Bonus Episode: Toxic Masculinity

toxic masculinity on the issues with michele goodwin

With Guests:

  • Jill Filipovic, lawyer, weekly columnist for CNN, contributor to the New York Times, and the author of “The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness” and the forthcoming “OK BOOMER, LET’S TALK: How My Generation Got Left Behind.”
  • Saida Grundy, Ph.D., feminist sociologist of race and ethnicity and assistant professor of sociology, African American studies and Women’s and Gender Studies at Boston University, author of forthcoming “Manhood Within the Margins: Promise, Peril and Paradox at the Historically Black College for Men.”
  • Jackson Katz, Ph.D., internationally acclaimed educator, author and scholar-activist on issues of gender, race and violence.
Listen on:

In this Episode:

On this special episode, we focus on toxic masculinity in the U.S., including online misogyny, and how it translates into real-world violence—highlighted most recently in the horrific murder of Daniel Anderl, the son of U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas, and the shooting of her husband Mark Anderl.  The person assumed responsible for those tragedies is Roy Den Hollander, a self-proclaimed “men’s rights” activist—part of a growing movement of men who describe themselves as frustrated by women.  Some members of this movement are also known as “incels.” 
 
We also turn to the everyday harassment women experience—even in Congress, like in the case of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who was accosted by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.).  Representative Yoho called her “disgusting,” “a “f***ing bitch,” and at first denied it.  Rep. Yoho claimed his “passion” got the better of him and offered what many would describe as a rambling floor speech in which his daughters and wife were centered.  However, he did not apologize.  For some women, this looked like typical workplace misogyny they endure all the time. 
 
What lessons can be drawn from these incidents and others?  Has toxic masculinity gone too far?

Transcript

Michele Goodwin  00:03

Welcome to “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin” at Ms. magazine, a show where we report, rebel and tell it like it is. On this show, we center your concerns about rebuilding our nation and advancing the promise of equality. Join me as we tackle the most compelling issues of our times.

On this special episode, we focus on toxic masculinity in the United States, including online misogyny and how it translates into real world violence— highlighted most recently in the horrific murder of Daniel Anderl—he’s the son of U.S. federal district court judge Esther Salas, and the shooting of her husband, Mark Anderl. The person assumed responsible for those tragedies is Roy Den Hollander, a self-proclaimed “men’s rights” activist. He’s part of a growing movement of men who describe themselves as frustrated by women.

He took his own life. However, we come to you not only in the wake of Judge Salas’s unspeakable grief.

Recently, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was accosted by Representative Ted Yoho, her colleague from Florida. Representative Yoho called her “disgusting,” pointed a finger in her face, used slurs, and at first denied it but then refused to apologize for it. He was overheard by reporters and some may wonder: If reporters had not been present, would she, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, have been able to tell her story? Representative Yoho claimed that it was his “passions” that got the better of him and offered what many would describe as a rambling floor speech in which his daughters and wife were centered. Was this using his wife and daughters as a shield? For some women, this looked like typical workplace misogyny that they endure all the time. Yet, we know the culture of toxic masculinity relates to more than just a week’s worth of humiliations.

What can we learn from these incidents and others? What lessons can be drawn? And has toxic masculinity gone too far? Joining me as we talk about incels, the ways in which racism intersect with misogyny in the U.S., and on the internet, and in the anti-feminist movement are three very special guests.

First, I have with me Jill Filipovic. She is a columnist for CNN, a contributor to The New York Times, a lawyer and the author of the forthcoming book “OK, Boomer, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind.” She’s also the author of “The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness.”

Also, joining me is Dr. Saida Grundy. She’s an assistant professor of sociology and African American Studies at Boston University. Her research explores the intersections of race and masculinity, rape culture and campus sexual assault. Professor Grundy is author of the forthcoming book, “Manhood Within the Margins: Promise, Peril and Paradox at the Historically Black Colleges for Men.”

Also joining me today is Dr. Jackson Katz. He is an internationally acclaimed educator, author, scholar and activist on issues of gender, race and violence. Through his books, documentaries, and public speaking and articles, he has tackled issues of masculinity, racism and violence.

Thank you very much for joining me today.

Jill, let me start with you. Last week you wrote a piece for CNN. You said while the targeting of a federal judge and her family is shocking, Den Hollander’s violence shouldn’t be surprising. This is, after all, a man who called the Violence Against Women Act “female fraud”—a “female fraud” act—only to then allegedly commit violence against a woman’s family. What do we know about the killer?

Jill Filipovic  03:44

We actually know quite a bit about Den Hollander. We know that he was active in men’s rights circles. If you—not that anybody wants to do this—I spent a few hours of my day going through the writings he’s posted on his website, you know, many of which are a bit incoherent. But to paint a picture of a man who very much resented women’s power, who very much resented women having equal rights to men, and who had frankly constructed this entire worldview that was premised on the idea that it’s actually women who are in positions of power and not men.

Despite looking at kind of the same landscape the rest of us can see, right, which is a male-dominated Congress, not a single female president in the history of the United States, men dominating at every level of business—he still managed to look at that landscape and say, “Well, obviously it’s women who are really in charge and it’s men who are the ones who are being quite oppressed.”

And unlike, I think, a lot of our stereotypes about, you know, so-called “incels”—which I don’t know that Den Hollander actually identified as part of that community—he wasn’t this kind of like, basement-dwelling loser. He was a lawyer, he had, by all accounts, a, you know, relatively successful career that seems like it was being hampered a little bit by his extremist views. But, you know, he was a relatively productive public-facing member of society—which I think is an important point: That we don’t assume that you know, every man who has these kind of really toxic views of the world is, you know, a marginal crazy person.

These are people that are folded into every level of the world in which we live. You know, they aren’t monsters lurking in the shadows and Den Hollander wasn’t either. We knew exactly what he believed—he was quite public about that. He presented his beliefs in courts of law. And yet we all then act like we are quite surprised when, you know, he acts on a set of beliefs that very much foretold the violence that would follow.

