It’s hard to believe that USA Today, “The Business Traveler’s Diversion of Last Resort Since Whatever Year They Discontinued Sky Mall,” has provided the first really good comedy of our post-election hellscape. But Alia E. Dastagir had a piece in the paper’s Jan. 12 Health and Wellness section reporting that “watching the Capitol riot was ‘triggering’ for some women.” One would need a heart of stone to read this tragedy without laughing.
As you know, an “overwhelmingly white, male mob rampaged the Capitol last week armed with guns and zip ties.” This wasn’t just an abomination against democracy or further evidence of our deep political divisions. To Dastagir it was a symptom “of a larger cultural illness.”
“It’s a reminder of the everyday stresses that come with living in a world that’s shaped by white masculinity, that there’s still so much more work to do, and that your wellness comes second to their expressions of dominance, which they see as their right.”
Wow. This isn’t parody. That quote was from a real, honest-to-Gaia progressive academic, one “Kristen Barber, a sociology professor at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and editor of the journal Men and Masculinities.” She’s an expert, member of a caste that Dastagir obviously reveres because she can’t stop citing them.
(For example, “Jackson Katz, an expert on masculinity and gender violence …” I don’t know anything about gender violence, but I’d like to think I know something about masculinity, being that, you know, I’m a man. I’m not questioning Katz’s masculinity — no doubt he’s as butch as a liberal guy can be, but how does one get the “expert” title? It would look cool on a business card. Of course, it might not be in harmony with my ambition to someday edit the journal Chicks and Chickalinities.)
“Experts [peace be upon them] say demonstrations of white masculinity have mental health impacts on everyone, but especially women, and can create stress, anxiety and trauma,” Dastagir said. Barber told her, “Watching these images are triggering for people who experience the everyday violence of white male supremacy, whether that’s Black men who are patrolled by white police officers on the street or women who feel threatened by white men in their spaces on a daily basis.” Like these victims?
(BTW, how about a little toxic pedantry? Obviously one can “patrol,” and be part of a patrol, but can one be patrolled? Is that like being trolled? Or is it just that the experts USA Today turns to are as subliterate as the staff?)
Hey, this stuff has real-world anecdotal impact — experts say so. Texas Woman’s University psychology professor Debra Mollen can’t exactly put phony numbers to it yet, but the effect is devastating. “I’ve heard lots of accounts of women I know who have been uncontrollably crying,” she told Dastagir. “I’ve read several accounts of people who vomited, they were so upset and distressed by what they were witnessing.”
Again, you may have seen a bunch of jackasses acting like jackasses all over the country have for the last six months, but Dastagir has super smart people ready to tell women what their lyin’ eyes may not have. “What they saw, experts said, were men who felt entitled to defend their dominant place in [society]”.
And the rest of us better listen up too, because we ignore the insights of the cream of Texas Women’s University at our own peril. “What we’re seeing is a reaction to the ways that people of color, women of color and women more broadly have been pushing against the scripts of masculinity for a long time,” Mollen said.
And be grateful, white men, that we have Katz — that authority on all things masculine and gender violent — to instruct us how to be as manly as he is. “Being a strong man in the 21st century, to me, and being a strong white man is not trying to hold back the tides of history. It’s trying to adapt and evolve and redefine strength, resilience, physical and mental health,” he said.