Are there male privileges in modern Singapore?

Offended and militant: the attack of the masculinists

At the beginning of the Corona period, a montage of seven faces went around the world. They belonged to the heads of state and government who best maneuvered their countries through the crisis and demonstrated the most sovereign leadership. All of them were female faces: the portraits of the heads of state and government of Germany, Taiwan, New Zealand, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Denmark. They are the faces of a new politics, the images of which have been shared around the world because they represent a new form of female authority.

The fact that the political style of women politicians is different from that of their male colleagues was noticed and discussed by the media, especially in times of crisis. Magazines, newspapers and news channels such as the “New York Times”, the “Guardian”, “Forbes”, CNN, but also non-Western media such as the Indian journal “Yourstory” praised the “new female leadership style” as promising and forward-looking “in an era of the new global threats ". [1] Women "are better leaders, as the pandemic proves," she said. [2]

On the other hand, the male leadership style, portrayed as the political behavior of “strong men” like Trump, Bolsonaro, Putin or Netanyahu, was viewed very critically. They used the global crisis to expand their authoritarian rule even faster, instead of acting in the interests of the community. In the global discourse, male rule became more and more a negative foil for female authority: In contrast to the female rulers, the authoritarian heads of state reacted to the pandemic with defiant denial, blamed others for the blame and responsibility, instrumentalized justice and security authorities, denounced critical ones Reporting and restricted press freedom. Even the management consultancy McKinsey stated in a paper that the old management style was in crisis. In the new times, qualities such as the ability to work in a team, thoughtfulness and empathy are needed to cope with new global challenges such as the pandemic. [3]

It is true that this positive image of female leadership qualities has now got scratched - just think of the bumpy vaccination start in Germany and the EU, for which Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are responsible. Yet this rise of women is a global development and is recognized and recognized worldwide. The success stories of heads of state and government in non-Western countries - Singapore, Nepal, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Namibia and Georgia - in the fight against the pandemic also attracted attention. [4] That was not without consequences. While leading media praised female rule, another discourse emerged, a counter-discourse: In the semi-public sphere of social media, the comment columns and the internet forums, frustration broke out over the new female power. When the British writer Matt Haig posted the picture of the seven heads of state on Instagram with the note "Time for women to finally rule the world", comments such as: "Incel tsunami incoming" were quickly found. [5]

"Incels" are involuntarily abstaining men who adhere to a radical misogynous worldview and organize their misogyny in the so-called mannosphere, ie in the male-dominated Internet. The term is made up of the words "involuntary" and "celibate". With his reference to a looming Incels tsunami, the commentator anticipated what now happens regularly when it comes to women who prove themselves in public areas that are still viewed by many as male domains: there is bullied, insulted, threatened, hated and sometimes traded, as the attacks on women in recent years show.

Not only women politicians are the target of verbal and sometimes tangible attacks, but all women who are in the public eye and claim to be successful in “male areas” - even in supposedly harmless areas, such as football commentators or women in “ male "film roles. At the 2018 World Cup, every game that was commented on by a woman was followed by a hateful shit storm on social media that demeaned the commentators because of their gender. [6] The counter-discourse does not only take place in obscure forums on the Darknet, but in the midst of the public, within the liberal progressive discourse, as a direct reaction to it. It is no coincidence that contributions by and with women are treated in the manner described, but rather the well-organized work of misogynist trolls and haters. If one systematically examines the comment columns on posts by women, in mainstream media, that becomes apparent. Regardless of the topic, as soon as terms such as “feminism” or “patriarchy” appear in the headline, in the introductory sentences or in the text, the following happens: The comment column is flooded with polemical statements, and the moderator must delete them page by page because the content is inappropriate, offensive, offensive, or inflammatory. The comments that remain at the end hardly reflect a substantive debate, but only relate to what happened in the discussion, for example by expressing astonishment at the many hateful comments. The troll actions have thus served their purpose and stifled any discussion of female power or achievements, any criticism of patriarchal structures.

