Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Stop Guilt-Tripping Boys About Their ‘Toxic Masculinity’

Last week a proud feminist single mom posted a piece in The Washington Post in which she shamed her 16- and 18-year-old sons for not taking a more proactive stand to combat rape and misogyny. For anyone who needs a guide on How Not to Turn Your Children Into the Social Justice Warriors You Desperately Want Them to Be, “My Teen Boys Are Blind to Rape Culture” is it.

Jody Allard is a Seattle-based writer on issues related to feminism, parenting, and social justice, who describes herself as a happily single mother of seven. In previous articles she has had no compunction about sharing very personal experiences such as surviving rape, her self-loathing over a malformed hand, three failed marriages, a son’s suicidal depression, and a husband’s emotionally lacerating infidelity. She also has no compunction about publicly embarrassing her sons by declaring them “part of the problem” of rape culture and by labeling at least one of them a “rape apologist” over his reasonable belief that accused rapists should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

In her most recent WaPo confessional, Ms. Allard is disturbed and frustrated that her two teen sons aren’t more active allies with her against what she insists is our rape culture. As I’ve written elsewhere, America doesn’t have a rape culture; we have a culture in which rape is considered a heinous crime and those convicted of it – and sometimes those merely accused of it – are viewed as monsters. Does this mean that rape is uncommon or that our legal system’s handling of such cases isn’t sometimes problematic? Not at all. Does this mean that our pop culture isn’t hyper-sexualized or that it doesn’t objectify women? Not at all. But if you want to see a rape culture, travel to rural areas in Afghanistan or Iran or India. There is no such equivalent here.

Jody Allard’s sons agree. They roll their eyes when she raises issues of rape, consent, and sexism at the dinner table. “There’s no such thing as rape culture,” one tells her. “You say everything is about rape culture or sexism.” Their mother’s sense of betrayal is palpable:

My sons, who are good boys and who know all about consent, do not speak out about consent. Not when it’s uncomfortable. Not when it might jeopardize their social standing. My sons who hate hearing about their own privilege nestle inside it like a blanket and accuse me of making up its existence.

“I never imagined I would raise boys who would become men like these,” she laments. “Men who deny rape culture, or who turn a blind eye to sexism.”

Apart from her disturbing willingness to disparage her sons in a national newspaper, Allard also isn’t helping matters by pushing the boys away with her obsessive cause. “They’ve been listening to me talk about consent, misogyny and rape culture since they were tweens,” she explains, which is probably the reason they argue and resist becoming the social justice warriors she wants them to be: she’s been hectoring them for years about rape culture and they’re sick of hearing about how they’re complicit in “toxic masculinity” unless they’re also hectoring their male friends about it:

My sons are good boys... [but] when it comes to speaking out against rape culture and questioning their own ideas and behavior, they become angry and defensive. Not all men, they remind me, and my guts wrench as my own sons mimic the vitriol of a thousand online trolls.

It’s not trolling to point out, as her sons rightly do, that not all men are rapists or are enmeshed in some sort of patriarchal conspiracy against women. It’s unnecessary for her to declare that “anyone who isn’t with us is against us.” The vast majority of American men – your sons included – already are with you, Ms. Allard, in terms of finding rape to be unconscionable behavior. Also, she conveniently neglects to mention that many of today’s young women – girls, really – sadly are far from the passive victims of male sexual aggression that she makes them out to be (cue the cries of “Slut-shaming!”). Those young women must bear their share of responsibility for the current confusion about sex, consent, and assault.

Despite her misgivings, Allard seems to have raised decent boys, and that’s admirable. But she also seems to have no self-awareness about how her relationship with her sons is in danger of being warped, if it isn’t already, by her own issues with men, which become apparent as you examine some of her other work. Instead of inspiring her boys to activism, her habits of substituting a lecture on misogyny for dinner conversation and of discussing her disappointing children with Washington Post readers is obviously creating an awkward tension that may ultimately drive them away from her.

What Allard’s boys and others like them need is not a troubled feminist determined to enlist them in her social justice mission, but a good father or other close masculine role model to serve as a living, breathing demonstration of how to be a man who respects and protects women. Boys are far more likely to respond to a strong, good man’s quiet example than to Mother scolding them about their participation in the sexual victimization of women. Unfortunately there’s no indication in her article that these boys have anyone like that in their lives.

