Mansplaining & Misogyny in the Modern Age

My “aha” moment came about six months ago when I decided to engage in a Facebook conversation with a woman (I’ll refer to her as Maggie) who turned out to be, perhaps unknowingly, an SJW/post-modern feminist. She was responding to a post on a friend of mine’s page. He had posted a video of Jonathan Pie ranting the day after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. In it, Pie, supposedly candidly and while still prepping himself for his actual broadcast, screams while red in the face his frustration towards those who would believe that the election could be properly explained by sexism, racism and general bigotry.

“Of course Trump fucking won,” Pie says. “What is everyone so fucking shocked about?” He goes on to vent about the idiocy of believing in the Hillary Clinton/DNC doctrine, that the election basically boiled down to sexism and general bigotry (and now that HRC is out of the woods, she claims Russia played a major role in it as well). I thought it was a fine video and a great approximation of exactly how I felt the day after the election. It makes sense to me that Pie wasn’t shocked: Brexit had already happened. And prior to the election, it made sense to me that Trump could actually win (doesn’t mean I called his win–I didn’t). It was clear that the polls were skewed and inaccurate; it was clear that something awful was brewing underneath the surface.

After getting shit-faced the night of the election (for as much as it didn’t come to my surprise, it sickened me just the same), I awoke the next day to find out what the headlines were: DNC Blames Sexism For Trump. DNC Calls Trump Supporters Racist, Sexist. “Bigotry Won the Election” – HRC. While none of these are actual headlines to the best of my memory, the general tone of the Democrats during and in the weeks after the election was essentially that. So with the violent catharsis made necessary by Trump’s victory already out of the way, I was free to react to the reaction which from both sides was embarrassing.

The right had decided to celebrate as loudly and triumphantly as they possibly could (unfortunately only a sad number of people showed up for the inauguration, and even fewer members of the Patriots football organization.) The left, on the other hand, the same as how they were unable to see the glaringly obvious flaws of their candidate, chose to turn a blind eye to the actual reasons for their defeat. Instead of identifying what those potential reasons were (economic stress on the middle class, decades of a political system that doesn’t stand for the people, lower income and more hours worked, higher healthcare premiums, a growing distrust in the process of democracy, etc.), they did something extraordinary: not only did they label Donald Trump a bigot, but they labeled his supporters bigots as well.

So not only did the DNC hurt itself by losing the election, but they decided to hurt themselves in future elections by labeling Trump’s supporters as basically unfit to claim the title of “American citizen.” From their neo-liberal point of view, establishment Democrats doubled down on their own core beliefs much like the right had done, only in this case they lost.

Back to the matter at hand. Jonathan Pie made this video, my buddy posted it. Maggie jumps in and says something to the effect of “I wanted to listen to this guy but this angry white mansplainer made me have to turn it off and walk away in disgust” (that’s paraphrasing, ladies and gentlemen). I found this interesting, so I replied to it. This was before  I knew that the word “mansplain” had already become normalized on the campuses of several different universities and in many feminist circles. Well, as The Faces say, I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger.

She replied to me with a fiery vengeance. I replied to her with what I thought was a well-reasoned stance. She replied once again with a fiery vengeance. And so on. Along the way we were greeted by many of her friends, all of whom agreed with her in the most self-righteous way possible. All of them were challenged either by myself or by others who were arguing the same thing I was: that the phrase “angry white mansplainer” was not only offensive, but extremely ironic considering that Maggie was making the argument of the DNC: that the election was the result of bigotry.

The post got extremely long and weedy, eventually resulting in almost all parties departing the conversation to spare their bodies’ cortisol levels. The post itself became a central topic of conversation in my friends circle for weeks. How could it be that this woman, who otherwise seemed relatively normal and able to engage in intellectual conversation meaningfully, was being so irrational and confrontational? I’d had conversations with unreasonable members of the left before, but never had I had a conversation that so obviously exposed how far the ideological hooks can truly sink in. (Granted, I had spent plenty of my youth talking to wing-nut religious people, so I knew how blind ideology could make people; and I’d given some study to communism, so I knew that the left was as capable of being blinded by ideology as the right, but I hadn’t had an up-close conversation that ended this way before.)

Jack Johnson once wrote a song about people taking pictures of people taking pictures. I want to write one about bigots calling other people bigots.

