Hidden under the covers of today’s society, albeit something that many women are aware of, is a deep current of male rage, especially among the youngest men. Older men often seem to have made peace with the difficulties of being a man and of relating to women, but younger men often have not. Having spent many years now involved in the “men’s movement”, for lack of a better term, I have witnessed a move from serenity to rage as the people I hang out with get younger and younger. Many young men get together on bulletin boards across the Web to share thoughts about how “if you want to have lots of women in your life, you have to become COLD: don’t let those b*tches touch your soul, be ICE and you’ll be a mack daddy”. Or words to that effect. Dating sites like OkCupid are chock full of men who say that they are “nice guys” but then boil over with vitriol against the “sl*ts” and “wh*res” that refuse to date them (but are presumably dating other men). There was even a tumblr called “Nice Guys of OkCupid” dedicated to exposing these men. And then there are “men’s sites” like Return of Kings, which organizes “fattie-hating weeks” dedicated to finding and shaming overweight women on Facebook. And the list goes on.
Where does it come from? The roots of this male rage, which is growing at a frightening rate, are in a way rather simple, just as for most of our lives and in most of our contexts we think simple things. “I deserve a woman, and I don’t have one. Ergo, women are evil for rejecting me”. Part of this is normal… these men really do see themselves as “nice”, and probably they are, most of the time. I remember this well… as a teenager, I spent my time trying to be pleasant and nice at all times, only to be mocked and rejected by many of my peers, sometimes with physical violence. As a reaction, I became a very angry punk rocker, and that anger poisoned my soul for years. So, what is the difference between young men today and young men of all ages who have sought to be nice to the people around them? Why does being nice in Mulberry work, whereas it doesn’t work today, for so many of these men?
Well, the first part of the answer is that being nice does often work, just not with what these men want, namely dating women (although the answer, perhaps oddly, doesn’t involve doing the opposite of nice, namely being an *sshole, it just means being interesting, fun and powerful). So, the male rage plague, in one aspect of its vitriol (though not the only one) stems strongly from a simple lack of skill: young men simply do not know how to relate to women successfully, where successful means having a girlfriend. This has a deep cause: male and female roles and economic/power balance have all changed radically in the last century, and as a result new rules and new roles and new terrain have all now become the norm, without anyone really knowing how to navigate this bizarre new reality. The rules that worked for Andy Griffith don’t work for me or for any other of the young men I run across in my daily life and on the net.
The Tootsie paradox. What’s more, women have a very difficult time articulating what they want: it’s the Tootsie paradox all over again. Dustin Hoffman’s character dressed up as a woman to find out what the one woman he wanted wanted herself. And she couldn’t articulate it… she told “Tootsie” (Hoffman in disguise) that she wanted a man to tell her, straight out and in the open, that he wanted to ravage her sexually. Then, taking this as his cue, Hoffman’s character actually tells her this and gets slapped. So, what did she really want?
There is a funny phrase that women will use with their girlfriends, but that men don’t understand: “He gets it” or “He doesn’t get it”. If he doesn’t get it, he’ll be friendzoned, but if he does “get it”, he has a chance to be a boyfriend or lover. But just ask a woman to translate “getting it” into words, and she can’t… she knows it but doesn’t know it. This is as normal a phenomenon in human life as baseball… ask Reggie Jackson how he bats so well, and he’ll say “you have to swing right and connect hard”. Huh? Thanks for the advice, Reg! So, women and men are faced with a situation where men want something (namely women) that women want to give them but can’t actually tell them how to get. And given the intensity of the male urge to reproduction, you can bet that this dynamic will soon spill out into deep rage rooted in a feeling of impotence, which I believe we are now seeing in many manifestations.
The “rage” culture. I don’t have any sociological data to back this up, although I am keeping my eye out all the time, but I believe that male rage is seeping out into society in a whole range of ways that are not obviously connected with this male/female dynamic. “Rage in the Cage” is the name of a popular mixed-martial art competition, and its extreme violence is quite rageful, and it’s pretty much all men who are doing it (though there is a minority of extremely tough women who also participate). There are the “Bad Boy Club” bumper stickers with the angry guy giving you the rageful eye. There is the Tea Party and the impotent rage of a whole generation of citizens on the right, whose hatred of Obama goes way beyond the rational and into the wacko. And then, finally, there are school shootings.
These shootings do not have anything to do, on the surface, with women. In fact, in rape in America has gone down to 0.2% of women having been raped in 2010, as compared with 0.5% in 1995. But school shootings have gone up! I think this is no coincidence… our society has made it very, very uncomfortable for men who rape… nowadays if a man is known to be a rapist he will find no shelter anywhere, and especially not in prison, where fellow inmates will rape them in revenge for an imagined crime against their own girlfriends or wives. So where does this male rage go, then? I think that school shootings are one place. The historical data on school shooting fatalities shows them to have gone up in approximately the same proportion as rape statistics have gone down over the same time period. And, if I am not mistaken, pretty much all of the shooter have been of the male gender, yes indeed.
What is to be done? All of this suggests a way of dealing with school violence that seems, at first glance, to be totally inane: treat the root cause, treat the powerful feelings of male impotence and humiliation. One way to do this will be to dramatically increase the mutual knowledge of men and women about how to form genuine, happy and fulfilling relationship that last, and that provide all of the benefits that both partners want: sex and recognition of their worth for men, security, fun, increased freedom and mental health and, yes, sex for women. This is a big thing to ask, and some say it’s impossible (no man can ever understand a woman, they say). But both men and women are wanting it so much, that some progress has to be able to be made, if only because both parties are willing to go to great lengths to make it happen.
: Rape Statistics (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_statistics#United_States
: A Chart of the 137 Fatal School Shootings in the U.S. Since 1980 (Slate): http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/map_of_the_week/2012/12/sandy_hook_a_chart_of_all_196_fatal_school_shootings_since_1980_map.html