The counter-discourse can also be observed in everyday life, during the coronavirus lockdown, for example, in the “renegade” of “recalcitrant men on the street”, as the “Philosophy Magazine” noted: They refused curfews and masks because they denied their masculinity and moral identity saw in danger and publicly admitted to breaking the rules, for example by tweeting about it. [7] A study on the gender dimension of mouth and nose covering against the spread of Covid-19 has shown that men wore a mask less often during the pandemic because they considered it “shameful”, “a sign of weakness” or “uncool” "Felt. [8]

The patriarchy is in dire straits

The reactionary counter-discourse arises out of tension. The real social conditions and structures are still patriarchal, as Corona clearly shows - especially when it comes to equality in working life and in the family. “In the corona crisis, women in particular are lagging behind professionally. Old role models are suddenly back, "the mainstream media agree. [9] There is talk of “retraditionalization” and “a role backwards to the 1950s”. [10] The old patterns of hegemonic masculinity continue to work. At the same time, however, there is a crucial difference between now and then: the media coverage. We as a society denounce these conditions as grievances and condemn them. We make it clear that it is by no means self-evident that women are pushed back into old roles in times of crisis, but a fact that we acknowledge and criticize with alienation and indignation. That is the prevailing discourse.

On the one hand, male privileges persist to this day and are structurally deeply anchored in our society; on the other hand, the patriarchy gets ethically, normatively and discursively under pressure. There is a social consensus that equality is a goal worth striving for, and this view sets the tone among the general public. The same can be seen in the discussion about the exemplary heads of state and government. Because the fact that she is being debated in public as the new female leadership elite also shows how little self-evident women are still in top political positions. In fact, only 18 countries (out of more than 200) are ruled by women, with around 550 million people only seven percent of the world's population. [11] At the same time, however, many believe that these leaders are the future and should soon be normality. As if under a magnifying glass, the extreme time of the pandemic allows us to see this tension more clearly than ever. This tension is a major reason why we have seen a glut of degrading and often downright hateful rhetoric against women for several years.

Today there is a well-organized network of misogynist actors who act globally.

The polemics against equality in the form of reactionary interventions in men's forums, comment columns or in social media are only a small part of a large movement whose agitations against women and women's rights can be observed in many social and political areas. Today there is a well-organized network of misogynist actors who act globally. So we find degrading rhetoric in the writings of Catholic clergy, the statements of radical anti-abortionists, the verbal bullying of authoritarian politicians. It can be understood as a reaction to the deep shaking of male self-image in the past decades and as a bitter defense of masculine privileges and male rule, which in fact still exist, but are called into question in our value system. In this tension, the problematic hegemonic masculinity has become politicized.

“We have to rediscover our masculinity,” demanded Björn Höcke from Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in a speech in Erfurt on November 18, 2015. “Because only when we rediscover our masculinity do we become manly. And only when we become manly do we become defensible. ”The humiliated sigh of the oppressed man is not an isolated case, but a symptom of a political conflict that is being fought out in the field of gender relations. With masculinity one can mobilize and make politics, demands for a restoration of “real masculinity” and patriarchy fall on fertile ground, from mask refusers to incels. Masculinists, right-wing populists and anti-abortionists gather under the banner of male supremacy to mobilize against “gender ideology”.

This reveals a recurring motif that plays a central role in the thinking of many protagonists of politicized masculinity: a natural order prevails in the relationships between the sexes, a natural hierarchy in which the man is superior to the woman - if not the social experiments left, green and gender activists. The modern idea of ​​equality - be it before the law or in economic terms - breaks with this natural order.

This newly emerging masculinity discourse is reflected in the rise of right-wing populist parties and strong men like Donald Trump or Jair Bolsonaro. Misogynist agitation runs like a red thread through the statements and programs of populist and authoritarian parties and politicians. There is hardly anything that unites the authoritarian endeavors of more recent times as much as the fight against the “gender madness”, against the relativization of male power, which is perceived as a degradation. The new discourse on masculinity is closely linked to the political upheavals of recent years.

The offended claim and the program of male sovereignty

The tension that exists between the real and the ideal gender relations has produced what the sociologist and masculinity researcher Michael Kimmel describes as an "offended claim". According to Kimmel, men with a misogynous view of the world believe they have a right to a woman and to an ancestral male, that is, a dominant role within the family and society. They derive this supposed claim from “tradition” - whether they refer to an actual or just an imagined tradition is irrelevant. If this expectation is not met, they feel humiliated: the women would ignore them if they were not interested in them.

Politicians such as Trump, Bolsonaro or Höcke have formed a political program of male sovereignty from this injured claim. They take advantage of the frustration, disappointment and anger of those who believe they have been abandoned and lure them with the promise of restoring the privileges to which they are entitled. It is not for nothing that the restoration is the means of choice for right-wing populist politicians: "Make masculinity great again."

