Why are men so angry?

Nancy Drew

I saw this meme above shared around on Facebook this morning and I loved it so much and not just because I, hand to God, had an imaginary friend as a child named Nancy Drew. I was too young to have read the books but my sister had a whole set of them that we used to cover in fabric to make beds for our barbies to sleep with Ken in. My imaginary friend Nancy Drew lived in all the McMansions I’d see in my town in central Connecticut and every time we’d drive by a house I’d say “that’s Nancy Drew’s house… oh, wait, no, THAT’S Nancy Drew’s house.” Until one day my mom suggested we knock on the door to see if Nancy Drew was home. We walked all the way up to the door and in the nanosecond before my mother’s knuckles rapped on the door, I quickly blurted out “Uh, she’s probably not home today.” Weird….

So, anyway, there’s a lot of talk these days about women’s rage and anger. Uma Thurman for instance has been quoted explaining that she’s unable to answer questions about what’s going on right now because she doesn’t want to let her anger lead her to say something she’ll regret.

kill bill

Women are PISSED OFF. I know I am. After hearing that Woody Allen said we needed to be careful not to start a witch hunt in reference to Harvey Weinstein, when the love of my life uttered similar words I yelled at him for the first time since I’ve known him. I used to yell a lot when I was still drinking, yell at my ex, yell at my mom, yell, yell, yell… but I quit doing that a few years ago, realizing that in general we tend to get what we give and I don’t like being yelled at back. But all the news coming out just draws out of me rage at shit that has been dormant for 30 years or more. Rage at shit that I can’t control, rage at shit that is caused by structures and institutions that are so much bigger than any individual. There’s no one to yell at because there are so many people to scream at. So, we’re all out of fucks to give…

woman-empty-pockets-isolated-white-31273206

This makes sense to me on personal and on a logical level. But I also saw this meme this morning:

women have mental illness too

… and I was all like, that’s RIGHT! But it led me to ask, why are men, as a group so angry? And why aren’t we talking about that. Women have easy access to killing machines and, by God, I assure you, we are pissed off right now, but we’re organizing marches, we’re sharing funny memes on facebook, we’re getting mad at our partners, but we’re not shooting up fucking streets and churches and mosques and schools.  We’re not asking men if it’s okay for us to show them our private parts. We’re not actually killing Bills (I never actually saw that movie, so hopefully that makes sense as a sentence). Who is doing these things? A lot of white men.

We seem to like to individualize white men’s behaviour (he was a lone wolf! a rogue shooter! he was nuts!) and contextualize or explain the behaviour of women or all people of color. It’s not so bad when the explanation for these latter groups is structural racism or sexism, but often the explanation is that women are crazy liars and less intelligent than white men or Black/Brown people are inherently violent and less intelligent than white people. Although we might WANT to explain away the perpetrators of these crimes as individual whack jobs, it doesn’t take a degree in statistics to see a really common thread among the shooters and the sexual predators.

So, why are white men so angry? What do white men have to be pissed off about that is unique to white men? We could say “oh the economy! Loss of jobs!”, you know, the stuff Bernie Sanders and his minions like to talk about to avoid having to acknowledge the reality of racism and sexism, but women and men of color are affected by those things too, and ACTUALLY, disproportionately negatively so.  We can say #notallmen, and after I finish rolling my eyes until I get a migraine, we can reply with no shit sherlock, but the study of social groups involves the implicit assumption that we’re not talking about EVERYONE when we’re trying to understand why certain groups of people engage in certain behaviours at different rates.

Or maybe we might say, testosterone! It’s biological! It’s innate! They just can’t help themselves!!! If that TRULY were the case, then we seriously need to just put every single man in jail. I mean if you can’t help it, safety first, and then you don’t have to worry about accidentally shooting or raping or sexually harassing anyone. But personally, I have a number of men in my life who don’t do these shitty things and I’d miss them terribly. And, knowing that it’s possibly for my sons and partner not to do these things, suggests to me that maybe men CAN help it.  Maybe men have the capacity not to act like monsters.

