Much of the opposition to wokeness is distorted and ineffective because it avoids the gendered nature of the problem, which also makes fighting it difficult. …
Male vs. female debate:
For all our talk of equality, our culture treats violence, incivility, and aggression towards women much more seriously than the same towards men. This creates a difficult dynamic, in which if a man disagrees strongly with a woman, he has to tread very carefully if he is not to be judged harshly by observers.
I recently watched the full Yale Halloween costume video for the first time. For those who weren’t paying attention or are too young to remember, here’s a summary of what happened. If you haven’t seen the video, it’s worth checking out.
Have a quick look to see it in action
In fiction,… whenever there’s a mob of students coming for a professor there’s always a gender balance. But in the Halloween costume video, you see poor Christakis go through a gauntlet of sobbing women. Occasionally a man makes a comment amplifying what the women leading the charge are saying, but the guys are mostly spectators.
At about 13:40 in the video, after Christakis has made yet another woman cry by his unwillingness to apologize, a tall black sociology student somewhat aggressively gets in his face, and plays the role of white knight (yes yes very funny pun). Then another guy jumps in, looking and sounding less menacing, and says he wants to talk to him about his experiences.
After a minute and a half, Christakis and the first black guy shake hands and hug, after which the professor is told that he should stop smiling. Having established his dominance over the cowering old Greek, the black guy moves on. Christakis then goes on to keep getting yelled at by young women for another 15 minutes before the video ends. …
What makes these cases difficult is that male versus male argumentation just has completely different rules, norms, and expectations than male versus female.
Going back to the Yale video, if one of the men acted like the more hysterical women, at some point he and Christakis would either have had to shake hands, walk away, or come to blows. This is basically what happened, before it even got to that point. A man can’t just yell in another man’s face for 5 or 10 minutes about how he’s hurting his feelings. If a man does behave this way, bystanders are more likely to feel disgusted than join in or play the role of white knight. The man at the receiving end of the abuse is at some point going to have to escalate towards violence, or back down and say something about how this is beneath him. Depending on the situation, observers may assume violence is a distinct possibility, and get between the two sides.
None of these options are available when getting yelled at by a woman. You certainly can’t make an implicit threat of violence. Raising your voice will turn everyone against you, and even walking away can look heartless.
If one man seeks to aggressively silence another through brute force, it naturally creates a certain reaction. If cancellers were more like the tall sociology student they would be less effective. One can think of antifa, which punches people it disagrees with, as a more masculine form of cancel culture, and it’s generally less effective than the more feminine HR class in shaping our politics.
Conservatives can call antifa terrorists, use traditional methods of law enforcement against them, and even coordinate right-wing media attacks against professors who support their ideas. Stories on antifa professors and their outrageous antics have been a staple of outlets like Fox News, which regularly try to get them fired. But men tend to be puzzled by how to handle getting yelled at by women, and most will try to end the conversation as quickly as possible on whatever terms they can get.
Conservative media is much more eager to personalize the enemy when it’s a man who wants to fight than when it’s a woman feeling emotionally vulnerable. There’s nothing noble or heroic, or even much enjoyable, about standing up to such an enemy. When college “snowflakes” are attacked, they’re targeted as young people or liberals, not as women.
Of course, most women do not cry over hurt feelings or scream in men’s faces when they’re angry. Rather, it’s the loudest minority, being able to indulge their passions in ways that men cannot, that drive most of the censorship we see. How many women were behind the Yale Halloween costume controversy that became the center of American intellectual life? Like 10? Imagine at least one crying woman in every board room, newsroom, faculty meeting, and government office, and you can understand the decentralized force that has led us to this point.
A more realistic marketplace of ideas:
While most women don’t go around cancelling people, it’s clear that many do value protecting feelings over free speech. Given these realities, I think we have a few options for how we treat public discourse. The first two are:
- Expect everyone who participates in the marketplace of ideas to abide by male standards, meaning you accept some level of abrasiveness and hurt feelings as the price of entry.
- Expect everyone to abide by female standards, meaning we care less about truth and prioritize the emotional and mental well-being of participants in debates.
Instead of either of these options, I think we’ve stumbled upon a hybrid system, where
- We accept gender double standards, and tolerate more aggression towards men than we do towards women. We also tolerate more hyper-emotionalism from women than men.
Option (2) is what I think most people mean by the feminization of intellectual life, but Option (3) is actually worse, because it also introduces double standards we see everywhere in our culture.
Late night comics make fat jokes about Chris Christie, but not female politicians. Men in public life are just trolled online, while women face “harassment” and “abuse.” Women openly discuss how some idea or another made them cry, while even in liberal spaces, men crying over ideas is generally not accepted. …
I’m often amused when reading stories about “students” or “millennials” crying in class or at work. Whenever I find such a story, I have made a habit of carefully going through it and seeing if the writer mentions the sex of who is doing the crying. I’ve found very few cases of an author doing so. … Obscuring the gender of who is crying appears to be the norm in the mainstream press. …
Society cares for women more, which some women in polics have learned to exploit:
Some evolutionary psychologists argue that we’re naturally hardwired to care about women’s suffering more because “eggs are expensive, sperm is cheap.” … Whether or not the tendency reflects a rule of human nature, it is unquestionably true that the modern West prioritizes female well-being.
