling for them, we reinforce the idea that women are there to do male emotional labor. That can feel really good when you’re talking to your son, your little boy, or your teenage boy. But I think most women can attest that it feels a lot less good when you’re in an adult relationship.

Why aren’t they being vulnerable with guys? Because men learn not to be vulnerable with one another.

Basically, as boys grow up, the only emotion that is validated for them is happiness or anger. The whole bucket of emotions that involves sadness or betrayal or despair gets funneled into anger. One of the things that we can do with little boys is to actually label their feelings and say, “It seems like you’re really sad,” or “That must be very frustrating,” to give them a broader emotional range.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:52 PM on January 29 [32 favorites]


"The misogyny of the internet is itself a strange mixture of traditional misogyny, and a new, virulent misogyny that is actively seeking recruits. It's hard to explain without sounding like a conspiracy theorist, but a friend has been researching online hate networks, and the incel movement has been infiltrated by white supremacists who are using young men's general dissatisfaction with aspects of their lives (and who hasn't been angry and unhappy when they were between 14 and 17?) and tieing it first to misogyny and secondly to white supremacy. This isn't something that is going to die out - the members of these groups are young and recruiting younger people all the time."

I'm convinced the Flat Earth nonsense is a honeypot for these types of people. Young and old. And almost predictably, to a person, male. My nephew approached me with this stuff years ago.. Only weeks ago I sat at a table where a person described losing her father-in-law to this stuff.. Up until recently there was a billboard posted between the two major cities in my area featuring a weblink promoting Flat Earth stuff. I've said 'stuff' three times, what do you call it? A lot of strange roads lead to this brew of white hatred against some (darker-skinned) other and women, you are absolutely right about that.
posted by elkevelvet at 1:57 PM on January 29 [5 favorites]


It is very hard to know what pre-colonial gender norms were like, because colonialism is everywhere and has been for millennia (*), and the impact of colonial trauma is such that it may often influence colonized peoples to firmly internalize the ideologies of their oppressors and make them their own.

Nonetheless, it is valuable to make the attempt because the shards of anthropological evidence we have found of greater gender egalitarianism in several indigenous and primitive societies put the lie to the notion that patriarchy is essential and inevitable.

(* In my native India for instance, Euro colonialism of the last 400 years is not the only colonialism in history, it's only the most recent of multiple waves going back at least 2500 years.)
posted by splitpeasoup at 2:12 PM on January 29 [8 favorites]


Just a bit of context here: in a list of countries with the most women legislatures, only 2 of the top 10 are Western.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/02/ chart-of-the-day- these-countries-have- the-most-women-in-parliament/

Rwanda and Cuba have majority-female parliament's, and the US is down at #75. There's a distinct hatred of seeing women in power in the US that I think we Americans need to grapple with. Why have so many of the countries we deride as less free for women managed to elect female presidents when we have not?

I feel like another factor here is that different cultures express misogyny in different ways. When I lived in Taiwan, I felt safe walking down the street in a way that I never have in America. I could go home by myself at 3 am and I never felt afraid of being catcalled or groped. Is there misogyny in Taiwan? Yeah, definitely. I've talked to people there about the same patterns of uneven household labor that the US has, for example. But it didn't come out in the form of policing women's right to exist in public space.

The flavor of misogyny the article is talking about is Western. There is something in American culture that not only permits but encourages it. How do we grapple with that when it's the shit we swim in? I didn't know what it meant to feel actually physically safe until I had left the country. Coming back, I'm feeling that fear settle around me again, and it feels like a distinctly American fear.
posted by storytam at 2:19 PM on January 29 [33 favorites]


Hey folks, the fucking article is about American misogyny in the 2010s. I understand that talking about history may be more comfortable for some but how about a more recent example?

In 2012, an Icelandic woman named Thorlaug Agustdottir found a Facebook group called “Men are better than women.” It featured pictures of brutally beaten women. When she reported it, Facebook found it didn’t violate their standards, and labeled it “controversial humor.” Users from the group started telling Thorlaug “you just need to be raped,” photoshopping her face to appear beaten. (The post was eventually removed by Facebook.)

The post was eventually removed but was the group banned? I am not going to go poking around to find out but this is a reminder of how loathsome some people can be, both those actively harassing women and those, like Mark Zuckerberg, who protect the harassers. While the patriarchy for sure harms both men and women, women continue to suffer the most harm.

What a trite observation. Trite but true. I don’t know why so many men hate women (and demonstrably so, over and over again). Thank you, stoneweaver, for this painful reminder of life in these times for far too many women.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:20 PM on January 29 [25 favorites]


In many, if not most, tribes on Turtle Island (the americas), women were the decision makers and tribal elders. They decided things like where to live, what to plant, who to cooperate with, etc etc. There are examples of matriarchal societies still extant,

I'm on my phone and haven't read a bunch of comments that can't after this because I get really, really, REALLY tired of seeing this said when it's absolutely untrue.

There are some societies in the world where women are slightly less oppressed than in other places. But that is all.

THERE ARE NO MATRIARCHAL SOCIETIES KNOWN TO HUMANS. That's the bald truth.

Because a matriarchal society is not one that's *merely* matrilineal, or *merely* matrilocal, or even both, or even further into unimaginable territory... *merely* egalitarian. No societies ever recorded show all power shared equally between men and women. NONE.

We are in such a hurry to fall over ourselves to grasp at some semblance of less oppression than normal that we are much too eager to pronounce them matriarchal. They are not.

A matriarchal society would grant women power in the same systematic, engulfing way that this patriarchal society does to men. In a matriarchal society, women own all the names, land, money, art, learning, social connections, the power to frame discussions and the power to persuade, all traditions, institutions, trades, debt, laws, high offices, channels of influence, modes of living, all entertainment...

A matriarchal society would have broad and deep mythos about everything that makes women inherently better than men, and most of it would remain both unnoticed and unspoken. Men would be universally assumed to look their best when they're 21, and it's all downhill from there because they go bald and get potbellies, right? And men would be in charge of all the unpaid work while also being called too delicate for any real work. And so on.

A matriarchy! I would give my eyeteeth to see a matriarchy!
posted by MiraK at 2:24 PM on January 29 [37 favorites]


anyway i think we should eat them
posted by poffin boffin at 2:36 PM on January 29 [36 favorites]


that's my agenda
posted by poffin boffin at 2:36 PM on January 29 [5 favorites]


i approve of this agenda, and would like to sign your change.org petition
posted by XtinaS at 2:39 PM on January 29 [7 favorites]


Just because you don’t know the history doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:45 PM on January 29 [11 favorites]


This piece really captures what I’ve been feeling, especially the frozen-feeling state of “where the f;& do we go from here?” It amazes me how much time has passed since Gamergate began because something about these years seems so static to me. Like the fear and wonder at the repellant stuff I’ve been watching play out has messed with my sense of time and trapped my personal growth in place.

As much horror as the internet has unleashed, I don’t know how I would be able to get through these years without the conversations with other women online that validate “yes, it really is this bad.”
posted by sallybrown at 2:49 PM on January 29 [18 favorites]


Funny how FPPs about women and posted by women, especially women of color, get treated as target practice for people who just NEED to rush in and mansplain/whitesplain/talk down!
posted by sallybrown at 2:51 PM on January 29 [15 favorites]


Stoneweaver, I wish you wouldn't be glib. There have been no societies ever recorded in which all women enslaved all men and owned men like chattel... The way men own women in patriarchy. If you know of any, please feel free to mention one. What does women having all the power mean if not that men have none of it?
posted by MiraK at 3:05 PM on January 29 [5 favorites]


I don't really understand this sort of undercurrent where we seem to need very badly to implicate every other culture and time period in what's going on in Wright's piece, where white guys on the internet make rape and death threats to women. Does cultural history offer us any solution to what happens when the internet realizes it can make a profit off misogyny? No, because there's never been this multiplier effect before. It has never been this easy to hurt people from an anonymous distance, at no personal cost.

