Nuclear Fallout

I only write on holidays now.

There’s a parade impeding traffic nearby in celebration of the millions of men (and, in recent years, a few really weird women) who — willingly or via conscription — traveled overseas on the orders of other violent, authoritarian men in order to kill (and rape and torture) people in one of the nearly countless wars the US has instigated or horned its way into. War always has been and always will be the province of men who demand obeisance, crave domination, and have no compunction about the physical and psychological damage their violent whims cause to other human beings. The war impulse doesn’t materialize out of thin air; authoritarian men learn authoritarianism from other authoritarian men, and nearly all men are authoritarians because they’re accustomed to a world ordered around their desires.

The fundamentals of children’s personalities and their understanding of how to relate to other people are formed by the time they enter school. Gendered behaviors become ingrained in early childhood; girls learn to suppress their personalities and opinions, to take up as little literal and metaphorical space as possible, and to consider everyone’s needs and comfort before their own, while boys learn to despise everything associated with femininity, to do everything they can to force their will onto the world around them, to push boundaries, to expect. The degree of male authoritarianism they’re exposed to — in the home, via popular media, by simply looking around — will determine in large part what degree of authoritarianism boys will exhibit toward anyone they perceive as falling below them in the social order. The degree of male authoritarianism girls are exposed to will determine to a similar degree how little they will value themselves and how cowed they will be by men and their whims.

In theory, authoritarian patriarchy — the absolute rule of the father — in the nuclear family is supposed to produce ideal male workers (dependent on the company for their continued household authority), patriotic soldiers, and compliant, agreeable wives (and/or cheap and docile labor). The institution is and has historically been protected by men’s self-serving division of social life into the realms of the public and the private, the latter being the sacrosanct purview of male heads of household, to be intruded upon only in the most egregious of circumstances (and rarely even then). This arrangement has been slowly breaking down over the course of the last few decades, but we ain’t there yet, and we certainly haven’t emerged from under the legacy of the era in which these institutions and the dividing line between public and private were considered inviolable.

Assuming father figures behaved like Lucas McCain in The Rifleman, this arrangement has historically only seemed noxious to feminists (and, in rare cases, anti-capitalist and anti-war activists, though few of them seem to understand or care how this functions). It works great for men, the managerial class, and the government. But when men all tacitly agree that a man’s home is his castle, there is no check on how despotic and deranged the king of the castle can become and almost no telling how far the effects of the “private” sphere can ripple outward into the “public” world.

My maternal grandmother Maria* died when my mom was seventeen, thirteen years before I was born, when she was crossing a street on New Year’s Eve and was hit by a car, after which my mom was taken in by the sympathetic mother of one of her friends. I only met my maternal grandfather Chuck* once for a few minutes, when I was eleven and he was enfeebled by old age and disease. He died about a year later and my mom seemed simultaneously relieved and nonchalant, which I found peculiar given my attachment to my own father.

I knew there was a reason I had never met my mom’s two older brothers, Dale* and Bob*, and had only met her two older sisters, Sarah* and Deborah*, and their adult children once when I was a toddler; details were slim, but she told me on the many occasions when I asked why we spent holidays with my dad’s family and not hers that I was lucky I didn’t know them, the PG version. Reaching adulthood — in addition to inaugurating the horror of hearing my parents tell dirty jokes without whispering the punchlines — brought with it top family secret clearance.

The king of the castle my mom grew up in — even when his wife and children were the only breadwinners within it — behaved like a whiskey-fueled Ivan the Terrible. He routinely brutally beat and sexually assaulted my grandmother in front of their children, abused my uncles so severely that Bob lost several of his toes, and almost definitely sexually abused my aunts and mother (I don’t push when my mom drops hints). Because my mom was fourteen years younger than her oldest sibling, she got to witness her oldest brother Dale unload that physical and sexual abuse onto his own children when he moved them into the house and allowed his mother to support him and them until her death; the apple moved in with the tree and helped suck the last of the nutrients out of the ground.

Both of my mom’s sisters, having had no contrary examples, married abusive monsters who beat them and their children, and Bob ended up dying a homeless, mentally disturbed alcoholic on the street in San Francisco. Lord knows how, but my mom was the only one who escaped the family curse, probably in part because she finally witnessed a functional family when her friend’s mother took her in and she subsequently made the decision to do whatever she had to to avoid what she had grown up immersed in.

I saw my aunt Sarah when I was in my twenties and she was nearing death, and she was the most pitiful being I’ve ever encountered in my life. Here was a woman in her late sixties who had survived unspeakable abuse at the hands of her own father, only to move on to a husband who was just as bad. Her own children physically abused her and had stripped her home of everything in it that was worth more than a nickel. She was completely alone, the paid “caregiver” who spent the entire day sitting on her ass and blowing smoke all over her notwithstanding. That she managed to smile at me nearly knocked me over.

By my count, my mom and her four siblings begat at least fifteen children. I’m the youngest by at least a decade, and I’m also the only one who isn’t either a chronic victim of domestic violence, a homeless drug addict, or a violent criminal of one sort or another. Two of Dale’s sons, Joseph* and Allen*, are serving triple life sentences for three counts each of first degree rape and kidnapping, crimes they committed together after they had been convicted of rape and other felonies in another state fourteen years prior. They’re also on a short list of suspects for over forty unsolved murders in the metropolitan area in which they were arrested. One of their sisters was a prostitute in the same neighborhood in which they stalked their victims. The oxy plugs and wife beaters who round out the clan pale by comparison, but I no longer imagine that I’m missing much by not attending family events.

One violent, authoritarian man with no self-control directly destroyed the lives of his wife and four of his children and severely damaged the psyche of the fifth, and indirectly destroyed the lives of all but one of his grandchildren (and, surely, of most of his great-grandchildren). One of his sons directly destroyed the lives of his wife and all nine of his children, two of whom directly destroyed the lives of at least four women they violently raped (and there is no fucking way there aren’t more). It is nearly impossible to quantify the exponential toll this piece of shit took on the world, all by himself, from a position of zero economic power, simply because his maleness conferred upon him the social prerogative to do it.

This is admittedly an extreme example, but it isn’t as if it’s rare. Domestic violence, misogyny, and general male authoritarianism are hereditary global pandemics that resist cures because they’re shielded by systemic male supremacy, the public/private dichotomy (which, by the way, also shields men’s porn use and prostitution from scrutiny), and the lionization of the nuclear family that stubbornly persist despite decades of effort. Male supremacist societies and authoritarian men produce insecure, angry boys who simultaneously kowtow to more powerful men and shit all over women, children, and men they feel hold less social power than they do. They produce fearful, self-loathing girls who acquiesce to and collaborate with societal and interpersonal misogyny. And they’re responsible for very nearly all violence, up to and including war.

There may be a silver lining here. It’s obvious to me, from personal experience, that nurture can dominate nature in some cases. If the culture of male authoritarianism and supremacy can be overthrown, it will be when it exerts itself in full, brazen public view, and we are there.

*Fake names, obviously.

The Object and the Missing Subject, the Effect and the Missing Cause

Roy Moore just lost by a mere four votes or so despite the fact that he’s a serial child molester who lives in his own private version of Gunsmoke. The president is a rapist. Every famous dude in America — of every political stripe — has been fired or has stepped down from his job for sexually assaulting someone. Still, while the #metoo movement is laying bare the ubiquity of the abuse that all women face, there is no real concomitant movement to recognize the ubiquity of abusive behavior among men and boys or to determine the source of that behavior.

I’ll tell you a little about the source of that behavior.

Southern California is an exceedingly harsh environment to grow up in. The emotional depravity that seems to emanate from the starkly bright, spiritually empty, inescapably dull, brown landscape isn’t unique in the world, but it stopped seeming natural or unavoidable once I finally left and life, thankfully, ceased to resemble a Bret Easton Ellis novel. After recently reading about the suicide of 13-year-old Rosalie Avila after she had endured years of torment from her peers in Yucaipa — a smallish town just outside of San Bernardino — memories of growing up female in suburban San Diego began to reemerge from whatever part of my mind they have been sequestered in.