Michele Goodwin  05:52

There are those who say that, “We’re part of this anti-woman movement, anti-feminist movement,” that they been left behind, that they’ve been denied opportunities. Can you help us to understand a little bit more where that comes from? How do they get to that conclusion, given the World Economic Forum places the U.S., it’s something like 75th in the world in terms of women’s relative power to men and federal representation? [Editor’s note: the 2020 Global Gender Gap Index 2020 ranks the U.S. as 86th in the world on political empowerment.]

So, how do men get there? Men like him.

Jill Filipovic  06:26

You know, I think when you’re used to being a member of a dominant class and you know, having the world frankly kind of cater to you, right; having a pop culture reflect your views, your interests, your way of life; having the halls of power being filled with people who look like you, who share your experiences, who share your views—when that starts to change, when we start to approach something that looks a little bit more like equality, you know, that feels or can feel like a loss for people who have, you know, had that kind of unquestioned dominance. And I think that’s what you see among a lot of, you know, men who are part of these reactionary groups. You know, I think that the more extreme of them make up, you know, the “manosphere” online, which—

Michele Goodwin  07:18

That’s a word? That’s a thing, the “manosphere?” Oh, my goodness.

Jill Filipovic  07:22

Yeah, I should figure out who coined that so I can give them credit. I’m not sure; I’ll Google that. [Editor’s note: the origin of the term is unclear, but was popularized by Ian Ironwood’s book “The Manosphere: A New Hope for Masculinity“.]

Michele Goodwin  07:28

No kidding!

Jill Filipovic  07:28

But yeah, that encompasses—yes, the sort of incels, like people like Elliot Rodger, but it also encompasses, you know, the MRAs, the men’s rights activists, which I think is kind of where Den Hollander—

Michele Goodwin  07:38

You have all sorts of acronyms today.

Jill Filipovic  07:40

I know, I’m sorry, it’s the worst!

Michele Goodwin  07:45

But it’s important that we understand these. I mean, as you say, they are— this is a real thing.

Jill Filipovic  07:50

Well, and I think, post-Elliot Rodger, there’s been this assumption that, you know, angry men online are all “incels.” And, you know, that there have been a series of self-identified incels who have leveraged this kind of public mass violence against women. And that’s an important thing to recognize.

But there are also men, you know, who are married to women, who are divorced from women, or who are “pickup artists,” right, who brag about their incredible, you know, sexual power when it comes to women, who are still nevertheless all part of this kind of misogynist online stew. Who, you know, despite these totally different interpersonal relationships—or lack thereof— with women, still come to the same conclusions that, you know, men are the oppressed class that women control.

You know, a big source of frustration for a lot of these folks are family courts. You know, many of them, at least anecdotally, are, you know, men who have been accused of violence against women, who have lost divorce proceedings, or not lost but gone through divorce proceedings—

Michele Goodwin  09:01

And they’re angry.

Jill Filipovic  09:02

Who have lost custody and they’re very angry.

You know, and so, what really does—as much as all of these men present themselves as these kind of, you know, manly, hyper-masculine caricatures—you know, at least to me, what does seem to be the sort of connective tissue is this deep sense of victimization.

And, you know, a deep identification, you know, with the process of not having universal power and authority over women and often children in their lives is, for these men, a huge affront, a huge insult and evidence that they are somehow the victim.

Michele Goodwin  09:44

So, with that, we have Dr. Katz on. And as we were thinking about this particular show, we very well could have had guests that were all women, but Dr. Katz has been studying in this space and has been writing about and talking about—he has a TED talk that’s been viewed over and over again— about why it’s important that men speak out, that men recognize the sexism, the racism that’s involved in cultures of toxic masculinity.

You’ve been so vocal and so active on this; I want you to start first, Dr. Katz, by helping us with the definition of incels. What does that mean? We hear the terminology banded about but, for some of our listeners, they may not know exactly what it means. Can you help us with that?

Jackson Katz  10:39

Thank you very much for having this conversation and having me be a part of it and I appreciate the conversation.

Michele Goodwin  10:45

Pleasure to you on the show. Absolutely.

Jackson Katz  10:48

Absolutely. It’s all good. I mean, you know, incel stands for “involuntarily celibate.” It’s a fairly recent, if you will, term over the last number of years where people talked about this sort of, a one segment of the men’s rights universe, so-called “men’s rights,” the universal manosphere. That’s [incels are] particularly extreme but it tends to be young men who are heterosexually-inclined who are really angry at women for depriving them of the sex or the sexual contact that they feel is their birthright, if you will.

And, I mean, there’s a wit—there are way more people in the anti-feminist world and the men’s—even the men’s rights world—which are not necessarily the same exact thing.

Michele Goodwin  11:39

They’re all communities. So, there are communities, there’s an incel community, a men’s rights community and then the anti-feminist community. Is this what you’re telling us?

Jackson Katz  11:51

Yeah, I mean, I mean, some of it, there’s some overlap, but incel is a much more specific term.

I think the vast majority of men who are engaged in the men’s rights movement or who would identify themselves as anti-feminist—which would include, by the way, if you’re talking about anti-feminist, that’s a broader term that would include lots of, you know, mainstream politicians in the United States. So, so I don’t—I think we have—

Michele Goodwin  12:13

Point taken, given last week.

Jackson Katz  12:15

Or given, you know, 2016 or 2012 or 2008, or every election, virtually, there’s—anti-feminism is a big part of our, of the political backlash in the last 50 years against women’s— you know, in a multiracial, multi-ethnic sense—progress.

But I think it’s important to say that the incel movement is a very small number, but because of the violent acts of whether it’s Elliot Rodger in Isla Vista, Santa Barbara, or this Alek Minassian in Toronto, Canada, who killed a bunch of people by driving up on a street crowded, with a sidewalk crowded with people. And then claiming, at least in proclaiming, that Elliot Rodger, the murderer in Isla Vista, you know, Santa Barbara, California was a was a hero, if you will.

These people—this is terror, these are terrorist acts that get a huge amount of attention, but they don’t, I don’t think they represent anything like the political strength or the social presence, more broadly, of the either men’s rights or the broader anti-feminist universe.