Honestly, I disagree with the suggestion above that we can't replace toxic masculinity with a vacuum of masculinity. I think that vacuum would be very refreshing. I remain unconvinced that there is a positive masculinity that can be found, if you scrape enough of the toxins off, although I'm willing to be convinced. What is masculinity (as a cultural thing that can be taught, I mean), if not the potential for, and an excuse for, harm? I want to see what it looks like, when that potential for harm has been removed, but I have yet to see good examples or descriptions of it, nor any suggestion for how that replacement could be employed. Like, how do you fix toxic masculinity when patriarchy requires family structures where men spend as little time as possible with children? When's all that important re-teaching supposed to happen? How do you fix it when nobody is willing to outlaw sexist hate speech on the internet? Why do all the gears in our culture only seem to turn one way, towards the worse?

I don't know, I'm just very frustrated. I've mentioned on some prior threads having family members who have been turned into these alt-right nazi misogynists (or had their latent awfulness revealed and reinforced) by the internet, and the way this funnel operates seems so clear, that you'd think it would be so easy to fix. But these guys who think their threats are hilarious jokes are going to have kids, and what will those kids learn about how to treat people? Who's going to teach them any different? And will it matter? Teach one kid different, while another thousand get their hatreds cultivated? Some kind of mass action is required here.
posted by mittens at 3:07 PM on January 29 [29 favorites]


We have direct scientific evidence that indigenous people around the world are capable of telling accurate accounts about the world from as far back as 10,000 years. (y'all can do your own research about other indigenous groups, I'm DONE trying to educate.) And y'all seriously believe without question that we've forgotten the way our societies were organized less than 500 years ago? You think we don't know how our societies are *currently* organized? You think because you don't know how to find it on google that we are not accurate reporters of our own culture? Not all knowledge is indexed and packaged for your consumption. Y'all are real sure of your superiority.

Making one comment challenging a white centric view point led to all this. It was a very gentle challenge, too. If you want to fix conversations, you've got to start with people being able to bring up race and culture without it being a grenade.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:10 PM on January 29 [33 favorites]


mirak: ma·tri·ar·chal
/ˈˌmātrēˈärkəl/
Learn to pronounce
adjective
relating to or denoting a form of social organization in which a woman is the head.
"a matriarchal society"
denoting an older woman who is powerful within a family or organization.
"an overbearing matriarchal figure"

We're not playing a redefine the goalposts game. Stop it.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:11 PM on January 29 [9 favorites]


Stoneweaver, I wish you wouldn't be glib

You’re calling Stoneweaver glib, meanwhile you straight up told her her description of indigenous culture was wrong and you couldn’t even take the time to read the whole thread because you were in such a rush to contradict her.
posted by sallybrown at 3:13 PM on January 29 [6 favorites]


This thread is going badly, people. A few people have suggested refocusing on the point of the article, which is misogyny in the USA right now. Stoneweaver has been gently pointing out that the digging into other cultures and past history is structurally, in this thread, a white fragility response. It doesn't mean necessarily that any one comment's content is wrong or offensive (although some of them are). But if you are feeling the need to explain why you are right and why you are talking about the topics you are, maybe take a few minutes to consider the overall effect of that on the thread and on patterns of behaviour on metafilter before you do so. And then choose differently?
posted by lollusc at 3:17 PM on January 29 [40 favorites]


(This is also an example of that pattern where a discussion is an abstract intellectual thing for some people and very personal for others.)
posted by lollusc at 3:22 PM on January 29 [36 favorites]


What is masculinity (as a cultural thing that can be taught, I mean), if not the potential for, and an excuse for, harm?

A little bit back I finally decided that the core of masculinity is the ability to inflict violence at socially legitimated moments (and only those moments), which moments usually have to do with taking resources and people that under the domination of others or with preventing others from taking resources and people. So yeah I think the positive masculinity project is a dead end.
posted by PMdixon at 3:25 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Been following this thread without commenting, but I'd like to mention that right after stoneweaver posted this comment, she said to a few of us in the MetaPOC slack that it was only recently that she had even thought about bringing her own cultural perspective to a thread like this that's not specifically POC related. And then the rest of this thread happened. If you would like an example of the way many POC preemptively silence themselves on MetaFilter, and what happens when we don't, I can't think of a better one than this.

MiraK, I'm kind of confused about why you're so sure you know more about indigenous cultures than stoneweaver...? I'm no anthropologist myself and I don't know whether you are, and certainly other users quickly tried to make this about Asian cultures, but the part of her comment you quoted specifically called out the Americas, and to be so dismissive of her point feels like more erasure of the kind that indigenous cultures have suffered so much of.
posted by sunset in snow country at 3:32 PM on January 29 [30 favorites]


I'm saying that this definition of the word matriarchal is rigged by the patriarchy to mean something other than the female version of patriarchy.

The "matriarchies" of our world are to the patriarchy what "misandry" is to misogyny.

I don't know why you're angry with me for pointing this out. My intentions are not nefarious. I'm not here to uphold white supremacy. I'm a brown immigrant, I'm not coming from that place! I'm just here to speak up for women.

Words mean things. Words are important. I think it's time we took the word "matriarchy" back to mean what it SHOULD mean, the same way we are trying to take the word "slut" or "bitch" or "pussy" back. And for the same reason.

The example you linked BARELY even described an egalitarian society. Which is as far away from a matriarchy as the patriarchy is. Women having even a little power terrifies men so much that they call these pathetic shreds of unidimensional female preference a MATRIARCHY? That's BS. None of us should stand for it.

Your point - your underlying point - is great and I do not disagree with it. I'm pointing out a semantic and linguistic issue that is deeply resonant to me because it tells me just how thick the wool is over our eyes. To me, THIS WORD ties directly into the article posted.
posted by MiraK at 3:33 PM on January 29 [10 favorites]


The link was meant to show evidence for accurate accounts of society going back thousands of years, not for an egalitarian society. I get what you are saying, but "pathetic shreds" is no way to describe another poster's culture, damn.
posted by sunset in snow country at 3:37 PM on January 29 [23 favorites]


This is a weird fight to be picking. Why should we strive for a world in which gender oppression is reversed rather than an egalitarian one? And why is it so important to hold up “matriarchy” to be the equivalent of extreme patriarchy?

And furthermore, why are you choosing this hill to die on when we’ve already spent half the thread derailing because no one can apparently accept an indigenous woman’s description of her own culture?
posted by sciatrix at 3:39 PM on January 29 [26 favorites]


MiraK, are you an expert on precolonial societies in Africa and the Americas? I feel like if not we Asians should maybe take a step back and let people who are actually knowledgeable about those areas speak to their own experiences.

I understand that you want the word matriarchy to mean a specific thing, but words don't just mean things, they mean different things to different people. I think it's pretty clear what other people in the thread mean by the word matriarchy. Their points are not invalid just because they're not using the same definition you would like them to.

I'm not actually sure what you're trying to get out of this thread. Like, do you have something to say about the article?
posted by storytam at 3:42 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]


Okay, I'll step back. I really do feel this linguistic issue deeply and personally but I'm not doing well at all at communicating nonviolently. I'm sorry stoneweaver. I thought I was adding something central to the discussion (pointing out just how deep the patriarchy goes in our minds and our habits), but I'm not, because the thread has gone in a different direction. I hope at least that it's clear I was not challenging the thrust of your argument in the least.
posted by MiraK at 3:42 PM on January 29 [10 favorites]


I'm a white American woman pushing fifty of some means. So, I've been playing the game on easy mode as a result of my significant privilege (white, money, education among others).

Things are, I suppose, somewhat better for women than they USED to be. And that's an improvement, but it's the sort of improvement where the house was freezing, literally, freezing as in "there might be ice forming in the pipes right now" freezing, like 32F or 0C, to start with and we've since run some heat and now the house is 50F or 10C.

It's still not a house temperature. Yes, it's "better" but it's still not good.

I had a discussion on facebook today about a section of punched-in drywall that someone put a frame around like it was art and entitled it "Male Fragility". In the discussion thread about the image, there was a dude going "this is an example of how women hate men all the time" and yeah. It's still not a house temperature around here.
posted by which_chick at 3:46 PM on January 29 [13 favorites]


I feel like the bare fact that "Western" culture presently dominates the world and has (or has had) access to radio, television, and the Internet is sufficient grounds to say that it's the biggest misogyny problem currently facing us.