Thankfully, for Rosalie’s sake, the content of the social media bullying she endured hasn’t been made public (though I’m sure I could find it were I to make the slightest prurient effort). Still, it wouldn’t be an outrageous stretch to guess that she was terrorized for being brown and female. Everyone knows what form bullying takes when directed at an adolescent girl. Double that for girls of color.

I often wonder how one could quantify the potential, kindness, and brilliance the world loses when it is routinely beaten out of children by their families and by popular culture, and when those children turn around and unleash their anguish on other young victims (and go on to do so as adults). What would Rosalie have become if she had survived the abuse heaped upon her? How many other girls are enduring the same abuse now, and how will it alter their futures? How many imaginations have been snuffed out by the hatred this culture has for young women and people of color? How many little boys who were on track to become decent men have succumbed to the pressure to suppress their decency in favor of the capricious cruelty that adolescent society, the cult of masculinity, and popular media culture promote and reward?

How can these young people be convinced that anything outside of the nightmare they live in exists? What is the mechanism by which some victims of childhood and adolescent abuse survive and come to use their experiences to better the world, and how can it be provided to those who need it the most?

That list of questions makes it sound as though I have no hope for addressing the behavior of the culprits. That’s because I don’t. It’s a rare childhood bully who will even recognize their youthful behavior as a problem when confronted with it in adulthood, probably because emotionally terrorizing others isn’t a behavior that people easily grow out of. That would require a level of self-awareness and empathy that is hard to amass out of thin air. Besides, where would the motivation even come from when the public is too recalcitrant to shift its focus away from victim-blaming and toward the behavior of perpetrators?

Adolescents are routinely exposed to and forced to reckon with behaviors and ideas that are far too harrowing and complex for their young minds to cope with. They all commit and endure cruelties and subjugations that they are completely incapable of comprehending. Some people have argued that this is a result of the lack of purpose and meaning assigned to the life stage of adolescence in Western society. Adolescents are no longer children and aren’t yet adults, existing in a liminal zone of frustration and confusion about why they even exist. There’s nothing to do but emulate and wait, enduring a keen feeling of powerlessness and depersonalization wrought by a materialistic and power-obsessed culture. Cruelty, then, becomes a form of power for people who feel like they’ve been excluded from control over their lives.

Nothing novel there. But there was something peculiar about the social and cultural tenor of Southern California in particular that exacerbated this already noxious reality, and it seems to have metastasized to the entirety of the culture in recent years. When I grew up in Southern California, it was palpably uncool to have feelings of any kind. You didn’t respond to cruelty with tears. You didn’t respond to a reciprocated crush with honest excitement. You maintained the empty, dead demeanor of a sociopath lest you be vulnerable to the terrifying emotional possibilities around every corner. It was also extremely uncool to be intelligent, emotionally or otherwise. You forgot highfalutin words on purpose to prevent the idiot arbiters of coolness from descending upon you with their brutishly stupid rebukes. Everyone was smoothly empty and dull on the surface, their interiority completely invisible if not totally excised.

I think it took me an entire decade to recover. It’s been long enough now that I can afford to reflect on some of it in public, if only for the sake of other women and girls who might need to relate. What I’m about to recount didn’t occur in a trailer park. It wasn’t aberrant. We weren’t “the bad kids.” (Harmony Korine — retch — and Larry Clark were onto something bigger than they realized). This is not an extreme example, but rather the everyday reality that adolescent girls endure in this society until they either die emotionally, actually kill themselves, or rediscover the last glimmer of humanity inside themselves in time to escape and resist.

Sometime near the middle of my sophomore year in high school, I lost the only form of protection teenage girls have from the predations of teenage boys: my boyfriend. Well, I didn’t “lose” him; he decided to sleep with one of my friends while he was watching my parents’ house while we were on vacation. Being only fifteen, I handled it poorly, which means I partied a lot and was susceptible to predatory male attention because having been cheated on had made me doubt my self-worth. Some guy I had had a mild crush on in junior high started paying attention to me. Let’s call him Jack Phillips. At one of many Mickey’s-soaked house parties I attended that winter, I had three too many Hornets and blacked out, only to learn later that Phillips had intercourse with me.

I only discovered this had occurred because it immediately became the talk of the town. Another piece of evidence that something untoward had happened: while hanging out at my best friend’s house playing Toejam and Earl, I discovered a photo of myself and that best friend in which I had been rendered invisible under the etched letters “fuken hor.” I asked him who had done it, and he told me Phillips had, then asked me why I hung out with him. I didn’t know. I was too young to understand the mechanisms at work in my poor decision-making, and I was certainly not emotionally sophisticated enough to shrug it off and recognize Phillips as a psychopath (and an idiot). I mean, I did shrug it off — because that was a social requirement — but I internalized the message in the etching and the idea that Phillips’s stupidity and warped psyche and sexuality were somehow something for me to be ashamed of.

Shortly thereafter, I found myself at yet another party with Phillips. He suggested we drive up to some remote area where teenagers went to party unmolested by parents or cops. I was drunk, I desperately needed to misunderstand the obvious meaning of his treatment of me, and my naivete/denial told me the invitation meant he actually did like me but didn’t know how to express it (dear god, everyone, STOP telling young girls that boys’ abuse is a sign of a crush). We went. He demanded I have sex with him, threatening to leave me at the top of the mountain we had driven up if I didn’t. It was 1993. There were no cell phones. I certainly wasn’t going to knock at the gate of one of the “estates” up there and ask to call my parents to come pick me up, so I started walking downhill. He pulled alongside me and apologized, and I got in the car and let him drunk-drive me home.

That would have been the end of our interactions were it not for the fact that he continued to call me constantly. One night, a friend I’ll call Sarah was spending the night at my house. She had just moved to the area from Utah, which rendered her woefully ill-prepared for the viciousness of a social environment informed more by Sublime lyrics than human decency. She was impressionable and eager to fit in, and for some reason found my interactions with Phillips fascinating. He called while we were sitting in my bedroom drinking yet more Mickey’s (I still can’t explain what I was doing drinking the official fine malt liquor of House of Pain so often; maybe we were white trash) and she told me to invite him over. I did so reluctantly, knowing no good would come of it, and none did.

They ended up having sex in front of me, these two inebriated children with no inkling of the social or emotional consequences of their actions beyond the immediate moment. I didn’t consider it socially acceptable to have obvious feelings about it, so I got up and wandered out into the house so as not to be forced to watch and listen, wandering back in to find Sarah crying after Phillips had climbed back out the window he had climbed in to drive drunk to his next destination. We went to sleep hugging each other, both engulfed in a confused fog of shame and fear.

The next day, she was an absolute mess. Shortly after she went home, she attempted to kill herself by taking upwards of 100 ibuprofen. Her mother called my parents to ask what had happened and they were astounded, having slept through the pointless drunken destruction that had occurred a mere 75 feet from their bedroom door. They naturally demanded that I tell them what went on, but I refused out of shame and some sense of obligation to protect Sarah from the intervention of adults I was sure could not possibly understand what she (or I) was going through. It netted me a month without a phone or a social life outside of school, which was probably for the best.

You know who wasn’t engulfed in shame, fear, parental punishment, and social opprobrium? Phillips. He was at a party the following weekend bragging that Sarah had tried to kill herself because she had had sex with him. In other words, this teenage kid was celebrating the fact that he had enough power to ruin someone’s life by having sex with them.

