Another week, more putrid pongs wafting from the trenches of the online gender wars. I started the week doing a little BBC breakfast TV thing alongside Laura Bates of the Everyday Sexism project. Laura explained why she started the project and described its success and impact over the past year; I explained why I fully support what they do and that I’d like men to acknowledge the problems and be part of the solutions. It was all very friendly, and neither of us disagreed on a word from the other. A few hours later Laura tweeted. “Wonder if [Ally Fogg] who I spoke with on BBC this morning has had as many “stupid bitch” comments/emails as I have since….” The answer, of course, was no. I had received precisely none. Not so much as a token “dick.”
On Tuesday I read Lindy West’s Jezebel piece which recounted the stomach-churning responses she’d received after arguing against rape jokes as a lazy vein of comedy. Then yesterday Rebecca Watson shared the latest volleys from a two-year barrage of hate and abuse. Now it is Thursday morning. If I were to look, I do not doubt I would find another example of it starting all over with someone else. Meanwhile, across the internet, pretty much every feminist article or blog on a high-profile platform, irrespective of its truth or merit, will attract either a smattering or a deluge of abuse, mockery, fury and hate. The broad realm of the manosphere will publish yet more screeds about the iniquity of women and the evil of feminism.
Among the more common search terms that brings people to my blog are phrases like “angry men” “why men are angry” or sometimes the almost plaintive “why are men so angry?” I believe it is an important question, and one to which my thoughts keep returning. This week has prompted me to begin a series of posts that I have been considering for some time. There is no doubt that many men are angry, and specifically they are angry with feminism and/or women. But why?
Let me be clear that I realise there are many expressions of hate and anger in the world, and especially online. Many women are angry with men or other women (including feminists), many men are angry with other men, many people are angry with politics, religion, the economic system or whatever. The extent and causes of those angers are perfectly legitimate topics, but they are not what I am interested in at the moment. This series will be about men’s anger with feminism and I make no apologies for that.
There is no single answer to the question above. In trying to make sense of the broad tide, I’ve so far narrowed it down to ten discrete strands of male anger, and I plan to discuss each of them in a separate post. Of course any one man may be angry for several (even all) of the reasons listed, and they will often interact, but I would argue that one could be angry for any one of those reasons without sharing any of the others. I also make no distinctions (yet) between legitimate and illegitimate anger, whether or not complaints are reasonable and justified, and whether they should be dismissed, challenged or attended to. That will come in due course.
For now, I’d be really interested to know from readers whether you think this list is comprehensive? Are there other possible reasons for anger that I’ve missed? Which do you think are the most significant? Are any of the reasons I suggest completely spurious? (In other words, would you deny that anyone, anywhere falls into such a category?) Should any be merged together (ie, do they describe exactly the same thing?)
If you’ve ever been angry with feminists, which categories would you recognise yourself in? If you’ve been on the receiving end of male anger, where do you mostly attribute it? Depending upon your comments and feedback, I may revise the schedule or add to the list as appropriate. To get the conversation started, here are my ten suggestions for possible reasons why some men are so angry. Please help me think them through.
- Compassion and concern? – From fathers’ rights to men as victims of violence and abuse; from educational underachievement to economic redundancy to judicial policies to men’s physical and mental health, there are many real causes for anger about male gender-specific issues. The real question, perhaps, is not whether men should be angry, but who we should be angry with.
- The feminist stranglehold? It is often argued that by controlling the reins of gender issues, feminism actively works against the gender-specific interests of men and prevents issues like those outlined above being adequately addressed. Is this true or fair?
- Backlash – political and social conservatism? – Some people are conservative and reactionary. They think society was better as it was than as it is, and are resistant to further social change. That applies to gender roles more than anything. Is hostility to feminism because it represents a challenge to the existing social and political order, and specifically to male privilege?
- Misogyny? There is no escaping the fact that some men simply hate women or hold them in contempt. Is anti-feminism always misogyny, as Dworkin argued? How truly endemic is misogyny online and in society?
- Bitterness? There’s a cruel stereotype of the antifeminist keyboard warrior as a bitter geek, unlucky in love, sitting in his underwear in his mum’s basement complaining about the friend zone. Is it fair? Is it relevant?
- Men as success objects? – Many complaints from men address issues like hypergamy. There is a palpable resentment at being expected to be the higher earner, provider etc in an era of female economic independence. Are complaints about men as “success objects” justified?
- Someone on the internet is wrong? – Anyone who expresses an opinion must be prepared to be told “I think you are wrong” by others. It may be on a point of verifiable fact, or it may be a rational argument, but if we accept the possibility that feminists can sometimes be wrong about things, we must accept the corollary of disagreement and argument, which may often breed anger.
- Imps and trolls? Some people like to make mischief. Some people like to be rude, threatening or downright cruel. How much online abuse is truly heartfelt and how much is disingenuous trolling, and ultimately does it matter, given the impacts on the victim?
- Bruised egos and male identity pride? Human beings take pride in their collective identities. For some it is nationalism or sports tribalism, religion or race, for many it is gender. Is feminism taken as a personal attack that makes men bristle?
- You’re not the boss of me now? People don’t like being told what to do, and since much feminism is perceived to be focussed on personal behaviour (do this, don’t do that) there is a kneejerk hostility. Could it be true that men particularly don’t like being told what to do by women?
Blue touch paper lit, standing well back, over to you for now.