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 beforeĀ  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.

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