xenologer: (do not even)
I can't help but wonder if there isn't something non-men can learn from discussions of how fragile masculinity is and how structurally flawed it makes people who build their sense of self on top of it.

Toxic masculinity says that men shouldn't have to try to cope. They shouldn't have to learn to process. They don't have to bear their own emotional burdens because the rare ones too heavy to be bootstrapped out of? Well that is what non-men are for.

Toxic masculinity says that some things are not to be tolerated, and to know about them is to be burdened by them, and it is a man's right not to be burdened.

Toxic masculinity teaches that either a man is impervious or he is a weakling without worth, because a man has to be invulnerable to conquer his lessers.

This desperation to be untouchably elevated, above struggle and self-adjustment and doubt, it wouldn't be so desperate if it weren't covering up a more fragile reality. It wouldn't be so frightening to fall short and lose value if men didn't know that one misstep could happen to them so so so easily.

But toxic masculinity teaches that to be aware is to be burdened, and to be burdened is to be attacked. So these fears hide where only everyone else can see them. That's a handy thing, since we have to see them to survive the panicked retaliation that kills so many of us. We need to know that not only does toxic masculinity create men who refuse to see our realities, it creates men who truly cannot endure them. It creates men who spend so much of themselves dodging that they have nothing left to soak the damage that does get through. And we suffer when the shocking experience of being wounded has them flailing in indignation, looking for someone else to lay the pain on.

Having power, having male privilege, leaves so much room to be personally weak. Structural shielding takes the place of individual sturdiness. Unfortunately, even though we should have every right to be just as brittle and do just as well, we don't have the free structural protection to compensate. Even great personal sturdiness is not truly enough, even is it is mandatory. It just doesn't add up to the kind of protection that comes from man-proofing the world by softening its corners and padding any steep drops.

I bring this up because when men act like they can't handle rough awakenings, they aren't being insincere. I really don't think they are. I think they really are overwhelmed and overloaded by even these weak secondhand shocks picked up and conducted through people who experience them every day at full strength. Don't get me wrong, they CAN GET STRONGER. They can. But before they get stronger and while they ate getting stronger, they act like they're weak because they think they are and they think they are weak because it is still true.

I watch men do this, and I see it in myself along other axes. I know there are non-men who watch this and see this in men but still personally blame their own less protected neighbors for the teensiness of their personal hit point bar. Cis women watch men do this and then lash out when they are presented with transmisogyny. White women get used as scratching posts by weak men faced with a reality they never accepted was real, and are aghast when a black woman brushes up against their own bubble.

White women in particular tell men to suck it up because this is our lives and they are choosing to abandon us to preserve a lifestyle that lets them stay lazily weak. But woe to anybody who suggests we take our turn. Like men, white feminists may have other struggles, but we like to remain weak when we can, too. Whiteness lets us be weak but buying into it is how we work to stay that way, punishing those who attack us by burdening us by being honest with us.

White fragility is real. We aren't faking. Nobody ever said we were. Everyone else can see, in fact, that we are not. It isn't wrong because it is deceptive, or directly malicious. It is wrong because it is both brutally corrosive and entirely preventable.

White tears are sincere. White fragility is a genuine frailty.

That is kind of the problem, because there is so much work to be done that only we can do. We do not exempt ourselves from that duty by remaining too weak to discharge it properly; we just guarantee we will be failures.

April 2016

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