The Men’s Rights Movement is a global network to improve the human rights of men and boys. Pictured: The “Men’s Human Rights Movement” in India in September 2014. (Amit Deshpande / Flickr)

Can I just say one other thing, just for context, historical context: The men’s rights movement has been around much longer than social media. And people in the battered women’s movement, and myself included as an activist and an educator and in that space, for you know, for many decades—well before there was social media, there was an organized group of men and some women who were part of the men’s rights movement who have made life difficult for women in the battered women’s movement for you know, since the late 1970s and in the early 1980s.

Michele Goodwin  13:54

We’re going to get to that, right, because one of the things that we see with the advancement of the incel movement and even the anti-feminist movement and men’s rights movement has been the use of internet, right. So, as you’re sharing with us: A lot of this, it’s not new.

But I do want you to help us understand who Elliot [Rodger] was and how he fits into this. People might hear that name and wonder, should they go on Google? And now find out more about this person, but you can help us right here. Who was he?

Jackson Katz  14:30

He was a young man who in his early 20s, who was clearly angry at women for, as he put it, sexually rejecting him. And he videoed, you know, he recorded himself talking about his anger, his frustration, his resentment towards women, in particular, what he called “stuck-up women” that are in sororities, in a sorority culture at the University of California, Santa Barbara. And then he went up, he ended up murdering a couple of his male housemates or apartment-mates. And then he had this plan to go kill a bunch of women at a sorority. He was interrupted during the course of that plan.

So, he didn’t particularly enact his initial homicidal agenda, although he did end up killing something like five people, I’m not sure exactly. [Editor’s note: he killed six victims.]

But he became kind of a folk hero, in a very twisted way because he was a very disturbed individual.

But when I say disturbed, I don’t mean to absolve him of responsibility for his crimes, but he clearly—anybody, you don’t have to be a clinician to watch the video tape of his manifesto about the world and about women and see that he was not well. But at the same time he was—like so many of these men and others, you know, who commit acts of egregious violence that are based in some kind of sociological or power imbalance—he was a manifestation of that cultural belief system, even though it was an extreme version of misogyny, if you will. It’s not that he was wildly unique as much as he was hyper, hyper-normal.

Michele Goodwin  16:18

Right, right. Well, I want to include Dr. Grundy here. You have a forthcoming book that addresses masculinity—you study it—and you’re bringing special attention to race.

Saida Grundy  16:29

Thank you for that question but it’s—I think it’s a really good one, when we contextualize this stuff. So, you know, one of the things that I study the most is really cultures of men and how masculine cultures are racialized, right? There’s no gender culture that isn’t racialized. So, you know, when I study campus sexual assault, I’m looking at racialized rape culture, and that is always historically situated, right. And there’s no rape culture in any institution that’s removed from its larger context.

So, when you ask the question about sort of what is the historical lens on these things, and particularly a racial historical lens? Well, one of the things we need to understand is that violence is the language, it is the native tongue of American white masculinity, right? Politically, it’s the native tongue; it’s how this country was founded. It’s what they did to establish this country’s economy, which is a slavocracy.

So, violence is violence, sexual violence is not nonviolence. It’s not removed from the spectrum of violence. And so I think that’s the first part of it—is that in this country, our idea of what we would call hegemonic masculinity, that idea of this dominant form of almost aspirational masculinity, is always one that can exert violence, and in fact, it exerts violence and it suppresses other forms of communication, of language, rights? So, it suppresses emotional language and suppresses emotional intelligence.

Think of what we glorify amongst men. It’s usually this idea of being a stoic except for when it comes to things like anger and rage and, or, having power over people—we highly associate masculinity with having power over people.

So, when we think about the history of race in this country, one thing that is very interesting think about is that white men have really … cornered the market on power.

And sometimes when I think about mass shootings currently—even though I want to be clear, what is what is consistent about male violence is masculinity, white men are not really disproportionately dominating of these acts of male violence—it’s just, it’s men, but it tends to be men who have access to guns, and that’s where I think you get the interplay. Race there, because we’re talking about which groups of men are, have more access to guns are more likely to be gun owners—and there are some demographic effects in that.

But when we look, you know, historically, in terms of what groups of men had access to violence as their language, well, Black men tended to be hyper-surveilled in this country—and even as there were forms of violence within Black communities—Black men’s violence was always hyper-criminalized. And in fact, just Black humanity was criminalized, right, Black literacy was criminalized.

Michele Goodwin  19:37

Well it was profitable: criminalizing Black men. It’s the exception clause and the punishment clause of the Thirteenth Amendment that no one pays attention to, right?

Saida Grundy  19:47

Exactly, after slavery, this idea of neo-slavery was based on Black criminality, right, was based on what you could criminalize Black people for. And so, in that, we have this interesting paradox—and I think one of the important narratives of American violence—comes out of that period in which one, of course, America as a country, as an economy, is founded on sexual violence against African women, period. And it’s founded on violence against First Peoples, period, right. And slavery was just a complete form of violence.

So that’s I think the first thing: The profitability of sexual violence against women put this sort of this language of rape into a capitalist type of incentive that rape became, you know—

Michele Goodwin  20:31

So, let me just say, right there. So, what you’re basically saying is that, look, we could look at this as a contemporary problem, or we could actually do the work of understanding this as a longer enterprise that actually roots back hundreds of years. Is that what you’re saying?

Saida Grundy  20:47

Yeah, absolutely. Because when we look today at the men who tend to do these types of acts, I think that part of what happens—if I can explain this well—is that often we see men who are resentful that they do not have the type of total power, sexual power that men and generations before them had. It’s this sort of idea of: What is the purchase of masculinity?

You know when we just heard, you know, talking about men who perceive, you know, women as getting ahead, well, that also has to do with comparing themselves to generations of men before. And if you compare yourself to generations of white men before who had complete power, you feel this.

Michele Goodwin  21:32

It’s complicated, then. Yeah, I really appreciate your grounding that. So, I want to come back to you, Jill, and then open it up—which is then to think about this longer nexus that we’ve just heard about from Dr. Grundy, and how the role of the internet has perhaps put an exhilarant on the kinds of notions that, you know, that she’s talking about.

Do you think that the internet has played a role here? And if so, how?

Jill Filipovic  22:07

Yeah, I think the point that Dr. Katz made earlier, that the internet didn’t invent these ideologies is an important one, but it certainly has accelerated them.