Men — adolescent ones especially — are so incapable of self-reflection that they can consider a woman defiled, ruined, permanently tainted by having come into contact with their dicks without thinking about what that says about them. He wasn’t ashamed of anything from what anyone could tell. He wasn’t shunned from any social circle, no one bothered to interrupt him to tell him there might be something wrong with what he was saying and doing, and he presumably continued to do it for all I know. He suffered zero social consequences for multiple instances of what today is considered sexual assault and for taking advantage of someone’s natural human need to be liked to the extent that she wanted to die.

Oddly enough (wink wink), people had plenty to say about me and about Sarah and our decisions. It disrupted our lives to the extent that we were prevented from thinking about literally anything else for months. I’m frankly shocked, given how poorly-developed our coping skills and emotional intelligence were at that age, and given the systemic psychological sickness of our social environment, that we didn’t both end up actually killing ourselves.

This incident was maybe a four on the “most fucked up things that happened between the time I grew boobs and turned 22” scale. It was part of what made me a mistrustful, angry jerk by the time I was 16, which didn’t help protect me as much as it led me further away from my true nature. And it was just one small speck of dust in a vast and dark universe of adolescent depravity.

Things are not better for young women today than they were in the 90s, they are exponentially worse. Internet porn, the vicious recent backlash against feminism, the death of the counterculture messages that used to compete with the materialistic and emotionally violent messages of popular media, and the rise of intrusive and inescapable social media have left young women in a much more emotionally precarious position than I ever found myself in, which beleaguers the imagination.

Which brings me back to my main point: I’m not surprised that suicide is on the rise among an ever-younger demographic. Just days before Rosalie Avila did so, a ten-year-old girl hanged herself after being bullied. Months before, an eight-year-old boy did the exact same thing for the exact same reason.

A week doesn’t go by that I don’t hear about an adolescent girl committing suicide after being coerced into sending revealing photographs to some porn-conditioned teenage boy (or some adult predator) who immediately turns around and shares them with all his friends at a minimum, and often with the whole world via social media and revenge porn sites. It’s downright pedestrian these days to read about a teenage girl being gang raped at some party, only to find out later that her assailants have recorded and shared images of her humiliation with everyone they know. The social consequences then fall squarely on her while the rapists get high-fived by their boys.

Teenage society, the law, and even the media have a never-ending supply of opprobrium for these girls, but there is somehow never enough left over for the boys and men who take advantage of them.

Anti-bullying campaigns are not an indication that things are getting better; they’re a begrudging recognition of the enormity of the problem of psychological and physical abuse against and among children and adolescents. The search for the root cause of this epidemic bears no fruit because those doing the searching don’t want to find the answer. Each “investigation” of adolescent suicide comes to the same conclusion: social media is beyond adult control and makes it easier for bullies to target victims.

It’s a facile explanation that allows everyone to shrug and move on without asking why the culture is becoming crueler, meaner, more atomized (and what role social media is playing in that process). It allows the parents of shitty little people to evade the examination of their own behavior and parenting practices. It offers nothing in the way of a solution for the millions of girls (and boys) in America who suffer from depression, anxiety, and PTSD as a result of the way they’re treated by a growing number of underage sociopaths. And it completely elides the role of the perpetrators and a culture that foments and rewards cruelty, and then conveniently overlooks or excuses the behavioral excesses it inculcates.

It isn’t like we don’t know how these kids will turn out. It isn’t like we don’t know how the cycle of abuse works. I wonder how much more filthy laundry will have to be aired before the focus ends up where it belongs: on the perpetrators and the sociopolitical/economic systems that create them.

An (((Asshole Feminist’s))) Guide to the Alt-Right: Part 1

kek

We were seeing the attempt of a handful of pathetically unequipped children to create a community in a social vacuum. Once we had seen these children, we could no longer overlook the vacuum, no longer pretend that the society’s atomization could be reversed. This was not a traditional generational rebellion. At some point between 1945 and 1967 we had somehow neglected to tell these children the rules of the game we happened to be playing. Maybe we had stopped believing in the rules ourselves, maybe we were having a failure of nerve about the game. Maybe there were just too few people around to do the telling. These were children who grew up cut loose from the web of cousins and great-aunts and family doctors and lifelong neighbors who had traditionally suggested and enforced the society’s values. They are children who have moved around a lot, San Jose, Chula Vista, here. They are less in rebellion against the society than ignorant of it, able only to feed back certain of its most publicized self-doubts, Vietnam, Saran-Wrap, diet pills, the Bomb.

— Joan Didion “Slouching Toward Bethlehem,” 1967

People are still flailing around trying to understand “how this happened.” How did the US elect a (rich) bowling league captain from Dayton into the most powerful political post on Earth? As usually occurs when they don’t get their way, liberals have decided that rural working class whites have been duped into voting against their own interests. The only problem with that explanation is that economically insecure rural white people only account for 17% of the electorate.

What actually occurred belies that explanation: every honky in the United States who wasn’t actively campaigning for Clinton and Tim Kaine voted for Trump, many Bernie Sanders supporters included. The DNC and the average urban leftist have done little to counter the image the right and the alt-right have created of the derisive Democratic elitist who spends half their time blaming rural whites for all of the country’s ills and the other half shopping for faux-folksy luxury goods while completely ignoring the realities of the people whose lives they’re romanticizing. That’s a level of full-of-shit that very few people can stomach, much less identify with.

But that isn’t enough to explain why so many white people of every social class and age decided to overlook or — in most cases — embrace the racism, misogyny, and xenophobia of the MAGA crowd. Bernie Bros and the actual left argue that this was a vote against neoliberalism; how many people you know know what the fuck neoliberalism is? How many people you know give a fuck about neoliberalism? (Say that like Steve Harvey.)

They also argue that this vote was a reaction to Obama’s failure to address the root causes of the economic crisis of 2008/9. Uh huh. I mean, he did fail to do so, but no one who voted for Trump could tell you what the root causes of that crash were or who Obama kept around despite their obvious complicity in the crash. Further, the idea that a billionaire would step in and break the bond between Wall Street and Washington, DC is too absurd even for a Trump supporter to take seriously.

Then there’s the theory that people were tired of the status quo and chose Trump because he was an outsider once Bernie Sanders lost the primary. That part may be true, but not in the way it’s usually presented. It isn’t as if Joe Six Pack is sitting in the Oval Office right now. A rich, old, white man is not capable of being an outsider in an old, rich, white man’s FUBU system. The only thing that makes Trump an outsider is his willingness to make brazenly racist and sexist comments in public. (Oh, that and the fact that he’s probably mentally disabled. But that criterion would make Ronald Reagan an outsider in US political culture, so nah.)

No one is confused about why old white men voted for Trump. The world is changing, their position at the zenith of the social hierarchy seems imperiled, women and people of color are getting WAY too uppity, and they weren’t about to see a woman take the place of a black guy in the White House. (If you’d like to learn which variant of Stockholm Syndrome drove old white women to vote for someone who openly admitted to sexual harassment and assault, read Right-Wing Women by Andrea Dworkin; I don’t have time to get into that here.)

But, again, old white people couldn’t have done this by themselves. The DNC was so sure it had a lock on the youth vote that no one bothered to pay attention to what young people are even up to these days. And that’s what we’re here to discuss.

I’ll begin with a few caveats. First, I’m not a beta cuck, so I don’t spend 27 hours a day consuming media. That means that I’m not familiar with every layer of the inside jokes on 4chan, YouTube, and Reddit, so please forgive any minor gaffes I may make by dint of not being a complete dork.