It's fucking embarrassing to be male, y'all. I don't know why my spouse wants it so much.
posted by Scattercat at 3:48 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


A few people have suggested refocusing on the point of the article, which is misogyny in the USA right now.

After reading the article (which everyone who's commenting has done, right?) I think the point of the article is more than just misogyny in the USA right now, I think the point of the article is how misogyny in the USA has manifested in the last 10 years specifically as online harassment of women.

I think the "online" part is a big part of why harassment of women in the last decade has been so awful, for a couple reasons. 1) it's sooooooooooo much easier to say something awful online than it is to say it in person. If you say something awful in person, someone who is in earshot might physically do something to you. Say something awful online, and there's not that same expectation, especially if you've gone to lengths to obfuscate your true identity. 2) the passive way that men can encounter material (in places like youtube) where you could start off watching some generic macho content, then you just keep watching the next videos that get selected, and before you know it, the content has switched to something with a more misogynist bent 3) in places like 4chan, the trolls who are posting stuff because they find misogyny funny are indistinguishable from those who are for realz into harassment- you can show up to places like that as just a run of the mill misogynist (which is bad in and of itself) and end up being the kind of misogynist who's harassing women online.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:55 PM on January 29 [22 favorites]


(MiraK - that wasn't obvious to me from what you said, thank you for the clarification.)
posted by stoneweaver at 4:35 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]


23skidoo, I'll go even farther than you. The online part is a big part of harassment not just because of what you said, but also because, as the article points out, the internet gives women platforms and access that they previously lacked, with less built in gate keepers. Mass media before social media was (and still is, broadly) subject to men's decisions. And it's not that social media and the internet doesn't have male gatekeeping, but it's definitely a lot easier to write a tweet then to get published in a magazine for a woman.

When the article says, "With institutional barriers removed, the only recourse left to these men was to harass women back into a sphere of silent, compliant domesticity... " I think that's an understatement. Calling rape, murder and bomb threats against women and their families harassment isn't going far enough. Anyone can create a twitter account, and thus instead of just simple discrimination preventing access (which still exists of course), men pursue a reactive form of control after the fact that is public instead of private, both targeted against specific women, and also for public consumption by other women. It's a form of terrorism, designed to punish and create examples of women to keep them in their place.

The thing is, terrorism is arguably tactic of the weak, of those who lack institutional power and pursue their ends through violence and offense. That makes Trump's behavior, which is called out in the article, even more disturbing; he's normalizing terrorism as acceptable institutionally. Or maybe it's better to say he's undermining the limited institutional norms that we had.
posted by gryftir at 5:04 PM on January 29 [19 favorites]


Euro colonialism of the last 400 years is not the only colonialism in history, it's only the most recent of multiple waves going back at least 2500 years.)
posted by splitpeasoup


It could be argued that patriarchy has prevailed — and intensified — because it produces greater numbers of violent males (female infanticide and greater valuation of male offspring in general might play a role) which makes for larger, more effective armies, which then conquer surrounding less patriarchal societies.

And once you get a bunch of young males who have trouble getting a mate, you practically have to have a war or they'll tear your society apart.
posted by jamjam at 5:29 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]


Honestly, I disagree with the suggestion above that we can't replace toxic masculinity with a vacuum of masculinity. I think that vacuum would be very refreshing. I remain unconvinced that there is a positive masculinity that can be found, if you scrape enough of the toxins off, although I'm willing to be convinced. What is masculinity (as a cultural thing that can be taught, I mean), if not the potential for, and an excuse for, harm?
I think this is interesting, mittens. Isn't masculinity so intrinsically bound up with damage, oppression, domination, arrogance, policy-based power imbalances that 'scraping off these toxins' would leave nothing? I don't know what masculinity could be without these components. For sure, fragility and arrogance are tied together, as arrogance is a sort of exoskeleton for the hollowness of masculine fragility. What happens if we filled the masculine void with feminine volume? Elimination of dichotomies? This is a tough discussion on so many levels because, as a woman, I always speak from a place of trauma, trauma bestowed upon me by men, and of course, men will never hear that or bear witness. Why would they? These sorts of discussions always feel like shouting into the void. And fuck, are men ever a void.
posted by erattacorrige at 5:58 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. It was difficult to read, with all the specific examples of threats and other awful behavior targeted at women. Which just makes it all the more obvious how bad it must be for their targets, who can't just close a tab and have that be the end of it.

This part in particular:
But, while no one enters the work force thinking “I can’t wait to earn less,” it’s very reasonable to choose not to work in higher paying industries when it becomes clear that those are industries where you’ll be vulnerable to doxxing and rape threats. It’s also reasonable accept a lower paying job at a company where you’ll be harassed less.
... was eye-opening for me.
posted by FishBike at 6:00 PM on January 29 [18 favorites]


I like this article, but I feel like it's an entry in a genre that really downplays the many positives of the internet for women, and for feminist political organization in particular.

Much of the problem is not the internet so much as it is persistent underenforcement when it comes to crimes against women.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:06 PM on January 29 [9 favorites]


Oh! FishBike, there’s economic research that very nicely shows wage data with number crunching in graphs to directly link sexual harassment reporting rates to wages, and that there is a positive wage increase to sexual harassment. Basically, the more harassment, the higher a job paid in general, because it was a hazard pay of sorts for the women. It was in the oil industry in the US-Canada over one period, I think. Very nice paper, nicely put together data.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:23 PM on January 29 [12 favorites]


This is a powerful article, thank you for posting it.

Much of the problem is not the internet so much as it is persistent underenforcement when it comes to crimes against women.

It's not like law enforcement doesn't have powerful tools for tracing threats made online, but it is obvious which threats matter and which don't.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:16 PM on January 29 [4 favorites]


I remain unconvinced that there is a positive masculinity that can be found, if you scrape enough of the toxins off, although I'm willing to be convinced.

There are people who are going to identify as male (cis or trans), and for whom it is important to live as masculine person. If all our society offers is toxic masculinity or none, they will take on the toxic one, because they are male-identified and need a way to live within that identity.

As the article linked above notes: we can give our boys better models of masculinity, and we should. This is not saying "boys will be boys" but "what should boys be? How about caring, and open and not misogynist".
posted by jb at 7:26 PM on January 29 [12 favorites]


FishBike, there’s economic research that very nicely shows wage data with [...] a positive wage increase to sexual harassment

Likely not the paper you're thinking of, but for others to consider, the paper I've seen is "Compensating Differentials for Sexual Harassment" by Joni Hersch.
This paper shows that, on balance, workers receive a wage premium for exposure to the risk of sexual harassment in much the same way that workers receive a wage premium for the risk of fatality or injury.
posted by saeculorum at 8:35 PM on January 29 [5 favorites]


I know that misogyny is not the natural state of the adolescent male - that it, like any other hate, has to be taught - and that this is done through the instruction of older men through our culture

I don't know if Australia is directly comparable to the US on this issue or not. But though it seems that the US does lead the world in misogyny as in so much else, we in Australia certainly have more than enough of it to be going on with and I suspect that what I am about to say will indeed be applicable there as well.

My experience as an ex-adolescent male is that such misogyny as I've had to scrape off myself over the years was not acquired through the instruction of older men, but directly from my peers. It started with "eww, girl germs" in primary school and just got worse from there.

To the extent that the older men of consequence in my life addressed this issue at all for me growing up, they did so in ways that challenged and undermined misogyny and helped me see it for what it was. As a father, I've been doing my best to emulate their example but I have to tell you that given the presenting state of the raw materials it's fucking hard going. And yes, online gaming is a pretty large part of what makes it hard.

To say that misogyny is not the natural state of the adolescent male is to conceptualize the adolescent male in isolation. It's like saying that gastroenteritis is not the natural state of the adolescent school pupil. In my experience, again speaking as an ex-adolescent male, misogyny is the prevalent cultural state of any large and consistent grouping of adolescent males in the culture I grew up in and, I suspect, in many others.

