Today, a hateful post was written about me by someone notorious for mean-spirited personal attacks. It is easy enough to determine what I’m referring to if you’re curious, so I won’t link to the post. Nor do I plan to respond in detail to its claims, because every claim he makes is seemingly booby-trapped to make me look foolish no matter which way I respond.
One claim, however, stood out to me: namely that I only critique White Dudes to exempt myself from the category and assure my own moral righteousness, when in fact I am the most White Dudely White Dude of all. The first half of the claim is categorically false. I critique whiteness and masculinity because they are toxic modes of social formation and reproduction that need to be ended. Demography is not destiny here — I know plenty of white males who do not seem to me to be White Dudes.
On the second claim, however, I have to admit that I have not fully destroyed the White Dude within. A big part of the impetus behind my ongoing critique of White Dudes is simply my delight at how much it angers the White Dudes themselves. I find it profoundly amusing when they reply in their distinctively whiny and aggrieved way. Setting up the critique and watching White Dudes play out their role brings me an abiding joy.
In other words, I am carrying out the signature White Dudely move of being “provocative” for its own sake, of needling people just so that they will respond as I predict and I can be right about them. All breeds of White Dudes do this. Atheists egg on religious people, and lo and behold, the religious people respond just like they predict! Chauvanists egg on feminists, and would you believe it, turns out feminists don’t have a sense of humor! I’ve chosen a particularly “meta” position within the field, as is my wont, but I have not escaped it (nor does this acknowledgment mean that I’ve escaped it, nor does the last one, nor this one, onward to infinite regress).
All of my enjoyment might be excusable if my critiques of White Dudeliness had any positive social function, but it’s not at all clear that bringing out the worst in an already pretty shitty class of person is serving any positive social function. Certainly other demographics don’t need a demonstration that White Dudes are terrible — they know it in their gut, at a very early age. And with the White Dudes themselves, at best it produces a kind of vortex of performative contradiction that renders the White Dudical construct claustrophobic and seemingly inescapable.
The critique serves no function: you must change your life. Through a combination of fortuitous circumstances and half-conscious choices, I did once find myself in a community that durably changed my life. It was a shockingly diverse community compared to what I had known up to that point, and there were many aspects of life in that community that rankled my White Dudely instincts. But over time, I began to learn to swallow my pride, to be accountable to the people around me, and in short, to grow the fuck up.
A left that needs to get past what I learned in that community is a left that no one should want to be a part of.