Donald Trump’s elevation to the highest office in the United States came to most in the United States and abroad as a shock to the current political establishment. A view into, as sociologist Michael Kimmel has named them, America’s ‘Angry White Men’ shows that this decade long strain of frustration brewing among America’s self-endowed heirs to the American Dream laid fertile ground for the rise of a Trump-like authortarian character in American politics. Feeling abandoned by Washington elites, progressives who seem to dismiss their legitimate hardships, and the media, these men turned to the darkest corners of political philosophy for the answers seeking to ‘Make America Great Again’.
by Nicholas Babakitis
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.”
17 months ago, this ridiculous, now infamous statement was uttered by the, now, President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. Whipping up his abysmal cocktail of hyper-masculinity, rampant sexism, racism, homophobia, and pretty much anything else generations of men and women in the United States have been fighting against, yet somehow in this slew of word vomit, Mr. Trump secured his place in being the next Commander in Chief. These sentiments, obviously, must have resonated with some Americans (over 58 million at the time of writing this piece), but how did these vile, archaic ideas take center-stage in American politics and mobilize massive groups of people to support him? Michael Kimmel, author of Angry White Men and sociologist at the Stony Brook University in New York, offers an insight into these groups of disenfranchised men, clinging on to their ‘values’ and imaginary utopia of a time when men were men, that many Americans have long overlooked as being simply an unwillingness to adapt to the times.
Kimmel scores the nation searching for groups most men (and women) would not only disregard, but some whom many would wish to avoid at all costs: neo-Nazis, men’s rights activists, school shooters, and others compelled to rebel against a system they find to be oppressing them. The 1960s, while giving minorities and women more rights and opportunities in the American way of life, had immediate backlash from conservative communities prompting the promotion of ‘Law and Order’ values from notable politicians the likes of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and now Donald Trump in the decades following. This opposition, which still carries over into modern politics, is felt by many of these men and in their eyes isn’t seen as being racially driven, rather that these groups (women and minorities) were ‘taking their jobs’ and threatening their way of life.
“Make America Great Again”
American jobs belong to Americans, right? This sense of entitlement, as Kimmel notes, is a tenant of the American way these men felt was guaranteed to them as being hard working Americans, depicting themselves akin to the modern-day frontiersmen. Hard work equated to having a stable job, being able to feed their families, in most cases owning a house and a car, many staples of American life which, post-2008, have been more and more difficult for hard-working Americans to access, in turn leaving many angry, wishing to position their rage at anything which seems somewhat feasible to them and developing a nostalgia for a time that never really existed.
The self-made man, who left the city generations ago to set out west and make a new life for himself, honing his skills for survival while embarking on grand adventures. This self-made man was America and the beginning of the truest expression of freedom and the American dream to these men, something far in the past due to progressive reforms of the last century. Kimmel, however, pulls off the rose-colored glasses, which many Americans, not just these angry white men, have on, shedding some light on the situation of these idolized frontiersmen and their reasons for abandoning their lives in the North; namely an inability for these men to become successful in their towns and cities where they were from attempting to sacrifice all they had to be successful, simply because they had the open wilderness at their disposal.
Free-market capitalism, the epicenter of all of America’s growth, wealth, and industrial power, remained in the eyes of not only Angry White Men, but most Americans, as a piece of the American dream they could take part in, express their freedoms the true American way, and become successful. Once again, this staple promise of the American Dream was never really fulfilled for these men. Oblivious to the basics of labor exploitation, the mobility of labor, and the now new competition for positions in the labor market due to the influx of minorities and women introduced in the work force over the next few decades, promises of a life destined through their position as white American men, dwindled for many in front of their eyes.
“Grab ‘em by the pussy”
Feminism, rather Women’s Liberation as a whole, has found many men in a similar state of panic with many of whom are in a defensive struggle to ‘get their balls back’. Consistent complaints of ‘men unable to be men’ resonate throughout Kimmel’s chapter focusing on such Men’s Rights groups, rather childishly due to women having more, although not equal, opportunities in the workforce. What Trump dismissed a few weeks prior to his election as simply ‘locker-room talk’ is a private-sphere in which these men feel they can no longer express and represent themselves in traditionally male-dominated fields (the overall workspace). These men yearn for the good ol’ days, when women held jobs in ‘women specific’ fields and a nostalgia reminiscent of Mad Men tickles their fantasies of how great it must have been to be a man in the era of Fordism.