Football teams are not as notoriously misogynist as they are because the coaches encourage them to be that way. Rather, it arises because competition for the best larrikin assertions of male superiority is as much a part of male bonding as competition for the best ball handling skills, and has been so since childhood.

And the reason the coaches typically do very little about this is not because the coaches have a moustache-twirling plot for Keeping Women In Their Place that they wish to train a junior army to perpetuate. Coaches who do have this attitude have it because they kept it since they were tiny footballers, protecting it inside an armour of contempt for anybody who might attempt to challenge it. Misogyny is essentially juvenile, which is exactly why "manbaby" provokes fragility with such laser-like precision.

So although I don't doubt that there is indeed a substantial flow of misogyny from older men to younger, it seems to me that focusing solely on that as the place to apply social fixes is not going to cut it. There is also a large pool of it that self-perpetuates amongst adolescents, Lord of the Flies style, and pretending that that's not there and that all those dear sweet adolescents would remain unspoilt and cherubic without the malign influence of their elders is just delusional.

As a culture we absolutely do need to be addressing this. But role models are just not going to cut it. Never have, never will. What we need is structural change within the institutions that shape our childhoods, to minimize the opportunities for othering that give notions of gender superiority (and racial superiority, come to that) their footholds.
posted by flabdablet at 8:39 PM on January 29 [12 favorites]


I’m in the middle of reading Lindy West’s “The Witches Are Coming,” which I was very happy to see cited in this. Highly recommended.
posted by rewil at 8:46 PM on January 29 [6 favorites]


If nothing else, older men are responsible for creating the media that recreates misogyny; it's more than just from father to son. And I don't think you can just say it naturally arises when you get adolescents together - it's making it a more general problem, but it still implies it's endogenous to... being AMAB? Culture exists, culture exists within a power structure that still favours men, and men can use their power to try to change culture for the better.
posted by sagc at 8:50 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]


There are people who are going to identify as male (cis or trans), and for whom it is important to live as masculine person.

For many cis men, the importance of living as a masculine person is linked to the desire to maintain social status. Masculinity has higher social status than femininity. It's so important because if they're no longer "masculine", whatever that is, they become lesser. They might not consciously recognize this about themselves, but they know it in their bones, because they react to women threatening their greater social status as a threat to their masculinity.

The world might be safer if we could replace toxic masculinity with a more positive version. But the fact that so many cis men need it so badly is a symptom of the problem. As long as masculinity is over-valued and over-privileged, it can never be truly non-toxic.

Maybe baby steps.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:09 PM on January 29 [6 favorites]


implies it's endogenous to... being AMAB?

Perhaps my gastroenteritis analogy wasn't clear enough.

There is nothing about being AMAB in and of itself that makes misogyny inevitable, just as there is nothing about having a digestive tract in and of itself that makes gastroenteritis inevitable. The point is that if you put a child into a situation where misogyny is rife, they will get it on them. That's inevitable. And in much the same way as schools are hotbeds for endless germ-based diseases, schools and malls and online multiplayer games and other adolescent-dominated gathering spaces are hotbeds for misogyny. It's there, it's circulating, and new arrivals will get it on them whether or not it also rains from above.

When you have a raging epidemic of gastroenteritis ripping through a school population, having the teachers model and promote increased attention to handwashing isn't going to control it. The only thing that works is making school policy that says that if your child has gastro, they stay home until they've recovered from it. Unfortunately, the recovery period for misogyny is rather longer than for gastro, and some people - AMAB and otherwise - carry it for life.

Culture exists, culture exists within a power structure that still favours men, and men can use their power to try to change culture for the better.

We can and we are. But it's hard going, and it's made harder by assumptions that we are the whole of the problem. Because that's simply not the case, and the assumption that it is has been causing a tremendous waste of misapplied effort that's badly needed elsewhere.

If people AMAB were the whole problem, Lauren Southern would not have seven hundred thousand YouTube subscribers and that remains true even though Jordan Peterson has more. It's not men so much as attitudes toward men and those are something we can all be working to change.

It sucks that feminists in general and women feminists in particular bear the vast bulk of the load of pushing the kinds of social change required to put an end to structural disempowerment of women. Totally sucks. But that's the nature of any transfer of power. It's never given away. It's only ever seized, and seizing it just is more work than not seizing it.

#MeToo is the best thing I've ever seen. It's what gives me hope for the future of my daughters.
posted by flabdablet at 9:17 PM on January 29 [7 favorites]


Something that would certainly help promote actual change is for statements like "Men claim that there is no gender pay gap because women choose lower paying job" to be rewritten as "Wilfully ignorant assholes claim that there is no gender pay gap because women choose lower paying job".

I can think of any number of men I know who would be far less reflexively defensive of their wilfully ignorant asshole identity than of their male identity.
posted by flabdablet at 9:32 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I have a question about past decades, but appropriate for this thread about modern online harassment and misogyny, and because Metafilter might be a pretty good age&tech demographic to ask it. For those who remember using Early Internet - Usenet, BBSes, tying up the landline spending hours in dialup chat rooms full of strangers, talking about everything from gardening tips to High Weirdness...was it this bad?
Like, I do remember laughing with a girlfriend at one of the first web memes, so old it began as a new yorker cartoon - "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." She was - as much as was possible at the time - Extremely Online; she smirked, and added "or a girl for that matter". I was puzzled for a sec, then suddenly sad on her behalf.

But no, it's great!! she said. Since nobody knows anything about who DMB_4eva@earthlink.net or 5c00by.5naXx0r on MSN is 'in real life' nobody's input can be discounted for any of the millions of reasons people dismiss each other out of hand. Nobody's just a girl, or ugly or fat, nobody has a crippling stammer, or whatever. It's all just usernames and text. We actually have to listen to each other as if we were peers!

Chuckling now at the memory of naive 90's cyber-utopianism, I of course find myself recalibrating: and asking about the experiences of the Nobody Knows You're a Dog days - vs. the contemporary "watch out, the moment you hit Send Tweet on this, you're in for the full 'A Woman On The Internet' treatment, are you sure it's worth it?"
And then further, if you spent time lurking in boyzones, eavesdropping on what they said to each other about women when they thought they were alone...how does that compare to the modern equivalent, where they can be expected to be on their worst behavior?
posted by bartleby at 10:15 PM on January 29 [5 favorites]


I remain unconvinced that there is a positive masculinity that can be found, if you scrape enough of the toxins off, although I'm willing to be convinced. What is masculinity (as a cultural thing that can be taught, I mean), if not the potential for, and an excuse for, harm?

I said something to this effect here before, but - traditionally some positive traits were associated with masculinity. We've just increasingly realized (here at least) that it's sexist to act as if those traits are exclusive to men. Which is absolutely correct and good but it's sort of tautological to start having already unpacked that stuff and conclude that everything that remains of masculinity is negative - of course it is. If you're interested in seeing whether there is a positive way to leverage the concept of masculinity to address people who still identify it with it in a more old-school way, I think you have to recognize that they are starting from a different place. But if you'd rather just keep going taking gender roles apart, I'm all for it.
posted by atoxyl at 12:23 AM on January 30 [7 favorites]


Which is absolutely correct and good but it's sort of tautological to start having already unpacked that stuff and conclude that everything that remains of masculinity is negative - of course it is. If you're interested in seeing whether there is a positive way to leverage the concept of masculinity to address people who still identify it with it in a more old-school way

You appear to me to be conflating the assertions "there can exist a widely held idea of What Masculinity Is that is ultimately positive in thessense of being non destructive" and "the current widely held ideas of What Masculinity Is can be rhetorically used to constructive ends."
posted by PMdixon at 5:37 AM on January 30


Bartleby: For those who remember using Early Internet - Usenet, BBSes, tying up the landline spending hours in dialup chat rooms full of strangers, talking about everything from gardening tips to High Weirdness...was it this bad?

It's a good question, and I think it has an answer kind of like was hinted at above, that as much as the harassment gives one a "must shut down twitter" feeling, the platforms really do give people a voice, and some control over their identity?

