The great female philospher, Lena Dunhan, twitted her cute explanation that this election wasn’t about the extinction of white man, but “the evolution of men into better men.” She didn’t quite explain what she meant by “better men,” as this was twitter, but Jill Filipovic provided a detailed explanation in the paper of record.
What this campaign has shown us is that while feminism has transformed American culture, our politics and the lives of women, men haven’t evolved nearly as rapidly. Women changed. Too many men didn’t. What happens next?
Filipovic provides the details of feminist evolution, the virtues that are about to culminate in the crowning achievement of an election, the ones that white males have refused to accept.
For women, feminism is both remarkably successful and a work in progress: We are in the work force in record numbers, but rarely ascend to the highest ranks. Sexual violence is taken more seriously than ever, but women still experience it, usually from men they know, at astounding rates. Women are more visible in public life and create more of the media and art Americans consume, but we still make up just 19 percent of Congress and 33 percent of speaking roles in the 100 top-grossing films.
If this reflects a rather myopic and simplistic view of the world, fear not. This is a shorthand for feminist tribalism. It may sound no more thoughtful than Dunham, but if you’ve evolved, you get it. And if you’re male, then, there’s nothing to be done with you anyway.
Still, young women are soaring, in large part because we are coming of age in a kind of feminist sweet spot: still exhibiting many traditional feminine behaviors — being polite, cultivating meaningful connections, listening and communicating effectively — and finding that those same qualities work to our benefit in the classroom and workplace, opening up more opportunities for us to excel. And while we do find ourselves walking the tightrope between being perceived as a nice bimbo or a competent bitch, there are more ways to be a woman than ever before. It’s no longer unusual to meet a female lawyer or engineer. No one bats an eye if we cut our hair short, wear pants, pay with a credit card in our own name, win on the soccer field, or buy our own home.
If this sounds rather banal, as in men cared deeply whether there was a rash of women who cut their hair short and then appeared on public streets defiling our world, it is. Women have their own issues, and never really caught on to the fact that no one cares. We don’t care how they cut their hair. We really couldn’t care less whose shoes they wear. We don’t notice.
But don’t tell them, as it only gives rise to another flurry of rationalizations about how they do it for themselves and there are fragile men out there who obsess over such things. Just because you’re too clueless to realize the pain of their lived experiences doesn’t mean it’s not real. If they say it is, then it is, and only a bad male would deny them their fantasy.
Men haven’t gained nearly as much flexibility. The world has changed around them, but many have stayed stuck in the past. While women have steadily made their way into traditionally male domains, men have not crossed the other way. Men do more at home than they used to, but women still do much more — on an average day, 67 percent of men do some housework compared with 85 percent of women. Male identity remains tied up in dominance and earning potential, and when those things flag, it seems men either give up or get angry.
This, perhaps more than anything else, explains the rise of Donald J. Trump: He promised struggling white men that they could have their identities back.
There are two types of men in Filipovic’s world. Men who have evolved to become the sort of men Lena Dunham wants them to be, and struggling white men who want their identities back. And this is tied to the king of struggling white men, a candidate in whom neither Filipovic nor Dunham have much faith. This is the candidate of not just dinosaur white men, but failed ones who miss the days when the world was theirs, when their wimmen served them beers during the game, then hid in the kitchen preparing their favorite meals.
Does this sound like you? Does this sound like your politics? You embrace equality, take no issue with women working and excelling if they have the chops to do so. But the dirty secret is that women have gone past equality into the world of special treatment to compensate for their perceived failings. And that’s where they want men to follow. The good men. The evolved ones.
Men don’t need more masculine posturing or promises to restore them to forever-gone greatness. What they need is to make their own move toward gender equality, to break down the stereotypes and fetters of masculinity. Feminists, understandably, have focused on women; we have enough to do without being tasked with improving the lot of often-misogynistic men, too. If the white men who feel ignored, disrespected and lost want to see their lives improve, they should take a cue from the great feminist strides women have made and start to embrace that progress.
Life really is better with more fluid gender roles that allow individuals to do what they’re good at instead of what’s socially prescribed. Every feminist I know will tell you that men bring much more to the table than physical strength or a paycheck, and that we would love a world in which men were free to be resilient and tender, ambitious and nurturing, expressive and emotional.
If this election is, as the gals seem to suggest, a referendum for men to decide what they want to be, it could turn out very differently than it’s likely to turn out. You see, women like Filipovic and Dunham truly believe that what men need to evolve into is women. Jill assures us that “life really is better” that way. Does that convince you? Will you be happy to miss the game to go shoe shopping?
Sorry to use such a stereotypical trope to make a point, because there are many women who want to watch the game every bit as much as a guy, and who don’t obsess over their footwear or their hair. For a great many men, we welcome women to stand beside us, to become whatever their talents and intellect allow.
But when they want to pretend they get to be the boss and demand that the other side bend to their will, they lose us. And if they really want to make this a referendum on males becoming more feminine, then they’ll only get the ones they already neutered. The rest of us are just fine being guys, and have no plans to change to the kind of guys who make Jill or Lena happy. We frankly don’t give a damn and never have.
Regardless of whom we vote for, it’s not because men want to be women, any more that we find Lena Dunham attractive or intelligent. And we won’t be goaded by Filipovic into voting for Trump, no matter how hard she tries.