Welcome to my Life: Why the white male victim complex is failing men

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt during my time on the internet, it’s that there is no creature on earth faster than a white man attempting to defend himself from any perceived slight. That’s not to say that white men aren’t allowed to defend themselves when it’s justified, but it seems that internet discussion has been brickwalled by an individualist victim complex that to attracts “men’s rights” activists especially. At this point, if you type the words “white man” on social media, you’ll have an angry throng of cargo shorts mafia members waiting to debate you at a moment’s notice. The more popular these comment section backlashes become, the easier it is to read these keyboard reactionaries as evidence that the traditional societal role men play is changing faster than most men can keep up.

Photo courtesy of Vice News

Photo courtesy of Vice News

Masculinity is often all about keeping up appearances, and as just about any online comments section would tell you, it’s increasingly thinly veiled. Traditional masculinity is crumbling before our eyes, and that’s scary as hell to the average millennial male. Most were too young to ever feel the tangible benefits of overbearing patriarchy that baby boomers lived under, yet they find themselves vilified on social media everyday.

At least that’s what I’m assuming most men tell themselves. If a recent article in The Guardian, “I didn’t choose to be straight, white and male’: are modern men the suffering sex?” is any indication, I’m not wrong in thinking this. The problem is, it’s just not true at all. Not only do men still benefit from a host of patriarchal advantages, but most of the problems they complain about can’t be laid at the feet of feminism.

That aforementioned Guardian article is packed full of quotes that show a borderline  Onion-esque lack of self-awareness, but none more evident than poor, 26 year-old bike messenger Jose. He claims that women just won’t give him the time of day now that rampant feminism has turned modern day society into some sort of tortuous, matriarchal hellscape. In Jose’s world, his inability to court women is a direct result of feminists marginalizing his ability to flirt with them (of course, him being a bike messenger has nothing to do with it). Jose feels unsure how to approach women, feminism has made “courting rituals” vague and confusing for a simple bike messenger, the result is Jose remains silent, unable to talk to women.

Now, this is something every woman (and really most men) has probably heard before, but where Jose’s story really takes a dive is when he recalls a time where he was caught “saying ‘excuse me’ to a woman and being met by a hissing sound through teeth.” And that’s where I have to stop and call “bullshit!”

Not only does Jose’s probably-fictional strawoman sound like the kind of fedora fever dream that gets spouted off on the darker, more misogynistic (read: basically all) parts of Reddit, but it really makes you wonder if the onus of romantic failure should be placed on women at all. I mean, Jose’s story is just one of a few in the Guardian article that seem to blame women for men losing the ability to converse like civil human beings.

At risk of sounding truly woker-than-thou, I have to wonder if women aren’t increasingly disinterested in listening to men trying to pick them up because most men have nothing to offer women in today’s social climate. Really, Jose says just as much with yet another illuminating quote about his mindset.

“You can’t say hello, you can’t compliment, you got to have some prince charming stuff up your sleeve. Women aren’t giving it a chance anymore. They are saying I don’t have to do that, make an effort for men. You are removing the men who are trying to create a bond with you. It’s like, OK fine, but it sucks, you know.”

Mansplanation: “C’mon women, why can’t you just smile more?” You’re making men sad. I mean, Jose is only trying to “bond” with you. If you ignore Jose’s advances that’s somehow your fault, or as the author seems to argue, it’s all the fault of feminism.  

And that’s really the issue I have with most “men’s rights” supporters, by placing the blame of cis men’s disenfranchisement on feminism, the author and Jose the bike messenger sidestep the obvious solution to most of the male issues raised in the piece: feminism.

If masculinity and traditional gender roles have taught men that women are supposed to bend to their every desire, it’s just another failing in an increasingly long list of ways that toxic masculinity has let the modern male down. If your argument is that women are no longer interested in men because of the modern woman’s increasing economic independence, it might be worth looking at the foundation of those relationships to begin with.

Even worse, when men’s rights activists stoop to anti-feminist rhetoric it obfuscates actual issues that men face that are uniquely male. Issues like a skyrocketing suicide rate and a society that is shifting away from manual labor to more mentally intensive occupations where women thrive.

Luckily, there are men that find ways to discuss male issues while still remaining pro-feminist. You have to search damn hard for them, but they exist. Even in white male safe spaces like Reddit, there are havens of sane discourse. Places like the subreddit r/menslib, and it’s sister subreddit r/femslib, where users discuss gender issues with a refreshing honesty that is increasingly rare on the internet. While there are still only roughly 12,000 subscribers, that’s 12,000 allies who’ve chosen to fight back against the regressive, anti-feminist angling of the alt-right and the disenfranchised men who’ve been swept up by its populism. They’ve chosen a more empathetic approach to the discussion about toxic masculinity and instead focused on offering positive alternatives to help men adapt to an ever-changing world.

Even in a largely conservative city like Calgary, there are groups like Next Gen Men that are working to foster strong, pro-feminist men’s groups. Their goal is to help men connect with one another and end the stereotype that men need to be isolated, emotionless husks of testosterone. They’re reaching out to men that have been left feeling alone and unwanted because of gender roles that have ingrained a mentally-straining stoicism into them from years of being told to “man up.” Groups like these aren’t just helpful to men, but they also help stop the spread of misinformation about feminism overall.

White men didn’t choose to be white men, but that doesn’t mean they have to act like their boomer forebearers. So, to all my fellow men who feel like they’ve been played by feminism, I beg that you don’t buy into easy, reflexive rhetoric. Please acknowledge your privilege, please realize it is never being held against you if you use an ounce of self-awareness. Realize that gender roles are never concrete, that we don’t need to be trapped by toxic masculinity. We can choose to be better, to not get sucked in by strawman “feminazi” arguments and regressive gender politics. Together we can help turn up the volume on marginalized voices, and we can do all this without losing what makes men an important force in society. Together we can make the world a much more caring, empathetic place to live. In 2016, that’s a pretty damn good thing to strive for.

 

Research: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Edited by: Robyn Welsh, robyn@vamp.media