For me, the 90s internet was a wonderland. It was the first place I could just sort of change my mind about whether I wanted to be a girl or a boy, the first place I felt like I could openly announce being bi, the first place where I could communicate with strangers without all this panic and terror.

But it was a fucking meat-market, too. While I didn't experience many death threats, the coagulated aggregate desire of every horny man with an .edu email address was relentless. As a young queer just coming out of years of repression, the availability of that many eager men seemed like a dream, but looking back on it, if you weren't interested, it must have been hell...and then you're faced with the choice, do you pick the anonymous ID, do you pick a boy-like name to keep them at bay? How much of your identity are you willing to leave at the door, to be able to talk to people about interesting things without the constant interruption of "A/S/L?"

There were other early signs of trouble too, of course. One thing we haven't talked about in this thread--and it's a difficult conversation to have in the best of circumstances--is the role super-easy access to porn has in reinforcing gender violence. And Usenet certainly opened the floodgates there, in a lawless, scary way. Sealioning existed. Raiding usenet groups for lulz, making them nearly useless during the attack, was something that went on. Flames, so many, many angry violent threatening flames...

The tools were all there. Maybe what changed was a critical mass of angry boys? Like, there had to be just enough to form these self-reinforcing groups? And this particular mix of closed groups and open world that we have today? Like, one thing you couldn't do back then was get radicalized in your little misogynist usenet channel and then make a threat on a worldwide platform, to be picked up by everybody else's little misogynist usenet channels? Like, that interplay between closed group and open world seems important for this kind of harassment, even if a lot of the harassment takes place in private messages. There has to be a world stage for it as well.
posted by mittens at 5:39 AM on January 30 [12 favorites]


Something that would certainly help promote actual change is for statements like "Men claim that there is no gender pay gap because women choose lower paying job" to be rewritten as "Wilfully ignorant assholes claim that there is no gender pay gap because women choose lower paying job".

I can think of any number of men I know who would be far less reflexively defensive of their wilfully ignorant asshole identity than of their male identity.


hahahhaha, fuck that noise. Fragile men should not be catered to, they should work on their own fragility (and on their reading comprehension). Just because some fragile men who can't read so good and interpret "Men claim that there is no gender pay gap because women choose lower paying jobs" as "100% of all men everywhere claim that there is no gender pay gap" doesn't mean that their defensiveness is justified. It isn't.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:28 AM on January 30 [5 favorites]


There is nothing about being AMAB in and of itself that makes misogyny inevitable, just as there is nothing about having a digestive tract in and of itself that makes gastroenteritis inevitable. The point is that if you put a child into a situation where misogyny is rife, they will get it on them. That's inevitable. And in much the same way as schools are hotbeds for endless germ-based diseases, schools and malls and online multiplayer games and other adolescent-dominated gathering spaces are hotbeds for misogyny. It's there, it's circulating, and new arrivals will get it on them whether or not it also rains from above.

Again, the thing is that gastro doesn't just happen - it has to be introduced into a system. Furthermore, as that system fights off the infection (which we are seeing - I'd recommend reading the interview with Orenstein I posted earlier, because she points out that boys and young men are listening to anti-misogynistic messages and taking them to heart,) the infection has to be reinforced by external sources. I get that a lot of people look at Lord of the Flies as a discussion of how boys are predisposed to brutality and toxic masculinity - but what gets forgotten is that the boys in the book were students in the British private school system, notorious for the abusive culture fomented within and passed along from generation to generation.

When you have a raging epidemic of gastroenteritis ripping through a school population, having the teachers model and promote increased attention to handwashing isn't going to control it. The only thing that works is making school policy that says that if your child has gastro, they stay home until they've recovered from it.

And this is where the metaphor breaks down, because unlike gastro, you can't solve misogyny by quarantine, because it is inherently a social problem, and it requires a social answer. We need to model positive behavior (and this works - boys do, in fact, pick this up just like they pick up misogyny.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:41 AM on January 30 [7 favorites]


Culture exists, culture exists within a power structure that still favours men, and men can use their power to try to change culture for the better.

We can and we are. But it's hard going, and it's made harder by assumptions that we are the whole of the problem. Because that's simply not the case, and the assumption that it is has been causing a tremendous waste of misapplied effort that's badly needed elsewhere.

If people AMAB were the whole problem, Lauren Southern would not have seven hundred thousand YouTube subscribers and that remains true even though Jordan Peterson has more. It's not men so much as attitudes toward men and those are something we can all be working to change.


"It's not men, it's attitudes towards men" sounds like a dodge, honestly. There are things that men as a whole could be doing to be better men, regardless of how society as a whole views men, and in fact, if men as a whole took on those challenges to improve themselves, the attitudes towards men would change from that. "Men working on their own shit" is among the best ways to affect change in the attitudes towards men overall.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:02 AM on January 30 [3 favorites]


When you have a raging epidemic of gastroenteritis ripping through a school population, having the teachers model and promote increased attention to handwashing isn't going to control it. The only thing that works is making school policy that says that if your child has gastro, they stay home until they've recovered from it. Unfortunately, the recovery period for misogyny is rather longer than for gastro,
The recovery period isn't longer for misogyny than for gastro. If there was a recovery place to be found that was not infected with misogyny germs - something akin to the home in your example of gastro - then misogyny would die just as quickly as gastro does, I daresay.

But we live in the middle of a population-wide infection. There are no recovery areas available. There is some occasional more-immune-than-others person here and there, and usually such people acquired their slightly-higher immunity by being exposed personally to the worst of the disease, over and over again, such that we had no choice but to start seeing it as a disease. But even that's not a way to develop actual immunity, as the article shows. The infection is SO DEEP that even women who get bomb threats on the regular feel bad about reporting them. The infection is normalized. We are slowly being taught to see some aspects of the infection for the disease it is, and when we can see it, we can combat it. But for the most part, a diseased existence is what's considered normal by all of us. There is no recovery area.

(Incidentally, that pervasive normalization of infection is the point I was sidling up to before when I talked about matriarchies. We're so infected with misogyny that even the best among us, people who understand these issues and have been exposed to the worst effects of the infection, even while they are combating the infection in some ways on this thread are casually, obliviously spreading the infection in other ways when, for instance, they use words like "matriarchy" to talk about things which are vehemently not matriarchies. None of us are fully immune. All of us are infected.)
posted by MiraK at 7:02 AM on January 30 [4 favorites]


I remain unconvinced that there is a positive masculinity that can be found, if you scrape enough of the toxins off, although I'm willing to be convinced.

You and me both. The best I can come up with is it could be simply an aesthetic- a way of dressing, a way of grooming. That would be fine, but it's a bit thin.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:02 AM on January 30


Re: positive masculinities, I can only see those constructed as a reaction to negative masculinities. Inherently meaningless but in context powerful! Keeping in mind that context is THE problem we're all swimming in, it's what matters.

Positive masculinity is voluntarily choosing to pay the price for bucking toxic masculinity every step of the way. It's standing up to peers, authority figures, institutions, and cultures when they come for women, and taking the hit that was meant for women in every possible instance... knowing that every possible instance still isn't 50% of all instances, and also knowing that 50% is not nearly enough. After all, when all these dimensions of power are coming for women in order to advantage men, a positive masculinity is one that aims to take 100% of the hits.
posted by MiraK at 7:18 AM on January 30 [8 favorites]


I have only ever seen positive masculinity in those who were previously toxic and worked to change.
posted by wellred at 7:19 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


if you weren't interested, it must have been hell...and then you're faced with the choice, do you pick the anonymous ID, do you pick a boy-like name to keep them at bay? How much of your identity are you willing to leave at the door, to be able to talk to people about interesting things without the constant interruption of "A/S/L?"

I opted for the masculine-sounding name - and then later had problems when people I'd gotten to know accused me of "lying" because I wasn't amab. (The name was actually of a supposedly historical afab person who lived as a man - but it was obscure, and it turns out that they didn't exist as we thought they had - historians had mixed up two different people in the records).

I have only ever seen positive masculinity in those who were previously toxic and worked to change.

