On White Males and
Hi, I’m a white male.
As evinced by the fact that I am typing this
sentence right now, I am
currently alive, so at least I’m not a dead white male.
But I will die someday, and will permanently
remain a dead white male after that, which will make it professionally
for anyone to assign this essay in school, so please hurry up and read
while I’m still alive.
Now, then: If you
thought that first paragraph was funny, then you are probably either a
male yourself, or you are Camille Paglia.
If you are a white male, please keep reading,
as there are some things I’d
like to discuss with you. If
Camille Paglia, please explain what the hell happened to you, as you
used to be
Since this essay is on
the internet, the fact that you are
reading it additionally strongly suggests that you are not merely a
but, more specifically, are a white male who is on the internet. This being the case, I
will hazard another conclusion: either
you spent this
morning having an imaginary fight with feminists and/or minorities in
shower, or you have not yet taken a shower today.
If the latter, then please understand that I
am not shaming you for not having taken a shower.
I don’t know when you’re reading this. Perhaps it’s Sunday. I would, however, like to
address the whole “imaginary
fight with feminists and/or minorities” thing.
With your permission, I
will commence by asking you three
brief questions. Here
FIRST QUESTION: How
many excellent and logically airtight defenses have you prepared for
that feminists and/or minorities might accuse you of doing and/or thinking?
Take as much time as you
need. Feel free to
make a list. This
list can be arranged alphabetically, or
in order of importance, or can be arranged according to no particular
order. When you are
finished, please move
on to the second question.
SECOND QUESTION: How
many times has an actual feminist and/or minority, whom you are 100%
were not imagining, actually accused you of any of these things in real
life? Be advised
that, for the purposes of
this survey, nightmares do not count as real life.
Be additionally advised that an accusation
about a book, movie, or video game that you like does not count as an
accusation about you, as you yourself are not a book, movie, or video
Again, take as much time
as you need, either to be sure that
you are exhaustively listing any and all such incidents or, possibly,
and think of any. When
you are finished
doing either or both of these things, please move on to the third
THIRD QUESTION: What
do you get when you divide the number from the first question by the
from the second question?
If the answer you got was
1 or ~1, then congratulations, you
are spending an appropriate amount of time coming up with logically
defenses against accusations of sexism and racism.
If the answer you got was considerably
then you may be devoting a somewhat irrational amount of time to coming
logically airtight defenses against accusations of sexism and racism. If the answer you got was
“undefined,” then there
is a very
interesting explanation for why this is, but it is long, so
this essay first, and also you are devoting a ludicrously irrational
time to coming up with logically airtight defenses against accusations
sexism and racism. If
the answer you got
was <1, then you are lying.
you got no answer because you were confused by the directions, then
white males are good at math. It
to keep saying Asians are good at math, as long as you are very clear
fact that this is cultural rather than genetic, and as long as you
include Mongolians, since the thing that they’re good at is shooting
deadly precision while riding a horse at full gallop, not math. Fine, I guess you could
call this a type of
applied math, but you don’t really have to be “good at math” in the
sense to do it. This
concludes the quiz
portion of this essay. I
know I called
it a survey before, but that was because “survey” sounded funnier that
“quiz” sounded funnier this time.
Anyway, I’m pretty sure
white males didn’t used to do
this. I haven’t
seen every episode of Mad Men, but
if there were one where Don
Draper stared off into space for a long time and then suddenly punched
while mumbling something under his breath about fallacies, someone
One possible explanation
for why we spend more time (i.e.,
all of it) doing this now than we used to (i.e., none), of course, is
being “attacked” now, so we have to.
I don’t think that’s it. After
just asked you to list all the times you had ever actually been
these lines, and you couldn’t come up with any.
If you’re about to protest that you did come
up with some, then you must
have skipped the part where I explicitly specified that someone
video game doesn’t count as a personal attack on you, even if the thing
the game that they don’t like has something to do with men. By way of analogy, I have
that Atari E.T. game at regular
intervals since 1983 because the whole thing consisted of falling into
not being able to get out, but this doesn’t mean I have anything
against pits in
real life. I think
pits are useful for
many things, such as storing municipal drinking water, filling with
colored plastic balls at an upscale McDonald’s, and eerily preserving
of ancient Scottish people. A
without pits would not be a world in which I wish to live. I just don’t like when I
have to dive into
one in order to retrieve a telephone that is bigger than I am, merely
to find to
my incalculable chagrin upon so doing that extending my neck to a great
only renders me capable of floating exactly halfway out of it, which is
not out of it at all, as getting out of a pit is not a thing that one
halfway, irrespective of comically enormous telephone possession.
you for this shit, Adam Baldwin?
Okay, fine – but even if
we’re not actually being attacked,
an environment has still clearly been
created in which we can be
right? All of these
feminists with their
feministing and minorities with their recently being noticed by us as
who exist mean that attacks on white males for something something and
accusations against white males of something something can now possibly
and the fact that they can possibly happen means that they are
to, any day now, which is why we all need to spend every morning
thunderous applause in our minds for setting hypothetical people
the Our Own TV Shows that we all deserve to have, to make sure that we
shower not only acceptably clean, but also conveniently pre-enraged.
But there is an error in
these calculations. I
don’t blame you for not noticing it,
because it took over twenty years for me
to notice it and I’m a genius, but it is there, and it is as follows: The fact that it has
become logically possible for
people to attack
us does not mean that they are going to, or even that anything is wrong. It is just something we’re
not used to.
I think this is what all
those People Who Are Not Us mean
when they talk about our “privilege.”