Second, I’m not a millennial. I was born at the tail end of Generation X (thank Christ), which means the Internet and POV video games have only existed for half of my life. I had complex thoughts and experiences before the rise of interactive, neurologically manipulative media platforms, unlike people born, say, ten years after me. Who cares, right? Well, the world mistakenly believes millennials hold a patent on “irony” in the sense that the term is currently used, which is incorrect. Gen X counterculture in the early 90s created that phenomenon. Irony, as it developed in the 90s, consisted of making an ass of oneself on purpose in order to take away the power of materialistic, authoritarian bullies. It worked. That being said, it has gotten away from us and has morphed into the opposite of itself; rather than poking holes in conformity and undermining philosophically empty modes of living, it has been taken up by people who are missing the fundamental understanding of its usefulness. In other words, one of our most effective weapons against political and cultural authoritarianism now serves to further them both, whether on purpose or as a result of the clueless nihilism of those who deploy it (more on that later).

Third, I’m not a liberal. What used to be the party of Mr. Rogers types has become a competitive credulity and self-effacement league that is so repellent to anyone with any common sense or self-respect that I’m surprised there are any members left. Remember, shortly after the election, when Colin Jost joked on Saturday Night Live that Tinder now offered users 37 gender options and that the program was called “Why Democrats lost the election”? Well, that was fucking funny because it’s true. At some point, Democrats are going to have to confront the reality that ideologically and legally dicey propositions such as subjective self-reporting on gender identity are going to drive even diehard liberals out of the tent. I mean, really, who can tolerate listening to some North Face prick make hackneyed, obvious jokes about the stupidity of American Christians he’s completely unfamiliar with and then — in the next breath — demand that everyone show respect to Islam? The Democrats are literally playing themselves and feeding ammo to the alt-right like it’s their raison d’être. Any party that operates on game theory without any cognizance of the aims of the players is bound to lose.

With that shit out of the way, let’s get to lumping people into broad and blunt categories. Everyone’s favorite gay, half-Jewish, Supreme-sponsored misogynist, Milo Yiannopoulos (who would be a misceginator if he weren’t gay), in his “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right” divided the alt-right into “Intellectuals,” “Natural Conservatives,” “The Meme Team,” and “1488ers.” I’m going to largely ignore most of these people for a few reasons.

“Natural Conservatives” and “1488ers” are nothing new. Radical-right white separatists have been around for decades, as have the wide array of non-ironic neo-Nazi organizations everyone is pretending just emerged onto the political scene. No one in, say, North Idaho is surprised at the disillusionment of white separatists with the pro-immigration stance of a Republican party that exists to serve the interests of corporations who need immigrants to suppress wages. The only new development in the world of earnest far-right white separatists/supremacists is that they’ve been given the signal that it’s OK to make a scene of themselves in public again for the first time since the 80s.

Milo’s “Intellectuals” don’t really merit the label, either. Steve Bannon may be a wet-brain alcoholic, but he isn’t stupid. Nor was Andrew Breitbart. But their attempt to coat extremely stupid far-right ideas with a veneer of intellectualism wasn’t working when I wrote about it a few years ago:

I wouldn’t know who Breitbart was had I not seen Dylan Ratigan interview him — and even then I could scarcely pay attention because I lost the ability to be amused by conservative commentators years ago — but apparently he makes the claim that objectivity is a falsehood propagated by the “liberal media” in order to cloak its agenda in an air of factual empiricism, when in reality they approach current events with just as much bias as Rush Limbaugh or any other right-wing demagogue. The debate over whether there is such a thing as a “liberal media” is beyond hackneyed and boring at this point, but it is rather amusing to hear a conservative public “intellectual” question the existence of true objectivity. It sounds oddly reminiscent of, oh, I don’t know, let’s say post-modern liberal academics. That isn’t an accident…[It’s] a new trend among conservative commentators, which is to jettison the Glenn Beck-esque hysteria that has characterized conservative media since Obama’s election and replace it with a faux-intellectualism that will allow even the borderline-illiterate to feel like top shelf political analysts.

And it isn’t working now, either. No actual intellectual is buying into the biological essentialism of the Bell Curve crowd or the theories of female inferiority that emerge from the “manosphere.” These arguments may be compelling to those who have never read anything longer than a Tumblr post, but there really isn’t an intellectual arm of the alt-right that has been anointed as such by anyone but themselves.

That leaves “The Meme Team.” If you ask me, they’re the only sub-group in Milo’s taxonomy that warrant examination, since they’re the ones the DNC are so thirsty for (never mind the GOP, who rightfully fear the alt-right that appears dangerously nihilistic and incomprehensible to them).

Millennial Men in Contemporary Political Culture

Neither political party has the ability to connect with millennials of any stripe because they’re both run by Baby Boomers and a few sellout Gen Xers who have no idea what life is like for a huge generation emerging into adulthood in a world that offers almost zero hope. Given that millennials are the most babied demographic in US history, it’s no surprise that they’re disillusioned with the reality of their lives when compared to what they had come to expect from the worlds their parents curated for them.

The economy has yet to recover from the 2008/9 financial crisis, and the “job growth” since the crisis consists of part-time positions for little (or no) pay and no benefits or security. Even the privileged millennials who manage to finish college are faced with the choice of defaulting on their student loans and borrowing money from their parents so they can intern for no pay or taking a service-sector job that will prevent them from ever pursuing a career position. Why bother? The ones without rich parents might as well throw in the towel now and start popping oxys.

Male millennials have a unique set of problems. They grew up on violent internet porn, music that celebrates money and fucking, movies and television shows that assured them that they needn’t do anything but sit and wait for a girlfriend to materialize and fulfill all of their bizarre fantasies, and violent video games that taught them to take anything they wanted by any means necessary (and to worship the military, if only for their masculine prowess as portrayed in these fantasy-lands). The world taught them to be lazy and incompetent, then didn’t deliver on the promise that being lazy and incompetent is no barrier to achievement. They also have no idea what’s going on, having fallen victim to the decades-long Republican offensive against public education, and have no social skills because they’ve lived their entire lives being coddled by their parents and interactive media designed to flatter their unwarranted arrogance. Given the growing gender achievement gap, it’s not surprising that young women are choosing to stay single rather than hitch their wagon to some entitled loser.

That leaves young men with two options: become a manipulative, faux-feminist, hipster fuckboy in order to use and abuse women, or — if they’re not handsome or “cool” enough to do that — retreat further from the hopelessness of reality and into the weird, stupid, dark circles of internet culture. It’s no surprise, then, that the “Meme Team” turns to “irony” and anonymous bullying to soothe their bruised egos. Young men have nothing to lose, nothing to hope for, and no ethical reference points. That’s a recipe for pointless chaos.

No one knows for sure what percentage of dudes in their 20s sincerely believe in the alt-right platform of white male supremacy, Libertarianism, and isolationism. No one knows what percentage of them promoted and voted for Trump and his looney message for the lulz. No one knows what percentage of them supported Bernie Sanders and then gave up and became nihilists when he didn’t magically turn the US into Denmark. No one knows what percentage of them place the entirety of the blame for the sorry state of their lives on women and/or feminism (though that’s likely upwards of 80%).

Millennial alt-right internet culture is amorphous and atomized, but the thread that seems to tie everything together is anti-feminism, mistaken self-perceived intellectual superiority, and trolling both for its own sake and as a protective measure for the ego. Oh, and the fact that every single one of these guys is a complete fucking dork. Let’s break it down a little, but keep in mind that there is massive overlap between all of the categories below.

Asshole Atheists

Dear lord, fucking atheists. Is there anything more irritating than a newly-minted atheist basking in the glow of self-satisfaction of having arrived at a conclusion most of us reached before junior high? Self-proclaimed inheritors of the virtues of logic, facts, and objectivity who display none of the above in their arguments, online atheists overlap so hard with incels and internet racists that I doubt there’s one dude out there who is one and not all three.