I have seen positive masculinity. I know we aren't supposed to say #notallmen, but when discussing diversity among people who identify as male, it's inevitable. Whenever you meet someone who identifies as male and who feels like they are living in masculine way and they do so without resorting to aggression, sexism or misogyny, that's a positive masculinity. It's really hard for me to articulate, because of course anything specific I think of (strength, honour, integrity) are, of course, shared by many non-male people, but it's still done in an ineffably male way.

Or, perhaps more succinctly: check out Captain Picard. (But please don't cherry pick that one problematic episode I'm not remembering right now, and think of the character in general).
posted by jb at 8:50 AM on January 30 [3 favorites]


Positive masculinity is voluntarily choosing to pay the price for bucking toxic masculinity every step of the way. It's standing up to peers, authority figures, institutions, and cultures when they come for women, and taking the hit that was meant for women in every possible instance.

When I think of the real life positive masculine figures in my life, they often strike me as caring and they take on a lot of reproductive labour - they are active fathers, they cook and clean (and don't wait to be asked to do any of that), they pay attention to the needs of others. They just don't see caring for others as a feminine characteristic; it's part of what it means to be "a good man".
posted by jb at 8:54 AM on January 30 [6 favorites]


Fragile men should not be catered to, they should work on their own fragility

In a just world, I'm sure that would happen. But that's not where we are. So it seems to me that we know fragility is a thing, we've got a pretty good handle on how it works, we can identify the kinds of people likely to display it, we know that triggering it causes counterproductive defensiveness rather than inviting change, and we ought to be using that knowledge in the service of promoting the kinds of change that move the world a bit further toward justice.

Everybody should work on our own fragility. But knowing and saying that and even doing that is not enough, because the fragility is not the primary issue. Fragility is comorbid with the misogyny that is the primary issue. The fact that fragility displays are a complete fucking pain in the arse to deal with doesn't give any of us a free pass to throw up our hands and say well, fixing this is all on those people so there's nothing further for me to do.

I have had enough experience with encountering wilfully ignorant assholes dribbling misogynist filth to understand that pushing back against it on the basis that men should do this or men need to do that has at least a 90% chance of being counterproductive. Countering instead with a line of argument that says only a wilfully ignorant asshole would say such a thing takes that down to maybe 70%, especially when it comes from a fully bearded face like mine.

The most effective thing, of course, is to weasel your way into these assholes' social circles and white-ant the misogyny from inside. But that's truly stomach-turning work, and there's only so much of it a decent human being can perform without giving in to despair. So whenever we choose to go the directly oppositional route instead, it seems to me that we need to be using every piece of understanding we have in order to minimize the waste of effort inherent in that path.
posted by flabdablet at 9:57 AM on January 30 [3 favorites]


They just don't see caring for others as a feminine characteristic; it's part of what it means to be "a good man"

That's great! But if the only thing that characterizes positive masculinity is purging toxic ideas about what is feminine, and being male, then positive masculinity is just a kind of positive androgyny. Which I wholeheartedly support, but it doesn't seem particularly masculine at all, other than happening to be male.

I like MiraK's formulation, it aligns with Ibram X Kendi's "anti-racist" idea. Anti-sexism, rather than "positive masculinity."
posted by BungaDunga at 10:16 AM on January 30 [6 favorites]


You appear to me to be conflating the assertions "there can exist a widely held idea of What Masculinity Is that is ultimately positive in thessense of being non destructive" and "the current widely held ideas of What Masculinity Is can be rhetorically used to constructive ends."

I suppose when I see these discussions about searching for a non-toxic version of masculinity I think of that in terms of a means to communicate with people who already identify strongly with "being manly" because otherwise the terms of the discussion already seem to lead inexorably toward the idea that having all these roles and ideals bound up with gender is Not Great in general.

And I'm not particularly taking a strong position on whether concepts of masculinity can be successfully used to positive ends, I'm just trying to articulate a version of the question more specifically.
posted by atoxyl at 11:07 AM on January 30 [3 favorites]


The most effective thing, of course, is to weasel your way into these assholes' social circles and white-ant the misogyny from inside. But that's truly stomach-turning work, and there's only so much of it a decent human being can perform without giving in to despair.

This is exactly the type of fragility we need to confront and break down. "Good" men do not get a free pass from doing the work of stopping other men from hurting women - WORK THAT ONLY THESE MEN CAN DO - just because it "turns your stomach" or whatever. Jeez. What kind of "good" man thinks his own stomach turning is too high a price to pay for stopping other men from demeaning, discriminating against, silencing, objectifying, harassing, stalking, raping, and/or killing women?
posted by MiraK at 11:18 AM on January 30 [3 favorites]


aligns with Ibram X Kendi's "anti-racist" idea. Anti-sexism, rather than "positive masculinity."

Yes! I love the formulation of "anti-racism" . In addition, I've seen others talk about how being an "ally" is useless, and being an "accomplice" is where it's at. That's such a great way to put it!

It's our job to build real relationships with their fellow privileged people in order to confront them about their misuse of privilege... It's something I've tried to implement as best I can in my life. e.g. I have friends who are TERFS - and as a cis person, I don't get to be angry with them, yell at them, and walk away from them. That's an abdication of my role as accomplice. I stay their friend, genuinely, and confront their anti-trans rhetoric gently but constantly. At the same time, I warn others in private that this person is a TERF, so please engage only if it's safe/only if acting as an accomplice for trans friends. Another e.g. I have family that's casteist and Islamophobic, and so I stay engaged with them on the topic of caste and Islamophobia etc. even though it's fucking awwwwwwful. I expect the same from men on behalf of women.
posted by MiraK at 11:42 AM on January 30 [3 favorites]


In a just world, I'm sure that would happen. But that's not where we are.

And we're never going to get there if we keep coming up with excuses for why fragile men can't possibly be expected to work on their fragility. Sorry, but everything you keep mentioning sounds like it will be most effective at maintaining the fragility of fragile men.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:47 AM on January 30 [4 favorites]


Article: For the last 10 years, women who are online have been horribly harassed online by fragile men

Fragile men: omg, that's not fair, people have terrible views about men. In fact, can we talk about that instead of how women have been experiencing horrible harassment online for the past decade
posted by 23skidoo at 11:54 AM on January 30 [8 favorites]


Living in a state of permanent visceral disgust is just par for the course in the era of Peterson and Southern and Trump. But I also have enough life experience to understand that with the best will in the world there is only so much positive change I can achieve via the application of empathy and patience with the wilfully ignorant members of my communities, and that if I allow myself to get the point of attempting enough of that that maintaining my own mental health is taking up all my spoons then I'm going to be less effective at getting it done.

So the less emotionally draining approach - straight-up, undisguised, hostile opposition to men who demean, discriminate against, silence, objectify, harass, stalk, rape and/or kill women - is going to be required as well. Presumably we all want to see such opposition make an actual contribution to a reduction in those behaviours as well as as acting as a shibboleth for basic human decency. That being the case, all I'm suggesting is that when men do need to do that, we choose more effective tactics over less effective ones.

If I'm going to yell at some dickhead for displaying a clear failure at Decent Human 101, I'm going to do so in a way I know is less likely to end up derailed into an argument about How the Man Do. The point is to attach the socially negative consequence to the failure at Decent Human 101, not to the presenting as male.

It's the linkage between those things in the mind of the dickhead in question that needs breaking. And as somebody who does present as male, I intend to go on making it perfectly clear to such dickheads as I encounter casually that no such link is required.

I welcome the reminder that I'm not seen as doing enough, but this is not about me and it's not about excusing fragility, it's about spotting it where it exists and working around it. I agree that actually fixing fragility requires close and empathetic interpersonal work and yes, it's on all of us to do as much of that as we can stand without driving ourselves literally insane.
posted by flabdablet at 12:06 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]


If I'm going to yell at some dickhead for displaying a clear failure at Decent Human 101, I'm going to do so in a way I know is less likely to end up derailed into an argument about How the Man Do. The point is to attach the socially negative consequence to the failure at Decent Human 101, not to the presenting as male.