Antifeminists in the 1950s and 60s viewed feminism as a means of turning women into consumerist gold-diggers, ruing the docile nature of the pre-feminist woman. While America sees itself founded on consumerism, anti-feminists have continuously held the belief that this culture and behavior is inclined more to the male gender and the preservation of the patriarchy. Men Right’s Activists of today see these continuous pushes from women wishing to make themselves an equal part of a society notorious for denying them the right to be seen as equals as the federal government taking a political agenda that is a feminist ploy to rig the system against men and tilt it into the favor of women.
“I have a great relationship with the Blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the Blacks”
Race in the eyes of many of these Angry White Men is something Kimmel describes as a ‘Goldilocks’ affect: too hot, too cold, or just right. Western outlooks on race and the attributes men (and women) have displayed supposedly due to their race is a long, upsetting history which is unfortunately far from being a thing of the past. White Men have seen other races as either being far too hypo-masculine, Latinos or Asians, or hyper-masculine, particularly Black men, and are not fit for the world the white man resides in. While Kimmel does not address this issue the way famous sociologies like Frantz Fanon have marvelously done in the past, he uses these stereotypes as the mechanism which men have historically used to promote white-American values and have seemed to slip into an unconscious realm of thought potentially unknowingly racist in many cases.
Similarly to how MRA’s (Men’s Rights Activists) feel their right to the patriarchy is being threatened by a relatively recent addition into the traditionally white, male dominated workforce seeking equality, many working class white males, and those who give an outlet to this rage and in many cases paired with scientifically inaccurate ideas of race, feel they’re being forced out of the places predetermined to them by their status and skin color. Kimmel points continuously to recent American pop culture as a visualization of this attitude many white working class men, most recently, and possibly most accurately depicted in the Clint Eastwood film Grand Tornio.
“If you’re a conservative Republican, you’ve got to fight for your life. It’s really an amazing thing.”
Obviously, as history has shown, this rage doesn’t remain bottled up and has developed itself into a massive, politically active network ready to mobilize and take their country back which they feel they have been robbed of. Conservatives cry of the unfair tilt ‘liberal media’ has in the United States (Lügenpresse!11!1!), yet tuning into talk radio will show a rather drastic bias towards far-right wing political leanings, oddly symbolic of a somewhat outdated means of broadcasting being used to broadcast and expand outdated ideas and sentiments. Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and many many more, create a seemingly never ending list of far-right pundits who broadcast coast to coast from morning into the wee hours of the night producing delusions of grandeur for these men to tap into and, in many cases, mobilize into a strong political community. Promoting seemingly obvious white nationalist sympathies, Kimmel notes how these mouthpieces for the Angry White Men provide many with the outlet they seek, with likeminded people, in order to fight whichever liberal agenda is attempting to emasculate them.
Overall, this inability, or rather unwillingness for these Angry White Men to see the roots of their, in many ways, legitimate qualms with a society they feel ignored in, is a product of neo-liberalism. Kimmel suggests throughout the book that these men are trying and wanting to be heard, and in a society where they feel attacked for being white, something previously unheard of to these men in the United States, they find themselves in a regression of thought with millions of others who share their resentment. Simply put, white, working class men, are legitimately hurting, rather than teaming up with other exploited and truly oppressed peoples in this modern world, they’re turning inwards, becoming angry and, unfortunately, getting their way as of Wednesday morning’s election results. These Angry White Men, as the struggling backbone of an American society existing only in the theater of the mind, helped propel Donald J. Trump to the highest office in the United States of America.
Nicholas Babakitis is currently studying North American Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin with a special focus in Politics and Economics. He is originally from Phoenix, Arizona and has his BA in History and Political Science from Arizona State University. When he isn’t preoccupied with his studies, he enjoys playing guitar, eating pizza, and secretly playing with Legos when no one is looking.