But how did this enormous politicization of masculinity come about? What has changed are the opportunities for women to speak out, to accuse them, to claim their rights. For example, violence against women has become more and more a topic of public debate in recent years. The #MeToo movement was unquestionably central in this regard.

Over the decades, women as a social group have increasingly succeeded in exercising what the philosopher Tristan Garcia called “counter-rule”. At the moment, according to Garcia, in which one's own diagnosis of the state of rule is enforced against that of the rulers, the counter-rule itself becomes dominant: "You don't make a diagnosis of rule without ruling a little (spiritually, symbolically, medially)." [ 12] Thus, hegemonic masculinity comes under pressure because those who criticize rule place themselves in a political balance of power and ensure that their particular image of the state of rule is universally recognized. [13] In addition, the counter-rule leads to those who actually rule feeling oppressed. As an example, Garcia cites masculinism as a reaction to the emancipation movement, which for this reason has set itself the task of defending male rights and interests and cultivates ideas of “reverse sexual rule, a 'mothering and castrating society'”. [14]

Now, the perception on the part of the actors that one is being ruled does not lead to their claims - for example that feminism determines the politics of governments or that political correctness represents the end of freedom of expression - become true, but: through the dissolution of the The dividing line between concrete and symbolic rule makes male rule as a whole precarious. The political focus is gradually shifting from defending the rights or duties of one or the other to the struggle to assert one's own diagnosis of the relations of domination in society against those of the other. “So in a democratic system the minority got a strategic role”, [15] that is, belonging to a minority has the advantage that one can criticize the rule of the others from this position.

Masculinists stage themselves as a minority, even though the real power relations continue to exist.

Masculinists now aim to show that women, and especially feminists, now enjoy more rights, while men are discriminated against and oppressed. They therefore take a position that Garcia calls a “strategic minority”: they stage themselves as a minority, but the real power relations - men as a group rule over women as a group - continue to exist.

Kimmel describes the position of the strategic minority simply as the “victim role”. Men’s rights activists in particular are appropriating the argumentation patterns of feminists and turning them around. Paul Elam, the best-known face of the anti-feminist men's rights activists with his website “A voice for men” speaks of a “misandrian”, that is, a man-hostile culture: “This time we are building a man bomb. If it detonates, however, the American race riot will look like a Thanksgiving parade. The Misandrian Zeitgeist, the system of feminist governance still not recognized by most, is moving towards its inevitable and ugly goal, the results of which will inflict another gaping wound on the psyche of the Western world. In the community of men's rights activists, a minority in and of themselves, we have long deplored the cruel and destructive war that has been waged against men and boys for half a century.We have shouted indispensably to the deaf ears of the world that we are on the path of destruction, and we have seen our predictions come true that men will be reduced to tenant slaves for a vicious matriarchy. ”[16]

"Misandrie" as a counterpart to "Misogyny"

This quote illustrates what a strategic minority means for masculinists and how the situation is directly reversed: We find the term “misandry” as a counterpart to “misogyny”, feminist governance instead of male rule, matriarchy instead of patriarchy. In Elam's argument, however, the mere reversal of gender relations is not enough for feminists. This has already been achieved. They would wage war against men not only to subdue them, but to enslave them.

Men’s rights activists not only appropriate feminist narratives, but also those of the American civil rights movement in order to stylize themselves as an oppressed minority. Martin Luther King in particular is repeatedly instrumentalized by masculinists. On the one hand, the activists want to give themselves the appearance of a civil rights movement, on the other hand, they use the reference to the principle of non-violence to make known their alleged demarcation from extremist errands. Elam's fellow blogger, Warren Farrell, calls himself explicitly a "civil rights activist" and refers to King. In fact, the narratives of suppression ultimately serve to legitimize violence. Masculinists reverse the relationship between victims and perpetrators and stage themselves as the “oppressed” whose actions amount to self-defense or a struggle for freedom.

