Friday, September 13, 2019

The Obliteration of Alpha Males. Or What Tucker Carlson Fears Might Happen In American Politics?

Tucker Carlson believes that a patriarchal system is required for any society to exist.

I know this, because he invited the anti-feminist Heather Mac Donald, one of the weirdest members of the gals' auxiliary to the white supremacist movement, to his show again, to talk about the terrible oppression of men in the US.  Especially about the dreadful plight of the alpha males:

HEATHER MAC DONALD: We're living in a culture that is trying to obliterate alpha males and create an alpha female.
We have to be very realistic that what we are creating here is a systemic culture of contempt towards male success and that's got to have an effect.
TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): How does this help women, in the end?

MAC DONALD: Well it only helps women if you believe the idiocy that strong women can do it all. It certainly doesn't help children because children need mothers and fathers. But it seems like most females are simply involved in this crusade based on anger and resentment that they have to not just be equal but to crush men and that is absurd. There are male virtues of chivalry, entrepreneurial drive, risk taking that have given us civilization and if we continue to disparage those Tucker, we're going to have no civilization left.

CARLSON: That's exactly right. Gender roles are the building blocks of any society and we've let a small group of unhappy people destroy ours and tamper with the formula.

I adore these kinds of rambling and hallucinatory exchanges (1), because they reveal the underlying beliefs of our Tucker.  

The "alpha male" terminology she uses in that quote is common on the various misogyny online sites where it was initially borrowed from wolf packs (2).  But wolf packs actually have both an "alpha male" AND an ""alpha female"!  Or rather, the leaders of the pack tend to be the parents or grandparents of the wolves in the pack.

What's she trying to achieve with that first assertion?  She is trying to frighten the conservative men (and their henchwomen) in Carlson's audience by suggesting that feminists are not interested in the equality of the sexes, but in turning the still-everywhere-common patriarchies upside-down.  This would mean that men might then be treated the way patriarchies, at their worst, have treated women!

Now that is stuff for nightmares!  In those men would be gelded, men would be locked inside their homes, men would be required to dress modestly, to keep their eyes lowered, and all gate-keeping about sex would be their responsibility.  The leadership, in all fields, would belong to women, and men would really have to prove their worth before they would be allowed to tiptoe in the corridors of power.

I had fun with that paragraph.  Rest assured, my sweet and erudite readers that none of the above has any realistic chance of happening.  Indeed, I don't know a single feminist who even desires such an outcome. 

The above exchanges between Carlson and Mac Donald are not really about gender roles (though those can be very problematic in themselves (3)), but about the desirability of patriarchal arrangements.

Both Carlson and Mac Donald equate civilizations with patriarchy, and then imply that we cannot have the former without the latter.   Carlson appears to argue that we can't even have a society without strict gender roles.

Mac Donald also believes that certain virtues belong to men alone. Those would be chivalry, entrepreneurial drive and risk-taking.  She then warns us away from disparaging those virtues, because that, my friends, will take us right back to the stone age.

That warning looks weird to me.  Do feminists routinely go out of their way to criticize entrepreneurial drive and risk-taking?  I have never seen that happen.

Besides, both entrepreneurial drive and risk-taking are human characteristics, not limited to the male sex, though often seen as such because of the gendered lens we see them through (4), and I see no reason why they would somehow disappear without patriarchal gender roles.  Chivalry, on the other hand, might vanish because it would transmute itself to plain common courtesy toward all (5).

Sigh.  I shouldn't have this Pavlov's dog reaction of needing to correct all the shitty stuff Tucker Carlson spews into the world.  My work changes nothing.

He and his guests are not talking about facts or looking for evidence but simply pushing the fear buttons of the right-wingers who watch that show.  Those people don't read here and in any case the very topic appears impervious to intellectual arguments. 

So initially I was planning not to write on any of this (I still have duty-free chocolate left, as an alternative way to pass time).

But then I asked myself if the timing of this topic on Carlson's show has anything at all to do with the rise of Elizabeth Warren's approval ratings among the Democratic presidential contenders for 2020 elections, because she sure qualifies as an "alpha female" to people like Carlson and Mac Donald?  And it would make sense that our Tucker would start injecting lots of subconscious fear of uppity women into our political conversations right about now?

So I decided to write this post, just in case.

(1)  It's not being concerned about the problems American men and boys might face today that I see hallucinatory here.  It's that both Mac Donald and Carlson blame feminism and attempts to increase gender equality for, pretty much, the end of civilization.  Those nightmarish monsters are not real.  And neither is happiness and success necessarily a zero-sum game between the sexes, the way both Carlson and Mac Donald see them. 

Besides, focusing on the feminist monsters  makes us not address the real reasons why working-class men are more hit by the loss of jobs than working-class women are,  or why men and boys, especially those belonging to ethnic and racial minorities, are dropping out of higher education.  Ironically, at least some of the reasons for these real problems probably lie in old patriarchal gender norms.  See my Jordan Peterson book review for more on some of those.

(2)  More on the roots of the conservative concept of the alpha male, here.

(3)  Because distinct, rigid and unequally valued gender roles are, of course, one of the main ways in which the subjugation of women was historically accomplished, and also the main way it can still be maintained.

(4)  To elaborate:

We tend to see risk-taking and competitiveness more easily in certain domains and not in others, and the ones where we see it most clearly are domains where men have traditionally been most active, such as finance and sports.

Risk-taking by women is common in some domains.  Women take more social risks than men, though we don't see those activities as risk-taking.  Neither do we see willingly accepting the risks involved in pregnancy and childbirth as risk-taking behavior the way we see such behavior in, say, sky-diving.  Cosmetic surgery and other body modifications are risky endeavors more common for women than for men, too.

And certain behaviors, such as engaging in one-night stands with strangers are objectively riskier for women than for men. This means that we cannot directly compare men's and women's willingness to take sexual risks without controlling for the fact that the real risk levels differ. 

Then people, in general, are more likely to take risks and to compete in fields they know well, probably because greater knowledge actually reduces the amount of real risk one is taking.

This is partly why studies in the field of finance often find that women are more risk-averse, on average, than men.  The willingness to take risks rises with one's knowledge of a field, and women are still less knowledgeable about the field of high finance than men, on average. 

Finally, to study gender differences in entrepreneurial traits we should control for the fact that getting outside financing and startup support is harder for female-run firms than it is for male-run firms, on average.  That fewer women are entrepreneurs might be because of such obstacles, not because they have less taste for entrepreneurship.

This long explanation doesn't mean that if we fixed all those problems in comparing men's and women's traits we would find no difference.  But we should first fix all those problems before making the kinds of statements Mac Donald makes in the quote I use in this post.

(5)  The misogyny sites talk about the end of chivalry as a veiled threat, something along the lines that if women refuse their inferior position in the society then the men on those sites see no reason to be nice to any woman.