And, you know, Dr. Grundy’s point that—you know, and I’m radically oversimplifying this—but essentially you can’t understand patriarchy without understanding white supremacy and you can’t, you know, understand white supremacy without patriarchy. That these are interlinking systems that are profoundly, deeply, you know, by their inventions, related to each other, knitted together, inseparable. You know, of course, those things were not invented by the internet.

But you know, the internet as much as it is given feminists huge amounts of sort of connective power, right; as much as the connective power of the internet has helped to fuel the movement for Black Lives; has helped to fuel anti-racist movements. It’s been, you know, an incredible tool for activism and connection around the world for social justice movements. Of course, it serves the same purpose for reactionaries—

Michele Goodwin  23:16

With a darker side. Sure. I mean we see that with white supremacy groups, right?

But I also wonder too, Jill, you know, what about this question of youth? There are some parents who are raising alarm bells about their sons. And this is also, I think, where the internet could play a role. Have you been looking into any of this: About how the sort of online culture, the sort of toxic masculinity, is reaching young people?

Jill Filipovic  23:41

Yeah, it’s a great question. And really important. I’m actually just about to publish a book about millennials and generation divides between baby boomers and millennials. And one of the things—

Michele Goodwin  23:52

What’s the title of the book?

Jill Filipovic  23:53

It’s called, “OK, Boomer, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind.” So, I’m, you know, contractually obligated to tell everybody to buy it.

Michele Goodwin  24:02

Buy her book.

Jill Filipovic  24:05

But one of the things that—you know in all the research I was doing for that book—that stood out is how lonely and disconnected millennials are. So, there was one survey that was looking at, you know, essentially asked people how many friends do you have? How many acquaintances do you have?

And boomers were really well connected. They had lots of friends, lots of acquaintances. But one in five millennials said they have zero friends and zero acquaintances.

Michele Goodwin  24:31

Hmm.

Jill Filipovic  24:32

Which is sort of a shocking number.

Michele Goodwin  24:33

That is a shocking number. Can you repeat that for me?

Jill Filipovic  24:36

Yeah. One in five millennials said they had zero friends and zero acquaintances.

Michele Goodwin  24:42

Zero friends and acquaintances. How is that possible?

Jill Filipovic  24:46

How is that possible? Right? You know, and that obviously, that doesn’t count if you’re living with your parents, right?  It’s not like you’re necessarily living by yourself, but—

Michele Goodwin  24:56

But still, there can be isolation there too. Yeah?

Jill Filipovic  24:58

There’s intense isolation. And so you know, I do think millennials—and you know, and even those younger than us, Gen Z’ers—are more isolated, more lonely than you would assume given that, you know, we’re also more likely to live in these big dynamic cities and we’re all on social media … you can guess that this has a kind of connective social power. But, I think in reality there are a great many of us who are living lives of profound isolation.

And I think for those folks—especially if you find people online who affirm your pre-existing views; who tell you that you’re important; and who will also kind of affirm your sense of victimhood; of your sense of everything that has kind of gone wrong in your life, you know, has an external cause. You know, and that, it’s, you know, and it has a very simple cause, right? I mean, this is the logic of white supremacists too.

Michele Goodwin  25:53

It sounds like in some ways, America too. People who are you know, looking to have news framed according to their ideology.

Jill Filipovic  Goodwin  26:03

Right, you know, and obviously people on the left are not immune from this either, right? This isn’t just a totally right-wing dynamic. You know, but essentially the ground is quite fertile for young folks who are internet savvy, who understand how to make connections online, who maybe don’t quite understand as well, or haven’t had to make connections offline. I’m sure many of us have experienced, you know, it’s easier to say, kind of jerky things on Twitter when you’re not looking somebody in the face. Yeah, so you know, this sort of millennial isolation, loneliness, this sense of your computer and the internet can be a gateway to the rest of the world.

I think what we didn’t quite realize, that now we’re understanding, is actually the way that many [social media networks’ algorithms]—for example, YouTube algorithms—work is not to open up an entire new world to you, but to send you down one particular and narrow rabbit hole—

Michele Goodwin  27:09

Exactly— 

Jill Filipovic  27:10

That slowly warm that water.

Michele Goodwin  27:11

That continuous loop, in fact, down that, you know, rabbit hole.

I wonder, are we, as a society, taking this seriously? Has it reached a point these conversations—regarding incels and toxic masculinity and this kind of anti-feminist movement—has it reached a point in which there is a broader social understanding? Or does it just seem isolated to the kind of experts that I have on the show this morning?

You all know about this, you all research about this. You write books, you give TED Talks and so forth. But are people in our society coming to understand this better?

Jackson Katz  27:51

My work has been, for years and years, looking at the intersections of masculinities and race and sexual orientation—in other words all the different sort of identities, but centered around men’s violence against women and children and other men.

And there has been a movement of men—well beyond a handful of intellectuals or academics—for the last 40+ years who have been looking critically at masculinities in the context of, you know, multiracial feminism, starting in the 1970s, critiquing the culture of you know, sort of sexual inequality and gender inequality, with intersectional lens all along.

And yet we don’t get very—there’s very little in the public discourse about men who are challenging sexism or standing with women, or feminist women, in opposing men’s violence against women. And so, what’s much—

Michele Goodwin  28:42

How large is that crowd?

Jackson Katz  28:44

Not particularly large. I mean, it’s tiny compared to the level of the problem. But even I mean, I still live in a universe where, when I get an op-ed published, my colleagues are like, “Good job!”  I mean, like, “Finally, somebody in the in the mainstream is hearing that there’s actually men out there who are supportive of feminism.” What you hear much more likely is the backlash kind of narrative, which I appreciate and understand.

Michele Goodwin  29:08

Don’t you find that that backlash narrative is actually important?

Jackson Katz  29:11

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I’ve spent my life working against that backlash narrative. But I have to say also … in the mainstream discourse about, say, the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and in Europe, or, I mean, actually backing up in the in the discourse about the white supremacy movements that are actually growing—

Michele Goodwin  29:35

Let’s start there. Yes.