The same line of argument from the strategic minority can be found with white Suprematists. The notoriously misogyne and racist US radio host Rush Limbaugh, for example, simply reverses the discriminatory and racist relationships between whites and African Americans in his program. In the United States, the moderator polemicized against Barack Obama's presidency, there was only one way to get ahead: “By hating whites. Or say you do. [...] Make the new oppressed minority out of whites. [...] You now have to go back on the bus. [...] These are the Republicans of today, the equivalent of the old South: the new oppressed minority. "[17]

From the USA to the Halle assassin

The culture of the offended claims of white men is not specific to the USA, but a virulent phenomenon in all Western countries. The corresponding American cultural production forms the frame of reference, but it is fed by global influences. We also find globalized cultural assets belonging to the strategic minority in the Halle assassin, Stephan Balliet. The first piece of music that Balliet hears in his car when he drives off to commit his attack is one of them. The title is not chosen by chance, but belongs to the carefully considered choreography for the assassination attempt. It's about the song “Mask Off” by the Afro-American rapper Future or an adaptation that is so well done that, for example, the research team from “Spiegel TV”, which dedicated a program to Stephan Balliet after the crime, didn't notice the difference . [18]

If you listen carefully, elements from the right-wing extremist scene can be made out. The original text of Future has been replaced by a clearly right-wing text: There is talk of the “Aryan brotherhood”, “the guilt of the Jews” or the “black sun”, a symbol of the National Socialists consisting of three superimposed swastikas, which today is used by many right-wing terrorist groups such as the Atomwaffen Division. By adopting a form of expression originally used by a discriminated minority, right-wing terrorists like Balliet can justify their violence and even make terrorist attacks appear like political resistance. In his comprehensive confession, Balliet explains that he committed his attack for the white men who, in his opinion, were disadvantaged: "My group are the white men who are pretty shitty." [19] Balliet wanted oppressed whites to be able to act make, show them that you can build weapons yourself with simple means and defend yourself against injustices.

The culture of the offended claims of white men is a virulent phenomenon in all western countries.

The extent to which men are allegedly discriminated against can also be read on numerous German sites dedicated to the fight for the masculinist cause. “Germany Reform”, for example, states that “the politically correct attitude” goes so far that state institutions such as the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency would disseminate “deliberately misleading and one-sided information” and conceal the discrimination against men. The "political correctness" is a popular enemy image of masculinists, because as an instrument of rule of the ruled it serves to establish counter-rule. “Germany Reform” keeps a list of examples of institutions or contexts through which or in which men would be discriminated against. The list includes pretty much everything you can imagine: authorities, the Basic Law, court judgments, divorces and paternity tests, dangerous activities, performance assessments and performance standards, education, workplace and retirement age, but also appreciation and public perception. [20]

On the homepage of the group “How much 'equality' can the country tolerate? - If the human becomes human - or: Whoever wants human society must overcome the stupid one ”, the“ wage discrimination lie ”is dealt with and claims that women work 39 percent less than men, but earn 64 percent more. [21] The self-declared “men's magazine” speaks of a “role reversal of the role”, [22] the manndat.de page of the fact that the “Women's Union (CDU) praises countries that murder men”. The alleged suppression of men is described here with a drastic example: "Imagine that a gunman would break into a school and murder primarily female teaching staff and a male-political association would then name this school as a model with regard to the proportion of male teachers." ] This is exactly how feminist gender politics against men would work, just with roles reversed.

Hegemonic masculinity becomes visible

The portrayal of the male sex as the loser of feminist society is by no means just a phenomenon of extreme masculinists on the Internet. To mobilize from the strategic minority against feminism and against women's rights, this development is increasingly evident in the mainstream. But how can this trend be interpreted?

The gender researcher and sociologist Franziska Schutzbach states that the "call of the PUAs [24] for explicit male dominance [...] can be seen as an indication that the self-image of male supremacy and thus masculinity as a whole have come under pressure" . [25] For her thesis, Schutzbach draws on the theories of the feminist natural science historian Donna Haraway, who has shown for the field of science that a central element of male supremacy is that it remains unmarked and operates through (self-) invisibility. If you follow Haraway, so Schutzbach, “the self-image of male supremacy [...] is not characterized by its gender markings, but by its departiculation, universalization, neutralization, even transcendentalization. We also encounter this universalized, invisibilized masculinity in religious discourse or in the history of human rights: the man is universalized as a human being, Eve is made out of Adam's rib, she is special, he is universal. A similar mechanism can be seen in the history of human rights: although they were declared human rights, they initially only applied to men. However, this limitation remained largely invisible because man was equated with man. [...] Male supremacy is constituted by defining it not as masculine, but as general. From this point of view, only others have a gender, while one's own position is considered universal. "[26]

However, this is no longer the case today. Masculinity in itself has become a characteristic of identity politics. It is no longer the norm, but tends to be an attribute of one group among many. Of course, in the past, certain aspects and ideals of masculinity were also discussed, there were identities of soldier, bourgeois or working-class masculinity, but hegemonic masculinity remained natural and untouched. Feminist criticism has led to this no longer being a matter of course.