Some psychoanalytic feminists, like Nancy Chodorow, suggest that men’s anger emerges in the early stages of childhood when boys feel the need to develop a sense of self in opposition to their mothers, especially when they do not have nurturing fathers to teach them how to be men without being assholes (I’m not an expert on Chodorow’s theories, she probably uses a word different from asshole.) Her theories are important for rejecting biological imperatives about gender, by suggesting that gender roles are learned from such an early age that they can seem like they are biologically determined. I also think that it is likely true that in family situations where boys are nurtured and loved they have less to be mad about. But this doesn’t explain why children raised in lesbian families with no male role models have been shown to have better outcomes overall.

So, *scratching my head*, what are white men so mad about? As far as I can tell, the one thing that sets white men apart from the rest of us, is their access to power. In fact, sociobiologist Joan Huber suggests that the origins of gender inequality emerged in hunting and gathering societies due to women’s need to breastfeed (FASCINATING!). It’s not that breastfeeding is therefore *bad* it’s just that the reality of human existence meant that babies had to be fed at least every 15 minutes about 10,000 years ago which meant that men could go off and get political with other groups of people in a way that women couldn’t, unless we all wanted to die as a species. Actually, I have made the argument before that perhaps this suggests that men should breastfeed too. While all men probably can’t sustain a child’s nutritional needs, some maybe can and all can at least provide non-nutritive suckling akin to a pacifier. Men have milk ducts and nipples. You probably have seen them, since only men’s nipples can be shown on social media .
male-nip
Most of my publications are related to breastfeeding, so it’s obviously important to me as an explanator but it doesn’t explain the rise of white power.  Although there is lots written about the racialization of breastfeeding and the use of images of bare-breasted black women to dehumanize them, I don’t think that breastfeeding explains everything.

Regardless of *why* white men have more power in American and Canadian social life, they do. White men are the majority of political leaders, CEOs, bosses, and whomever else has the most influence on society. There are rich white women and rich people of color, so, yes, #notallpowerfulpeople but disproportionately the powerful people are the white men. BUT, you might say, some of the shooters weren’t themselves powerful. Yes, the sexual predators in Hollywood and D.C. we’re hearing about are powerful people, but not the shooters, some are just kids in high school.

Well, I would suggest that this goes back to the issue of entitlement I wrote about the other day. When anyone feels entitled to something, they are going to fight to get it or keep it. We get REALLY pissed off when we feel that we’re being denied the things we’re entitled to. I think the reason why people are so surprised by women’s anger is because for so long we were told that we weren’t entitled to our place at the table. We fought for it, we sensed we ought to have it, didn’t like it when we were kept away from it, but we were told that we were just crazy bitches or angry black women or that WE were the entitled ones when we got mad about it. So we got therapy or drank alcoholically, or yelled at our partners or our children and then were told that we were ruining our children’s lives and so we had to parent even more intensively to make up for this misguided anger.

We don’t think about men’s anger in the same way we think about women’s anger; men have been more entitled to their anger than women. We often don’t like it, women create shelters to shield other women from it, but we don’t question it in men as a group.  We often harness men’s anger for our entertainment or our political ends as weapons on football or battle fields and then go on to give million dollar contracts and medals for this anger. Men have also been seen as entitled to their power. Despite Donald Trump being unqualified for his position, I have yet to see his supporters frame his rise to power as being due to the affirmative action of the powerful wanting to make sure that their group was represented in office.

If white men believe that they are entitled to all they have achieved, no wonder why they’re so pissed off. If white men have been told for thousands of years that they get to make the decisions, they get to set the terms of negotiation, they get to make all the decisions, no wonder they are fighting tooth and nail to keep what they’ve got. They’re willing to die over it because they believe it’s their birthright. The men who don’t kill or rape or harass, seem to be men who get that they aren’t any more entitled to the good life than anyone else. Perhaps they didn’t always have power, perhaps they had parents who loved them and told them that they were good enough without having to piss on others to prove it. I really don’t know.

