I was a Nice Guy™

There was a piece in The Atlantic that caught my eye yesterday about the phenomenon of Nice Guys™ – men who attribute their lack of appeal to the opposite sex to a cognitive flaw in women that makes them claim that they want a nice, respectful partner, but then go on to date jerks who treat them like shit. More broadly, this is part of the “nice guys finish last” complex of memes that defines attractive masculinity in terms of emotional indifference and machismo, against which sensitive and caring men cannot hope to prevail.

There has been, over the years, a concerted backlash against this idea, as described in the article:

The notion that self-proclaimed “nice guys” might not be as nice as they think they are isn’t new. The Nice Guy™, as the figure is oftenreferred to, has been an object of sustained feminist critique over the past decade: for his less-than-flattering depiction of the women he claims to treat so well, for his passive-aggressive approach to picking up women, and for his underlying assumption that sex is an exchange—that if you’re a “good guy,” the women you’re good to should fall in love with and have sex with you…if not out of desire, then out of pity or obligation.

The author of the article then goes on to express a modicum of sympathy for men who buy into the “Nice Guy” mythplex, because there is real pain and frustration going on, and the popular critique does nothing to address it. If you’re not familiar with the Nice Guy™ phenomenon, or the feminist critiques thereof, I suggest you read the article before continuing (and definitely before commenting). I have to confess that when I first came upon the phenomenon thus named, and the way it was described by feminists (mostly women), I was strongly off-put. But there’s a reason for that…

I used to be a Nice Guy™ [Read more...]

The revolving door of white privilege

One of the most fascinating case studies to consider when trying to underline the point that race is socially constructed (rather than an emergent property of biology) is the gradually-shifting definition of ‘whiteness’. ‘White’ was a label that has seen many redefinitions over the years in North America, as people who were previously forcibly excluded (e.g., Italians, Irish, Jews) were gradually and begrudgingly included under that privileged umbrella. It is an open question as to what extent political expediency versus demographics versus socioeconomic power played in this reclassification, but one cannot ignore the fact that it happened.

Canada is not immune from this reclassification pattern either. While the original political power in the nation of Canada was divided between those of English and French descent, the threat of American expansion and the promise of abundant resources forced the government of Canada to open its doors to large numbers of immigrants. As that (mostly and intentionally white) immigration happened, the definition of ‘white’ faced some serious pressures, both political and economical, prompting a shift that matches the one happening in the USA.

It is this history that makes the following story worth a brief comment: [Read more...]

Those poor Wall Street CEOs

One of the fascinating aspects of privilege is the way in which it totally skews your perception of what ‘average’ is. I would think, for example, that things like street harassment or sexual assault or other forms of misogynistic abuse are fantastically rare. After all, I’m a guy who spends a lot of time with and around women, and I almost never see street harassment or hear stories of people getting assaulted. It wasn’t until I actually asked the women in my life about their experiences that I saw just how widespread and pervasive these behaviours are – they just don’t happen when guys like me are around to see them. My male privilege makes the ‘norm’ of a safe and fair society seem plausible, when the lived experience of my friends and family is anything but.

So when one is confronted about their privilege, or when their privilege is even simply discussed openly, an interesting thing happens. From the perspective of the privileged, the critics are attacking what is right and normal! Why on Earth would someone criticize a just world? There’s certainly no rational reason to do that. Nobody without a particular axe to grind, or maybe even an outright hatred of a particular group would level such accusations against the norm, right? And when those criticisms continue unabated, there’s only one possible way to see it: as demonization: [Read more...]

PPP looks about to snap

Imagine you had to talk to Republicans. Every day. And pretend they weren’t idiots. How long do you think you’d last before you just snapped?

Public Policy Polling looks like its patience is wearing thin:

49% of GOP voters nationally say they think that ACORN stole the election for President Obama. Wefound that 52% of Republicans thought that ACORN stole the 2008 election for Obama, so this is a modest decline, but perhaps smaller than might have been expected given that ACORN doesn’t exist anymore [emphasis mine].

An animated .gif of an elephant calf getting booted

Give in to your anger, PPP. Come join us on the snark side.

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The accuracy of the elephant’s tail

If you want to make sense of a lot of what it happening in US national politics, I’ve found Chris Hayes’ show Up! to be a consistent source of diverse and thought-provoking analysis. As an avowed and unashamed ‘man of the left’, he manages to break issues out of the left/right divide and instead field panels with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, from a Wal-mart striker to the CEO of Bain Capital. I consider him to be an indispensable voice in political discourse, and his show is a regular watch for me (and when you consider how little time I have to watch TV these days, that’s saying a lot).

