Sunday, February 12, 2017

Her Beloved Minotaur

My first response to the article in the Nov. 10, 2016 Harvard Business Review by Joan C. Williams, "What So Many People Don't Get About the U.S. Working Class," was to throw a fit in the comments section where I found it, on Facebook, at the risk of offending the friend who had posted it.  

After my fifth or sixth comment, she deleted the post as a matter of containment, which was too bad, because I think we should be able to talk about politics on Facebook. That said, I do recognize that it was me who sabotaged that particular discussion with unrestrained vitriol. (Sorry.) 

But the damn article offers such a perfect example of the erosion of intellectual discourse and the justification for oppression, I could not let it go without comment.  

First of all, l did read your article, Joan, carefully and with interest.  

You write, "dignity is a big deal for working-class men," unlike the rest of us, for whom dignity is nothing, "and they're not feeling that they have it."

What would it take to restore their dignity?  Fairly paid skilled labor jobs? I could totally get on board with that. 

No, that's not what you suggest. You say that political correctness is the main affront to the dignity of working-class men. (I'm sure my Uncle Greg, once a fireman in Youngstown, would have completely disagreed with that, but anyway....)  

You say these men are sick and tired of the modern world making them feel like assholes for saying exactly what they think. (I'm paraphrasing.)

But it's a matter of perspective, isn't it?  To the men that you describe (I'm not convinced that working-class men are all of one mind), returning to "an earlier era, when men were men and women knew their place" sounds ideal. 

To me, that sounds regressive and frightening. From my perspective as an opinionated woman with my own list of things to do that no one is welcome to add to or subtract from without my expressed permission, the idea of being put in my place threatens my autonomy as an adult, to say nothing of my dignity, which would take umbrage. 

From my point of view, those were the bad old days, when it was not legally possible for a husband to rape his wife. Domestic violence was a private matter, beyond the scope of law enforcement. Women and children belonged to men. A man's home was his castle, where he alone was sovereign over his dominion--which included a woman's body. 

According to your article, the dignity of white working class men depends on these few items:

  1. Having a skilled trade, and fairly compensated full-time work that allows them to be sole providers for their families
  2. Control over dependents which would include women, children, and animals. (This by the way, presumably extends to control over the environment.  So, women's access to reproductive health, employment opportunities, fair pay, and childcare are dismembered. Any tree-hugger or water-keeper that stands in the way of skilled labor interests--mining, fracking, pipelines--will get what they deserve; and... 
  3. No one is going to call them an asshole when it's done.

And what about Hillary?  You say her "mere presence" offends these men...with her "dorky arrogance and smugness" and "pantsuits."

Before she has even said anything, she has offended them by virtue of her existence.

Clearly, HRC does not know her place, since she's running for president for God's sake, and wearing pants. How is the dignity of the men supposed to survive such an insult?

"The election shows that sexism retains a deeper hold than most imagined."  

No kidding!

And by the way, how does an article in the Harvard Business Review get away with a statement like, "it’s unfair that Clinton only did so well in the first debate because she wrapped her candidacy in a shimmy of femininity...?"  

What the hell is a shimmy of femininity?  

I understand that you love these men--they're in your family, and they must have done right by you to win your affection and loyalty.  There are men in my life, too, whom I love. We can agree that men can be kind of wonderful--but that is not really how you're writing them. 

The men you describe need to be in control, but they want everyone to agree that they deserve it. They need constant forgiveness and indulgence. They're thin-skinned kings with chipped shoulders. They can't adapt. They're neither modern, nor sturdy.  

Oh, my God, they are POTUS, in fact, tattered dignity and all!

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