The challenge: Discuss the following civilly. Most readers will not really find it at all difficult to meet the challenge. I hope all can do it.
Some of our readers may have noticed that a number of recent venues, purporting to provide opportunities to discuss the philosophy profession, end up containing expressions of anger, even rage, that is unusual compared to the sort of academic discourse most of us are used to. And a very favorite topic centers on “the” feminists, and their supposed quest for
world professional domination.
Angry White Men by a distinguished sociologist, Michael Kimmel, offers an explanation for the kind of the anger we see. Since anonymous comments on blogs may express anger and rage in all sorts of context, we might think his explanation is just partial. But we can still consider whether his account offers a good explanation of an anger that in fact targets women in the philosophy profession. With few exceptions, we would seem to most people, I think, as fairly tame game. But in some contexts we (or at least those on this blog) have recently been called ‘moral monsters’ quite a few times. Kimmel offers the following as the background. It is precisely the loss of this high privilege that he take to be fueling the anger:
Yet the truth is that white men are the beneficiaries of the single greatest affirmative action program in world history. It’s called “world history.” White men so stacked the deck that everyone else was pretty much excluded from playing at all. When those others did begin to play, the field was so uneven that white men got a massive head start, and everyone else had to play with enormous handicaps. Maybe actually having to play evenly matched, on a level playing field, is too frightening for a gender that stakes its entire identity on making sure it wins every time.
He then looks at what is happening as we are reaching the end of patriarchy:
Angry White Men tells the story of the other side of the American Dream: the futility, the dashed hopes, the despair, and the rage. It tells the story of the rich and famous wannabes, the ones who thought they could invent themselves, reinvent themselves, be even more successful than their fathers. It tells the story of how white American men came to believe that power and authority were what they were entitled to, by birth, and how that birthright is now eroding. Economic and social changes that are bewilderingly fast and dramatic are experienced as the general “wimpification” of American men— castrated by taxation, crowded out by newcomers who have rules bent for them, white men in America often feel like they are presiding over the destruction of their species.