Allard is correct that good men must be ready to come to the defense of women, but guilt-tripping our sons about their male privilege, “culpability,” and “toxic masculinity” is not the way to mold good, honorable, proudly masculine young men who are respectful of women. 

From Acculturated, 9/20/16

Men, Your Manliness is Macro-Aggressing the Earth

Just when you think the intellectual class has run out of ways to disparage and diminish masculinity, The Washington Post sank to a new nadir this week with a blog post rather comically titled, “Your manliness could be hurting the planet.” It reports on a study which concludes that men might be avoiding environmentally beneficial behavior because they associate it with femininity, which makes them insecure about their “gender identity.” So men who are reluctant to change their macho ways and embrace their feminine side are putting humankind and the planet at greater risk.

WaPo begins by pointing out that women generally are more environmentally conscious than men. They use less fuel and energy, eat less meat, and are more concerned about climate change. In fact, a 2011 survey found that 82 percent of adults, both men and women, believe “going green” is more ladylike than manly. Now University of Notre Dame business professor James Wilkie and his team have published a study which asserts that the male resistance to being more environmentally gung-ho may stem from this widely-held impression that green consciousness is a feminine thing. “As a result of this stereotype,” Wilkie concludes, “men may be motivated to avoid or even oppose green behaviors in order to safeguard their gender identity.”

The study shows, for example, that items designed to protect the planet, like reusable bags or “green” batteries, are perceived to be less manly than the alternatives. When presented with two versions of the same “green” car, men preferred the model called “Protection” to the “Eco-friendly” one. They even responded more favorably to environmental nonprofits with “masculine” logos – i.e., with darker colors and bold fonts —than to logos that displayed brighter tones and “frilly” letters.

“Stereotypical feminine behavior and attitudes are more in parallel with taking care of the environment,” Wilkie wrote. “Male traits tend to conflict with this idea of maintaining a nice environment for other people.” He blames the stereotype of environmentalists as tree-hugging hippies, scorned by more rugged men. He also noted that men face greater peer pressure for stepping outside gender norms. “If a man at a bar were to order a girlie drink, he might get some looks,” Wilkie said. “He might get some snickers. He might even get into a fight.” (He neglects to mention that a man who orders a girlie drink is more likely to get those looks and snickers from the women at the bar) On the other hand, if a woman orders a whiskey on the rocks, “some people might even be impressed.”

Carrie Preston, director of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Program at Boston University, is disturbed that men persist in preferring masculine aesthetics and behavior. “That says what’s feminine is bad, is lesser, is second class,” she said. No, that’s not what it says. Men don’t avoid the appearance of femininity because they think “feminine” means “lesser,” but because most men simply prefer being men doing manly things. It’s their nature, although you won’t find too many women’s studies directors (or WaPo bloggers) who believe that masculinity and femininity are anything but unnatural cultural constructs.

Perhaps some of the reluctance of many men to throw themselves into saving the planet has to do with the fact that men have spent the course of history carving civilization out of an implacable, unforgiving wilderness. They know that Nature is not the nurturing bosom of a loving Mother Gaia but an ever-ruthless challenge to human life. Many men still earn their daily bread, and that of their families, by wrestling with Nature, some in a literally life-and-death struggle. That is one reason why men use more fuel and energy than women, eat more meat, and are less concerned about their negligible effect on the climate than they are about supporting their wives and children and communities. They are certainly less concerned about it than are gender-obsessed academics, who have the leisure to fantasize about fashioning utopia through the deconstruction of human nature.

The WaPo piece concludes that marketers, armed with the insights of this study, could draw more men to the green movement “through masculine affirmation and masculine branding.” Yes, they could, and that makes perfect business sense. But the undertone of this WaPo piece and the study itself suggests that the broader goal is not simply to sell environmentalism better to men by finding what appeals to them, but to fundamentally transform their masculinity, to break down “gender norms” so that men are less inhibited about appearing effeminate.

Though the connection may not be immediately apparent, this is an example of what Third Wave feminism hath wrought. The impetus for that radical stage of feminism has always been, not equality between men and women, but the obliteration of traditional gender roles and the traditional family unit. That requires demonizing masculinity until males essentially are neutered out of existence (while pushing women to adopt attitudes and to step into roles previously considered masculine). This latest charge against men – that masculinity is a threat to the environment, which pagan environmentalists value more than humanity – is another salvo in that assault.

