When I die, it might be said of me that I was a bad uncle.
Not a creepy uncle, or a dangerous one, mind you. Just one who is occasionally derelict in his duty towards his niece. I like to make plans for my son and Bark’s son — plans for indoor karting, NERF(tm) guns, trips to South Carolina. Whenever I do this, Bark reminds me that he has two children. “You always forget about your niece,” he chides.
He’s wrong. I’m not forgetting about her; I simply think that she doesn’t need my help or involvement in any significant amount. She’s a talented young woman with a long list of accomplishments, outstanding bone structure, and a family history of staying thin. This is THE_CURRENT_YEAR and the deck is stacked in her favor.
I’m not so sure the same is true for our sons. Over the past decade I’ve gotten the impression that young American men are increasingly under fire, so to speak — that’s a metaphor, although it’s literally true for many of our least fortunate young men who see the armed forces as a way to escape what increasingly looks like a planned economic hollowing-out of our rural counties. The above chart, which has been circulating a bit on Twitter with no substantive refutation of its statistics, only serves to reinforce my concern. (You can see the original, and click through for references, here.)
This is what I want you to do.
0. Read the chart quickly;
1. Then consider your most immediate reaction to it.
Is that reaction some mixture of shame and annoyance? Do you feel a small (or significant) measure of contempt for the type of person who would even bother to create such a thing? When you hear the phrase “a war on boys”, is your first response to express your disappointment with, or contempt for, the sort of person who uses that phrase? If you’re like most of our male readers, I bet you have at least some of these reactions.
Would you like to know why? And would you like to know why it’s critical that you change your response?
Simply stated, this response has been engineered in you by the people who would like to see young men knocked down a peg or two. It’s Rule #5 from Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals, “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon,” combined with a keen awareness of “toxic masculinity”. Think back to your childhood. Weren’t you raised with at least some degree of American Stoicism? Work hard, endure pain, don’t complain about things, don’t snitch on bullies. Even if your parents weren’t big on that particular conditioning, I bet you got some of it from the media, from the portrayals by John Wayne and Steve McQueen and Sly Stallone and Vin Diesel.
Therefore, when you see the above chart, your first response is probably some variant on “suck it up, kids.” Yes, we all know that young men are far more likely to die on the job than women. That’s totally fine. It’s part of the plan, part of the culture. The ones who don’t die will no doubt be stronger as a result, right?
You’re also aware at some level that the men who investigate and discuss these sorts of statistics are ridiculed and derided as “MRAs”. They are lampooned on the left and detested on the right. You don’t want to be ridiculed and lampooned. Very few men can endure ridicule. That’s why Frank Herbert’s test of humanity didn’t impress me much. The average 17-year-old boy can endure a near-infinite amount of pain. What he can’t take: being laughed at, particularly if it’s a girl doing the chuckling.
I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when a female autowriter decided to refer to me and Bark on social media as “the Incel Brothers”. This lady doesn’t know me very well, and I’m not sure she has ever met Bark. She’s from the generation before mine; I remember thinking that she was perhaps sixty-five years old when I met her a decade ago, and she has visibly aged since then. Yet even in her seventies she has a keen awareness that the best way to undermine men is by suggesting that they can’t get laid, and that the power of that is ridicule is so potent that it can be wielded by anyone, even someone who is herself long out of the dating market.
The most fascinating part of the “incel” argument is that you can’t refute it without sounding even more incel as a consequence. So all I will say is this: I’m married to a very nice-looking and in-shape woman who is approximately half the age of my accuser, and if I am, in fact, involuntarily celibate then I blame that on Ray’s Indoor Bike Park, the place where my son refuses to quit riding until they close, and the time that they close is 10PM, and the drive time back is two hours plus, and I don’t believe in putting the bikes away afterwards until I have any mechanical issues sorted — so who can blame Danger Girl if she’d rather be asleep at 1:30 in the morning? Yes, involuntary celibacy is a tough gig, but I’ve heard it also gives you special abilities, which might explain why I’m now easily clearing the new quintet of oversized “box jumps” on the new downhill line at a time of the night when most 48-year-old men have already retired to bed. INCEL POWER!
Last but not least, there is the fact that some men have it very good indeed. If we point out that young men aren’t going to college, we are “debunked” by someone pointing out that most CEOs and pro athletes and long-lasting movie stars are men. Implicit in this response is the idea that you’re not much of a man if you’re affected by — or if you even notice — gender disparities which favor women. Note, if you will, that this line of reasoning is never acceptable when we speak about issues affecting the African-American community; “1,200 of you are millionaire athletes” is not an acceptable response to someone complaining of systematic racism. It is, however, considered perfectly normal to use it against men as a whole. Why that is so, and which interests are served by permitting this disparity, is left as an exercise for the reader.
You get the idea. We’re trained not to complain about the bad hand that men have been dealt nowadays, and we also know that complaining about it will make us the target of ridicule. If we notice the fact that the modern American system is set up in many ways to favor girls over boys, the mere act of noticing marks us out to be lesser men, because we have a male President and male winners of, ah, many UCI cycling disciplines.
The incentives for all of us to shut up are powerful indeed, and I understand why we rarely speak out in the defense of young men. Let me offer you a reason to ignore those incentives: because our own sons, grandsons, and nephews need us to speak out where they cannot. I know that it’s tempting to fall prey to the same sort of stoic pride in this matter with regards to our own kids: “Oh, my son is talented and bright and handsome and I have a half-million bucks set aside for his education so I’m not going to talk about the inequities facing young men because they won’t apply to my boy.” To which I would say: don’t put your sons in the path of a bullet just to satisfy your own self-image as father/provider/whatever.
I’ll use a specific pair of examples: I find it hard to believe that my son won’t get into the college of his choice; he understands more about data science at the age of ten than the average professional data scientist, he’s a first-rate ambidextrous epee fencer, and he can hit a golf ball pretty well. But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be an active advocate for all the young men who haven’t been that lucky. Bark’s son will probably be a National Merit Semifinalist at the age of thirteen, the way I was. It doesn’t mean that Bark shouldn’t worry about admissions policies which discriminate against young men. We don’t want our sons growing up alone, without friends or teammates or comrades.
There’s another alternative, of course: You could always advocate for a return to traditional gender roles, where men do all the dying and women do all the childrearing. I think that’s a lost cause, at least in the short term. Our modern hybrid society (in the sense that is a hybrid between Orwell’s envisioned future and Huxley’s) is literally unable to perceive any benefit to such a return. It will take some hard times indeed to make that a palatable option. Those hard times are perhaps coming, but in the meantime, to mention yet a third sci-fi author in a single paragraph, you should be aware that we will be playing by Harrison Bergeron rules for the foreseeable future. The most you can hope for is to reduce the amount of handicap given to your sons. Be an advocate for them. Your daughters and nieces won’t hold it against you. I’m not the greatest uncle in the world, but I know that much, at least.