The Google memo: On the ‘loserdom’ of MRAs and the alt-right & taking bigotry seriously
After James Damore was fired by Google for sending out a 10-page memo about women’s inherent biological inferiority to his colleagues, he joined Twitter under the username @/Fired4Truth. While it may seem surreal and even comical that Damore would choose this username, the statement he made with his username is part of an overarching MRA/alt-right narrative of oppression for uncovering the ‘truth’ that society is hiding away. This is partly why the MRA ideology is so seductive: while it asserts the entitlement of men to status, money and (female) partnership, it posits that there’s a society-wide conspiracy to hide women and minorities’ inherent inferiority to white straight cisgender men.
Damore’s manifesto and his subsequent loss of employment earned him thousands of followers on Twitter and spots on right-wing media platforms. He curiously sidestepped questions about his own connections to the alt-right, but his memo and hatred-disguised-as-ideas are revealing of his agreement with an ever-growing group of hateful white men. This is unsurprising and confirms existing scholarship that MRA and alt-right ideologies overlap. MRA ideology seeks to uphold societal gender hierarchies, which is an essential pillar of what the alt-right seeks to protect: white supremacy. As Damore’s own words confirm, both of these groups see any attempt to introduce diversity and equity across the board as a threat to society as they know it, a society in which they are the dominant parties.
In February, Dale Beran wrote an incredible piece on his Medium page that detailed the alt-right ideology and the group’s formation on 4chan. The piece is extremely informative and I recommend that you read it if you can. One of the main pieces of information Beran wanted to get across is the paradoxical mythology of loserdom that pervades this group of white supremacists and misogynists. Beran argues that these men know that they are mediocre and that they will not amount to much in life, but that they reclaim their loserdom. They believe that even in their loserdom, even in their mediocrity, they are superior to men of color, women of color, non-submissive white women and trans people. They believe being a straight cisgender white male loser constitutes a position of superiority above anyone who is the opposite.
This belief and its alleged suppression come full circle to confirm a counter-culture narrative that aids the alt-right’s image in mainstream representations. The loser narrative walks along mainstream media characterization of alt-right supporters as the disaffected, disillusioned white working class men who had no choice but to become neo-Nazis because of PC culture and economic anxiety. Damore’s Fired4Truth username strikes me because it’s such an obvious nod to alt-right ideology and the subculture narrative, the erroneous belief that diversity policies and political awareness of racism and sexism have already disturbed the hierarchy so badly that (a) society can’t help but fail and (b) that women and minorities are now, somehow, the dominant demographic. The idea that Google’s rightful (and, in my opinion, delayed) decision to fire Damore amounts to suppression of ideas is laughable at best, but it works if you believe that we have already achieved “enough equality.”
The spread of MRA ideology is dangerous precisely because it is so in-line with current cultural hierarchies, seeking to uphold them through thinly disguised claims of logical debate and claims of male oppression. It isn’t a stretch to argue that Damore’s actions in spreading his manifesto constitutes verbal violence against women, especially in a field where women and people of color are routinely edged out because of hostile environments that privilege whiteness and maleness.
Damore and his loserdom shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially because Damore, much as he would like to fit into the white nerd loser-cum-misogynist narrative, is not a loser. Damore worked for one of the biggest tech companies in the world, I would guess he was making rent comfortably, and yet he felt somehow maligned because he was being asked to make space for people who are unlike him. Damore is not a loser, he is of a dominant class. And neither are any of the men who are joining the alt-right: in society they are the dominant class, but they might feel like they are losers and leverage this feeling for sympathy and mainstream justification for their hateful beliefs.
Even in balanced pieces about Damore, the feeling of disenfranchisement stemming from men in contrast to liberal diversity policies is cited, a lot, to explain the radicalization of these men. A helpful distinction I have found when thinking about this masculinity in crisis that is often cited comes from the book Cultures of Masculinity by Tim Edwards. In a long chapter, Edwards breaks down the concept of masculinity in crisis into a material crisis — that is, corroborated by claims of failing male demographics from education to employment — and the feeling of being in crisis. Edwards concludes that the feeling of crisis exists, but that the evidence for a real, society-wide disenfranchisement of men is absolutely insufficient.
Of course, Edwards’ book doesn’t tackle the most recent developments of masculinity in crisis because it was published in the mid-2000s. I am still trying to figure out how the feeling of masculinity in crisis and the alt-right’s loserdom fit into each other; are they the same thing? And is reclaiming ‘loserdom’ the next scary step of masculinity in crisis?
In his piece about the alt-right, Beran warns not taking Trump seriously was a huge part of how he got elected. His election seemed as surreal and as comical as Damore’s memo. I will admit that laughing at men like Damore is extremely satisfying. Laughing and mocking misogynists can be a defense mechanism and an emotional release. However, I want to start thinking of other ways to engage when this kind of thing happens in the future. I want to ask myself, am I minimizing the danger this ideology poses because it is satisfying to laugh at the people who espouse it? Beyond my own personal emotional gain, what does cracking a joke that will ultimately roll off these men’s backs — because, remember, their whole thing is to portray themselves as disenfranchised losers— achieve at a time where overt and violent misogyny, racism and fascism are on the rise and around the corner? I worry that indulging in the loser narrative is both minimizing misogyny’s role in white supremacy and the immediate effects of it. How much of a loser is Damore really, when his firing led to harassment and doxing of people who criticized him?
I want to be clear: I am by no means calling for a love trumps hate dynamic, I believe punching Nazis when appropriate is a pretty effective anti-fascism tactic. I am asking that we take MRA ideology seriously, as it is an extreme of the society we already know. I am asking that we do not fall into the trap of minimizing MRAs because we assume they are a minority: sexism and misogyny are not only gateway drugs into other kinds of bigotry, they are also pillars that support and complement white supremacist ideologies.
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