Fortunately, if the comments section is a good indication, not even most of the Washington Post’s readers buy into this misandrist argument.

From Acculturated, 9/6/16

Monday, August 22, 2016

Rape and the Internet Vigilante Mob

Controversy has forced comedienne Amy Schumer to distance herself from a writer on her Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer who defended a fellow comedian against allegations of sexual misconduct. The writer criticized “internet vigilantes” for condemning the accused without any evidence, and now is himself being slammed as a “rape apologist.” The whole sordid affair is emblematic of the dangers of the social media mob mentality, particularly in a time of hyper-sensitivity to the pervasive conception that we inhabit a rape culture.

The controversy began when comedian Aaron Glaser apparently was banned recently from the famed improv theater Upright Citizens Brigade after an internal UCB investigation into allegations that he had raped one or more women. He spoke out about the incident, which he referred to as a “witch hunt,” in a now-deleted Facebook post: “I know these are serious accusations, and I know they are untrue.”

Glaser went on to write that UCB banned him based solely on the word of the women without providing him any details of the accusers or accusations or any opportunity to defend himself. UCB is “asking me to prove to them that I’m not a rapist,” he complained, and said he has now been banned from other comedy clubs, “not one of which contacted me to ask whether the allegations were untrue.” “I am being deemed a sexual predator,” he wrote, “and my life is being ruined by accusations, not findings.”

Amy Schumer got dragged into the issue when, in a subsequent series of hyperbolically sarcastic and angry Facebook and Twitter rants, her writer Kurt Metzger defended Glaser’s right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. The social media mob immediately swarmed, labeling him a “rape apologist” and urging Schumer to fire him. She washed her hands of it by declaring that though she was “saddened and disappointed” by his comments, he is not her writer anymore because her show is ending and “there are no writers.”

It is doubtful that Metzger’s profane ranting won any converts to his side; neither did his apparent history of misogynistic social media volleys, which The Daily Beast detailed. In a Facebook post, he later apologized for using inflammatory language and stressed that he was not being dismissive of actual victims of sexual assault. “I was talking to the perennial social media mob who, without knowing victim or accused, GLEEFULLY want to be part of social mob justice.”

“I believe that any accusation of sexual assault is a serious charge that should be taken seriously,” he continued, “and that UCB should have notified the police or at least encourage the victims to go to police before attempting to handle it themselves with an ‘internal investigation.’” Absolutely right. This reasoning similarly should apply to college campuses, where sexual assault allegations should be handled by law enforcement, not timid school administrators terrified of litigation and feminist backlash. 

Despite his graceless, provocative defense of Glaser, Metzger’s point about the injustice of the avalanche of internet condemnation of a man accused of rape holds true. Certainly, as he said, we should take rape accusations seriously and vigorously pursue the truth. But this is a matter for the law, not mob justice, and in our system of law, the accused is innocent until proven guilty. False accusations that spread like wildfire on the internet are not just irresponsible, they are inexcusable.

Let’s make this crystal clear: rape is a heinous crime, and as the father of three daughters I could not feel more strongly about protecting women from it and punishing offenders severely. It should never be dismissed as mere “boys will be boys” behavior, nor should victims be treated falsely as liars or as having “asked for it.” Victims should feel protected and encouraged to come forward, and there are problematic legal procedures that need to be addressed as well.

But precisely because the crime is so serious, it is all too easy in this age of instantaneous, worldwide social media outrage to leap to conclusions and publicly damn the accused. In the understandable rush to sympathize with the female accuser, it’s easy to ruin innocent men’s lives; even defending the right of the accused to a fair trial, as Kurt Metzger did, now gets one smeared as a rape apologist. This ugly rush to judgment is not justice and it does a disservice to both men and women, driving the cultural wedge between the sexes even deeper.

Web anonymity empowers every bully who has an internet connection, and “social justice” conformity encourages unquestioning, self-righteous anger. This is a toxic combination. Such a mob mentality must be resisted and denounced whenever it rears its ugly head. Metzger was right to call out the mob regardless of whether or not Aaron Glaser is ultimately found guilty, in which case the law will handle it. That is justice.

Originally posted as “Why Did Amy Schumer Throw Her Writer to the Internet Wolves?”

at Acculturated, 8/22/16