Unsex Me Here
Progressives don’t let things like facts get in the way of the war on men.
Progressives don’t like to admit that men are suffering. In part, that’s because male suffering is a feature of their politics. The on-campus kangaroo courts, the constant derogation of “white men,” and the feminization of our institutions are the program, not a betrayal of it.
To admit that there is a problem with American men is to admit that there is a problem with progressive gender politics. And by the numbers, the problem is impossible to dispute. For every 100 women who graduate college, only seventy-four men graduate. Men drop out of high school at higher rates, abuse drugs at higher rates, and commit suicide at significantly higher rates than women. Men represent nearly 75 percent of all suicides and drug overdose deaths in the United States.
Progressive and mainstream outlets have run a series of pieces this month reluctantly acknowledging the crisis and investigating its origins. Christine Emba wrote a thoughtful column in the Washington Post on what she called the male “identity crisis.” She saw something “weird” happening to American men and the growing appeal of figures like Jordan Peterson and Andrew Tate, and wondered why a Canadian psychologist and accused human trafficker had such purchase among young men.
There’s no disputing, Emba says, that men are falling behind. But in some sense, men had it coming. “Women are still dealing with historical discrimination and centuries of male domination that haven’t been fully accounted for or rectified,” she said. And while it may be “harder to be a man today, in many ways, that is a good thing.”
Emba concludes that, while older visions of masculinity were harmful to women and ought to have been discarded, progressives—the implied subject of her article—need to offer men an alternative version of masculinity. Otherwise, men are likely to revert to less desirable forms of masculinity, such as that embodied by Andrew Tate.
There is some merit to this argument. It’s debatable the extent to which older versions of masculinity, predicated on aggression and assertiveness, were actually undesirable—testosterone won the Second World War—but, stipulating that its excesses needed to be tamed, an alternative version of masculinity was necessary to replace it.
But there is another element to male backlash. Emba concedes that progressives and progressive-coded institutions have done a great deal to push men into the arms of more disreputable figures by their constant denigration of men and masculinity as “toxic.” She cites the American Psychiatric Association’s 2018 declaration that “traditional masculinity—marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression—is, on the whole, harmful.”
Others have made this allusion, but it is worth repeating. Just as Shylock, the Jewish banker in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, famously attributes his villainous behavior to stereotypes—“Thou calledst me a dog before thou hadst a cause, / But since I am a dog, beware my fangs”—progressives’ insistence that all men are pigs might well lead some men to act like pigs, or worse.
The other major entry in the “men in crisis” genre came from Politico. It labeled its most recent print edition the “Masculinity Issue,” and featured a roundtable with Democratic “experts” on the male exodus from the Democratic Party along with three pieces on masculinity, each of which was, of course, written by a woman.
In the roundtable, filmmaker Jackson Katz told the magazine that the Republican Party succeeds in appealing to working-class men by granting them cultural recognition. The GOP, he says, tell working-class men that “they are the ones who built this country—they, meaning the white working-class male who was providing for his family. And those people—meaning multiculturalist, feminist Democrats—hate you. They detest you.”
The upshot of Katz’s comments is supposed to be that the Republican line—that Democrats hate men—is ridiculous. Is it, though?
One of Politico’s feature writers, Virginia Heffernan, argued in her piece the so-called “malaise” of American men was just a response to pluralism—in other words, American white men expressing their hatred for black people. “Just about every time elite American men look at virtually any sociological change,” she said, “they see a crisis of masculinity.”
You can feel the contempt dripping from the page. Katz himself and his co-panelists regularly denigrated men in general and white men in particular. Katz, for instance, said the gun debate in America “is about white men’s sense of themselves as protectors,” and white men’s anger at having “lost their jobs as providers because of macroeconomic shifts … and the ascendance of women and people of color.”
Is it really a stretch to think that Katz or the Democrats he describes “detest” men?
Politico’s coverage conveys the nature of progressives’ men problem. Mainstream American institutions and elected Democrats only speak of masculinity to condemn it or to assess its effects on women and minorities. Men, as such, are never objects of concern in the progressive moral universe. Men are the ones doing the oppressing, not the ones being oppressed. To legitimize male grievances is to court backlash against feminism and women’s liberation.
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In the early days of the pandemic, for example, data revealed that men were more than 50 percent more likely to die from the virus than were women. Major outlets published a series of think pieces arguing that women, not men, “bore the brunt” of the pandemic. The lockdowns led to working women returning home and doing more housework than NPR correspondents would have liked, which, apparently, was a fate worse than death.
But that is how goes: Men in droves drop out of schools all but designed for women, lose their jobs due to conscious policy choices, lose their children in custody disputes, and numb the pain with opioids. Some kill themselves. All the while, almost every institution in our society tells men they are “oppressors,” privileged, and their masculine identity is “toxic.”
When the people doing the mocking pause a moment and take stock of the carnage, the only people they can’t think to pity are the ones they mock.