How America Continues to Suffer the Male Rage of the 'White Wing'
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
Is there hope that the ugly, hateful era of the angry white male might come to an end in the United States?
Michael Kimmel, author of Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era, believes that the incendiary rage of many resentful white males will ultimately succumb to an altered cultural context.
"Angry white men rage for our attention, yes, but that era of assumed male entitlement to all the positions of power and wealth is coming to an end." Kimmel told Truthout. "Men can be dragged kicking and screaming into that inevitable future, or we can accept it and ask what it means for us."
Truthout recently interviewed Kimmel, who is a sociology professor and executive director at the Center of the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University in New York.
Mark Karlin: What is the demographic you refer to as angry white males in the US. The stereotypes are that they are generally Southern, or rural, or less educated or residents of exurbia? What is your breakdown?
Michael Kimmel: Angry white men are everywhere geographically! I look at some groups, like the extreme right wing, who might tend to be more small-town, exurban. Many are suburban, from those sprawling suburbs that extend far into what used to be "rural America." But many of the men I discuss - say men's rights activists or fathers' rights activists, or the men who are violent against women, or guys who go postal - come from all over the country.
You talk about the transition from anxiety to explosive emotional anger among the actual and perceived growing loss of entitlement and privilege among white males. You use the phrase, "the cultural construction of aggrieved entitlement." Does that translate to, "white males are mad as hell that women and minorities aren't kept in their place anymore by white men, and the white men are losing their jobs and patriarchal status as a result"?
Nicely put! Some white males are mad as hell not that minorities or gays or women aren't "kept in their place" anymore, but more that they feel that "they" are taking places that were "rightfully ours." Race (being white) and gender (being men) are the frameworks they use to describe what I think is actually a phenomenon that has more to do with class.
You dissect "The Rage of the American Working Man" in Chapter Six. Of course, the inevitable question is why is so much of that rage aimed at minorities instead of upward at primarily other white males who are exploiting them?
Good question, I ask myself this all the time. Sometimes, in my interviews, I felt like I was listening to a gendered version of Thomas Frank's book, What's the Matter with Kansas? as I listened to men blame those below them on the socioeconomic ladder for problems that were caused by those far above them. Such misdirection is massaged and manipulated. Men's anger is real - in the sense that they have often been badly done by. But just to say that it's a real feeling doesn't make it "true" - that is, it is not an accurate analysis of what caused their situation. Just remember that the anger of men who feel (or who actually have been) dispossessed can go to the right or the left. Timothy McVeigh or Tom Joad.
Given that factories and blue-collar jobs continue to be sent overseas to low-wage sweat shops, combined with stagnating wages for hourly workers, isn't the tinderbox of anger more likely to explode among the lower working-class white male?