Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Toxic Masculinity

What is the deal with all the misogyny on the Internet lately? Everywhere I look, there are comment threads full of men spewing angry bile about how women need to stop complaining about, well, any manifestation of sexism at all, from discriminatory hiring to street harassment to Internet harassment to rape.

And yes, in virtually all of those comment threads, there are also some men posting from a feminist point of view as well. The thing is, I don't find it surprising to see that there are men posting from a feminist point of view. This is the behavior I normally expect of men. Because like most people on the Internet, I generally try to spend my online time safely ensconced in a bubble of more or less like-minded people. And in my little bubble of more or less like-minded people, men's opinions about feminism range anywhere between "extremely vocally and committedly feminist" and "does not really understand or care at all about feminism but has enough sense to pretend to because otherwise everyone he knows, and especially every woman he knows, will think very much less of him for it and might possibly ostracize him forever."

And this is an okay world to live in. I'm not saying it's perfect. You have to remember to be wary of the guys whose only feminist issues are the ones that pertain primarily to the youngest and most conventionally attractive women, such as street harassment (not to imply that street harassment isn't a serious problem, because it totally is! just that it's not the only one), and who surround themselves with women half their age who all look like they could be professional models. Still, there's a real limit to how scary those guys can be, since by the very fact of recognizing one of them as being such a guy, you render yourself no longer susceptible to being fooled by him. You can even call him out on it to his face, if you choose - and if you do, you can be fairly certain that he'll feel embarassed or even humiliated by it, to one degree or another. Because in the bubble in which I live, being publicly identified as behaving in a sexist manner is not a good thing.

What I do find surprising - shocking, even - is the evidently vast numbers of men who are eager to associate themselves with extreme misogyny, often apparently under their real names and in front of all their friends and family and co-workers and so on, on Facebook. These men are not supposed to be visible from inside my bubble. Why do they keep making themselves visible lately? Who are they? Do you know them? I don't know any of them. I suspect that very few people I know know any of them. Who are they, and why do the people who know them allow them to feel free to post such things without fear of public reprimand or retribution from friends and family and co-workers? Please explain how it is possible in 2014 for large numbers of men to feel free to state publicly, in writing, in front of virtually everyone they know, that women deserve to be subjected to rape and domestic violence and murder and so on. I do not understand.

I mean, I'm not completely unfamiliar with the concept of males ostentatiously insulting or oppressing women as a way of seeking to establish their masculinity. I have encountered it at times . . . but mostly in men who are senior citizens by now. Among men my age or younger, I have never observed it to be the done thing. Yes, there are tons of sexist men my age or younger! But normally they make some effort to disguise it at least a little. Don't they? In my bubble, they do. If only because most of them care about being able to persuade women to have sex with them. Now they seem not even to care about that anymore! And although I know that in theory, there's something to be said for getting to see people for what they truly are, I think I would really prefer for them all to go back to having some sort of shame. Can whoever knows these men please hurry up and say whatever it takes to make them just shut up and pretend to have some sort of respect for women? It would improve my Internet experience. Thanks.
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