There’s a funny Hillary Clinton quote that couldn’t demonstrate the point more clearly: “Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat.” If the gender ratio of COVID were reversed and women were more at risk than men, all we would ever hear about would be the “femdemic.” Even the way we judge fiction reflects our bias towards caring more about harm done towards women. If you include the battle scenes, Game of Thrones probably killed off hundreds of times more male than female characters, yet we had to suffer through an endless number of think pieces on the show having too much violence towards women.
What’s strange about (3) is that we have these rules while we’re supposed to be against gender stereotypes. Chivalry was justified on the grounds that the sexes were different. Liberalism officially believes in equality and sameness, but the implications of that are so absurd and contrary to human nature — treating male and female tears equally — that not even those most committed to the official ideology live by it.
There are “Men’s Rights Activists” who do seek sameness and wish they could get away with things women can, but I don’t think these types are worthy of calling themselves men. …
At the same time, the argument against giving in to more emotional women is that truth is actually pretty important and if feelings get hurt on the way there, too bad. But of course I’d think that. I’m a man, and one at the extreme tail ends of both disagreeableness (high) and neuroticism (low). If I was the type who responded to difficult ideas by “literally shaking,” I could well have a different opinion.
Public discourse as a “male space”:
As long as men and women are treated differently by society, they cannot engage in public debate with each other in a fair and consistent way. And because of human nature, society will always treat men and women differently, as it should. So what should we do?
Given that (3) is so horrible and basically gives a veto to hysterical women over all public policy, we have to choose (1) or (2). I have no doubt that public discourse as a male space works better. That doesn’t mean women are barred from voting or discussing politics. They can participate in the public arena but as soon as they start crying over a Halloween costume or talking about “online abuse,” most people should roll their eyes and understand that someone without the emotional stability to even participate in the marketplace of ideas isn’t going to have the traits necessary to contribute much to it.
I think we were closer to this ideal 20 or 30 years ago, but we’ve moved away from it under the pressure of civil rights law and women becoming more prominent at higher levels of important institutions. This is basically the way we treat men already; a male journalist crying over mean words instantly loses credibility, and rightfully so. The public space should be regularly purging people, and we can’t care if the purges have a disparate impact.
Of course, we’ll never treat the sexes completely equally in political debate, or anywhere else in life. Just as how individuals differ and one might be less rude to a man who is more sensitive, all psychologically normal humans have a natural aversion to treating the sexes the same. There should always be an ideal of prudence or even gentlemanly behavior; the problem is when it co-exists with a fake belief in equality that everyone must pay lip service to but that no one deep down believes in.
Extreme maleness, i.e., violence, is already stigmatized, and we have developed rules, norms and institutions to deal with “Big Man” behavior. These include not only prisons, but anti-bullying campaigns, international laws of war, and the social stigmatization of violence more generally outside of accepted outlets such as sports and military service.
At the same time, society has not yet begun to address the distortive effect female tears have on public life because it’s something relatively new and harder to deal with. Crying during a political debate should be just as stigmatized as throwing a punch, as both make open discourse impossible.
When public discourse operates according to male rules, women become more likely to select out of it. They focus more on career, children, hobbies, and family. This is why leftists have a point when they say that concepts like objectivity and free speech work to favor male voices. But while these concepts provide a male advantage if applied to areas like journalism and academia, we’re all better off when society cares more about truth and less about the emotional well-being of a small and hysterical minority. In other words, a world that valued truth and objectivity over feelings would have fewer female executives, senators, and journalists, but be better for everyone because it would have more economic and technological growth, while not encouraging women’s worst instincts (more female representation in high status careers does not appear to have done much good for women’s mental health). It might have more war too, but, as mentioned already, society has been pretty good at recognizing the harms that come from the excesses of masculinity. We haven’t even begun to think carefully about equivalent pathologies stemming from traits of the other sex.
The idea that the far left has a point when it says that Western institutions are “sexist” was a theme of my review of Jonathan Rauch’s The Constitution of Knowledge. The centrist likes male rules, but doesn’t like the fact that institutions that subscribe to them will be predominately male and offensive and scary to many women. So Rauch pretends that they’re not actually male traits and ends up in effect clinging more closely to the blank slate view of sex differences than most feminists do. …
Imagining a male enemy as a cope:
To a large extent, conservatives wish they were facing a more masculine form of authoritarianism. Men know what to do when other men try to oppress them. They resist and fight back. But who wants to participate in a struggle where women’s tears are what you need to overcome? Men can feel invigorated after a fistfight with another man, even when they lose! Nobody feels that way after arguing with his wife. …
This is what makes effectively fighting wokeness so difficult, especially for the half of the country that actually believes that accepting sex differences is normal and healthy. I’m not sure exactly how you do it, but one has to begin by understanding the problem and being on alert for distractions and false narratives regarding where it comes from.
Sure seems like recent public policy is made by women who are driven more by emotion and hysteria than rationality.
Crying women currently trump everyoone in public debate, because we’ve haven’t learned to deal with it yet. Male violence we can deal with, having had eons of experience.