In New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait discusses how hard it is to be a white man these days. In case you don't have the time or moral energy to read his 5,000 word opus of angst, here's a brief rundown.
1. If this article seems familiar, it's because you've read it before. Not only that, but you've experienced it in various iterations both online and in real life. This article is that guy from the philosophy class you took ten years, the one who Kool-Aid mans his way into every Facebook discussion about feminism to tell you why he's actually a humanist. This article is that sweaty, overbearing man at a party who corners you and aggressively questions you about socialism in what he thinks is a charming way, but when you try to respond to him he just talks over you. This article is every guy who thinks he's the first one brave enough to ask if political correctness has just gone too far. This article is the Sad Progressive White Dude Manifesto.
You don't even need to read the article. You already know what it's going to say.
2. One time in the '90s there was a pretty fantastic-sounding art exhibit documenting the lives of sex workers. Some SWERFs tried to shut it down. This event that happened 20 years ago is very relevant to this essay because it shows how feminists are always trying to ruin people's happy fun time parties.
Never mind that many feminists are sex worker-inclusive. Never mind that SWERF ideas are widely considered to be outdated and harmful. You don't need to know any of that, because it's not relevant to this essay.
3. Chait mentions both the #JeSuisCharlie and #JeNeSuisPasCharlie hashtags but conveniently forgets to mention #KillAllMuslims, because we're not here to talk about the actual real-life consequences of posting offensive content, we're just here to sound the oft-rung death knell of Free Speech.
4. Chait does not understand how trigger warnings work or what microaggressions are, but he's pretty sure he doesn't like it when people use those terms.
"At a growing number of campuses, professors now attach "trigger warnings" to texts that may upset students, and there is a campaign to eradicate "microaggressions," or small social slights that might cause searing trauma."
"Trigger warnings aren't much help in actually overcoming trauma -- an analysis by the Institute of Medicine has found that the best approach is controlled exposure to it, and experts say avoidance can reinforce suffering."
Rather than understand how trauma works, or recognize that trigger warnings are, in fact, about giving people the choice when and where to engage with potentially upsetting content, Chait prefers to patronizingly pooh-pooh the whole idea. Instead of recognizing that most people use trigger warnings as a way to facilitate the "controlled exposure" to trauma experts recommend -- because, again, trigger warnings give readers the choice to make sure that they are in a safe space and a healthy mindset before engaging with potentially triggering content -- he prefers to believe that anyone who asks for a content warning is a mewling infant who should just get over it already.
How nice that Chait has never found any content upsetting enough to require a trigger warning; one supposes that makes him an expert on the subject.
5. Here are some complaints about microaggressions that Chait, your uncle who sometimes uses racial slurs when he drinks too much but it's ok because he has a Black friend, is complaining about:
"Stanford recently canceled a performance of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson after protests by Native American students."
Yes, it's completely baffling why anyone of Indigenous ancestry would be upset by a "rock musical" (whose tagline is "history just got all sexypants") about the man who tried to eradicate their people with a genocidal fervour. Gosh, kids these days are just so sensitive!
"UCLA students staged a sit-in to protest microaggressions such as when a professor corrected a student's decision to spell the word indigenous with an uppercase I."
Because it's not like literally every other culture and ethnic group is afforded a capital letter.
Because there's no history of erasure of Indigenous people on this continent.
Because white academia has always been such a friendly and welcoming space to people of colour and as such deserves the benefit of the doubt, always.
"A theater group at Mount Holyoke College recently announced it would no longer put on The Vagina Monologues in part because the material excludes women without vaginas."
There are so many reasons to boycott The Vagina Monologues -- transphobia is only one of them. Instead of weeping that an outdated and non-inclusive play is no longer being staged, why not encourage people to write something better?
6. Chait -- who is literally milking the cash cow of "HAS OUR CULTURE OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE TOO FAR????" -- thinks that creating content about racism, misogyny, transphobia, etc., is a total money-grab. How he, a white dude writing the billionth think-piece on People Are Too Sensitive These Days, does not see the irony in this statement is completely astounding.
7. Jonathan Chait is a white man, and he's tired of you calling him out on his mansplaining. Why are you so mean to him? He's not here to offend; he's just trying to patiently explain how the real world works, sweetie.
Chait, in his five thousand word essay that appeared in a major publication, is tired of people using the term "mansplaining" to shut him down.
The truth is that these days men like Chait just don't have access to enormous platforms from which to bleat their every thought and feeling.
Chait would like to sing you the song of his people, a keening lament about the plight of the Nice White Guy.
8. According to Chait, secret opt-in Facebook group that women are free to quit at any time is like a "virtual mental prison." Much like a real-life prison, people are asked to be sensitive to each others' feelings and if they can't manage that are welcome to leave at their leisure. Feminism: it's just like the Prison Industrial Complex but with more pictures of kittens.
Also if you are a woman sharing posts with a dude from what is supposed to be a safe space for women, I'm sorry but you are being shitty. You are not allowed in our clubhouse anymore.
9. Blah blah neo-Marxism blah correcting a misattributed Voltaire quote blah Chait is a smart dude who knows lots of big words blah
10. Writes Chait:
"These ideas have more than theoretical power. Last March at University of California-Santa Barbara, in, ironically, a 'free-speech zone,' a 16-year-old anti-abortion protester named Thrin Short and her 21-year-old sister Joan displayed a sign arrayed with graphic images of aborted fetuses. They caught the attention of Mireille Miller-Young, a professor of feminist studies. Miller-Young, angered by the sign, demanded that they take it down. When they refused, Miller-Young snatched the sign, took it back to her office to destroy it, and shoved one of the Short sisters on the way.
Speaking to police after the altercation, Miller-Young told them that the images of the fetuses had 'triggered' her and violated her 'personal right to go to work and not be in harm.' A Facebook group called 'UCSB Microaggressions' declared themselves 'in solidarity' with Miller-Young and urged the campus 'to provide as much support as possible.'"
I'm just going to put this out there: if you find yourself aligning with the anti-choice folks waving around signs with graphic images of aborted fetuses on them, it might be time to check yourself. You are not progressive. You are on the side of people who want to limit women's rights. This is not an issue of free speech; the government was not trying to censor these protestors. This is an issue of one individual reacting to content that was meant to provoke and upset.
Do I think Miller-Young should have shoved one of the protestors? No. Do I think she has a right to go to work without looking at dead fetuses? Hell yeah I do. This isn't censorship -- this is human decency. Literally people should be able to walk around without having pictures of mangled fetuses shoved in their faces. Is that really so hard to understand.
And are we really arguing about "destruction of property" here? If that's the case, I will happily mail five dollars to the Short sisters so that they can go buy another yardstick and print out some more dead fetus posters at Kinkos.
A DARK PIT
JONATHAN CHAIT, a Nice White Guy in a polo and casual slacks, kneels in a pile of rubble. His arms are raised imploringly to his captors, the FEMINIST CABAL. They poke him with sticks and cackle. It is basically MacBeth Redux, except the witches are more diverse.
Won't you please argue with me?
I said argue with me, damnit! I'm here in good faith!
(howling into the darkness)
ARGUE WITH MEEEEE!!!