As Alex Nichols points out, atheism was annoying enough when deployed in response to the evangelical turn during the Bush years, but once intelligent design faded from the political scene, the genius brigade turned their jaundiced eyes on women and feminism:

New Atheism and the Gamergate movement of 2014—which sicced vicious online mobs on female journalists and game designers based on spurious allegations of media corruption—overlapped in several ways. They were both male-dominated, the latter almost exclusively so, and they both festered on nerd-oriented internet forums. Both movements resented women and minorities who asserted themselves within those spaces, ostensibly because it provided an unimportant distraction from their respective goals of destroying religion and uncritically consuming entertainment products. The difference, though, was that Gamergate had no basis in reality. The central allegation of that controversy, that a developer slept with a Kotaku writer in order to secure a positive review of her game, was blatantly untrue. No such review existed, which posed a problem for anyone who viewed himself as the protagonist in a battle “vs. FEMINISM.” In order to continue this all-out war on feminists—the curious replacement creationists for a new decade that lacked for them—these New-New Atheists had to break with reality altogether…

The only surprising thing about this marriage of convenience between the most irritating rhetorical style and the dumbest possible ideology is that it took so long to come about. Whatever merits anti-theism may have with regard to social issues, humanism was never the prime mover for New Atheism’s most devout adherents. They were after the burst of dopamine that comes from feeling smarter than other people, from exercising some pathetic simulacrum of masculine power, from seeing someone else feel bad and knowing they were responsible. Strangely enough, this is also the goal of modern right-wing politics. Just as conservatives discovered they could skip straight to the “angry liberal” portion of the argument by electing Donald Trump, the worst New Atheists discovered they didn’t need atheism at all. They could be just as insufferable alone, on Youtube, spitting nonsense into the vacuum.

There’s no telling whether these fools believe their arguments hold water, but at least some of them have to. Otherwise, I’d be forced to believe they’ve all got unlimited time on their hands and don’t mind wasting it on making YouTube videos from their filthy bedrooms affecting aggressive sincerity just to see how much of other people’s time they can waste.

Ironic” Racists, Anti-semites, Misogynists, and Homophobes

Milo, though he’s disingenuously sanguine about the real motives of the “Meme Team,” makes a point:

Millennials aren’t old enough to remember the Second World War or the horrors of the Holocaust. They are barely old enough to remember Rwanda or 9/11. Racism, for them, is a monster under the bed, a story told by their parents to frighten them into being good little children.

As with Father Christmas, Millennials have trouble believing it’s actually real. They’ve never actually seen it for themselves — and they don’t believe that the memes they post on /pol/ are actually racist. In fact, they know they’re not — they do it because it gets a reaction. Barely a month passes without a long feature in a new media outlet about the rampant sexism, racism or homophobia of online image boards. For regular posters at these boards, that’s mission accomplished.

Another, more palatable, interpretation of these memes is that they are clearly racist, but that there is very little sincerity behind them.

There’s no real way to determine how many of the dipshits who spout racist nonsense online and at poorly-attended rallies are sincere believers in the “ideas” they spread, which is part of the reason most of them choose the forums they do. Maybe they’re just excited at the prospect of saying “nigger” and “faggot” in their little safe spaces under the cover of a handle. Some of them have consoled themselves with the ludicrous idea that their incel-dom can be blamed on the fact that women are out misceginating with black guys instead of staying true to their race. Some of them may even be stupid enough to have been convinced of their genetic superiority by the likes of ol’ Gavin McInnes and his Proud Boys, who hold that straight white men created everything of value in the world (though that could just be McInnes duping them into helping him salvage his career by trolling the public on a hot-button topic).

Oh, where would we be without the Mountain Dew-swilling creators of all that is civilized and worthy! Sorry, not Mountain Dew, milk. That’s right. White men are meeting up in New York City of all places to chug milk together in some kind of fucking dairy-based Fight Club to demonstrate their ability to tolerate lactose. Which, of course, proves that white people are the best people. Or that they’re just bad comedians.

I’ve seen my share of racist, sexist, and homophobic memes, believe you me. Most of the content has to be a joke, however poorly-conceived. How can anti-semitism explode in a time and place when no one can name a Jew other than Jon Stewart? Still, what the fuck is to be gained from pretending to be a racist, homophobe, anti-semite, or misogynist other than the opportunity to flex one’s waning white male privilege in a forum in which no one is around to kick your ass?

Incels and Their Svengalis

In case you’re unaware, “incel” is a portmanteau of “involuntarily celibate.” These guys are NOT kidding. One really wants to feel sorry for incels, but they’re so repugnant that it just isn’t possible. Elliot Rodger was the quintessential incel, and I hate rewriting something I’ve already written, so here’s what I have to say about that:

The culture tells all men that they are owed access to women’s bodies and energy. Sitcoms feature attractive women married to and putting up with mountains of bullshit from blundering schlubs. Movies hammer the idea into boys’ minds that young, hot women, though they may resist at first, will eventually fall into the laps of lazy, misogynistic, overgrown infants like those played by Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill. Porn tells young boys with no other knowledge of sex that women are filthy pigs who just love being gangbanged and ejaculated on by abusive, sneering monsters.

I don’t know why girls rejected Elliot Rodger when he entered adolescence, or whether they even did. There seemed to have been a window in junior high — before he started consuming porn — when that was not the case. He might have been a little awkward, he may have lacked social skills, but it appears that his obsessive sense of entitlement to what he believed other boys enjoyed (whether that was the case or not) took over, coloring all of his interactions and probably preempting any chance he had at relating to girls. He was consumed by the foolish belief that porn and bullshit adolescent male bragging were reality for everyone but him. Once that set in, his anger and desperation probably became palpable in social situations to the point that women — who learn from a young age how to spot signs of danger in male behavior — steered clear.

Without any real contact with women, for Rodger, they became cartoon characters, aliens, beasts, non-human. They were an enemy to be vanquished, a prize to be collected for the achievement of having been born male, the source of all of his frustrated expectations. He absorbed those messages wholesale from mass media culture. Rodger’s memoir reads like a catalog of his consumption of popular media, from Pokemon through World of Warcraft through Halo 2, from Star Wars to the Lord of the Rings trilogy to Game of Thrones, to internet pornography, to MRA discussion forums populated by legions of men railing against women for not fulfilling the fantasies instilled in them by that same media culture.

They’re pathetically off-track and have no chance of solving what they perceive to be the biggest problem in their lives: lack of sex. They spend their days jacking off to internet porn, cultivating anime philias, pining for the day they’ll be able to afford their very own robotic sex doll, and spewing misogyny all over the internet. They’ve become a target market for pick-up artist charlatans like Roosh V who purport to teach men the secrets to transforming themselves from beta cucks into alpha pussy magnets by neg-ing and otherwise manipulating women into getting naked. Once that inevitably fails, they swarm to 4chan, YouTube, and Reddit to air their rape, murder, and necrophilia fantasies.

freemarket

Kekistani Kaos

Old white people don’t know what to make of this goofy cartoon frog in a MAGA hat, even though he helped elect their boy president. Pepe, described here by Dale Beran (who is way too diplomatic in his description), stands in for the cesspool of losers who made him famous:

Viewed through the lens of the people first posting him, Pepe makes nothing but sense. The original comic panels from which Pepe is excerpted feature him getting caught peeing with his pants pulled all the way down, his ass hanging out. Surprisingly, he is unashamed of this, “feels good man” he tells his roommate.

The grotesque, frowning, sleepy eyed, out of shape, swamp dweller, peeing with his pants pulled down because-it-feels-good-man frog is an ideology, one which steers into the skid of its own patheticness. Pepe symbolizes embracing your loserdom, owning it. That is to say, it is what all the millions of forum-goers of 4chan met to commune about. It is, in other words, a value system, one reveling in deplorableness and being pridefully dispossessed. It is a culture of hopelessness, of knowing “the system is rigged”. But instead of fight the response is flight, knowing you’re trapped in your circumstances is cause to celebrate. For these young men, voting Trump is not a solution, but a new spiteful prank.