Jackson Katz  29:36

Yeah. In the United States and Europe over the past number of years, accelerated with the election of Trump and then others in Europe, the mainstream discussion is all about the race and racial sort of backlash against increasing ethnic integration in societies and immigration and such—which is obviously really important, part of what’s really happening here and in Europe—but what’s also happening is there’s organized movements of men, white men, who are not just resisting racial and ethnic integration and immigration, but the rise of women and feminism and the LGBT movements.

So anti-feminism is really at the heart of the white supremacy movement here, in the United States and in Europe, but the anti-feminism part of it doesn’t—it gets really short shrift in mainstream discourse, and even academic inquiry.

I think Dr. Grundy’s comments about you can’t study—and Jill’s comments—about you can’t study one without the other. You can’t study white supremacy without talking about patriarchy, and vice versa. But the racial discourse gets way more attention than the gendered racial discourse. And I think that’s a really critical point.

A “Say Her Name” vigil for Sandra Bland in October 2016. (Bunny Jager / Flickr)

Michele Goodwin  30:51

Yeah, it’s a critical point. It’s a historical point. I think that this is a really important point in which we’ve reached in this conversation about the intersections of sex and race. Because, in this, there are some that say that a central part of the problem that we have here is that men just simply don’t have the opportunities that girls have. That boys, the boys don’t have the opportunities that girls have. Men don’t have the opportunities that women have. How do you respond to that? And how do you help us to understand that with all of the expertise that you bring to this?

Saida Grundy  31:31

This is a right question, because higher ed is, you know, all in the center of this question, as are many of our initiatives around young men and boys. And so, you know, let’s be clear. So, maybe few people know this, maybe in your audience don’t. Affirmative action in terms of college admissions has overwhelmingly benefited white males. Why? Because coming out of high school, women tend to be better students. They have higher GPAs, they write better; they tend to be better students; and it looks that way on the application. So, college admissions officers are actually sort of like really, they dig deep, you know, scraping the barrel to balance out the gender ratios of incoming classes.

Michele Goodwin  32:18

There would be people who would be listening who would be offended by what you say, but it’s accurate.

Saida Grundy  32:23

It’s, I mean, it’s substantiated. I mean, we can take offense to it. It’s empirically substantiated that this is what’s happening. So yes … if we were to really look at merit, then colleges will be overwhelmingly women. If we were to really base admissions on merit.

I think that the narrative around not only male exceptionalism—but also let me caveat that, how that is racialized. So Black male exceptionalism is this term by a legal scholar, Paul Butler. And it’s basically the language with which we articulate public issues as being male issues, in this case Black male issues when they’re really not. Right? So, we articulate statistics when we talk about K-12 school. And when we talk about the “achievement gap,” right? We talk about that as though, “Oh, well, Black boys are suffering far worse than any other group in America,” when that’s not [true]. Black girls actually have a wider gap from white girls than Black males have from white males when we look at achievement, when we look at punishment, et cetera.

So, there’s a way in which we constantly articulate our language as though boys, males, are the urgency—and there’s also when it comes to white males, a way in which we articulate language of lack of accountability for white males, right. So, for example, if there were a group of all hijab-wearing Muslim women carrying AKs and shooting up theatres and shooting up schools, we would not hesitate to call that what it is. We do, you know, we basically—

Michele Goodwin  34:13

Or if Roy Den Hollander himself had been a Muslim man or Muslim woman.

Saida Grundy  34:19

We’d be talking about flight bans and travel bans all this week, right? And Roy Den Hollander—let’s this make it clear—he was a serial killer. He had murdered another man in the men’s rights activism group days before. He was on, he was on a flight pattern. And his interaction with Judge Esther Salas is that he’d actually been attracted to her at first and wanted to ask her out and then decided that she was moving too slow on one of his cases. He was a very litigious, you know, one of the—

Michele Goodwin  34:55

One of the things that you’re sharing with us, then, is that there’s a way in which something that’s staring us in the face that we, as a society, really aren’t dealing with. Turns out that there’s a whole lot of behind-the-scenes giving and support for boys.

Saida Grundy  35:13

Yes, yes, there’s a lot of accommodation for men and boys, there’s a whole lot of affirmative action for men and boys and particularly, white men have been overwhelmingly beneficiaries of that.

And I think that, you know, one of the things that’s important that I just heard Jackson say is that when we think about anti-feminism, when we think about this opposition: That is not marginalized, that is the mainstream political rhetoric that comes out of this idea of blaming, first of all, mother blaming, but in a more politically macro way, right. So, the idea that the problems with America somehow start at the family unit and the family unit was destroyed by women’s liberation, right? This is not fringe.

Michele Goodwin  36:01

Yeah, no, that’s kind of ahistorical. Yeah, I often think about, you know, posters from the antebellum era that advertise the selling of mulattos and mulattas. And I can’t help but think like the original destruction of family took place right there.

So, given what we’re talking about, right, it’s not just the incels, not just Roy Den Hollander, I want us to pivot and think about something else. And this involved Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was accosted by a fellow member of Congress. Let’s listen to a clip.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  36:38

About two days ago, I was walking up the steps of the Capitol when Representative Yoho suddenly turned a corner, and he was accompanied by Representative Roger Williams, and accosted me on the steps right here in front of our nation’s Capitol. I was minding my own business, walking up the steps and Representative Yoho put his finger in my face, he called me disgusting, he called me crazy, he called me out of my mind, and he called me dangerous. Then he took a few more steps and after I had recognized his comments as rude, he walked away and said, “I’m rude, you’re calling me rude.” I took a few steps ahead and I walked inside and cast my vote. Because my constituents send me here each and every day to fight for them. … I walked back out and there were reporters in the front of the Capitol and in front of reporters Representative Yoho called me, and I quote, “a f***ing b****.” These are the words that Representative Yoho levied against a Congresswoman.

Michele Goodwin  38:00

If that’s what can happen to a member of Congress who’s a woman, what does this say, Jill, about women in everyday work life?

Jill Filipovic  38:12

Well, and if that’s what they’re saying to your face, what are they saying behind your back? Right?

Michele Goodwin  38:16

Oh my, that’s a very good point.

Jill Filipovic  38:18

I mean … gosh; it would have been hard to script a moment that was kind of more on-the-nose.

Michele Goodwin  38:27

You almost can’t make that up. Can you?