What I do know, though, is that men aren’t entitled to do whatever they want even if it feels like they are, which is why, I think, this cascade of allegations is so disorienting. White men aren’t actually smarter or better negotiators or better with money or less crazy or less angry or more deserving or any other adjective that can explain why they happen to be in power. They just aren’t, even if they have a couple of scientific studies to sort of make a claim to it, even if they have been treated all along they they are, even if we’ve all been going along with this charade for thousands of years. It’s like we’ve all been sitting in our car seats going “sure, sure, let’s see if Nancy Drew is home, no problem” and suddenly there’s been a knock at the door.

Advertisements

2 comments

  1. As a white man I really don’t do any of these things. I am assertive not aggressive. I don’t even think of myself as a white man. I don’t feel less than or more than. I sometimes find when people say women act this way and men act this way that it is foolish to think that way. People think in all kinds of different ways.
    But then I have different perspectives I have learned over my life. My female cousin in her 20’s, who I think has never been assaulted would worry walking to her cat parked down the street from my house in a Kanata suburb. That idea is foreign to me. I don’t feel nervous walking down a busy street in downtown Montreal after midnight when I don’t even really know the city. Or on Rideau Street or in Vanier. I simply have no fear. It is not something that exists for me in my mind and it never has. And I am a small man who does not know how to fight or anything. I am as vulnerable to an agressive man as most women are, yet I feel no fear.

    I don’t know what it is like to be gay or a minority or to be “different”. Well I do. I did feel “different” in middle school and was picked on some. And Zi never fit in during high school until my last years. But that isn’t the same… or is it? I can’t know.

    I knew it before but the Me Too campaign made it plain to me that every woman is at minimum sexually harrassed sometimes. Every one. Maybe I have been sexually harrassed a couple of times but it never felt threatening at all. Just a bit awkward or even flattering. Not really how a woman might feel if their ass got grabbed. And the few incidents I remember are meaningless to me. The have no power over me. I just thought back to the few times my ass got grabbed in a bar. By women. If it was a man that had done it I probably would have felt threatened.

    It never has occurred to me to harrass women. If I am attracted to a woman I don’t think that I should act like an asshole. I just do nothing about it usually or if I really like her I talk to her and become friends or more. I literally can not understand rape. I just can’t see how anyone would want to do that. It doesn’t seem sexual to me. It seems like walking up to someone and punching them in the face. I don’t understand any man saying they got carried away, they couldn’t stop… that just does not make sense to me. Why would I want to have sexual contact with anyone that did not want to have that contact? I just can’t understand it.

    I actually have far more women friends than men. Actually I can see why women feel like you have talked about in the blog post because a lot of men are idiots. Stupid idiots. Some do say super offensive things when there are no women around. I don’t hang around those men. I don’t and haven’t liked the feeling of being around a lot of men playing sports or in first year university where I lived in an all male dorm. My next door neighbour was on the fucking football team and was maybe 220 lbs and I was 140 lbs and he was drunk and wanted to fight me for some reason. I guess I talked my way out of that one. I don’t fight. I have no interest in fighting. I knew guys from my small town hometown that would basically get drunk every weekend at the local bar and get in fights there every second weekend. There are quite a few “likes to fight guys” around. I don’t get that. Why would you want to fight strangers as some form of recreation? Are broken noses and bruised fists fun? I guess I do get excited during a Senators game if Chris Neil is in a fight or something… but women do as well. I don’t know.

    I hate the idea of generalizing. You can’t take 150 million white men and say “white men” do this. Well you can I guess. Or say women do this or gay men do this or Jews do this or Black guys do this. But it really doesn’t make sense to generalize.

