Sunday, December 8, 2013

Angry White Men

The number of angry white men in America is on the decline, just as talk radio, that panders to and inspires them, is also aging and declining. Yet their continued presence tells us a lot about change in America and the divides that separate race, gender and class.

Perhaps it all started back in 1969 when Richard Nixon tried to obscure the difference between working class and affluent voters, particularly men, by portraying them all as a part of a silent majority. He portrayed them as both heroes and victims of the tumultuousness of the period. Reagan continued with similar themes to capture what came to be called “Reagan Democrats.”

All of this was before and really a precursor to the profound impacts of feminism, civil rights, gay rights, globalization, growing income disparity, more women in the workplace, the loss of manufacturing, Sex in the City, outsourcing, the technological revolution, the US attacked on 9/11, the great recession, legalized marijuana, same sex marriage and the election of a black President.

It’s enough to disorient anyone. But most notably its greatest impact was on those most threatened; the standard bearers of the old status quo, white men. Men who had stood on the wall trying to defend an old way of life, a cultural paradigm that was crumbling beneath their feet. Stony Brook University Professor Michael Kimmel examines this phenomenon in Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era.

My conversation with Michael Kimmel:

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