So there’s this weird trend among America’s literati. Tell me if you’ve seen it, too. It’s this pattern of contentmonkeys churning out op-eds that are ostensibly written about one group of people who will never actually read these things.
Two days before the Election, a really good example of this was published in The New York Times by Jill Filopovic. The piece was called, “The Men Feminists Left Behind.” There’s nothing in it you haven’t read a dozen other places, but then this last part got me.
I want to point your attention to this highlighted bit. I see this rhetorical device a lot in the writing of Liberal White Feminists like Jill Filipovic. On one hand, virtually everyone on the Left recognizes that many, many white men in this country appear to be embracing conservatism because they see their privileges being denied. No one on the Left is going to refute this; it’s well established in cultural theory.
White Feminists aren’t off in their diagnosis. They’re just always off when they deliver their achingly facile prognosis. Does anyone really believe a man who is rigid in gender identity is reading Jill Filipovic in The New York Times? Does anyone really think KKK members in West Virginia are logging on to read Jessica Valenti or Lindy West? Absolutely not. These women make their brand by speaking to inclusive audiences. That’s what columnists do.
I do it all the time. Are you kidding me? I’m a radical feminist who writes a blog effectively criticizing everything from a Marxist perspective. I don’t expect to resonate outside of those already committed. And I make no apologies for it.
We’re no longer living in an age of mass media. We’re living in an age of bubble media. We’re all farting in our own echo chambers. Just admit it.
Everyone wants to imagine themselves the hero of their own story. I understand that drive. I do. It’s sincere. But social media is designed to cultivate and facilitate the projection of ego while simultaneously maintaining the delusion of audience. You have been trained for years on Livejournal, Facebook and Instagram that your contribution is relevant, necessary and urgent. And so yes, you kick over your chair, stand up and declare to your 500 Facebook Friends: I AM NO RACIST. I RESPECT WOMEN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE.
Except I’m guessing very few of your Facebook friends are racists. If you’re not a racist, my assumption is you’ve probably worked pretty hard to stop befriending racists. If you’re a feminist, you’ve worked hard to disown yourself from the groups that cut you down. For good reason, you’ve pulled out of the social milieux that would treat any human as less than human. The problem with this is that you no longer have an audience of racists and sexists to hear your speech. You’re giving it in an echo chamber of people who wouldn’t be friends with you if they thought you were a fucking asshole.
Don’t get me wrong! I totally 100% agree white men are butthurt babies. White men feel butthurt because they aren’t getting their chance to boss a woman like Melania Trump around. They’re mad because they want to be able to treat immigrants like shit, too. They’re mad because their boss is a woman and nurse sick revenge fantasies every time she makes him to do his job. They’re mad because Black actors on TV live in bigger houses they do. They’re mad because they see Trump living the life they feel is their birthright as white men.
America, we didn’t just normalize Hugh Hefner’s self-serving absurdity, we glorified it. Trump was just the next logical iteration of white male power fantasy. I’m in wild agreement with feminists who believe that this generation of white men has been milkfed since birth on sick fantasies of domination and control.
White Feminists get the diagnosis right. But then they always deliver some squashy prognosis like “embrace feminism” or “accept gender fluidity.”
But you know what? I’m a feminist theorist and while I agree that men do need to embrace feminism and accept the deadness of gender roles, I also know that telling oppressors to give up oppression hasn’t worked in…ever.
The problem with hot takes in general is that they often reduce and simplify arguments down to 800 or so words until they’re just rote performance. Empty words directed at one’s own audience not actually meant to change opinions so much as salve the cognitive biases of the already committed. These things ricochet around our social media bubbles, telling our committed friends, “LOOK, I, TOO, AM A FEMINIST.”
This is not to say they don’t serve a point. Feminists still suffer under witch hunt conditions. No feminist is wrong for taking up space. No feminist errs in declaring themselves. To declare under times like these is still in and of itself an act of resistance.
The problem is the fuckheads aren’t reading The New York Times for advice on how to accept not getting what they want. These pieces are still about them. They center on our vulnerability to them and not on what we’re going to do to make ourselves less vulnerable.