This would be sort of funny if it weren’t for the utterly aimless and stupid chaos it has wrought:

At some point, someone at 4chan happened to seize on a coincidence: There was, in fact, an Egyptian god named Kek. An androgynous god who could take either male or female form, Kek originally was depicted in female form as possessing the head of a frog or a cat and a serpent when male; but during the Greco-Roman period, the male form was depicted as a frog-headed man.

More importantly, Kek was portrayed as a bringer of chaos and darkness, which happened to fit perfectly with the alt-right’s self-image as being primarily devoted to destroying the existing world order.

In the fertile imaginations at play on 4chan’s image boards and other alt-right gathering spaces, this coincidence took on a life of its own, leading to wide-ranging speculation that Pepe – who, by then, had not only become closely associated with the alt-right, but also with the candidacy of Donald Trump – was actually the living embodiment of Kek. And so the Cult of Kek was born.

Millennial male nihilism and dishonest, self-serving “irony” have managed to cohere into an Egyptian frog cult with origins in an arcane joke from a video game, the invention of a fake ancient civilization (Kekistan), and a goddamned FLAG based on the Nazi banner that these idiots wear in public as a cape. These people actually think this is funny, that this demonstrates their superior intellect, that trolling the world by inventing a cult and playing dress-up will result in anything other than further isolating them from everyone but other edgelords/shitlords. Or maybe they don’t. Who knows?

Remember when we were all making fun of LARPers? They control the political culture for the foreseeable future and have no discernible goals other than punishing women for not putting out and fomenting further dorkery and chaos, no matter what the cost. We got caught slippin’ big time.

Elliot Rodger and the Pandemic of Masculinity

I read Elliot Rodger’s manifesto yesterday. It was, without a doubt, the least surprising document I’ve ever read. It wasn’t hard to follow; it wasn’t bizarre; it wasn’t a collection of the meanderings of a mind that had lost touch with reality. Instead, it was boring, trite, obvious, and exactly what I expected it to be: a rant by a spoiled brat with an overweening sense of entitlement. To women, to sex, to wealth, to attention and adoration. Frankly, I suspected at times that it was written by a Marxist feminist satirizing privileged male entitlement in general and MRAs in particular.

Elliot Rodger wasn’t Holden Caulfield, he was a bratty little asshole who assumed he was somehow superior to everyone else and thus deserved rewards simply for existing. The rage that he felt wasn’t caused by the cruelty of others, but by his own unreasonable expectations, expectations shared by the majority of men. He may have been less equipped to deal with frustration than the average person, but his reaction to that frustration shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been paying attention to the directions the culture has been taking over the course of the last decade or so.

About that manifesto. I’d call it a memoir of a cult member rather than a manifesto, since it doesn’t contain an idea of any kind. Rodger spends 141 pages narcissistically recounting every detail of his privileged childhood, describing in excruciatingly boring detail each family trip to some “exotic” locale or other, each luxurious Japanese dinner, each wasteful birthday celebration, each time he and his family attended a media industry event as someone else’s plus-one. Save a few bits of ham-fisted foreshadowing, the story up until Rodger hits puberty reads like the autobiography of every kid I went to elementary school with in Southern California: upper middle class parents who have no interest in raising a child but plenty of money and help doing so raise a kid with a profound sense of both entitlement and abandonment. His family clearly had just enough money and social status to gain entry to the outer circles of extreme privilege, and to afford Rodger a glimpse of what could be his if only he were fabulously, disgustingly wealthy instead of just comfortable in the extreme.

In fact, the story Rodger tells of his life after puberty reads like a tale of the rude awakening to the fact that his parents were not that rich after all. He makes repeated reference to puberty as the mainspring of his disillusionment with life and humanity, as the catalyst to his confrontation with the cruel realities of the world, but he is clearly projecting a concept he has adopted from the Men’s Rights Movement and from the Pick-Up Artist (PUA) scene onto his own adolescent understanding of the world, while his recounting of his own memories illustrates a gradual realization that he was not, after all, a member of the Hollywood gentry.

Is it just me, or are there more cult-ish movements around these days than there were a few years ago? Rodger makes mention of his attempt to follow the advice contained in Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, a book that encourages readers to think they are multi-millionaires to whom life’s rewards flow unremittingly and without effort, which will result in them actually becoming one-per-centers. Though Rodger ultimately dismisses The Secret when putting its methods into practice doesn’t result in his winning the lottery and thus becoming a pussy magnet, the fact that he tried it in the first place, coupled with his wholesale adoption of MRA and PUA theories of how the world works, indicates that he shared something in common with tens of millions of people: the willingness to believe that disappointments and frustrations can be explained by nebulous, ill-fitting, simplistic principles propounded by self-help mountebanks in the pursuit of book and seminar ticket sales.

The culture told Rodger that sex, money, and attention were his birthright. When the system failed to deliver, Rodger flailed around, seeking an explanation. At first, it seemed that he turned his frustration inward and assumed that he was lonely because he was somehow defective. At that point in the narrative, I almost felt sorry for him. We’ve all been bullied, we’ve all questioned our worth as human beings based on the way that others treat us, and we’ve all wondered if life would be better for us if we were somehow constitutionally different than we are. It’s gross. Some of us respond to that kind of fundamental uncertainty about our value by entering into a pattern of self-abuse, some of us begin to question the system of social values that leads to such misery, and some of us fall prey to explanations that place the blame for our unhappiness on the people who reject us. Some of us do all three. But disorder arises when someone like Rodger fails to differentiate between fantasy and reality and never grows out of the expectation that life will turn out like a Bud Light commercial. Or a porn video.

So, what did the culture tell Rodger he could expect from the world? As a privileged child, he was given everything he expressed a desire for, it would appear. Rodger, cared for by a series of nannies, also grew accustomed to being doted on by young women in his childhood years. He grew up on the edges of Hollywood’s elite, a world in which power and wealth command attention and favors from what must look to a child to be an unending parade of young, beautiful women. Once Rodger learned about sex (from porn, naturally), he reached the seemingly obvious conclusion that he was owed sex due to his superior social position.

The culture tells all men that they are owed access to women’s bodies and energy. Sitcoms feature attractive women married to and putting up with mountains of bullshit from blundering schlubs. Movies hammer the idea into boys’ minds that young, hot women, though they may resist at first, will eventually fall into the laps of lazy, misogynistic, overgrown infants like those played by Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill. Porn tells young boys with no other knowledge of sex that women are filthy pigs who just love being gangbanged and ejaculated on by abusive, sneering monsters.

I don’t know why girls rejected Elliot Rodger when he entered adolescence, or whether they even did. There seemed to have been a window in junior high — before he started consuming porn — when that was not the case. He might have been a little awkward, he may have lacked social skills, but it appears that his obsessive sense of entitlement to what he believed other boys enjoyed (whether that was the case or not) took over, coloring all of his interactions and probably preempting any chance he had at relating to girls. He was consumed by the foolish belief that porn and bullshit adolescent male bragging were reality for everyone but him. Once that set in, his anger and desperation probably became palpable in social situations to the point that women — who learn from a young age how to spot signs of danger in male behavior — steered clear.

Without any real contact with women, for Rodger, they became cartoon characters, aliens, beasts, non-human. They were an enemy to be vanquished, a prize to be collected for the achievement of having been born male, the source of all of his frustrated expectations. He absorbed those messages wholesale from mass media culture. Rodger’s memoir reads like a catalog of his consumption of popular media, from Pokemon through World of Warcraft through Halo 2, from Star Wars to the Lord of the Rings trilogy to Game of Thrones, to internet pornography, to MRA discussion forums populated by legions of men railing against women for not fulfilling the fantasies instilled in them by that same media culture.

Several feminist bloggers have made the argument that writing Rodger off as mentally ill takes the focus off of systemic misogyny and allows a worldwide epidemic of woman-hating and gynophobic violence to go unexamined. They aren’t wrong. But Rodger was mentally ill. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning.

