Righteous masculine anger


One of the numerous downsides of the rise of feminism is the demise of righteous masculine anger. For the record I’m strongly supportive of the great achievements of first and second wave feminism. But just as with other great changes in the modern world – like for instance another great and noble cause like the welfare state – these things do not come without their downsides as they tend to displace and/or crowd out older social institutions which have their own strengths.

In the case of the welfare state, it crowded out all sorts of marvellous institutions like mutuals, cooperatives and friendly societies. Anyway, the feminisation of our culture has made a taboo of displays of masculine aggression. This is mostly a great thing. In the Australia I was growing up in, grown men – ie beyond their mid twenties – might occasionally invite another to ‘settle it outside’, something that is mercifully pretty taboo now at least in the circles I know anything about.

But in at least one way the eclipse of masculine aggression is a pity.  That’s masculine aggression in defence of the values of protecting the weak – a core masculine role. For instance one thing that makes me burn with righteous (male?) anger is foetal alcohol syndrome. Here an adult has, out of sheer irresponsibility inflicted vast disability on another human being – for the whole of their life. Why aren’t we publicly burning with anger about it?  Well to do so is deeply taboo. Firstly most foetal alcohol syndrome is in indigenous communities so too much anger can always be criticised as racism.  And more generally virtually everyone who talks about this stuff publicly does so from within ‘caring’ values, blaming the system not the victim and all that stuff. Well maybe that’s a more productive response – but then I’d rather the first response tempered by the latter response – rather than rendering the first response taboo. For one thing it might make us take it more seriously. And might give those who don’t particularly respond to ‘caring’ messages more buy-in to the issue.

In any event, this is what I thought when I watched the fine video above. My daughter asked if I’d seen it, and I said I’d only heard a few grabs from it on the news and that while I had liked what I’d heard, I am sufficiently jaundiced about the role of PR in our society that I had simply assumed that it was the ‘right’ message and had presumed its provenance in PR and management. Well at least judging from the video, I was dead wrong. It’s a great message.

I also love the way in which the gender message – which is rightly prominent – is ultimately subordinate to the larger point about bullying and humiliation. Absolutely spot on. All in the best traditions of the masculine part of our makeup.

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Bill Posters
Bill Posters
8 years ago

Against strong competition, the Slatepitchiest Club Troppo post ever.

Too many gloriously bogus evidence-free punditisms to choose from, but I think the one-two nonsense punch exhibited here is the highlight:

> In the case of the welfare state, it crowded out all sorts of marvellous institutions like mutuals, cooperatives and friendly societies. Anyway, the feminisation of our culture has made a taboo of displays of masculine aggression.

Never in the field of human discourse has so much claptrap been squeezed into so few words.

Bill Posters
Bill Posters
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

I don’t – I’m not advancing the thesis they’ve declined due to the welfare state, you are.

That paragraph of yours is such a tightly wound ball of conventional pundit wisdom that unwinding it to reveal all the assumptions of which it is made is a task Hercules would decline.

Tel
Tel
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

How do you explain the relative demise of mutuals, cooperatives and friendly societies?

There is just an outside chance they could have been outcompeted. The co-op bookshop has lasted a long time, but I think they are on the wane now when you look at students buying from Amazon, and the price of e-books vs paper, etc.

On the other hand, did you know that Huawei is structured around a cooperative model (the company is owned by employees, not up for general trading)? Those guys have not exactly “demised” or if they have, no one has yet told them. :-)

Crispin Bennett
Crispin Bennett
8 years ago

Nicholas, actually there’s plenty of it about, commonly directed towards women and nonwhites.

Less facetiously, isn’t ‘masculine’ otiose here? It’s a mark of decent character to be angry at injustice and, on well-judged occasions, to express that anger. I can’t see any in-principle reason for this to differ with gender. Ever seen a mother in ferocious defence of her child?

Crispin Bennett
Crispin Bennett
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Fair enough. What I seem to see is just human anger (or decent acting — I know nothing about Morrison). I can imagine the same things being said by a woman with or without superficial style differences, but in either case it would seem like essentially the same phenomenon. So I guess you’re right — I can’t get a grip on your starting point.

