I Met the Angry White Guy

The “Angry White Guy” is a stock figure in feminist writing. This is a man who rails at the world for changing and taking away his privilege and blames it all on women and minorities. Last month I “met” AWG and similar to the time that I was called a racist and started to feel bad for actual racists, I started to feel bad for him.

Last month was “Women in Small Business Month” and I wrote several articles on the theme for one of my clients. One of the articles was titled “Do We Still Need Women in Small Business Month” and was focused on the idea of whether or not special “women” events and “women-only” networking groups are still helpful and necessary.

I decided to double-dip a little and as part of my research I posed the question on the LinkedIn group of another client of mine, this one specializing in higher education. The post generated a lot of conversation.

One man posted a lengthy response pointing out all the ways that girls and women were surpassing boys and men in education and employment and suggesting that instead of my question, we should look at how to help boys and men. It wasn’t a particularly unique or insightful post, but  it was not offensive.

Farther down the thread, a woman pointed out that it was interesting that more men than women were posting answers to this question (she was correct). He responded saying that it was because men were “struggling to find a voice.”

That’s when things got weird. About an hour after that post I got a rather angry LinkedIn email asking why I had deleted his comments and “what was I afraid of”? I replied that his comments hadn’t been deleted, and that I was not actually capable of doing so, nor did I see any reason to do so, but that I did not appreciate his tone in asking what I was afraid of. He then posted pretty much the same comment on the group “I have posted twice to this question and twice it has been deleted. Everything I have said is supported by facts. You need to ask Marta what she is afraid of?”

I replied, this time in the thread, with the same information and requested that he quit insulting me by saying I was “afraid of” his opinion. Another person also pointed out that his comments had not been deleted.  Silence from him, but the conversation continued and a week later, he joined in again. Again, pushing his point that we shouldn’t be talking about women, but about men. He did not apologize for his public accusation of me, but did use my name several times in his post.

It seems clear when you look at his profile that he may be a little angry. He’s an accountant and a teacher without a lot of job consistency. The fact that he couldn’t figure out that his comments hadn’t been deleted, but were just “collapsed” as newer comments happened indicates that he isn’t the most technologically or social media savvy guy. He mentioned in one comment being a stay at home parent without the support network that women get in that role.

As he said, he’s struggling to find his voice. I feel sorry for him. It sucks to be under-employed. It sucks to feel like the world is moving in a direction you don’t understand. He’s not evil or comical, he’s a middle-age guy. He did what he was supposed to, he got a CPA degree, he got a job and got married and had kids, then who knows what shit happened to his life.

I didn’t enjoy being the target of his rage. His insistence on using my name repeatedly makes his accusations feel very personal to me. I object to the fact that he hasn’t, and probably won’t, apologize for his attacks even though he clearly now knows he was wrong. I so want to email him and ask why he thinks it’s ok to privately and publicly accuse me of something without apologizing, but I won’t. Because it isn’t personal. He isn’t angry at me, he’s angry at the world and that makes me sad.

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One Response to I Met the Angry White Guy

  1. I think that our conversations about men and women (as well as about race) could benefit a lot from showing empathy for each other’s problems without taking them personally. Life isn’t a zero sum game. I have problems, you have problems, we all have problems. I need to be able to deal with my problems without making it about you. And you need to be able to deal with your problems without me making it about me. It takes a lot of maturity to, say, let a straight, white man have his own problems without injecting how our problems are more systemic or long standing or significant. And vice-versa.

    I’m in an interracial marriage and one of the things my husband and I have both learned on the way is that although being a man or being white does carry certain, predictible advantages, there’s a bit of an optical illusion at work. Just because the people in charge are always men doesn’t mean that all men have power. Just because the people who set the rules are white doesn’t mean that all whites have a say in setting the rules. There is an elite who is undeniably white and male. To get into it, being white and male is an undeniably huge advantage. But the allegiance of power brokers and rule makers is to themselves, not people who share their gender or race. This is why even though more women are in positions of power and influence, things like work life balance, access to affordable child care and mysogeny in our culture are as bad as ever. We think that because it’s white men in power, that white men as a whole benefit from that. At the margins that’s true, but mostly people in power seek to advantage themselves and rest secure in knowing that the rest of us will keep busy passing blame betwixt ourselves.

    In the end, I predict that men who are not among the elite and who are getting screwed just like everyone else will end up following the example of women in dealing with their own issues. Because outside of the elite, they do have serious issues. But first, I think, we all need to be mature enough to allow each other to have our own particular problems and support each other in dealing with them rather than continuing the zero sum game thinking which lead the AWM to use a discussion of women in business as a forum for displaying his anger and resentment about his own problems.

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