Jill Filipovic  38:28

It’s so totally believable. But, you know, in another iteration of that, you know, if screenwriter had written it, it would have been cut.

Michele Goodwin  38:41

Yeah, no, it might have been on the editing room floor because people might have said, “Well, who would ever do that? And who would ever do that in front of reporters?”

Do you think if reporters hadn’t been there, that AOC would have been able to come out as she did in response?

Jill Filipovic  39:01

No, no way. No, I mean, anytime … it’s a woman’s word against a man’s, we believe the man’s. We saw this in the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings; we saw it in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings; you know, we’ve seen unless you have … as was the case, for example, Harvey Weinstein, you know, double-digit numbers of women speaking out about your bad acts, you know, then fine, maybe the weight of a man’s word is, you know, considered—

(Mobilus In Mobili / Flickr)

Michele Goodwin  39:32

You know, and you really said something there, right, because it takes so many women. Right. So, … it’s not enough… we have to have dozens of women come forward in order for one woman to be able to be believed. She has to be flanked by an army.

Jill Filipovic  39:50

Exactly, and you know, so that sort of unfair weighting of women’s words versus men’s absolutely would have meant that Ocasio-Cortez would not have been believed, that she would have been, you know, then, sort of portrayed as hysterical or overly sensitive, which is already happening.

And, you know, to me, what’s interesting is the moment of course, the moment itself, right. This sense of entitlement of such deep misogyny, that you would say to a female colleague to her face in front of reporters. I mean, that obviously speaks volumes.

But then the way that the press talks about it afterwards.  And the way that both Yoho and Cortez themselves talked about it.

Michele Goodwin  40:27

That’s right.  It was horrible.

Jill Filipovic  40:29

It was horrible. It was—she was presented, I think there was a piece and I don’t remember if this was in the Times or the Post, but the framing was about her—

Michele Goodwin  40:38

It was in the Times.

Jill Filipovic  40:41

You know, using this moment to, you know, increase her platform and, you know, as we experience workplace sexual harassment—

Michele Goodwin  40:54

Exactly, and in another context where her male colleague might have been made to be accountable for what he did. Let’s play a second clip that you’re referring to in terms of how the media lost its minds. Let’s listen.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  41:10

Mr. Yoho mentioned that he has a wife and two daughters. I am two years younger than Mr. Yoho’s youngest daughter. I am someone’s daughter too. My father, thankfully, is not alive to see how Mr. Yoho treated his daughter. My mother got to see Mr. Yoho’s disrespect on the floor of this House towards me on television, and I am here because I have to show my parents that I am their daughter and that they did not raise me to accept abuse from men.

Michele Goodwin  41:55

So, Dr. Grundy, it is that clip to which Jill was referring to where there was backlash. How do you understand backlash for that commentary? It reminds me of Sojourner Truth.

Saida Grundy  42:12

Like “Ain’t I a daughter,” right?

Michele Goodwin  42:14

Exactly.

Saida Grundy  42:16

You know if we can get into the real thick of the brush here—

Michele Goodwin  42:23

Let’s get into the real thick of the brush!

Saida Grundy  42:26

How to say this? The backlash, I can imagine, comes from this idea that she just critiqued the ploys of white femininity as well, right? See that she’s calling out this complicity in which, you know, in using his you know, his wife and daughters as a shield, there is some complicity in that.

And when we look at white women shielding white men’s purely bad, egregious behavior, and I think that, I mean, I’ve experienced that kind of backlash of like, you know, I think that when we fail to racialize these gendered experiences, we fail to understand the complexities of power within them, right, that women don’t experience powers or lack of power the same.

And that, you know, what she did was calling out a device that men do all the time, which is, you know, the “I was raised by my mother, I have a wife, I have this”—this is a, you know, if we could just get men to understand that, like, you don’t need to be related to women to see them as humans, right. But what she was really calling out was this sort of sacred covenant between, you know, when we were talking about anti-feminists also including women—yes. Yes! You know, “feminist” and “woman” are not the same thing. There are, I mean, you know— 

Michele Goodwin  43:49

In fact, on that note, it’s very interesting to think about when Justice Kavanaugh was going through his confirmation hearings, and I couldn’t help but notice little girls flanked behind him [members of the sports teams that he coached], and it was an interesting visual. They were there and I wondered if that, perhaps, was a form of a buffer, given that part of what was the discussion, part of the questioning of Justice Kavanaugh—then Judge Kavanaugh—was about [allegations of] past sexual harassment?

Saida Grundy  44:26

Yes. Oh, absolutely. I mean, they were used blatant pawns. I mean, Trump uses Ivanka as a blatant pawn and in fact, you know, Ivanka very much goes out and says, “my father … he’s one of the biggest champions of women’s rights.”  Like, there’s always this use of women who are in positions in which they are dependent on their power relationship to you, right?  Their power is actually sourced through you. I think there is a tendency to use those women as pawns. That is part of it. You know, it is the “I have Black friends” of the white male patriarchy. Right? But you know, other groups of men do this well. But,  I think, that’s a huge part of it.

And of course, because women themselves have some agency.  We have to really talk about: What does race present when we talk about the coalitions of power formed between those with shared anti-feminist interest?

I mean, there really is this idea that, you know—this is a very popular thread, I think, probably amongst conservative women—that they are sort of the bulldogs against feminism, that they see it as like, “Look at me, you know—”

Michele Goodwin  45:38

What did Sarah, how did Sarah Palin describe herself as? Something with lipstick? I can’t remember…

Saida Grundy  45:39

A pit bull with lipstick, or something like that, right. Hockey mom with the lip stick and pit bull. Yeah.  [Editor’s note: Governor Palin’s riddle, delivered at the Republican National Convention, was, “You know they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.”]

But this idea that, “I will do the bidding of being a woman who says that feminism has been bad,” but in Sarah Palin’s case, she actually flipped feminism to mean something it didn’t mean, right? So, she called herself a feminist. But for her, feminism was this waterless, meaningless idea: “Well, I have choice.” Right? But that’s to me, that’s, that’s not [feminism] at all.

