Friday, December 16, 2016

How Did This Happen?

I know this is a question that over half the country is asking right now to some degree. Some of us are asking "how did someone so unqualified get elected president?" and some of us are asking "how did someone so utterly misogynistic and who has at the very least sexually assaulted multiple women get elected president?" and some of us are asking "how did someone so racist that he was endorsed by the KKK and multiple neo-Nazi organizations get elected president?"


These questions and more have been going through my head for weeks. How is it that the white supremacist problem has grown so much in the past couple years? I thought overt racism at least was supposed to be unacceptable now? How did so many people end up in a mental space where they could vote for a bigot, rally for a bigot, celebrate and promote bigotry, and dedicate their lives to attacking already oppressed peoples?

Unfortunately, this is a topic for a dissertation, not a blog post. Any decent answer is going to be long and complex, looking at historical, psychological, and sociological factors. Then again, maybe the answer already exists in many dissertations and books examining how humanity got to this same place in various points in history, and I'm just falling into the trap of believing that the human race has somehow grown out of its propensity for oppression, bigotry, and hatefulness.

Are we ever going to get to a place where a large portion of the human population will turn on other humans in times of stress? Will the privileged ever be willing to give up their power? And if not, what happens now that it's no longer simple for the majority oppressed population to just take it?

There are a lot of theories and pieces of fiction that deal in the idea that we're doomed to go through the same cycle over and over again. We'll grow in science and technology and population until we're capable of destroying ourselves, and then we will. All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.

Yesterday I read a very interesting Vox piece on the links between Gamergate and general online misogyny and the rise oft the so-called "alt-right." Aja Romano essentially argues that sexism came first, with white men attacking women over feminism and our supposed invading of their safe spaces (read: all of geek culture) and our free will that allows us to reject them. This sexism can then be easily stoked and manipulated into racism and white nationalism. After all, going from "women are invading men's spaces" to "people of color are invading white spaces" isn't much of a jump.

Being a white woman, I'm hesitant to say I agree. Intense racism in Gamergate and MRA groups has always been there. Women of color have always gotten it worse than us white women, but their plights often go ignored while people have rushed to the aid of white women enduring harassment.

It's not a chicken or egg situation, in any case. But I think two major root causes of the shit we're in are widespread feelings of powerlessness and the fear of weakness (of being/feeling weak or being perceived as weak). A lot of people have been talking about this supposedly ignored middle America - regular working class folks (who always just happen to be white, haha) who have had problems for years that have not been addressed and in many cases have gotten worse, and they feel like no one is talking about it, let alone trying to help.

What they're really saying is that they feel powerless. Feeling ignored is no fun, but they're haven't really been ignored. Politicians talk about and pander to "middle America" all the time. Unemployment has been addressed, and people frequently talk about the issues of wage stagnation and cost of living increases. The problem is that the talk has gone on for years and little has changed. This makes people feel powerless. They feel like they can't affect change themselves and so have to rely on their representatives, but their representatives aren't making things better.

They feel trapped. Stuck. Powerless. And what most people want to do in these situations is look for easy answers. It's easy to blame this problem on people with even less power than you, because you feel like you can do something about them. We've reached a point in this country where we all feel pretty powerless to do anything about our elected representatives, because they have too much power. They're "entrenched." So we turn on people we have power over.

Or, we can cling to the empty but passionate words of a "strong leader" type like Trump. I'd call it a charismatic type but I wouldn't call what Trump has "charisma." He's just loud and tells people what they want to hear. He plays perfectly on people's desire to attack people with less power than them while simultaneously promising to get rid of the entrenched politicians and problems that have been plaguing them. He seems "different" so they think he might be able to make things change.

Of course, they got played. Nothing will get better for them. It'll be more of the same for them and more shit for the people below them on the privilege ladder.

But for some, their intense fear and hatred of weakness has been temporarily alleviated by Trump's victory. The fear of weakness fuels toxic masculinity and misogyny since our culture equates femininity with weakness and masculinity with strength. There are many ways that ideas of strength and weakness play out in racial stereotypes, but with gender it seems to be very direct, particularly in terms of our society's false but very entrenched gender binary. So it makes sense that white men who feel powerless and fear the appearance or idea of weakness lash out at feminism and women in general, especially since dominance over women is considered to be a sign of strength in our deeply patriarchal society.

Combine this with the blaming and attacking of people of color, immigrants (but not the white ones), and Muslims (but again not the white ones), and you have the "alt-right."

Once again I've come to the conclusion that EVERYBODY NEEDS FUCKING THERAPY. Especially white men. You all need to deal with your fears and issues because you're fucking everything up.

Fat chance though lmao keep dreaming Lindsey.

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