Here's a tiny glimpse at the power of a white man: Once, while traveling out of state, I cashed a third-party check at a grocery store without showing any identification.
That may not sound like much, but my wife—who is a proud black woman and watched the episode unfold—couldn't believe her eyes. “I'd never get away with that,” she said later. We still laugh at the memory, which has become light-hearted shorthand for all the things in life I get a pass on due to me being a white man.
I was reminded of the check-cashing incident while reading the excellent essay “Donglegate: Why the Tech Community Hates Feminists” by Alice Marwick. While I'm sure most tech savvy people are aware of Donglegate, I still highly recommend reading Marwick's essay. In particular, pay close attention to her thoughts about “'Men’s Rights Activism' (MRA) — groups of men who refer to feminism as 'misandry' and advocate vociferously that men face more discrimination than women.”
Now, Men’s Rights Activism is both new and old information to me. This is the first time I've heard of the term, but the sentiments behind it—the belief that men, and especially white men, are being persecuted—is sadly not new. I've heard similar complaints for the last two decades. If a woman or a person of color dares to advance past a white man in life, out come the snide comments. That it's affirmative action. That they're not as talented. That the world is now biased against white men.
But as a white man, let me publicly call bullshit on this. I have never been discriminated against or held back in life because I'm a white man. Have other people beaten me to jobs because they were better than me or had a connection I lacked? Yes. Have I missed out on publications and awards because other writers were better or luckier than me. Again, yes. But my being a white man hasn't held me back one bit.
But what I have seen in life is how women and people of color have to work twice as hard merely to play on the same field as white men. I first saw this while growing up in Alabama during the decades after the Civil Rights Movement. But I've also witnessed this everywhere I've gone. I've seen women and people of color—merely because of who they are—be passed over for jobs and have their opinions dismissed and continually be given the worst assignments.
So why do so many white men now complain that they're the victims? Because the world is changing, and change scares the shit out of some white men. It used to be white men didn't have to compete against women or people of color. Now we do. Never mind that the playing field is still nowhere near level and fair—just the thought that being a white man isn't the power-trip it once was is enough to send some white men into fits.
Why do so many white men complain they're discriminated against? Because the funny, ironic truth is no one whines as much as a white man denied.
So-called Men’s Rights Activism is simply some white men justifying discrimination and privilege. It's simply some white men complaining because they didn't get handed what they wanted in life. It's some white men complaining because they don't have the balls to compete on the new playing field of life. (And if whiny white men hate one thing most of all, it's having their own sexist terms thrown back at them like that.)
Instead of whining about discrimination, or turning into the nasty superhero Super Angry White Man and hurling racist and sexist comments at anyone online who disagrees with you, white men should instead do like women and people of color have always done—deal with life. Work things the best you can. If you lose a job, get a better education or more training. If you hit a wall, find another way around.
But white men, hear this from one of your own—stop the whining. Sometimes life is unfair and sometimes it's a crap fest. But blaming your woes on women and people of color isn't just silly, it's wrong.