Since that conversation, Maggie has apparently come around to the side of reasonableness. I don’t know her personally, and I have good reason to doubt that fact. I’ve had several similar conversations since then, most notably online. It seems to me, in a point better made by Jordan Peterson, that people are too afraid to express themselves honestly in person; as such, they may be more likely to express themselves honestly online (sometimes to the detriment of everyone in the conversation), if for nothing other than that there is a degree of anonymity there. In other words, they are afraid to speak up because they are afraid the group will label them a bigot or an idiot.

About a week ago, for the first time I was removed from a friend’s Facebook friends list for attempting to engage her in a similar argument. I’ll call her Mariana. She posted a status that accused a man of mansplaining to her, and that he better not do it again or else she’ll let him have it in front of his peers. (By the way, her explanation for his mansplaining was that he had an “itty bitty penis.”) My friend Jose and a stranger named Dion had already responded to this status a few times, of course to point out that the term “mansplain” is sexist and counterproductive. Mariana’s responses had already been ridiculous (and wildly grammatically flawed), but unfortunately I had not read them before responding.

So I threw my two cents in. I explained my case: that “mansplain” is a word which is designed to be used as an ad hominem attack against the man a woman is arguing with. It is designed to shut down a conversation and force the “offender” into submission because of his confusion at the phrase. Perhaps it’s also designed to get the goat of the man, but I don’t know any man whose goat has been got by it. The use of the word typically identifies its user as one who is not prepared to engage in the philosophical discussion surrounding it.

Mariana did absolutely nothing to prove me wrong.

As Jonathan Pie pointed out, the 2016 election was deeply misunderstood. It was troubling, to be sure, but it was only so troubling because it was so deeply misunderstood. Because of this election, the political divides between Americans were widened to a degree that even the older generations began to express their surprise. (I’m recalled to a time when a buddy of mine was at a local cafe. He overheard a few older ladies talking about how maybe Bernie Sanders wasn’t so bad. Of course, they were the same who had chastised him and written him off as a socialist during the primaries. But after the primaries ended and the election drew nearer, the true ugliness of both candidates kicked into full gear and the geriatric crowd began to have a change of heart.) They’re partially widened because people on both sides decide to shut dissenting opinions out, preferring the safety and comfort of people with whom they agree. The left is particularly guilty of this, perhaps because they feel especially politically vulnerable due to their embarrassing loss.

Mariana chose to cut me out of her life instead of engage me in a very simple conversation–a conversation, by the way, generated by her posting of a status I took issue with. If the purpose of posting a status isn’t to generate a discussion, what is it? And not only did she de-friend me, she accused me of harassment as well. This was done through a private message on Facebook messenger.

The shame is that prior to this exchange, I believed that had I had a chance to sit down and chat with people like Mariana, we’d quickly find that we have more in common than not. I’m not so sure anymore. Mariana does not know the depth of what her beliefs imply and entail, and it’s difficult to know what it would take for her to learn. Like Maggie, she has in the past demonstrated an ability to intellectually process things on at least an average level. But the way she framed her argument would lead one to believe that she exists far below the average, a realm where the factual basis and philosophical consistency of ideas does not matter.

So for your listening pleasure, I’ve made a recording, set to a background of coffee shop jazz, of me reading the transcript of the conversation. If you haven’t had the pleasure of having a conversation with one of these SJW/feminist types, I’d advise listening to it. It’s only as long as your drive to work, and, like I said, it’s set to some smooth, calming jazz. If you’re like me, it will infuriate you; but the hope is that while doing so it lets you know just how deep these ideological ideas run within people who roam among you. Plus: jazz.

The issues associated with the modern version of third-wave feminism are showing their teeth in many developed countries around the world. Legislation designed to restrict free speech and require people to use certain pronouns has already been passed in Canada (Bill C-16). Campuses worldwide, but especially Ivy League schools in the U.S. (remember the Yale Halloween costume controversy?), have devolved into battlegrounds and safe spaces for SJWs rather than the institutions for higher education and having your assumptions challenged they were designed to be. They will affect your right to free speech, and they will directly affect your lives. I imagine it won’t be long before legislation relating to this issue reaching the U.S. Congress. This reading is meant to be entertaining, and I believe it is, but the issue will not disappear until Americans know how to properly fight against it.

I did include a hyperlink to the podcast in the second-to-last paragraph, but in case you missed it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWg9Mg4RTpI&t=429s.