Like you, I used to get mad whenever I heard
people make arguments about
“privilege,” because I naturally assumed that a)
they meant me, because let’s face it, who the hell could
possibly not mean me, and b) they were saying that my life has
been easy in every respect. This
me off, because my life hasn’t in fact always been easy. I know this will shock
you, coming from a man
who has spent his entire adult life writing essays about logic on the
for free, but I used to get beaten up in high school. I think I maybe sort-of get it now, though, and
what I think I maybe sort-of get is this:
“Privilege” doesn’t mean nothing bad ever
happened to you – it means the
bad things that happened to you happened for a different reason than
of the bad things that happened to other people.
I got beaten up in high
school, but I didn’t get beaten up
for being a white male – I got beaten up for being me,
by other people who were also white males.
And as weird as this sounds, getting beaten
up for being you – as opposed to
a member of a certain category – is a privilege. The bullies in my high
school didn’t hate all people with brown hair, or all people with hazel eyes – they
It still sucks, but it’s better than the other
thing. In a weird
way, it’s like being famous. Think
of it this way: Supervillains
aren’t always trying to kill
Batman because they hate all people who drive black cars or all people
utility belts – they are trying to kill him specifically because he is
Batman. It is still
a pain in Batman’s ass, but it
feels better than it would to know he is being prejudged simply for
member of the category “people with incomprehensibly gravelly voices.”
So, “privilege” doesn’t
mean we are used to everything
always going our way. Absolutely
not. What it does mean is that we are used to things
that don’t go our way
happening for reasons that are about who we are as individuals rather
what categories we have membership in – and, more importantly, that we
are the only people who have ever been permitted to be used to this.
being insulted. But,
again, if you take
a deep breath and look around, I think you’ll find it isn’t so much
weren’t being insulted before and now we are – it’s that we used to
it was impossible for us to be
insulted, and now we feel like it’s possible
(this is why, for example, we complain about the word “creepy” existing, even if we’ve never been
called “creepy” ourselves).
But of freaking course
This isn’t really
something we should be complaining about, because there’s no such thing
right to have potential insults about you
not even exist. As
we are so fond of
telling women and/or minorities when we all rally to defend some shitty
stand-up comedian’s bad joke, there is no such thing as a right not to
offended. And we’re
correct when we say
that. But it seems
to me that, if we
understand that a right not to be offended doesn’t exist, we should
understand that a right to not even be
able to imagine being offended certainly also doesn’t exist.
Again, this isn’t just me
scolding us about rights we don’t
have. It’s also –
it’s even primarily – me reminding
us all that we
would be a lot happier if we just relaxed here, myself included. I’m writing this after
getting back to my
apartment on the subway – where, as always, I spent the ride
dozen different situations wherein hypothetical feminists
at me both for giving up my seat and for not giving up my seat. But why do I do that? What does it get me? I have never been yelled
at for either of
these things one single time in my life, much less for both of them at
two different feminists who are squaring off in a yelling-at-me cage
why do I think about it all the time?
Forgive my belaboring the
point, but I am starting to feel
as though it should be belabored:
is what runs through my head every single
time I am on the subway, which I ride every
day, even though this has never
happened to me, or, to the best of my knowledge, even ever happened to anyone.
starting to suspect I would be happier if I didn’t spend every moment
life in a constant state of irate defensiveness about fights that I am
up with people that I am also making up.
And you probably would be too.
Instead, why don’t we spend our time, um… I don’t know, but doing
seriously anything but this. Really, anything at all. Hey, we’re always talking
about all the stuff
we invented – why don’t we invent some stuff?
It seems like it’s been a while since we did
And I do
to be clear that I’m not telling
that you shouldn’t defend yourself or argue back if and when someone does actually come right out and rip on
you for being a man, or white, or both, or whatever it is you expect to
happen. I think
you’re totally allowed
to do this. Heck, I
encourage you to do it. I
just think we could all benefit from taking a step back and admitting
ourselves, and to each other, that we’re wasting all this time prepping
obsessing about this despite the fact that it hardly ever happens.
Remember, though, that
when I talk about someone “coming
right out and ripping on” you, I’m defining that kind of narrowly. If, for example, you seek
out message boards
where women are talking to each other about gender and insert yourself
conversation just to call bullshit and act wounded, that doesn’t count. I think a response to a
published article is
fine – I spend most of my free time doing that myself.
But that’s different.
No matter how many different distinctions I
think of, though, the advice is essentially going to be the same: don’t
apeshit about people saying stuff to you until such time as an actual
actually says the stuff to you.
This advice isn’t
actually all that restricting – in fact,
if anything, it’s kind of liberating.
means you only have to worry about real insults, and not potential
insults. As anybody
who isn’t a white
male could tell you, getting pissed about all the stuff that other
people could potentially say or do
to you is a
good way to go freaking insane. We’re
the only people in history who haven’t already known this for a long
and, again, the reason why not is because there hasn’t
even potentially been any insulting stuff that people could
say or do to us (as a group, I mean, although obviously it was always
for any of us to be hurt as individuals) until very recent history.
I feel like a lot of
people are totally going to miss this
no matter how many times I say it, so I’ll try one more time: This isn’t about being
and “letting women and minorities do whatever they want,” because the only place they are doing whatever they
want is in our heads. All
telling you to do is to stop being afraid of something you’re
this response would be a like a four-year old telling you that you’re
the monsters under her bed do whatever they want.
Just try it. We have
nothing to lose. If
it doesn’t work, we
can always just start pretending to be Native American.
People are terrified
of calling bullshit on that.