By that definition, Rodger was certainly mentally ill, and so are most men. What set Rodger apart was his willingness to participate directly in violence against women as women in order to punish them for refusing to provide him with the sex he felt entitled to, rather than simply doing so by proxy via the consumption of violent and degrading porn and other products of a capitalo-misogynistic society. The existence of masculinity requires that men be unable to relate to women, as masculinity and femininity are the institutions upon which male supremacy rests. A man who is capable of relating to women — who does not suffer from the mental illness known as masculinity — is incapable of abusing them, either in person or by proxy.

An Open Letter to Bang-on Custom T-Shirts

Dear Head Canadian T-shirt Bro (or, President and/or CEO of Bang-on Custom T-Shirts Ltd.) Craig Doyle,

I’m not sure that I expect much from people who are making novelty/faux-vintage t-shirts in 2012, but I felt compelled to write after a recent visit to your Atlanta, Georgia outlet in the carnival of ill-conceived attempts at rebellion known as the Little Five Points neighborhood. While perusing the otherwise banal and innocuous bits of disjointed pop culture detritus that make up the bulk of your t-shirt designs, I found myself facing the back wall of the store, where my eyes came to rest upon a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “I choked Linda Lovelace” in a VH-1-attempts-a-70s-look font.

While I can probably follow the train of thought that deposited your designers into the trough of depraved stupidity from which they dispatched this particular design, I wonder if you or your management team have done likewise. If not, you’re too stupid to run a company. If so, you’re too big of an asshole.

Let me elaborate. It’s likely (nay, it’s nearly impossible that it’s otherwise) that the dude who brought this sartorial satori to the world was just some thoughtless dick who doesn’t think much one way or the other about the porn industry and its effects on women. He’s probably heard of (or seen — retro porn to match one’s retro camera) Deep Throat, is familiar with the subject matter, and figured he’d stumbled upon a way to make an “I have a big dick” t-shirt clever and/or funny. While that’s a worthy pursuit, he’d have been far better off going with one that said “I have a big dick.” Instead, he submitted — and your company produced — a t-shirt that says, “To me, women’s bodies are just dick-measuring instruments in a never-ending contest between supposedly heterosexual men.”

Your design dude (one would hope) was probably not aware that Linda Lovelace was coerced into participating in the production of Deep Throat and several other works of pornography — including a bestiality film — and that Chuck Traynor, her “manager” and husband, beat her, raped her, allowed other men to gang rape her, kept her prisoner, and threatened her life with deadly weapons on several occasions. Whoops! Making a dick joke at the expense of a brutalized woman is a faux-pas all the way, dude.

As embarrassed as you ought to be by this bit of egregiously obtuse insensitivity, it’s only half of the problem. Let’s say — as might most dudes who are invested in believing that women enjoy being sexually abused so half-wit men like those who design your t-shirts can jack off more efficiently — that Lovelace lied about having been raped and actually participated in the making of Deep Throat willingly (despite never having received any compensation for her participation). Deep Throat is a movie about a woman whose clitoris is located in her esophagus, and who therefore seeks out opportunities to fellate men, inserting their penises down her throat to a point that would make anyone on Earth choke and likely puke. Quick, find me a real, live woman with a clitoris in her throat, or even one who reaches orgasm via deep-throating penises. Not one who is paid to pretend so, but an actual woman who has a clitoris in her throat or enjoys the sensation of impending organ damage. If you find the former, I’ll give you a million dollars. If you find the latter, I’ll be shocked, and I’ll show you a woman who has been so psychologically traumatized by men and the porn industry that her body no longer heeds its own instincts. No man believes that such a woman exists. Ergo, men who are excited by the concept or actualization of deep-throating find it arousing despite (or because of) the fact that they know it causes pain and instinctive fear.

Linda Lovelace — even though you’ve probably seen her blow someone on film — was a human being. I know that this is a difficult concept for porn users to grasp, but she had emotions, she had nerve endings that detected pain and bodily damage, she had an esophagus that existed to protect her digestive system from intrusion. Women’s bodies do not exist to be used and abused by men, even if men are willing to pay a lot of money for the privilege. No one wants to be choked, injured, or gagged for the sake of assuaging some narcissistic dunce’s penis anxiety, nor does the absence of a gag reflex indicate that a particular woman was created by the cosmos as a dick receptacle.

The lack of consideration for women’s humanity evinced in a t-shirt that reads “I choked Linda Lovelace” would be shocking if it weren’t so ubiquitous. That we have been so desensitized to the sexual abuse of women by the porn industry and by societal misogyny that people continue to shop at a store that sells a shirt that basically says my human dignity and bodily integrity are less important than the size of your dick ought to worry you enough to make you question your participation in the perpetuation of that idea. If that’s too much to ask, then at least stick to designs with less room for interpretation. Say, “Fuck Art Let’s Dance!” for example. It’s safer that way.

Until then, I’ll encourage as many people as I can to boycott your stores.

Sincerely,

ND

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Nine Deucian Socio-political Theory Part 1

Before I proceed, I would like to announce that the independent coffee shop from which I will dispatch this post sells a “light bodied” coffee called Dirty Nekkid Lady.

A reader by the name of Gaffa moseyed on by here t’other day, shortly after I had published my Dr. Pepper Ten™ post, to inform me that she (I’m assuming Gaffa is a she, since women are the default humans, according to me) feels frustrated and disappointed in my recent choice of post topics:

There’s the law Congress is trying to pass about no longer requiring Catholic hospitals to at least transfer women to another hospital in cases of medical emergencies rather than perform abortions; there’s Scott Brown’s pronouncement on the fuckability of Elizabeth Warren, and there’s the NYPD mace-ing of women who were simply watching the Occupy protest, and all you can bring yourself to blog on lately are Avatar, Diet Dr. Pepper, and Slim Jim ads? Really?

Most people bristle at being told what they should be writing about, but I initially felt like a terrible feminist, probably due mostly to the fact that I haven’t written much in the last few months, but also because at least some of the people who read my blog apparently find what I choose to write about trivial. I have a lot of reasons for not writing as much as I used to and am still working out where this blog as a whole is going and why, but I’m not all that worried about explaining any of that right this second. What I am interested in doing, however, is explaining my choices with regard to post topics, as it appears I haven’t been clear enough in illustrating just why I think stupid movies and shitty commercials are such a BFD. I mustn’t forget that I write this blog in order to build a movement, not to have a radical feminist intellectual circle jerk with people who are already familiar with the theory that underlies my flip phrases (not that I don’t enjoy radical feminist intellectual circle jerks).

As to the suggested alternative topics, I don’t make a habit of writing about US electoral politics — even when politicians prove that they are misogynistic wangs — because US electoral politics is a professional wrestling league designed to distract the public from what genuinely warrants attention and energy (my somewhat recent post on the Anthony Weiner fracas notwithstanding, though that post has as much to do with just how ridiculous a distraction electoral politics is as with my opinion of Weiner and his wiener). I don’t write about abortion all that often because I’ve said all I have to say on the subject and am aware that the right to safe and legal abortion is constantly under siege, and because every liberal feminist blog covers every abortion story that emerges, mostly satisfactorily. And cops macing female protesters, though it is of course fucked up, is the kind of thing Liberal Dude protesters will blog about plenty in an attempt to “get pussy” by pretending to chivalrousness.

This might disappoint Gaffa (and probably several other people), but I will likely continue to do what I have done since the advent of the ‘chine, which is, among other things, write about popular culture (including porn, BDSM, entertainment media, and marketing) and the ways in which it reflects and shapes societal misogyny. I will do so for two reasons. First and least importantly, writing about popular culture affords me the opportunity to entertain myself and (so I hear) a few others. Second, I actually believe popular culture to be chiefly to blame for the continuation of misogyny. The fact that we have gendered diet sodas might appear trivial due to its brazen absurdity, but people are going to buy Dr. Pepper Ten™, billions of people have uncritically absorbed the ridiculous messages Avatar™ managed to communicate, and men are going to eat poisonous sticks made of lips, assholes, and chemicals because they hate everything associated with femininity so much that they’re willing to eat Slim Jims™ when they’re told that Slim Jims™ will save them from faggotry.