One of the things that I like most about his show is that, whether consciously or not, consistently puts people of colour at the table to discuss things that aren’t “the black perspective on” whatever issue is being discussed. It’s a refreshing change from how I am accustomed to seeing black folks being involved in discussions – as though their (our) race was the only relevant topic about which we could speak intelligently. In the face of this unfortunate trend, Chris (and, seemingly, the other producers at MSNBC) books his panels in such a way as to occasionally make white people a minority presence around the table, even when not discussing a race-specific issue.

It is with this in the background that I take issue with a recent segment in which he showered unreserved praise upon Tony Kushner, writer of the screenplay for the movie Lincoln. Chris was glowing in his praise for the script and the movie itself, and Mr. Kushner obviously did not object. The reason why this love-in was so disappointing is because I read a number of the critiques of the film from writers and historians of colour, and they consistently complained that the movie, in keeping with a long-standing Hollywood tradition, almost completely wrote out black people from the story. And so it was with more than a little joy that I saw Chris tweet a link to this article earlier today: [Read more...]

Tom the Dancing Bug gets ‘traditional’

After the election, Fox News’ resident zeppelin opined:

The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore, and there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff, they want things. And who is going to give them things? President [Barack] Obama.

He later “clarified”:

If you look at the exit polling, you’ll see that a coalition of voters put the President back into the oval office. That coalition was non-tradition, which means it veered away from things like traditional marriage, robust capitalism, and self-reliance.

Instead, each constituency that voted for the President — whether it be single women, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, whatever — had very specific reasons for doing so. [...]

Traditional American voters generally want a smaller government in Washington, more local control, some oversight on abortion, and believe in American exceptionalism.

Tom the Dancing Bug (a.k.a. Ruben Bolling) sets Bill straight: [Read more...]

The terrible burden of religious persecution

Part of the reason I have such a difficult time taking complaints about the “persecution” of Christians in North America (and indeed, most of the world), is because by degrees they demonstrate again and again that they have simply no fucking clue what persecution looks like. To wit:

Jamaica’s public transport authorities have banned lay preachers from addressing commuters in public buses. Jamaica is a predominantly Christian country, but many passengers have complained about the noise and disturbance. Drivers have been instructed to politely warn religious ministers that they are no longer allowed to evangelise fellow passengers. Preachers say the decision infringes freedom of speech and religion.

No, Jamaican dickhole priests, your rights are not being infringed because people are telling you that you’re not allowed to push your superstition to people riding the bus, on their way to actually doing something worthwhile in the world. Your rights are intact. You can still say whatever you want, you’re just not allowed to do it with absolutely no regard for the feeling or comfort of other people. You know, like a non-sociopath.

I am reminded of this comic: [Read more...]

Oh, Canada…

It’s really easy (and fun!) to point out the raft of egregious racism that in many ways defines the American political landscape. Part of the appeal of framing racism in an American context is that cornerstone of Canadian identity: rage/jealousy of our bigger brother. Without our American counterparts against which to contrast ourselves, the challenging of forming a Canadian identity that isn’t just another colonial throwback to our British roots is challenging*. Another part of it is the fact that the hypocrisy of America proclaiming itself as some sort of bastion of freedom is belied by its history of deep hostility and belligerence when it comes to the freedoms of people of colour (PoCs). The idea that America is ‘post-racial’ or any such fantasy is only sustainable if you ignore major parts of reality (which, to be sure, Americans have traditionally not had much difficulty doing when it comes to other elements of their politics).

But a big part of why I personally discuss racism in an American context so often is because, quite frankly, that country provides me with a steady diet of material. I don’t have to scour the web for examples of racism to help illustrate some point or another. Last week’s blitz illustrates perfectly that I will never want for scintillating news stories. Some might argue that this is because Americans are super-racist. To be sure, some of the most shocking and dramatic examples of racism are present in American history, and its regular refusal to come to grips with its own history means that they are doomed to repeat it frequently and tragically. Some might argue, though, that the reason American media produces so much about American racism is because it’s newsworthy. It means people care enough to highlight it.

Which is why I find this story so interesting: [Read more...]

The black vote is the Maine problem

One common utterance you’ll hear when people go on the defensive about a racist statement or behaviour is that they couldn’t possibly be racist because they “have a black friend”. This “black friend” is sometimes a spouse, sometimes an actual friend, but just as often it’s a co-worker or someone they do business with, or maybe even someone who works for them. Whatever the person’s actual relationship with their “black friend”, they wish you to excuse a racist behaviour or attitude with the assurance that because they do not hate each individual black person on the planet, they are somehow safeguarded from having any of their behaviour identified as racist. This comes from the formulation that racism is something perpetrated by mythological creatures known as “racists”, a stance I unequivocally reject.

I have to say though, as common as the “I know and tolerate at least one black person” excuse is, this particular inversion of it is new to me: [Read more...]