Personally, I’m not asking white men to do anything. I’m not going to spend my life asking white men for shit. That’s exactly what they want. They want a world where white women and people of color have to depend on them for equality. That’s the foundational contradiction of Liberal AmeriKKKa.
Elsewhere, I’ve described what I think Liberal AmeriKKKa is:
Society is pretty set on giving the individual as much freedom as they want, so long as most have to start in an empty quarry and those in power can commoditize all the ladders they need to climb to get out. This kind of liberty, it turns out, is quite profitable.
And really, calling this empty quarry freedom is exactly what benefits white men most. Women can’t climb the ladders out because we aren’t paid as much as men and even two-income households can’t afford the costs of housing, healthcare and kids. So working mothers find themselves in the service of two men with nothing left of herself. Blacks can’t climb out because the hole gets deeper every year and there’s no net.
And then rich white men like Trump stand at the top of the quarry and declare the land free.
Everyone’s free to climb. This is America.
And most everyone is climbing. Most of us will die never making it to the top. Our names will be forgotten. Most of it spent servicing the men above us with nothing of our own.
White men between us and Trump know for this system to keep working, they have to keep kicking the rest of us off the ladders. And all the Trumps at the top need to do to maintain this system is make sure there are enough men doing the kicking. Everyone is as free as there are ladders and white men to kick people off of them.
It’s not like this insight is new. Those who study Marxist theory have long recognized that kicking people off of ladders is the class logic of the petite bourgeoisie, those who mediate between the haute bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Don’t let the vocab throw you. Most white men serve as the henchmen of capitalism. They do the kicking.
A month before he was shot down, Malcolm X was explaining in Toronto why racebaiting is such a necessary tactic of power for the rich man. The rich man knows ladder anxiety keeps the white man on his side. No one knew better: “I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice, and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.”
Addressing the 1964 Militant Labor Forum, X said, “the system in this country cannot produce freedom for an Afro-American. It is impossible for this system, this economic system, this political system, this social system, this system, period … You can’t have capitalism without racism.”
See, the Left knows this tactic of training thugs to kick people off capitalist ladders. It’s as old as the books.
Which is why seeing this facile logic of “blame the white guy” among Liberal White Feminists is so disheartening. You see, they’re not wrong — white men are afraid. They’re fucking terrified. The stack of current books being published right now addressing the fear of the common White Man in America is as tall as I am.
Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class
Pity the white man. I get it.
Right, so we’re all clear that white men are a problem, right? We know that the white man is sad. We know that the white man is angry. We know that the white man is butthurt. This premise of the argument we’re all in wild agreement on.
What we’re seemingly not all in agreement is the utility of publicly flagellating the poor white man in places like The New York Times, a newspaper that very regularly writes feathery pieces about mansions — “Ornate, Yet Cozy.”
So excuse me if I count myself among the millions of feminists who read shit like this op-ed and spit my coffee out all over the page. I imagine the rare working poor subject reading Jill Filipovic probably doesn’t need to be lectured that his plight would be so much better if only he were to embrace feminism.
So it comes back to my original question, who the fuck is this shit for? Is it for the already committed? If so, it’s masturbatory. It’s what White Feminists have been saying to each other all campaign, bolstering each other up with platitudes when they weren’t breaking out into random renditions of “Fight Song.”
As much as I love the sound of my own voice, I know conservative assholes in Long Island aren’t logging on to Twitter being like, “Let me follow the most radical socialist feminist I can find to broaden my perspective on contemporary Marxism.” No. Don’t be daft. I alienate practically everyone. I know I’m not speaking to anyone who doesn’t share my commitments.
But every day, there’s a fresh steaming pile of content trying to speak to a hypothetical racist sexist cockmonster who apparently subscribes to every newsletter and eagerly reads every byline on the op-ed page of The New York Times.
A newspaper that publishes shit like this:
Right, just so we’re square here, there’s more to this problem than encouraging poor men to accept gender fluidity. I’d go into how White Feminists colluded to make sure class analysis never got a fucking seat at this table, but I’ll save that for another time. I just want us to recognize that part of the problem people need to know going forward is that not only are these masturbatory circlejerks feckless, they’re fucking absurd.
Who are you talking to?