Orwell Strikes Again

I followed the Republican National Convention with a perverse fascination. It’s embarrassing to admit given that the more attention Trump receives the more threatening he becomes, but it’s the truth. I couldn’t have helped it if I tried. I don’t watch sports. I don’t gamble. All I have is politics.

For years, the GOP has been trending in the direction of right-wing extremism and various forms of authoritarianism (“fascism” is, of course, the first word that comes to mind, but using such a traumatizing word makes some among us tense and defensive), so in a sense the Trump phenomenon is predictable. As the Democrats’ strategy for gaining voters, championed by the venerable William Clinton, was to reach further to the right (to appeal to “Reagan Democrats”), the Republicans were left with the choice of either reaching out to the liberals or to the far right. They chose the far right, thus creating a monster that long ago became far more powerful than they could control.

To some degree, the Democrats are beholden to moderates. The Republicans, on the other hand, are at the mercy of extremists. While most of its voters are still somewhat traditionally conservative, the voters who really make the difference believe that the world was created in six days (followed by one day of rest for its Creator, Blessed be His Name), that global warming is a hoax, that abortion is murder, that gays are the spawns of Satan, that welfare recipients are moochers, that homeless people are lazy, that blacks and Mexicans are subnormals, that Islamic Radicalists may break into our homes at any minute, that the birth of ISIS was in no way influenced by the actions of this nation…

At the risk of belaboring the point, it’s easy to see how comfortably the “extremist” values of the Republican Party blend into the “moderate” ones. The RNC’s platform explicitly caters to the views of extremists, all the while pulling its moderate supporters further to the right, lest they risk political annihilation. Where at the beginning of the primary cycle many in the Republican Party expressed their hatred and distrust of Trump, the GOP has now thrown its support behind their nominee (among notable Republican dissidents are Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz and plenty others, but the majority is all-in). And Trump is their best shot at winning the general election: he gave the Republican Party the first organic erection it’s had after years of political impotence.

With a strong central organization within the party, Trump has become the figurehead of what the GOP actually represents: schoolyard bullying, bigotry, ignorance and an arrogance that could only be borne of a child who always got what he wanted. Trump is the perfect mouthpiece for everything the Republicans have been building towards for the past few decades. His face even looks like a personification of the party’s values. He is the perfect cherry on a very vanilla sundae, and he is now the official presidential nominee for one of the country’s only two significant political parties.

As if all of this wasn’t unsettling enough, the RNC managed to be a strikingly accurate advertisement for everything the GOP espouses, made all the more effective by Trump’s Hitleresque acceptance speech. Ten minutes into watching it I started to feel sick. The whole thing sounded like a satirical passage from Orwell, written almost as effectively and delivered with complete conviction (and the mad waving of Trump’s comically tiny hands). The audience ate it up, and the spectacle, broadcast to me live on YouTube, though long-winded, achieved its intended effect. Fear was the theme of the speech, and hate was the mode of delivery.

When Trump did his bit about the time being past for political correctness, the people made wild animal noises, celebrating Trump’s call for racism and bigotry to be socially acceptable again. When a protestor disrupted the rally, Trump praised the police officers for removing the protestor. He talked about how police lives matter, framing the situation as an atrocity against our men in uniform without mentioning the Black Lives Matter movement (or the many murders of black people by police officers that have happened lately). He talked about how the security of the American people would come first, bar none, suggesting that beefing up the police’s capabilities might be necessary in order to provide that security. His attempts to be inclusive were veiled by his insistence on keeping neighborhoods safe, which is a politically correct way of saying “protect white people.” He said that we should be willing to pull out of trade agreements that don’t work in America’s favor, like NAFTA. He blamed a whole bunch of shit on the Democrats, chief among which is, of course, Hillary Clinton.

To the American people, Clinton represents everything that is wrong with politics. She has been on the wrong side of virtually every important issue until it becomes politically unwise to remain. She has blatantly lied in the public forum and repeatedly neglected to offer an apology or acknowledgement until it becomes politically unwise to neglect it further. She has befriended dictators, defended appalling legislation, misused campaign finances, broken campaign finance laws, been a cozy friend to Wall Street since the dawn of time and stubbornly refused to do anything progressive until such time that any given issue becomes so mainstream that it’s no longer progressive.