It is essential to understand why these chunks of cultural detritus that we, the non-befuddled, rightly identify as absurd manage to influence the behavior of the general public. My view, derived chiefly from my understanding of radical feminist and anti-imperialist theory, is as follows:

In order for a hierarchy to exist, one must be able to identify who belongs to which status group. That is usually accomplished by defining a subordinate group (or groups) in relation to the dominant group. As in, dominant group A claims to exhibit characteristics X, Y, and Z, so subordinate group B is purported to exhibit characteristics L, M, and N, which are usually the opposite of or “complementary” (the language of hierarchy apologists) to characteristics X, Y, and Z. But difference alone doesn’t make a hierarchy, so the (real or purported) characteristics of the subordinated group are devalued in relation to the characteristics of dominant groups and are generally derided. In the case of gender hierarchy, for example, the prevailing ideology is that men are strong, women are weak; men are rational, women are emotional; men are high-minded, women are petty, jealous, and vain, etc. In order for male (or white, or Anglo-American, or upper class) supremacy to continue, the members of the dominant group are taught that they must do everything within their power to distance themselves, by means of whatever markers possible, from the subordinate group. Because women and men within the same social classes interact and, indeed, live in the same households in most cases, boys and men must go to much greater lengths to disassociate themselves from people they exist in such close association with. Hence, boys are inundated from a very young age with lessons on how to avoid what are most likely natural human behaviors (crying, displaying compassion and emotions other than anger, and so on) because such behaviors are deemed “feminine.”

There is a reason that little boys loathe pink while little girls either like or have neutral feelings about blue. There is also a reason that boys put “NO GIRLS ALLOWED” signs on their hideouts while little girls don’t shun boys — and then only do so half-heartedly — until they perceive that boys dislike them and react accordingly.

Coca-Cola™ and Con-Agra Foods ™ (the makers of Dr. Pepper Ten™ and Slim Jim™, respectively) and the ad outfits that work for them don’t likely have a nuanced, lucid, or even conscious understanding of how and why these mechanisms of identity differentiation and hierarchy affirmation work, but they know they exist. And being corporations, which are entities characterized by absolute amorality, they use the tools available to them to attain their only purpose, which is profit. By taking note of men’s perceived need to disassociate themselves from women and the misogyny from whence that perception arises, these corporations both reflect the level of woman hatred that characterizes contemporary American culture and solidify (and, in my view, increase) it.

Next time I find myself here at the Dirty Nekkid Lady-pushing coffee house, I will further infuriate those who want me to stop talking about Dr. Pepper Ten™, Slim Jims™, and stupid movies by using all three to elucidate my theory of emergent neo-masculinity that relies upon the extreme rejection of the survival instinct in excruciatingly verbose detail, and by finding the most ridiculous possible means by which to relate Avatar™, DP10™, and Slim Jims™ to my hypothesis as to the origins of patriarchy itself!

If your kindergartener’s ass isn’t hot enough, Skechers can help.

Ever since the the early 90s when they began pumping out “skate shoes” and those ridiculous high-heeled sneakers, I’ve been wondering who the hell is buying Skechers. They seem to have a storefront in every town in America and an astronomical ad budget, but I can’t remember ever having known anyone who has owned a pair or even seeing anyone wearing them. According to the Wikipedia entry on the company, the CEO founded Skechers after jumping ship on the LA Gear brand, which ought to make a lot of sense to anyone who remembers LA Gear. What makes less sense, however, is the claim that Skechers started out making “skate shoes.” Having grown up in San Diego at the dawn of the skate brand era and surrounded by skateboarders, I can aver that not one skateboarder in town owned a pair of Skechers. In fact, I’m pretty certain that a kid showing up at a skate spot sporting a pair of Skechers might have suffered an ass-kicking, and would at a minimum have had to endure extremely vocal opprobrium. As such, Skechers made a real impression on me as a teenager as yet another dorky brand whose marketing directors were trying to latch onto a sub-culture they had no understanding of and were putting out a product that ended up being nothing but a mark of poseurdom. I know, I’m a dork for having had an opinion about a shoe brand and its relationship to illegitimate claims to skateboarderism, but whatever. I was a teenager with pretensions to punkness and Skechers were the Airborne of shoes.

The company quickly gave up on making skate shoes and moved on to producing a full line of footwear featuring boisterous iridescent accents and marshmallow soles, and I continued to wonder where they were making their money. Was every single person east of I-15 and west of I-95 wearing Skechers unbeknownst to me? I’m still mystified, though I didn’t really care one way or the other about Skechers until the recent launch of their Shape-Ups™ and Tone-Ups™ lines. For those of you who have managed to avoid hearing about Shape-Ups™, they are sneakers that curve up at the heel and toe, thus creating a constant instability that purportedly causes the leg and butt muscles to contract as one walks around. Despite the fact that they don’t work, look ridiculous, and have the potential to cause injury, Skechers has put considerable cash into advertising for the line, including for a Super Bowl ad featuring Kim Kardashian (who the beans is Kim Kardashian and why should I know her name?).

These shoes, apparently, have such a drastic effect on one’s physique that they can replace a personal trainer/boot-knockin’ partner, all for under $100. So Kim Kardashian, despite rumors that she works out several hours a day and only eats calorie-free superfoods imported from Jupiter, in reality just wanders around a mansion in hot pink-accented sneakers. But you don’t have to be a rich, famous (for some fucking reason) sex symbol to benefit from Tone-Ups™. Regular models wear them too.

As annoying as these shoes and their attendant ad spots are, they’re nothing new. “Hey, we know you hate your _____ because we’ve been screaming at you from magazines, billboards, television, movies, and porn since the day you arrived on Earth that you should, but we’ve got the solution! Buy our newest product, and this time it will work and you’ll be a slightly less worthless human being!” At this point, the fuckability industry’s attempts to ensure its ongoing profits at the expense of women’s relationships with themselves and their bodies are so redundant and obvious that many feminists don’t even bother to call attention to them save in particularly egregious cases. These ads, while plenty offensive and retch-inducing, aren’t really all that noteworthy as beauty industry ads go, but there’s more. While watching a little Spongebob last week, I happened to see this ad for Shape-Ups™ for girls:

The laser-like focus on the ass isn’t as prominent in the ad for the girls’ version, but what else is the point of these shoes supposed to be? No one has ever made the claim that they help burn calories in general. Nor are the shoes offered for both girls and boys, despite the fact that all of the kids in the US could use more exercise to counteract the “food” industry’s attempt to turn us all into diabetic corn syrup addicts. The adult model of the shoe is marketed specifically to women, specifically for improving one’s gluteal beauty-mandate adherence, and the girls’ model is no different. Female children want to emulate their adult female role models, and if their adult female role models are concerned with the shape of their asses enough to buy Shape-Ups™, then those girls will get the impression that they ought to do so as well. Why does a female child need a pear-shaped ass? Why should a little girl think about her butt at all? Why would a girl want a gaggle of boys wearing junk food costumes to follow her around and stare at her behind?

The sexualization of female children becomes more audacious at every turn, as do the attempts by the beauty industry to reach into the psyches of ever younger female children and foment a paralyzing sense of inadequacy and worthlessness that can only be partially assuaged by spending money in an endless and fruitless quest for a respite from self-hatred. Please take a minute to contact Skechers and tell them it isn’t cool, that not only do adult women not need to obsess over how hot men think their asses are, but that it’s also disgusting and immoral to sell the idea to female children that they ought to be doing so.