dagNotes: On Fascist Masculinity
I feel like writing this post because we are taught to endure a kind of fascist masculinity in whiteness that I have suffered with my entire life. I am absolutely traumatized by it. I promised myself, long ago, when I face it from now on, I will respond to it with others by confronting it in public. This makes me the rude asshole sometimes. I’ve had several periods in my life where I’ve endured violence: from threats, to beatings, to broken bones, to guns. It’s all at the hands of men. I suffer from my experiences and society wants me to suffer quietly and alone as a victim. I am not a victim. And, I am not alone.
If you’re like me and have suffered several kinds of violence enough that you are triggered even by the mere suggestion of violence, this is a crucial ritual. Once triggered, no matter how slight, we will suffer all the indignities that violence leaves in its wake until we retake the ground that was attempted taken or threatened taken or physically taken from us. It’s not just a peace of mind we lose. We lose our connection with our communities. And that’s what fascist violence is all about: singling people out. The fascist creates his own community, singles his victims out as outsiders, as bad eggs, as weak, as different, and he attempts to extinguish them or consistently threatens to. This doesn’t have to be about nationality or ethnicity. White men often use fascism to organize their social groups, their classrooms, their work spaces, their blocks.
Capitalism rewards fascists and singles out victims. And many white men have learned to manipulate their public lives using the threat of violence to get what they want. When these men don’t like the way a conversation that becomes a disagreement is going, they will eventually threaten violence. Let me quickly summarize the story that has led to me composing this post. Praise and I had a conversation about what books students in Korea should be reading. She was interested in getting ideas for short stories to teach Korean high school students, and she moved the conversation to Facebook involving over 600 other people.
Here’s the summary: Inevitably, teachers want to teach their favorite books, which is a mistake. Good teaching is not reading good books with students. And, in Korea, inexperienced teachers often insist their students read incredibly difficult stories and books in English classes by authors like James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, William Shakespeare, and Ralph Ellison. It’s ridiculous really and quite culturally imperial. Our job, in Korea, is to help students reach a level of English to perform well on tests and to permit them to be able to proficiently use English at their future jobs, to comfortably speak the kind of English they will need to use. That’s what native speaking English teachers are brought to Korea to do. We are not cultural educators. Korea does not need that from us; they can approach our cultures as they choose to. Yet, so many people insist they are and behave as if they are experienced Professors in Literature and Philosophy, which they are never even close to being.
My readers will know how I react to teachers insisting teaching difficult material is necessary and good and good teachers should do it. My response is “Go home. Korea doesn’t need you. You aren’t a good teacher. You’re an occupier.” People know this about me. I’ve been teaching long enough to be able to talk pedagogy to practical classroom application with any teacher. I don’t lose these arguments. And let me be clear who the makes these these arguments: inexperienced, idealist, liberal whites. I really do, as you know, get a kick out of publicly calling them out.
So, I did it on Praise’s wall. Maybe not the thing I should have done. I know, but I was merely insistent and a little rude when the person I was arguing with patronized me and Praise. The argument got heated and Praise deleted the post. A few weeks later, a former friend of Praise’s called her to disinvite us to a party because the husband of the woman I argued with “wants to fight” me the next time he sees me. Very childish, but in spite of the lame threat, there goes my trigger. It was so small a triggering, though, that it took a couple of weeks for me to begin encountering dreams of violence and waking with a fear of being attacked that I haven’t been able to shake for three days now. This hurts me. I’m not afraid to admit it. We need to talk about these things and reject victimization.
I’m proactive about this. I have to be. Little things like this can derail me for weeks. I talked to Praise about it and listened to her. We went out and talked all night about it. I need that; I don’t think it does her any good. But I have to release all the energy that’s been created inside me over the last few weeks.
Here’s how fascist white masculinity works. The white man backs a position or makes a claim himself; or, as in this case, the white guy has a position he hasn’t stated, but he feels abused. Should you disagree and refuse to change your mind, the white man will threaten violence. Those are the two basic components. If there is distance between you and the fascist, he will continue his threats until he is made to stop. If he threatens in person, one must either relent or confront the violence with violence. In other words, every thing becomes about acknowledging and authorizing the white man and his message. A “no” or “not interested” is never permitted. You cannot ignore these guys.
I became an antifascist because I grew up in Oklahoma surrounded by fascist white men and their fascist children and I am a student of the Reagan era. I was born during the Vietnam War; I was teaching by the time George W Bush was POTUS. I have witnessed much violence and have decided the only thing I can do is confront it and make it stop. I willingly use my body to make it stop. It already has been well abused. I realize not everybody is up for the task, and I don’t blame others for not participating.
Back to my story about the teachers—a husband and his offended wife. Let me be clear about this kind of fascist male. He is into MMA and fighting. He is proud of his wife’s elitist education. He sees value in it. They both are smug about their privilege as if it’s something they transmit to students. He did not participate in the argument. He is merely getting off playing cop. When I do run into him in Seoul, and it will happen, he will likely not confront me. Should he. He will get my standard don’t fuck with me you fucking occupier speech and, like most of these men who aren’t straight up boneheads, he will cry foul.
We know what white fascists do when they don’t get their way and aren’t permitted to play cop. They call the cops. When their individual violence isn’t permitted, when their threats are met with a public stand opposing threats and threatening behavior, when they realize that they have little support in the face of a justified response, they shamelessly call upon state violence to back them up. This is a learned masculinity. I’m from the United States. It’s a traditional white masculinity. It knows no political affiliation. You’ll meet white socialists, liberals, libertarians, conservatives, Christians, atheists who all implement it. It’s straight up fascist behavior. It’s taught to men. Some of us reject it.
I am tired of this behavior from men I know. I am tired of the fucking seed for it that festers within me. I am tired of the rotten culture of fascist violent rhetoric and action that white men daily threaten and participate in through business and public action. I’m tired of their performed innocence when they get called out for being pigs.
I’m writing this because I have to. I have to talk this trauma out now until it passes. Until then I will not get a good night’s sleep. I will not be able to focus on my work. But I will not be afraid. I will not be silent. I will not apologize. I will wait. I will work with my friends. And I will take care myself if I have to. I am not ashamed of this and, if you are like me, neither should you.
Remember, you are not alone.