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Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Eraby Michael Kimmel
Synopses & Reviews
You see them everywhere — yet they're often invisible. They patrol America's southern border, determined to keep out Mexican immigrants; when that fails, they cruise border towns looking for immigrants to attack. They tune in to venomous talk radio hosts who translate any economic anguish, psychological distress, or political confusion into blind rage. They swarm into populist Tea Party rallies, hoping to find like-minded kinsmen willing to join with them to turn the country around. In suburbia, they're the ones who cut you off on the freeway, screaming with road rage if you dare to slow them down. If their kid doesn't make that suburban soccer team or that heartland hockey team, they're the ones who rush out onto the field to hit the coach or strangle the referee. Further up the economic ladder, they're the guys in seething in the corner of the corporate diversity training” workshop, snarling that they are now walking on eggshells” around the office.
They are America's angry white men. The past two decades have witnessed mainstream white American men exploding like never before in our history. Why should so many white American men be so angry, anyway? After all, just being Americans, they are among the most privileged people on earth. In the United States, white men get the lion's share of the wealth.
Michael Kimmel — perhaps Americas leading scholar and writer on men and masculinity — has spent the last decade puzzling over this paradox. He has spent hundreds of hours in the company of these men, hanging out, interviewing them. The resulting book Angry White Men answers this question by taking the pulse of these different groups of American men, dissecting their anger and anxieties.
Regardless of their class position, Kimmel argues, American white men have become a nation of Esaus. Kimmel locates the increase in anger with a growing social, political and economic gender gap — evinced in the latest Presidential election — twinned with an ideology of masculinity that men have inherited from their fathers and fathers before them, an ideology that promises unparalleled acquisition coupled with a tragically impoverished emotional intelligence. As the material benefits of white masculinity are beginning to wither, the codes and rituals of whiteness and masculinity take on more meaning and have become a psychological wage. Angry white men are linked by a single core experience: what Kimmel calls aggrieved entitlement.” It is that sense that those benefits to which you believed yourself entitled have been snatched away from you by unseen forces larger and more powerful.
We have accepted an ideology of masculinity that leaves us feeling empty and alone when we do it right and even worse when we feel were doing it wrong,” Kimmel writes, Worst of all, though, is when we feel we've done it right and still do not get the rewards to which we believe we are entitled. Then we have to blame somebody. Somebody else.”
"[Angry White Men] delivers... a lively, frequently scary look at a group of people who are trying, ever more desperately, to hang onto a world that no longer exists." Booklist
"Kimmel's writing is open and engaging, reminiscent of a conversation with friends in a bar....Another worthwhile examination of important issues affecting men and, by extension, everyone else, from an author known for his insight into the subject." Kirkus Reviews
America's leading expert on men and masculinity explains why America's white men are furious.
One of the enduring images from the 2012 presidential campaign was the demise of the white American male voter as a dominant force in the political landscape. Bellowing white men fill the talk-radio airwaves. Why are they so angry? Michael Kimmel has spent hundreds of hours in the company of these angry white men — from white supremacists to men's rights activists to young students — in pursuit of an answer. Kimmel proposes a theory of aggrieved entitlement: a sense that the benefits to which white men long believed themselves entitled have been snatched from them.
Kimmel locates the increase in anger with a growing social, political, and economic gender gap, twinned with an ideology of masculinity that makes America's white men feel empty and alone. Although they have been facing years of underemployment and wage stagnation, mainstream American discourse rarely discuss class issues. So when America's white men feel they've lived their lives the "right" way — worked hard — and still do not get the rewards to which they believe they are entitled, then they have to blame somebody else. Anybody else.
"[W]e can't come off as a bunch of angry white men.”
Robert Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party
One of the enduring legacies of the 2012 Presidential campaign was the demise of the white American male voter as a dominant force in the political landscape. On election night, after Obama was announced the winner, a distressed Bill O'Reilly lamented that he didn't live in a traditional America anymore.” He was joined by others who bellowed their grief on the talk radio airwaves, the traditional redoubt of angry white men. Why were they so angry? Sociologist Michael Kimmel, one of the leading writers on men and masculinity in the world today, has spent hundreds of hours in the company of America's angry white men — from white supremacists to men's rights activists to young students — in pursuit of an answer. Angry White Men presents a comprehensive diagnosis of their fears, anxieties, and rage.
Kimmel locates this increase in anger in the seismic economic, social and political shifts that have so transformed the American landscape. Downward mobility, increased racial and gender equality, and a tenacious clinging to an anachronistic ideology of masculinity has left many men feeling betrayed and bewildered. Raised to expect unparalleled social and economic privilege, white men are suffering today from what Kimmel calls "aggrieved entitlement": a sense that those benefits that white men believed were their due have been snatched away from them.
Angry White Men discusses, among others, the sons of small town America, scarred by underemployment and wage stagnation. When Americas white men feel they've lived their lives the right way — worked hard and stayed out of trouble — and still do not get economic rewards, then they have to blame somebody else. Even more terrifying is the phenomenon of angry young boys. School shootings in the United States are not just the work of misguided youth” or troubled teens” — they're all committed by boys. These alienated young men are transformed into mass murderers by a sense that using violence against others is their right.
The future of America is more inclusive and diverse. The choice for angry white men is not whether or not they can stem the tide of history: they cannot. Their choice is whether or not they will be dragged kicking and screaming into that inevitable future, or whether they will walk openly and honorably — far happier and healthier incidentally — alongside those they've spent so long trying to exclude.
About the Author
Michael Kimmel is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Stony Brook University in New York. An author or editor of more than twenty books, including Manhood in America, The Gendered Society, The History of Men, and Guyland, he lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York.
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