This is not a good time to be living in the United States as a woman, a person of color, a member of the queer community, or an economically disadvantaged person. The Alt-Right has gone from the darkest pages of internet message boards to the front pages of respected media outlets. Their attacks on anyone that doesn’t look or think like them should not be surprising, because since their beginning they have been running on unadulterated toxic masculinity. While the question of masculinity has taken on an imposing form in the growth of this movement, it seems that theirs is rooted in their pride of the circumstances of their birth, the skin color and gender which they did nothing to achieve. They would have you think that women are unhappy with their hard-fought freedoms, and that people of color are holding them back from achievements because they don’t fit into some postmodern Aryan mold. Their reasoning is so far from logical, their rhetoric so offensive, that I believe the only way to combat it is to strike at what they hold most dear: their masculinity.
My upbringing had typical ideas on what it was to be a “man.” Growing up with a hard-working single mother forced me to reckon with what that meant, and while my own view has evolved I can’t help but think of the basic decency she tried to raise me with. The educated, liberal-minded me knows that these are qualities anyone can possess, but this gender binary she saw is the same mindset that the Alt-Right exhibits. However, unlike what my mother tried to teach me, their binary of what a “man” is is entirely wrong. In their world, a man is strong, knows better than others, and climbs over those under him to get what he thinks he deserves. Her definition could not be further from theirs.
In their world, a man is strong, knows better than others, and climbs over those under him to get what he thinks he deserves.
Even though the electricity would get turned off because she couldn’t cash her check in time, I was never taught to blame others for our place in life. I found that thinking that others were dragging me down was only keeping me from seeing that I hadn’t put enough effort in myself, and she showed me this effort when she wanted to put my sister and I in a better place. She went to college while working minimum wage jobs, taking care of us all the while. If I said mowing the lawn was a pain because of the mower, I was told that a poor workman blames his tools, much like the Alt-Right consistently blames the media for misrepresenting things they literally said. She taught me that to be a man was to help others like she did for me, to be a rock for them even when we struggle ourselves, and to never tell anyone that their problems were only their own. Unlike what the Alt-Right would have you think, I never heard that it was wrong to be emotional or kind, and never told that these would make me appear weak. She would never call me a “cuck” because I can open up to my girlfriend. I was shown to measure myself by my work and accomplishments like she did as she completed college. Never once did she tell me that I should be proud of my gender, my sexuality, or my skin color ― none of which required any effort on my part.
Never once did [my mother] tell me that I should be proud of my gender, sexuality, or skin color -- none of which required any effort.
I don’t think that we need to go back to the 1950s, worrying about holding doors for each other and thinking only men can fix flat tires. We’ve progressed past that, and I don’t think anyone other than the Alt-Right wants to be there. However, if they’re going to spend so much time being proud of being men, they need to realize that what they are isn’t a man by anyone’s definition other than theirs. The Alt-Right are cowardly, something that a “man” never is. They are people who can’t achieve and turn to blaming anyone but themselves. They are toxic masculinity in human form; they are not the romanticized idea they believe themselves to be, the idea that I grew up with. The only people they are trying to help are themselves, and they have no place in a country that increasingly doesn’t look like them, act like them, or speak like them. They are hanging onto the threads of what they thought could empower them, instead of helping others become empowered. If the men of the Alt-Right really wanted to make our country a better place, they would spend less time talking about being a man and more time acting like one.