Even an imbecile like Trump had an easy time tearing into her. In fact, Clinton may be the only candidate the Democrats could have put up that Trump is capable of defeating. All he has to do is exactly what he has been doing: repeatedly suggest that Americans are tired of the status quo and want change, which is true, and that Hillary Clinton is the status quo’s mascot, which is also true. And it helped immensely that Trump had a huge pile of dirt on Clinton to pepper in whenever he pleased. Despite my extreme distaste with the speech and the accompanying nausea, even I found myself sometimes nodding in agreement. Who doesn’t think Clinton is corrupt as they come? Who doesn’t think things are bad and getting worse? With the candidates we’ve been offered, who in this country is looking forward to the next four years?

So, with all of this in mind, let’s just say it: the Democrats are the problem.

The DNC decided that Hillary Clinton was their nominee long before she won the nomination. They did this knowing that her history is mired in political scandal, that she was under investigation by the FBI and that she is a pathological liar. They did this with the knowledge that a substantial chunk of its own voter base has a serious distaste for her. They did this knowing that her disapproval rating was the highest of any Democratic candidate in American political history, and they continued to do it as Trump’s popularity and perceived legitimacy began to rise.

Even if it was decided that, as the Wikileaks documents showed, the DNC had rigged the system in Clinton’s favor long before Bernie Sanders became a sensation, they could have changed their minds before the convention. Multiple polls showed that Trump was predicted to give Hillary a real shot in the general election, but that advice was ignored. Multiple polls showed that Bernie Sanders, without question, whooped Trump’s ass in the general election, which were also ignored. But Bernie Sanders isn’t necessarily the point—the point is that the Democrats went all-in before they even saw the flop.

In a sense, it isn’t terribly surprising that the Democrats were unable to stop themselves from committing fully to Clinton. They were engaged in a reflexive feedback loop which couldn’t be stopped until its completion. No matter what, she would become the nominee. So when Trump came along, the Democrats’ response was the exact opposite of what it should have been: instead of scaling back their efforts to nominate Clinton, they ramped them up. The fact that a nobody from Vermont gave her such a tough primary race even with the influence of the DNC didn’t deter them one bit.

When Bernie Sanders came around and raised legitimate issues with Hillary Clinton, the DNC and their policies, the DNC responded by smearing him, despite that he did it in the kindest possible manner. The move managed to sufficiently suffocate Sanders and his supporters, but his message got through and exposed the sympathies of millions of Americans. This drew a stark contrast between Clinton and Sanders. Clinton was in bed with the DNC, who were at least partially responsible for Bernie’s ultimate lack of success; Bernie became nationally known as a candidate of reason and honesty who was given an unfair shake by his own party. The resulting schism in the Democratic Party began to resemble a gaping wound and gave rise to the need for the Democrats’ platform to be almost exclusively based around defeating Trump (despite the fact that Hillary’s campaign had been largely based on that since the Rise of Trump). Hillary Clinton may be as guilty as the DNC as a whole depending on her involvement with the rigging of the primary (and she definitely shares some blame due to the fact that she arrogantly continued to run despite the fact that people severely disliked her and that she was polling poorly against Trump), but safely it can be said that the DNC is the catalyst for this particular catastrophe.

Blame for the Rise of Trump and the division of the Democratic Party is frequently attributed to Sanders, which should be blatantly false to any informed voter. The DNC and the mainstream media are directly responsible for this, which gives Trump even more fuel. Again, thanks to Wikileaks, Trump can now convincingly rail against not only Clinton, but the entire DNC, rallying the people around the idea that such a corrupt political party should not be put into power. And a huge swath of the people eat it up, because despite political affiliation, most Americans know that something is deeply wrong with politics in the country (plus, there are a lot more white supremacists than we thought). The problem lies with the fact that these people want to look for an easy solution—they are tired enough of the direction American politics has been heading that they are willing to settle for sub-par as long as it breaks the mold.

Trump’s acceptance speech writer, Matt Shepard, should be given a good amount of credit. Despite the fact that his words and tone were horrifying, and the fact that the speech was long-winded, he managed to strike the balance between dictator and confident leader with finesse, which is no easy task. Shepard’s voice is practically indistinguishable from Trump’s voice, and the fact that Trump delivered the speech expertly does it all the more justice. From immigration to BULDING THE WALL to closing the borders to Islamist Radicalist Super Turbo Terrorists to how black lives don’t matter to how police lives REALLY matter (believe me) to how the Orlando attack against the LGBTQ community was “no good,” the speech was a horrifying masterpiece. And the Republicans on the convention floor went wild in response to it.