How much the self-image is called into question is shown by the fact that male rule is made an issue by men themselves, from two seemingly contradicting positions: On the one hand, it is complained from the strategic minority as allegedly no longer existing, on the other hand, there is insistence that male superiority is natural.

But regardless of which of the two positions is held, they mark hegemonic masculinity; it becomes visible. On the one hand, it makes it clear that patriarchy is eroding. On the other hand, it must be stated that men themselves thematize and mark male rule. They turn hegemonic masculinity into something political: As patriarchy, they mobilize for patriarchy. And at least: You can't go back to the state of being taken for granted. What has once become visible does not simply become invisible again.

The article is based on the author's latest book “Political Masculinity. How incels, fundamentalists and authoritarians mobilize for the patriarchy ”, published by Suhrkamp Verlag.

[1] Cf. Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, What Do Countries with the Best Coronavirus Responses Have in Common? Women Leaders, in: “Forbes”, April 13, 2020; Leta Hong Fincher, Women Leaders Are Doing a Disproportionately Great Job at Handling the Pandemic. So Why Aren’t There More of Them ?, www.cnn.com, April 16, 2020; Jon Henley and Eleanor Ainge Roy, Are Female Leaders More Successful at Managing the Coronavirus Crisis ?, in: “The Guardian”, April 25, 2020; Amanda Taub, Why Are Women-Led Nations Doing Better with Covid-19 ?, in: “The New York Times”, May 18, 2020 and Nirandhi Gowthaman, Coronavirus: How Have Women-Led Countries Flattened the Curve ?, in: “Yourstory ”, April 17, 2020.

[2] See Michelle P. King, Women Are Better Leaders. The Pandemic Proves it, www.cnn.com, 5.5.2020.

[3] Gemma D’Auria and Aaron De Smet, Leadership in a Crisis: Responding to the Coronavirus Outbreak and Future Challenges, www.mckinsey.com, March 16, 2020.

[4] See, for example, Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, 8 (More) Women Leaders Facing the Coronavirus Crisis, in: “Forbes”, April 22, 2020.

[6] See for example: Female voices in football. Hatred against female commentators makes school, www.n-tv.de, June 22, 2018.

[7] For example Frank Castorf, who does not want to be forced to wash his hands and gives an interview about it; see Philipp Hübl, “Masculiner Defense”, in: “Philosophy Magazine”, May 19, 2020. Another prominent example is former US baseball player Aubrey Huff, who shared on Twitter that he would rather die of Covid than wear a "damn mask". Julia Marcus also takes up the connection between the denial of rules during the Corona period and masculinity in her article "The Dudes Who Won’t Wear Masks", www.theatlantic.com, 23.6.2020.

[8] See Valerio Capraro and Hélène Barcelo, The Effect of Messaging and Gender on Intentions to Wear a Face Covering to Slow down COVID-19 Transmission, www.psyarxiv.com, May 2020.

[9] Cf. for example Kristin Joachim, Women in the Corona Crisis: Much ›home‹ and little ›office‹, www.tagesschau.de, 4.6.2020 or Jutta Allmendinger, Women are losing their dignity, www.zeit.de, 12.5. 2020.

[10] This observation is supported by several studies, including one from the Berlin Science Center for Social Research on “Gainful Employment in Times of Corona”, www.econ stor.eu, April 15, 2020.

[11] Wittenberg-Cox, loc. Cit.

[12] Tristan Garcia, Wir, Berlin 2018, p. 253.

[17] Quoted from Michael Kimmel, Angry White Men. The USA and their angry men, Zurich 2015, p. 40.

[18] "Balliet turns on the music: 'Mask Off' by the US rapper Future" is said in the "Spiegel TV" broadcast on October 14, 2019 at 9:35 a.m.

[24] So-called pick-up artists, or PUAs for short, organize themselves in seminars and joint club visits to learn and develop the “art” of how to tow as many women as possible.

[25] Franziska Schutzbach, Dominant masculinity and neo-reactionary world views in the pick-up artist scene, in: Feministische Studien “, 2018, p. 312.