    The thing is as a guy. As a man. Like somewhere between 10-30% of men I have known in my life are pretty big assholes. Pathetic creatures with little self esteem and a macho ego to cover that up with the mentality of an angry 7 year old. I don’t like them. I don’t like being around them. I avoid them. I guess at times when I have been around them I do speak up if they are being racist or sexist or just awful. The thing is as a man of 42 I do not have these men in my life now. And not for maybe a couple of decades. I avoid them. I don’t go where they are and my circle of people I know and spemd time around aren’t these men. I am not around to speak up when they are being awful towards women or gays or minorities, or when they brag about a date rape or anything. They are all over. Like I said 10-30% of men I have known… but they just aren’t a part of my life. They are basically dead to me. If I overhear assholes talking and I don’t know them… I walk away and feel sad and angry. They mostly aren’t my friends, aren’t a part of my life in any meaningful way.

    So as a white make I do what I can to stop whatever assholeness is around me… but because I figured out not to hang around bully’s and idiots and meatheads and pick up artists and assholes as a teenager of early in my adulthood… I am just not around to do that. And I don’t want to be.

    I don’t have a big problem with the anger about white males… but it isn’t about being white as much as it is about being an asshole. A shit ton of men are real assholes. Far too many. Not 1% or 3% but like 10 or 15 or 20 or 25% or maybe, but hopefully not, more. And I don’t know what to do about that. I don’t know how 63 million Americans, nearly half of them women, voted for a complete sack of shit and obvious asshole in every segment of his life to be President. I don’t know how all these powerful men act like such shits. If I had power I would not act like that. It would not occur to me to do so.

    I also don’t understand fear. Or being targetted. I don’t understand what it feels like to be a woman. I never can. It saddens me more and more that every woman I know and care about and every woman I don’t know or will never know and still care about has to feel threatened and on alert all the time because so many men are assholes. If you knew a quarter or a third or even a tenth of a twentieth of a group of people were really dangerous snd possibly violent assholes it would make any rational person really fucking leary and angry at that group of people. I get it. I understand that. Those aren’t lottery odds. Those are pretty shitty odds. You have a new boss and who knows… pretty decent chance he might be a letch or an asshole creep. He probably isn’t but there is still a couple of coinflip chances he is. That sucks.

    The thing is as a white man who grew up middle class in the suburbs of Ottawa and has no reason for deep fear or mistrust of other human beings that are strangers… I am blessed and lucky. What I want is for everyone in the world to ferl like me. And I have got beat up by a stranger on the street before. I have suffered from mental illness and experienced some trauma and tragedy. And I have worked at many basically minimum wage jobs. I am not living some perfect life. Yet I have never felt fear walking down the street, or at night, or with a partner or a friend or from people I met when I was drinking or at a workplace of at school. That feeling which is often present, apparently to probably most othef people, even in rich and affluent Canada and America is not mine.

    Everyone should be able to feel like I do. It should be a basic human right. I don’t know how this can happen. I don’t know what can be changed. Talking about these issues is probably huge. This conversation being had everywhere the past month or so has to be a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Rob… one thing I was thinking about what you wrote is the idea that it doesn’t make sense to generalize. I actually think that human brains can only make sense of things when we generalize. We love finding patterns and connections between different bits and pieces of data. The problem comes when we generalize not to understand better but to maintain positions of power and/or privilege. In fact, I’d suggest that when we reject generalizations about any group on the grounds that we don’t like generalizations, this denies the existence of a social structure and a culture that shapes who we are. It suggests that we’re all just individuals who make free choices without any influence from TV or advertising or our parents or our schools or our government or any of the many institutions that we imbue with power to transmit our culture. And I think in practice generalizations are most often rejected by those who are afraid of being tarred with the same brush. For many people of color, for instance, white people saying “well, I don’t see color” as a way to show that they aren’t racist, suggests that the racism they experience must not be real if every single white person they come across claims not to be racist. At the same time, using one’s own experience as a white person to determine that racism doesn’t exist also suggests that one’s experience as a white person is more valid than believing the accounts of people of color. I love the book _Racism without Racists_ by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva who explains this in far more detail (although I hate his analysis of the 2016 election in his most recent edition).

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s