Damned with faint pride

If there's one thing I understand, it's damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situations. Why I am so plagued by them I don't know. But I really identified with a sentiment expressed in an email underlying the topic of Dr. Helen's excellent post on male bashing:

A few years ago Lionel Richie allowed his wife to knock him around a bit. When the media started to question his masculinity he reminded them that it didn't matter what line of defense he took, the media would turn it on him; if he hit his wife back in defense or retaliation, he'd become a woman-beater and abusive husband, but if he sat there and took it, he's labeled as less than a man. It doesn't matter what we do, we're vilified through the narrow focus of society and the media. The world has changed and it's folly to believe that our gender hasn't changed with it.
I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Helen's approach that simply confronting anti male bigotry wherever you see it is the best way to combat it, and here's what she said about the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't conundrum:
....most people are terrified of confrontation and will do anything to avoid it. They want to be liked or at least feel that they are a person worth liking. Make it unpleasant for them to let out their toxic tirades and they will stop--and it often takes so little effort. Notice that people in public places and the media rarely say anything derogatory about women. Why? It is socially unacceptable and they are afraid to. Make it costly for people to bash men and they will stop. Start with small steps--if all men and the women who gave a damn spoke up or told people to knock it off when the male bashing started, we would hear a lot less of it.

As far as the media goes, I like what Lionel Richie did in the case you mentioned of his wife beating him. He did not blame himself but nor did he blame his wife--for he knew that this would backfire. Instead, he put the media in a double bind, "It doesn't matter what I do or say, I will be villainized." He turned the focus away from himself and to the fact that men in our society can never do or say the right thing, no matter what. He spoke up for all men in that regard--and at least clearly stated the problem. And his career still seems to be on track.

I had almost forgotten that Lionel Richie is black, which according to the insane rules of identity politics would be considered a somewhat ameliorating factor (unless of course he were to be caught committing the cardinal sin of being a black Republican).

Men are bad, but white men are the worst, and white Republican men are the consummate devils. (Bill Clinton is a notable example of someone who got away with being a sexist pig because he's a Democrat.)

Sorry, I don't write these rules. I only try my damnedest to analyze them logically, which is crazy-making, because there's nothing rational or logical about them.

You think that's bad, try analyzing gay male conservatives. While they are at war with identitarian politics, they end up having identity politics forced on them not only by gay leftists who accuse them of betraying their gay identity, but by conservative activists with a mission of making opposition to homosexuality one of the defining features of conservatism. (Their maleness is of course also inherently suspect.) If conservatism is in fact opposed to homosexuality, then to be a gay conservative is to be something other than conservative, which would mean there are no gay conservatives. Jerry Falwell famously said something many gay activists would agree with:

"If he's gay and Republican, then the first thing he should do is join the Democratic Party."
This is called "double marginalization," and black conservatives experience it too -- with one notable difference. No Republican would ever say "If he's black and Republican, then the first thing he should do is join the Democratic Party." Many Democrats would, and they'd say the same thing about female Republicans.

So what's the best way to deal with life's damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situations?

Think what you think, expect personal damnation, and try not to take it personally. Grow enough calluses, and eventually you won't be unduly influenced by silly considerations like which group of people claims to hate you (or love you) more over personal issues, and you may be able to decide things on the basis of which ideas you hate less. I realize that I can please no one, but if I have to choose between strangers who love my lifestyle but want to take away my guns and my dogs, and strangers who hate my lifestyle but will generally leave me alone, I'll go with being left alone by the hateful strangers.

(This is especially true if latter merely spout moralistic annoyances, while the former have a soft spot for those who want to implement Sharia law.)

posted by Eric on 02.21.08 at 02:17 PM


Not being personally influenced by male-bashing is only one component of the puzzle. Male-bashing has more effects than merely upon men as individuals. Incentives are at work. The second-order effects they produce are not to be lightly waved aside.

Has anyone bothered to analyze the effects of male-bashing as an enabling force upon the tide of nanny-state legislation? I believe it to be significant -- and it has no direct connection to whatever deterioration may be occurring in the psyches of individual men.

Has anyone bothered to analyze the contribution of male-bashing to welfarism and the pandemic of fatherlessness that's consumed the black population of this nation? A woman who thinks little enough of her "lover" to have a child by him out of wedlock is unlikely to treat him well enough to foster a long-term interest in her progeny by him.

Has anyone bothered to analyze the correlation between male-bashing by middle-class women and the declining fertility rates of those women? We're supposed to be interested in the demographic shifts that are marginalizing the traditional family and deeding the future over to our "undocumented" guests from the south, so why not?

This is a more important matter than many suppose.

Francis W. Porretto   ·  February 21, 2008 8:32 PM

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