Trump is wagering, somewhat intelligently, that people are fed up enough with the system as it stands and hate Hillary Clinton enough that all he has to do is present himself as a semi-affable person who is simply pointing out the truths Bernie Sanders already exposed. (He is adopting the Sanders method–the only difference is that he is approaching the dilemma from the perspective of hatred and ignorance, whereas Sanders approached it from the perspective of compassion.) But his real appeal is in his otherworldly ego and rhetoric that he is the only man who can fix such a corrupt system. His ego is so bloated that it’s almost possible to believe that he is the only man who can make America great again. The way he speaks makes you believe him, not by the content of his speech, but by the power of his delivery. The only other significant political leader I can think of who achieved success using the same method is Adolf Hitler.

All of this is particularly unsettling given that the content of Trump’s speech was positively horrifying. He says that he is the law and order candidate, despite the fact that his campaign is the only one in modern political history to make news for its inclusiveness of white supremacists and its ability to inspire riots and violence like no campaign before it. He says that he will ensure peace and safety like we’ve never seen before, which is all the more insidious given that his domestic policy is to beef up local law enforcement to “keep our neighborhoods safe.” He is still insisting on the wall. He insists that we shouldn’t allow immigrants from countries with known terrorist connections, not even attempting to vaguely define what “terrorist connections” means. He insists that the legal immigration process is incapable of figuring out “who these people are and where they came from.” He speaks with aggressive and unearned authority like a middle school brat and insists that we’ll walk away from trade deals with organizations like NAFTA if we don’t get what we want.

AMERICA FIRST! LAW AND ORDER!

All of this is juxtaposed with talk about how the American government has failed you, which it has; how Clinton is a corrupt and untrustworthy politician, which she is; how Bernie Sanders was cheated, which he was; how the American political system and social bodies need a radical change, which they do.

If it wasn’t for the fact that the pragmatic alternative to Trump is a loathsome liar whose political judgment is as poor as her fashion sense, it would be obvious to the American people that Trump has to be defeated. But he’s been given the perfect political climate for victory: The DNC put up a candidate who perfectly illustrates everything that’s wrong with the American political system. With a little manipulation, an almost genius understanding for entertainment media and more than a handful of notes from the fascist playbook (not to mention a maniacally egotistical personality), even a subnormal moron could make the case for Trump’s presidency. All he has to do is remind the American people who Hillary Clinton really is, what the Democrats really represent and how badly they’ve been treated by the current powers that be.

I am writing this after the second day of the Democratic convention, which so far has produced a series of predictable speeches, some feel-good video segments, a modest amount of Trump-bashing and an alleged endorsement speech from Bernie Sanders. Sanders’ speech was effective and instrumental in tipping the odds in Hillary Clinton’s favor, but enough Sanders supporters are still too convinced that Clinton is basically as evil as Trump, so it remains to be seen whether Sanders or any other political leader can truly tip the scales and unify the party. The Clinton Convention started with booing, everybody knew something was going to happen with respect to the Sanders delegates and supporters (who eventually moved their protest to the media tent to gain attention), and Sanders himself received the most ridiculous applause of any speaker to date (more, even, than ol’ Billy Clinton). But even Sanders went around to different states’ delegates the next morning to see to it that they stopped booing and started endorsing Clinton with more enthusiasm.

It is no secret that the Republicans have for years been cultivating a national platform that would eventually result in an actor like Donald Trump, whether or not they were aware of their own machinations. (They also gave rise to Ted Cruz, who was a maniac in his own right; and Ben Carson, who creepily smiled at the suggestion of using torture to get information from terrorists; and Marco Rubio, who sold out his own race to be a corporate hack.) The Democrats had every opportunity to put up a proper response to this atrocity of a candidate and instead chose to put up an atrocity of their own. May this shatter any proponent of American democracy’s faith in the two-party system, and may we remember the words of Alexis de Tocqueville: “There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.”

Both parties have fucked the people of America by acting out of self-interest instead of acting out of interest for the American people. The Democrats, for a long time, existed as the alleged party of sanity in contrast to the Republicans. As they’ve made the choice to opt for success at the risk of political suicide, it is no longer clear that the Democrats are much better than the Republicans; as they’ve made it clear what their real interests are, the Democrats have once again left the American people in the perilous position of voting between the lesser of two evils. How much pain, do you figure, will the American people endure before a real revolution breaks out?