Michele Goodwin  45:49

You know, I can’t help it think that sometimes when you have shows [such as this] or look at what you all are writing and what you’re talking about, it’d be very easy for us to all be depressed. And rightfully so, one should say given the specter of violence within these spaces—and we haven’t even talked about domestic violence, and how these matters end up surfacing within homes.  Jackson surfaced that a bit at the top of the show.

But I want to ask each of you, just where you see other issues that we ought to be concerned about, and if you could briefly answer that because then I want us to think about—and not in a kind of lofty, rainbow-ish kind of way—but are there any kinds of silver linings or hope that we see coming forward, given the fact that we’re recognizing these issues? So, first, what are the other spaces beyond Congress? Beyond, sadly, the kind of violence that’s visiting people’s doorsteps—where else ought we to be concerned about toxic masculinity? Jill, I’ll start with you.

Jill Filipovic  47:27

Um, everywhere.

Michele Goodwin  47:30

Okay, that’s the reality. There you go! That’s a great answer and true. It’s all around us. And what do you mean by that?

Jill Filipovic  47:39

I mean, look, we live in a society, right? And this idea that there’s some significant differential between what happens on the floor of Congress, and all of the factors that animate what’s acceptable and what’s not. You know, what people say and what they choose not to— the idea that that’s somehow radically different from what happens in our kind of “real lives,” or what happens online is different than what happens, you know, in person. You know, those are all I think kind of false distinctions.

So, yes, I mean, the home obviously, you know, you’re talking about domestic violence and violence at the hands of intimate partners. You know, that, of course, is on the same spectrum of violence as Roy Den Hollander, you know, killing the son and husband of a federal judge, you know, and killing kind of one of his own men’s rights compatriots.

You know, to me what was so interesting, I mean, among many things about the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez moment with Representative Yoho, you know, was the way in which it kind of crystallized this very often, sort-of unspoken sense that women have … of, “That guy’s calling me a bitch in his head.”

Michele Goodwin  48:56

Mm hmm.

Jill Filipovic  48:57

You know, you I think all women know what that feels like. Even if he doesn’t, even if those words don’t come out of his mouth. And, you know, to have that finally be said, to kind of cross over that spaceand make real what women (I think) often question, “Am I imagining it?” say, “No, you’re not.”

Michele Goodwin  49:20

Right, there it is there. He just said it out right in front of reporters.

Jill Filipovic  49:25

Exactly, you know, it is incredibly powerful. You know, and obviously, women aren’t the only people who experience this, you know, this is certainly something that a great many African American writers have written about, you know, the sort of unsaid N-word right at the hands of white people in these moments of, you know, what is clearly—

Michele Goodwin  49:41

And an intersection for Black women, right? Like, the double whammy of it.

Jackson, what about you? So, what are the other things that we ought to be thinking about within this space?

Jackson Katz  49:53

Well, I mean, I think the ongoing global pandemic of men’s violence against women and children. And one of the great things about Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s speech was it, because she’s such a prominent figure and because she said it on the floor of the United States Congress, it got all kinds of attention—but it’s giving voice to, you know, billions of women’s experiences.

I think the missing piece in the past generation or two—there’s been incredible leadership on the part of women in a multiracial, multi-ethnic sense in the U.S, and all over the world, against sexual assault and domestic violence and sexual harassment and everything else, incredible leadership on the part of women—but really appalling silence on the part of, you know, millions, if not billions, of men. And there have been some men who’ve been part of the struggle, if you will, and been allies and activists all along. But a tiny number in comparison, as I said earlier, to the scope of the problem, and I think we need a whole lot more from men across the board in terms of supporting, actively supporting women and feminist leadership, but also actively challenging and interrupting other men’s enactment of sexism. For example, I would have liked to see many more men in the United States Congress publicly support—

Michele Goodwin  51:09

Condemn what happened—

Jackson Katz  51:11

Ocasio-Cortez and dissociate themselves from Representative Yoho’s remarks, I know some did. But I also think that’s a big one.

In other words, we need more men engaged in this struggle. I also think we need more white men who are willing to challenge both white privilege and men’s privilege, or masculine privilege or male supremacy, and I think one of the ways to do that is to support progressive candidates who support a feminist agenda at the ballot box.

And I do think there’s, you know, there is sexism on the left. There are many men in progressive—you know, white men, for example, who are in progressive movements who are also sexist and then they get a pass on their sexism. I think one of the challenges for me and a lot of other my you know, friends and colleagues for years, have been: It’s not just right wing men—obviously right wing men and men who are dedicated to anti-feminist politics need to be challenged—but even the sexism of men on the on the left, including white men who are on the streets, in the streets protesting for racial justice, and I applaud them. But some of those men need to be introspective about their participation in the culture of sexism. And that gets real personal and that’s one of the reasons why it’s so challenging is we’re talking about intimate relationships and not just political movements.

Michele Goodwin  52:30

What are the other spaces that we ought to be shining a light on when we’re having a conversation about anti-feminism and incels?

Saida Grundy  52:37

So, I first want to say thank you, Jackson, for just making the point that because what we know from theories that really cultures of masculinity and really this type of toxic masculinity—oftentimes male violence is about men oppressing men.

So, the point of men have to do the job of condemning and denouncing other men is important because men do it for the regards of other men.

Michele Goodwin  53:01

So, it’s like men seeking the male gaze.

Saida Grundy  53:04

Men seeking the male gaze! That’s what we know from masculinity theory. Men do these things for the approval of men.

Michele Goodwin  53:11

Well, it’s interesting that you should say that, I don’t mean to interrupt, but one of the things that flashes to mind right at that moment for me was looking at sort of the images of lynchings. Men standing around with other men, smiling.

Saida Grundy  53:25

Oh, of course! Men proud of other men at how they handle Black people. And Yoho does this as he’s accompanied by his male colleague up the steps, right? …

Patriarchy is not just about the relationship between women and men, it’s about the relationship between men and men. Exactly. And that’s why it’s so racialized and classist, et cetera. To your question about where we can see this otherwise—I’m gonna open up a can of worms—

Michele Goodwin  53:54

Okay, but it has to be a quick can! But open it, open it.

Saida Grundy  53:58

Misogyny is a horseshoe politics issue because as Jackson just said, it draws people from the left. So we see rates right now, Black men supporting Trump at 24 percent.

