Sad, ineffectual white men unite behind their shared rage that a woman spoke her mind, again, because they are scared babies

Sad, ineffectual white men unite behind their shared rage that a woman spoke her mind, again, because they are scared babies

What if Helen Rosner’s tweets about being an ally to women somehow destroy their centuries of privilege?

Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Writer Helen Rosner posted a list of suggestions for how men can support the women in their lives, “beyond just literally ceasing to sexually harass us,” on Twitter and Medium yesterday. Her suggestions included such theoretically uncontroversial arguments as: Trans women are women, supporting reproductive rights is good, and men ought to “cultivate genuine, intimate, nonsexual friendships with women.” For these sins -- for writing that men who want to be allies of women ought to adapt principles of basic human decency and learn about others’ experiences -- Rosner has drawn rebuke from a ragtag group of the internet’s finest aggrieved white men and their allies, who are now revealing their constant low-level rage and fear of somehow losing the privilege they’ve enjoyed throughout history.

To be sure, there are some valid and constructive criticisms of Rosner’s work -- it focuses mostly on strict gender categories of women and men, likely because the cultural conversation we’re having now about sexual violence is so inextricably rooted in misogyny. But this is not the criticism popping up in Rosner’s mentions. Instead, after making the humble argument that men who are asking specifically how they can do better can do the basic work of listening, learning, being kind, and asking more from their male friends, Rosner has been admonished by representatives of several uniquely grotesque anti-feminist subcultural groups. The sources of the criticism range  from traditional right-wing bloggers to anonymous #MAGA and men’s rights trolls to straight-up white supremacists like David Duke.

That’s because the deeper, more enduring story stretches well beyond Rosner, her words, or even her specific, unfortunately typical, and hopefully fleeting online criticism. It reveals a disturbing pattern in which misogyny serves as a brutal, unifying force that spurs communities from across the spectrum of the right-wing internet to slam individuals they feel represent their enemies in a cultural war, in an attempt to silence them.

In different circumstances, the David Dukes and the Erick Ericksons across the right-wing internet might performatively disavow one another. But here on the online battlefield, their true motivation -- preservation of so-called traditional culture (read: specifically the white, heteropatriarchal nuclear family)  -- is far too compelling to do anything but quite literally unite the right.

In traditional corners of the right-wing blogosphere, exemplified by pundits like Erick Erickson and blogs like RedState.com or TownHall.com, the reactionary defense of white heteropatriarchy looks like this: references to “family” values and religious freedom, flippant anti-gay and anti-trans statements, illogical economic arguments in favor of policies that happen to hurt the working poor, and generalized fearmongering about college campuses and immigration.

In the increasingly violent men’s rights movement, the strategy transforms into much more overt “antifeminist” views and the promotion of toxic hypermasculinity. And in the openly white nationalist online spaces -- where there is a significant and telling overlap with the men’s rights community -- the focus lies in fighting the decline of a superior “Western” culture, defending and promoting subservient, white womanhood, and securing a “future for white children.”

Online trolls seem to borrow indiscriminately from any and all of these related schools of thought, and then throw some truly incomprehensible messages and sometimes harassment into the mix for good measure.

Members of all these communities seemed to show up online to tell Rosner why her arguments were bad. Here are some other reactions she garnered on Twitter from this repulsive band of brothers and the women who support them in their warped crusade in the name of sweet, sweet heteropatriarchy. And these are just the verified users’ responses; click through Rosner’s mentions for more such commentary.

The motivation to preserve a total monopoly on centuries-old power that’s not even being truly threatened is essentially a watered-down, unspoken (except for when it is actually spoken) version of the white supremacist 14 words: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” To say that anything less extreme may be at play -- or that their rage is much more simply focused on a specific Medium post or Twitter thread or person (coincidentally, a woman) who dares to voice an opinion -- is to help trolls erase their real motives.

This war against difference and acceptance -- with the enemy labeled on any given day as feminists, libs, snowflakes, the radical left, paid protestors, PC bullies -- will continue to dictate internet rage so long as it remains a convenient unifying force for the right.

Hatred is timeless, and left unchecked it will drown out everything else from public conversation.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.