Right, but you're talking about a strategy for How To Get Dudes To Not Be So Misogynist, and I'm talking about How To Get Dudes To Not Be So Fucking Fragile. Your strategy is shielding guys from working on their fragility by avoiding situations that would cause them to have a fragile response, which (to me) means it goes untreated and will eventually blow up in weird ways.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:29 PM on January 30 [4 favorites]


Anywho, I'm probably talking too much and I'm gonna bounce out of this thread now.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:32 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


I have friends who are TERFS - and as a cis person, I don't get to be angry with them, yell at them, and walk away from them. That's an abdication of my role as accomplice. I stay their friend, genuinely, and confront their anti-trans rhetoric gently but constantly.

This sounds like it's working for you, so I'm curious how you sustain the friendship there? In my experience, any sort of challenging people along these lines has led to a combination of the bigoted friend wanting to sever ties rather than tolerate the challenge and the sides of my social sphere who would be targets of said bigotry looking at me and going "Why do you tolerate this, do I have to worry about you as well?"

I mean, I can't dispute that this sort of thing seems necessary (even as I want to hit the eject button on the whole topic of gender/performing masculinity personally), and as you note it's not something I feel I *get* to, but you're describing a very different social dynamic than I've been able to sustain.
posted by CrystalDave at 12:34 PM on January 30 [5 favorites]


you're talking about a strategy for How To Get Dudes To Not Be So Misogynist, and I'm talking about How To Get Dudes To Not Be So Fucking Fragile

Yes I am, because I perceive misogyny to be far more consequential than fragility. It further seems to me that concentrating on curing misogyny will make more of a contribution toward fixing fragility than the other way around.

Your own life experience might well lead you to disagree with that assessment, and that's fine. You work your end, I'll work mine and with any luck we'll both end up dying in a society that looks more like the one we want our kids to inhabit than the one we have.

Also time for me to shut up at this point and do a bit more listening.
posted by flabdablet at 12:45 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]


In my experience, any sort of challenging people along these lines has led to a combination of the bigoted friend wanting to sever ties rather than tolerate the challenge

I have had some success with phrasing things about what *I'm* comfortable with. Mostly I'm thinking about fat acceptance/health at every size/body positivity. There is a lot of anti-fat language that comes from some of my family members and I usually say something like "I'm not really comfortable talking about people's bodies that way. I'm sure so-and-so is just a person trying to live their life." In the past I have talked about how thinking every fat person is unhealthy is nonsense, etc. I don't know how they talk when I am not around, but I have seen progress in how they talk about people's weight, where if they negatively mention someone being fat, I think they feel mean (because they were mean) and immediately walk it back.
posted by Emmy Rae at 12:52 PM on January 30 [5 favorites]


Yes I am, because I perceive misogyny to be far more consequential than fragility. It further seems to me that concentrating on curing misogyny will make more of a contribution toward fixing fragility than the other way around.

Remember when upthread, I pointed out that in my experience fragility is as dangerous or potentially more dangerous for women than open misogyny?

Do you want to engage with me about that, or just the other dude in the room?
posted by sciatrix at 12:57 PM on January 30 [10 favorites]


Regarding the article, one thing that struck me was how some of the more powerful people in these stories could have used their status to try to call back the harassers, but they chose not to.

I don't remember the original ghostbusters cast saying "We made a fun, silly movie 20 years ago. These women made another fun, silly movie and we thought Leslie Jones was great in it. You're not supporting us by attacking her."

If Marvel supported the milkshake ladies, they didn't mention that in the article.

I don't recall any major game designers saying "If you're spending a single bit of time attacking Zoe Quinn, please never buy my game, play my game, or talk about my game. I don't want your support." (Gaming is not an industry I am familiar with so maybe something like this did happen?)

What if Terry Crews had decided to have Gabrielle Union's back like she had his when he shared his sexual harassment story?

The message isn't just, be careful or we're coming for you. It's also "and no one will risk anything to speak up for you."

I mean, I once set up an appointment with the CEO of my company to explain how women were consistently discriminated against in my division. My own position was stagnant because the head of our division disliked me and my boss really wanted the Head's approval and to maintain his own (unearned) position. No way was he staking out any ground in defense of me and my contributions. So I alerted the CEO to the problem (and hinted that eventually someone might sue for the obvious discrimination). I also formed a women's group to address some of the specific issues we faced in that workplace. I took the heat for all of this and I got nothing. I was blacklisted from advancement - my boss told me this to my face - and labeled troublesome (my review said I had trouble getting along with my colleagues). Then I left for what turned out to be an even worse company and I am now unemployed. BUT, a bunch of rules and processes changed for others and suddenly the other women could get promotions and women in general were given a more fair deal in terms of who handled office clean up, etc.

My point being, I was a disliked employee (by the bosses, my colleagues mostly liked me) and despite that I managed to make major changes. But they came at great cost to myself and along the way, I saw over and over again how the men working there could have done extremely minor things to show support and help make changes. But none would risk the tiniest moment of their own discomfort for our benefit.
posted by Emmy Rae at 1:14 PM on January 30 [31 favorites]


I* think the misogyny and fragility are kind of sides of the same coin. If my ego weren't so fragile I wouldn't feel so threatened by challenges to misogyny. But if I'm less of a misogynist, there are fewer challenges to my frail ego that can lead (in ways I'm having trouble figuring out how to articulate) that ego being more robust.

So maybe there is something to the idea that if you can get someone get past the misogyny it can free them up to work on their fragility but sometimes it might work better for people to work on their fragility to allow them to work on their misogyny. Or both at once, whatever works.

Disclaimer: A middle-aged cis white male
posted by VTX at 1:26 PM on January 30


Remember when upthread, I pointed out that in my experience fragility is as dangerous or potentially more dangerous for women than open misogyny?

I'm not the person you're responding to, but I do want to hear more about this from people, because I keep wondering if the word "fragility" isn't the best to use for all this, because it has all these metaphorical attachments of weakness, when it seems like the explosive potential is more the worrisome part? It's really hard to talk about without metaphors and analogies interfering. I see the thing we're calling fragility as a quickly-exhausted quantity of tolerance of requests of fairness and ethical treatment. Like, you can only ask someone to be good and fair so many times, before their supply of tolerance is gone and they attack. And even that's not quite right, because you have all these guys exploding with apparently no provocation, because no one's asking them anything. Just the absence of constant effusive praise seems to be enough of a provocation.

I don't know if I'm saying this right, but it just seems like we see 'fragility' and read it as 'weakness' rather than 'threat of harm.' You can hear it in the tone of some comments--and I'm not criticizing or calling anyone out for this--that are sort of more insulting and less frightened?
posted by mittens at 1:46 PM on January 30 [9 favorites]


Yeah, and I'm actually reading it as not "weakness" but "potential for breaking point." Fragility is not weakness, from the perspective of a woman: fragility is the level of care I must take to tiptoe around the feelings of men in order to avoid the enraged explosion of self-protective blustering aggression.

Look, what kinds of wild animals do you think of as most dangerous to humans: big carnivores who might have an incentive to hunt and eat humans, or big territorial herbivores that might be frightened by a human and perceive that human as a threat? A lot of people are scared of carnivores, like big cats, but herbivores like hippopotamus, Cape buffalo, or moose are a lot more dangerous in real life. A lot of this is predictability and negotiating interactions with animals.

An animal who views you as prey can be fairly easily convinced to look elsewhere by being convinced that you, the person, are much more difficult to turn into a tasty meal than other targets might be. Metaphorically, you can convince an honestly misogynistic man to keep his behavior to himself if you can band together with other women to force him to incur consequences if he's found to be hurting women. If such a man is like a leopard, you can effectively deal with him by screaming at him when you see him and shouting to everyone else in the room that this man is a predator, or by making your own big, scary threat display that convinces him that you are too difficult to take on.