Crispin Bennett
Crispin Bennett
8 years ago

Actually, having seen the vid, I think you’re mixing up Aussie-ness with masculinity. The General just seems very Aussie, that’s all. That he’s angry about bullying, and willing to express this so publicly, is great, and worthy of a leader (of either gender). But that he expresses this in the exact manner he does is just a bit of local cultural colour. In some countries he’d seem and rude and probably a bit thick; in others, no doubt, too effeminate (he’s not shouting!).

Reader Z.
Reader Z.
8 years ago

I think you’re in something of a circular argument Nicholas. Our culture still fundamentally legitimates assertiveness and aggression in men in a way that it does not allow for women. (See such perjorative terms as shrew, ball-buster, harridan… which do not have gender-swapped equivalents. See also: boxing, rugby league.) Therefore when you see and endorse righteous/legitimate anger, you classify it as masculine. Catch-22?

Part of the extraordinariness and newsworthiness of That Speech of Gillard’s was that it was uncharacteristically positively accepted righteous wrath expressed by a woman. Albeit not universally, of course.

Ingolf Eide
Ingolf Eide(@ingolf)
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

I’ve been trying to get a handle on this distinction you clearly feel quite strongly about, Nicholas, and confess I’m still struggling. You wrote:

” – indeed masculine aggression is a particularly showy kind of aggression that might not have courage standing behind it – ”

Most would probably agree with that description (I certainly do), but it doesn’t seem to bear much relation to Morrison’s speech. His underlying anger, which FWIW struck me as entirely genuine, didn’t seem at all showy. Indeed, it didn’t even feel aggressive, just focused and taut.

What probably is true is that his message is more likely to get through to the intended audience because he’s a man.

Reader Z.
Reader Z.
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Thanks for the reply and sorry for the delay getting back to you. Also like Ingolf I guess I’m struggling a bit, just trying to tease apart the distinction you’re making so I understand it clearly, trying to rule out whether it seems mistaken or what it isn’t.

I intuitively immediately get that there is something there, in the veiled threat that the anger could bubble into violence if he was further provoked. Which as a guy you immediately get: its a display that hits home as male dominance (and I for one would not cross the Lt Gen!)

But I think we should challenge those intuitions, which can just be deeply encoded prejudices. I’m still not clear you’ve answered the question I put. I understand that you’re saying there is such a thing as righteous [legitimate] masculine aggression. If Julia’s speech was defiance but not aggression, so not relevant, is there an example of righteous non-masculine aggression you could point to? What would be the key difference? Or do we mistake all righteous aggression as a masculine, just because we used to finding similar displays by women unacceptable?

Paul Frijters
Paul Frijters
8 years ago

Hi Nick,

I think there is a lot to your feminisation argument, even though the whole business of what is masculine and what is not, is notoriously difficult and contentious. I can see other losses too.

I must say that the comments of Bill Posters are out of line. You are setting up an implicit view of what femininity and masculinity is, and what its various roles in our society are. For me, the only real way to quibble with such story lines is to set out an alternative storyline around similar phenomena that does a better explanatory and predictive job. To simply shout people down whose story you don’t share is childish and spiteful.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
8 years ago

Bill Posters is a long time troll. Like all trolls he is best ignored. I have occasionally contemplated banning him but fortunately he doesn’t come around often enough to be bothered with.

On the substantive point (on the charitable assumption that he actually makes one), its absurdity is demonstrated by the fact that of all serious blogs Club Troppo is probably the one that publishes a higher proportion of serious, analytical, evidence-based articles than any other. That especially includes most of Nicholas’s posts.

However, there is also an important place for less deeply researched musings, even “thought bubbles” if you will. That sort of post is more-open-ended and allows much more space for a developing conversation where we can explore ideas together. In some ways I’m sad that we don’t do more of these sorts of posts at Troppo these days.

Bill Posters
Bill Posters
8 years ago
Reply to  Ken Parish

By “troll”, you mean of course someone who doesn’t subscribe to your oh-so-contrarian centrist agenda and doesn’t mind saying so.

That might upset you but if you think pointing out the invisible assumptions buttressing an argument is trolling you probably need to get out a little more.

It’s just part of the process of turning a “thought bubble” into something more substantial.

Ingolf Eide
Ingolf Eide(@ingolf)
8 years ago

His manner is such that it’s fairly easy to imagine it escalating into something physical.

Fair comment, Nicholas; knocking a few heads together probably wouldn’t have caused him too much pain . . . .