Why Can’t White Men Shut Up?

Some Unsolicited Advice for the Masters of It

A woman putting her finger against her lips to gesture “Shh”
Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

During the nomination hearings of sex abuser and resident boofer of the Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh, a spineless jellyfish that goes by the name Lindsey Graham proudly declared that he would not shut up, no matter how many crazy feminists and liberal SJWs told him to. Why, you ask? Well, according to Graham — who’s ironically never met a boot he wouldn’t like to lick — and his bloviating right-wing man baby buddies, straight white dudes are being wrongfully silenced. They mistake the request to listen to folks who have been impacted racism and sexism as an attempt to marginalize them, even though they operate from a position of privilege that has excluded them from having any direct experience from which they could speak with any authority or wisdom. In a world where their viewpoints are vastly overrepresented, we want them to learn from oppressed populations and change the way they behave, legislate and see the world. But they can’t do that if their mouths are open. And unfortunately, if we’ve learned anything by now, one thing men hate even more than putting a sock in it, it’s being told what to do.

No matter what the topic — from women’s rights to racism and LGBTQ+ issues — straight white dudes can’t resist the urge to chime in to “play devil’s advocate.” Never has there been a better choice of words to describe such an activity, because if the devil is real, there’s no question they’ve been doing his work with a gleeful fervor in recent years. And thanks to the wonders of the world wide web and social media, the proliferation of men’s unwarranted, often dangerous opinions on groups they are not a part of and issues they are not impacted by has grown tenfold.

Should we be surprised that people who lead lives of seemingly unending unearned privilege think their comments are not only warranted, but valuable, no matter the subject or occasion? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean their whole shtick hasn’t become more maddening with each passing day. So, I thought I’d take a page from their playbook. In the spirit of giving unsolicited advice, I’d like to channel my frustrations into an essential to-read list for the modern straight white man. If you’re floating out there in the manosphere just living off of Andrew Tate and Joe Rogan podcast fumes, this one’s for you:

Most folks who have spent time existing in the U.S. know that straight white men have not been and are not currently the targets of systemic and institutionalized oppression based on their skin color, gender or sexual orientation. So how is it, then, that you all claim to be victims? The truth is, in a modern world where anti-racism, anti-LBGTQ+ discrimination and feminism are gaining mainstream traction (we can use the internet too), men are having a tough time feeling like the bad guys. And I get it, nobody likes being labeled “the problem,” but have you ever tried examining why we might arrived at this juncture instead of prioritizing your hurt feelings above all else? Even Taylor Swift’s in therapy and singing about it these days.

By framing yourself as a victim, you can feel better because victims (as long as they are not lying women) are usually blameless people, and blameless = good. That’s why men’s rights activists are focused very little on actual activism. They aren’t working to change material, observable conditions — they are simply working to change perception. Instead of men trying to become feminists so that they can be allies to women to change that perception, these dudes, incels and alt-right ding-dongs don’t want to do the work. And why would they, when society has always handed them everything? Misogyny and white male supremacy have been baked into the fabric of American society, and it’s benefited ya’ll pretty nicely for the last couple hundred years.

Even if we think of self-described incels as poor lonely dudes rejected by the opposite sex deserving of sympathy, why should their rejection mean more than the rest of ours? As human beings, we all will inevitably face rejection and failure. Many of us have felt abandoned, unloved or unwanted at times. And many of us, even still, must deal with the painful experience of being human while soldiering on in a world that’s literally designed to work against us. So what’s their excuse for perpetrating violence that has, at times, amounted to murder, rape and outright acts of terrorism? Because they feel sad? (Please read this with the same energy as Kristin Wiig drugged up on a plane. Oh you DOooOoOo? Helen knows the owner!”)

Believe it or not, things getting better for women, gay people, Black people or any other combination there is on the minority bingo card does not mean things will get worse for you. Rather, it means everyone gets the same opportunities you’ve been handed all along so we all have a fair shot at not just surviving, but thriving. And if treating folks equally means that you’re forced to publicly defend past actions (read: #metoo), you sir, actually are the problem. Further, if equality seems like something’s being taken away from you, it’s because you have no interest in sharing power and ceding privilege — that would mean you’d be let with tough questions about your worth and worldview.

In fact, despite the reality that patriarchal values have been long embedded in our society — whether by capitalism, legislation, religion or pop culture —many of you still wish to argue that there is something that has been stolen that must be taken back. Challenges to toxic masculinity and traditional gender roles fuel your resentment, and that resentment has landed you squarely in the realm of victimhood, which is even more damaging than one might think. It not only results in individual acts of violence and hate, but it also serves to redefine what it means to be disempowered, doing a disservice to the real victims of the systematic oppression.

Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s talk about the myth of misandry. Lots of you sad bois claim that misandry —basically the hatred of men — is actually a genuine issue that should be examined and dismantled in the same way that a feminist or decent human being might wish to address misogyny. The problem with this claim is that man-hating is not a systemic issue in the way that misogyny is. Women in your personal life may hate you, and it’s their prerogative to feel that way (and completely understandable if you start every other sentence with “Well, actually…”). But just because someone or even a few someones is mean to you doesn’t point to an institutional problem that results in your being disproportionately abused or discriminated against at work, by your church, by the police or your partner. Man-hating has not been written into law. Only women have been and continue to be denied full personhood by way of legislation — think voting rights, the ERA and abortion bans, for starters.

Most feminists will tell you that they don’t hate individual dudes (I’m married to one, for crying out loud) but that they hate the system that disproportionately privileges you at our expense. That’s not to say we don’t call out the bad behavior of individuals, but this is often warranted to raise awareness for situations that are not isolated events, but rather, institutionalized issues (read: sexual harassment).

This is also not to say that men don’t experience rough stuff — the patriarchy has set unreasonable expectations for your role in society, your appearance, your job etc. just as it has for women. And if I concede you any piece of the victimization pie, it’s this. But your constant cries of misandry and general attempts to undercut or distract from women who are trying to address these real issues only hurts you — feminists are working to make the U.S. a better place for us all, and you’re getting in the way. The even greater irony is that all this talk of misandry is only serving to actually make some of us hate you. We grow weary of being diplomatic, of trying to make you empathize, of begging you to listen. You are, in essence, turning us against you. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

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Your friendly neighborhood leftist socialist feminist.

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