By contrast, a fragile man is like a rhinoceros. He is very large, he is easily frightened, and when he decides that you are a threat, he will try to neutralize you so that you are no longer a threat--usually because he has successfully driven you far from him, crushed you into a red smear, or driven you into hiding. The more frightened he is, the more motivated he is to make sure that you cannot frighten him again, and once frightened he will use any tactic at his disposal to neutralize you. If you try to convince him that you are strong and threatening in your own right, he might run--but he might also turn and attack you even harder, and he is larger than you are. People who blunder unexpectedly into these kinds of big herbivores die in droves, even though the herbivore doesn't really have any personal interest in their deaths.

And what is worse, the fragile man pretends to be an ally to you--and he genuinely believes that he is, so good luck unmasking him. If you imply that he is not, he might try to smash you to bits. Drawing attention to the rhinoceros behind the human mask makes you a potential target, and you as a woman need to constantly be trying to run the calculus: is there a rhinoceros hiding in the room with me? Am I being too threatening? Too harsh? Am I being warm enough? What does the rhinoceros think of my behavior? A predator is so much simpler to grapple with and understand. A fragile man, by contrast, means a constant attempt to warily tiptoe over eggshells to be allowed to accurately describe reality.
posted by sciatrix at 2:15 PM on January 30 [79 favorites]


What does the rhinoceros think of my behavior? A predator is so much simpler to grapple with and understand.

This is a tremendously helpful metaphor I will be chewing on for a bit.
posted by PMdixon at 2:30 PM on January 30 [4 favorites]


fragility is the level of care I must take to tiptoe around the feelings of men in order to avoid the enraged explosion of self-protective blustering aggression.

Flagged as fantastic, sciatrix. That is such a laser-sharp and beautifully articulated description of so much of my lifetime experience as a woman that it brought me to tears of recognition immediately. Thank you for speaking to that with such clarity. I, too, will be pondering that excellent predator/herbivore metaphor for awhile.
posted by velvet winter at 2:44 PM on January 30 [8 favorites]


fragile like a Prince Rupert's drop?
posted by atoxyl at 2:44 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]


what is worse, the fragile man pretends to be an ally to you--and he genuinely believes that he is, so good luck unmasking him

This 'large herbivore' analogy describes the challenge with fragility in many men very well! Thank you for contributing it sciatrix!

Why is a "nice guy" built so frail? Probably because his needs for individuation were unmet in his early life. He's never been allowed to talk about himself in an accurate way, so why should he be expected to tolerate the sound of self-accuracy in another? There is so much dissociated pain when it comes to split-off parts of the Self; of course he's going to react in an angry state when he's forced to be made aware of the pain again... of the original trauma-seed incubating deep within the frail shell.

Why do they hate us so much? Across the whole world, for most of recorded history, there’s men hating, brutalizing, and exploiting women. Why?

As the survivor of a very damaged father-family line, I'll posit that it's the result of a trauma paradox. From what I saw of the men's stories in my father's long succession of alcoholic wife-beating child-molesting "frail" men, it's a biological paradox for a man to know himself -- to know his own trauma -- and then be born into this world surviving among those who unknowingly perpetrated it. That's why the hate. A man who was beaten by his father while he was still in the womb most likely will never get the trauma resolution support he needs to heal from it... but he can be made to believe that the timebombs in his head "must have" come from his mother, because afterall, it was *her* womb that incubated him, right?? Many of the seeds of this frailty-based rage can be planted via domestic violence before the child is even born. (I know my father's Christian patriarchs ruled with an iron fist, and beatings were how things were done back in those days -- and it certainly didn't matter if a woman was pregnant when the lesson was being delivered...) As the child grows up, he is taught to re-direct his sublimated rage towards his mother, until gradually it extends to all or most women by adulthood. Good men resist this thinking; however, for badly attachment-wounded men, this thinking gives them the only societally available outlet for dealing with all that ingrown rage.

Why else would men who are going to hit their wives escalate when their wives are pregnant? It's a trauma paradox. They are not allowed to be aware of their trauma, so they are compelled to act it out -- and the most potent cycle is when a man is physically beaten before he is even born, and then forbidden to speak truth to it, let alone know it. Where does his legitimate physiological reaction to the family violence go? Where does it "disappear" to, especially after he's been taught "honor thy parents" (at all costs)? Let alone what happens in a child's life after birth -- if a man is beaten as a child, or witnesses violence towards the mother as a child, but is never allowed to act out his instincts to protect his mother... What happens to the built-up physiological response in that child?

It doesn't just disappear; it sublimates into rage. The raging ego of a frail man is about not having lived a life aligned to his instincts. Instead of knowing himself, he is blinded to his Self, and made to believe that it is his own instincts that lead him towards the evil of ever doubting the supposed goodness of his parents. The corrupt patriarchs of the world have been witnessing these cycles of attachment violence for millennia, and they are very skilled at capitalizing from it. Sometimes corrupt women capitalize from it too.

As the latest generation, maybe we need to ask ourselves, how can we work smarter to disarm these psychological timebombs passed down through the generations?? Instead of giving all the attention to how awful it is, maybe work to track down the genesis of these timebombs as they manifest in a person's early life history, while recognizing the behavioral manifestations as the trauma-paradoxes they are?? IME doing the work of understanding the history of attachment violence has been the way to go. (Sorry for the wall of text, btw, great thread!)
posted by human ecologist at 3:21 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]


I think fragile is an excellent word to describe when someone's sense of security about some aspect of their life or of themselves is so weak it shatters under any criticism or perceived threat. That could be about some aspect of male privilege, some problematic thing they enjoy, or even their self-image as a good person. People who really do want to be allies can be fragile too, about anything that suggests they were imperfect in that regard.

Responses once that feeling of security is destroyed could be disengagement, controlling the conversation in various ways, anger, and of course, violence, threatened and actual. This article described a whole bunch of the latter.

Whereas someone who has a strong sense of security in whatever it is, is much more likely to just disregard criticism and not perceive it as a significant threat. They may have a long term strategy to keep that sense of security from being eroded, but I think they'd be a lot less likely to suddenly go berzerk.
posted by FishBike at 3:32 PM on January 30 [4 favorites]


Seconding FishBike that emotional fragility is exactly the correct terminology for the phenomenon we're talking about.

Sometimes an emotionally fragile response is inwardly aggressive rather than outwardly aggressive, too. An acquaintance (cis, male, identifies as feminist and leftist) recently switched from being angry at other folks pointing out how a thing he had done ended up having a harmful effect despite his not intending harm to a self-directed shame spiral. These are merely two facets of the same lump of coal, both behaviors coming from the same underlying emotional fragility. And both having negative consequences for those of us who were trying to hold him accountable for the effects of his actions (though in the second stage, because of other people who thought we weren't providing enough care for this dude who was clearly in emotional distress... yet whose shame spiral still didn't translate into actually doing anything to address the harms that his actions had inadvertently caused).
posted by eviemath at 4:27 PM on January 30 [4 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Please don't reproduce a long transcript of hateful stuff someone said just for the sake of showing how a conversation can go; it still means putting a bunch of hateful stuff here for other Mefites to stumble into. ]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:21 PM on January 30 [6 favorites]


Anywho, I'm probably talking too much and I'm gonna bounce out of this thread now.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:32 PM on January 30 [1 favorite +] [!]


Eponysterical!
posted by LizBoBiz at 3:37 AM on January 31 [1 favorite]


I’m struck, and fairly traumatised, by all the extreme violence represented by the repetitive spewing of necrophilial rape scenarios to the women in the article. The level of visceral hatred of threatening to decapitate and rape a woman’s head. Where does this level of disgust and loathing come from?
Once in a less moderated thread in MetaTalk a user got away with saying that I needed to be strangled, amongst a paragraph of spewing hatred. It got favourites. I couldn’t go online for days and those days were spent in nauseating anxiety. Even though reaching out to the mods to ask what I’d done to incur this was ‘you did nothing, guy’s a known asshole’ normalised a willingness to cut violent assholes slack. When the article describes the kinds of things men say to women in so many innocuous scenarios, I don’t know how they ever get up and on with their lives.

Not only does it seem men hate women who speak or be anywhere, they also think sex itself is a form of violent punishment. It’s sickening.
posted by honey-barbara at 5:35 AM on January 31 [23 favorites]


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