Michele Goodwin  54:07

No!

Saida Grundy  54:08

Black women are supporting Trump at 6 percent. Black women over—in fact, overwhelmingly, when we look at the Black men who support Trump, we see some demographic features. They don’t tend to be college educated, but they are attracted to a few features of Trump. And one is this idea…this strange horseshoe …”well, if he’s oppressed by the FBI and the government, and I am too,” then the enemy of your enemies, is your friend. But also, they are blatantly drawn to his patriarchy. [The idea of] “we as Black men are still fighting to get that turn at the table to be the misogynists.” Like, “We don’t want patriarchy to end. We still want to get to that table of patriarchy.” And also, this idea that Trump symbolizes this thing of, you know, this disdain for like, you know, what anyone wants to you know say about them, et cetera.

There is a lot of draw in horseshoe politics to people you would think would see all his other policies and be, you know, and be aghast—they are actually drawn to Trump’s misogyny, his patriarchy and the sense of male bravado, that that’s how men should act.

That’s very dangerous and the Russians are taking full advantage.

Michele Goodwin  55:26

Really, really quickly though, we want to be able to do this. Can you quickly just tell me anything that you see as a silver lining and having a conversation such as? Jill, I’ll start with you.

Jill Filipovic  55:39

I think the more that we’re able to open up these discussions about the connections between the subtle misogyny and sexism that women live with every day. And then these bigger acts of you know, overt violence and harassment, the more we understand the sort of fuller picture of patriarchy.

And the more we can understand how you know as the old-timey feminists used to say the, “personal is political,” and that you really can’t separate out you know, every day the air we live, the air we breathe, the lives we live, you know, the small league indignities and sexism that we experience from these much more urgent, kind of big picture, front-page-of-the-newspaper events.

Michele Goodwin  56:24

Mm hmm. Jackson?

Jackson Katz  56:26

I think this kind of dialogue is incredibly important. And I think we need more men, and more white men who are willing to engage in this conversation—both with each other and with people of color, including, of course, women of color, but also men of color.

And in my experience as a longtime educator, especially around the issues of men’s violence against women, I’m convinced that there’s an awful lot of men, including white men, who are willing to have this conversation. You got to get them through the door. I mean, honestly, they have to come through the door, and they have to be pushed sometimes through the door. But when you get involved in the conversation, I think you’ll find a lot of men will sort of having “aha” moments and start realizing ways in which they’ve participated in—through their silence or their actions—a culture of abuse that they don’t want to be part of.

So, I think there’s a reason to be hopeful. I know it’s easy to be pessimistic, but I think it’s, there’s a reason to be hopeful. The white people in the streets for the racial justice movement is something that people have remarked upon. It’s a great thing. There’s a lot of young white people out in the streets protesting with Black Lives Matter. But there was an awful lot of men at the at the Women’s Marches in 2017. There’s an awful lot of men who support feminism and support women’s rights and women’s dignity— we just need to activate them.

Michele Goodwin  57:35

Thank you. And what about you, Dr. Grundy?

Saida Grundy  57:37

I think there are more men who are feminists and would call themselves feminists. … I think particularly with younger men. I actually am a little optimistic about this.  In my work, having to interview college-aged Black males, because the women, college-aged women have gone— you know, full, like, “You have to be a feminist now as a college woman”—because they’ve gone that direction, the men have sort of caught up like, yeah, like this is the norm, like feminism is the norm for them. They’re really not our generation.

The other silver lining I have is that in AOC’s address, she talked about how she was used to this type of abuse from men because she had been a service-sector, working woman before and that’s the bridge, you see, and bringing out … the flashlight on … this stuff. She’s like, this is the exact same thing I was going through as a waitress; we are talking about a culture of impunity that has followed elite men, particularly white elite men—

Michele Goodwin  58:43

And she was able to bring attention to that.

Saida Grundy  58:46

She was able to bridge that, she’s able to say, “This is no different than the men who were accosting me in bars. This is what it is, and I’m on the steps of Congress.”

Michele Goodwin  58:55

I want to thank my guests for joining us today and being part of this critical and insightful conversation. Thank you, Jill. Thank you, Saida. Thank you, Jackson.

And to our listeners, I thank you for tuning in. We hope you join us again for our next episode where we will be reporting, rebelling and telling it like it is with special guests Erwin Chemerinsky, Leah Litman, Brigitte Amiri and Franita Tolson in tackling issues addressing the Supreme Court. It will be an episode, like this, that you will not want to miss.

So, for our guests, if we have listeners that want to connect with you through social media, where can they find you? Jill, where can they find you on social media?

Jill Filipovic  59:39

You can find me at @jillfilipovic (on Twitter). J-I-L-L-F-I-L-I-P-O-V-I-C, and thank you so much, Michele, for having me on.

Michele Goodwin  59:49

Oh, it was a pleasure. We have to do it again. And what about you, Jackson?

Jackson Katz  59:53

Thank you very much. It’s jacksonkatz.com. That’s not quite social media. It’s my website, or on Twitter, @jacksontkatz, as in Tom, Katz.

Michele Goodwin  1:00:03

All right and for you, Saida?

Saida Grundy  1:00:06

I’m on LinkedIn under Saida Grundy and I’m also on Twitter @saigrundy. But don’t judge me, I talk a lot about irrelevant things.

Michele Goodwin  1:00:19

And as we close, let’s listen one last time to representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as she puts into context how we should understand what happened to her.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  1:00:35

Having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man, and when a decent man messes up as we all are bound to do, he tries his best and does apologize. Not to save face, not to win a vote, he apologizes genuinely to repair and acknowledge the harm done so that we can all move on.

Michele Goodwin  1:01:17

This has been your host Michele Goodwin reporting, rebelling and telling it like it is. “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin” is a Ms. magazine joint production. Kathy Spillar and Michele Goodwin are our executive producers. Our producers are Maddy Pontz and Roxy Szal. Our assistant producer today is Zoe Larkin, and LaTiara Rashid, Rina Wakefield and Sarah Montgomery helped with the development of this episode. The creative vision behind our work includes art and design by Brandi Phipps. Editing is by Will Alvarez and music by Chris J. Lee. Stephanie Wilner provides executive assistance.