Why White Boys (And Their Parents) Think They Are The Victims Of A "Woke" Society

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No, White Men Are Not Victims Of A “Woke” Society

No, white men are not being victimized by “woke” society. Or by anyone for that matter. It’s not surprising that you might feel that way. But if you are, you might be missing the point. 

The “straight white male” has been the object of much debate in recent years. This is a figure that epitomizes privilege in all aspects of their identity. 

Racially, they outearn most ethnic groups. In terms of gender, they dominate leadership positions internationally. Their sexuality has never been prohibited or policed. 

Inevitably, as we try to interrogate and dismantle systems that reproduce privilege, we keep coming back to the straight white male in a way that may feel confrontational to those in this identity category. 

The so-called victimization of white men keeps us trapped in our current system of oppression by once again prioritizing the needs and feelings of white men over other groups. 

We need a better understanding of why white men are such a popular source of debate in order to ever move away from this conversation. 

If you think you or the white men in your life are being targeted by “woke” society, you’re completely misunderstanding how breaking down male privilege can benefit us all. 

Those who hold power cannot be oppressed

In 2018, comedian and Food Network host Josh Denny tweeted, “‘Straight White Male’ has become this century’s N-Word. It’s used to offend and diminish the recipient based on assumption and bias. No difference in the usage.” 

His views have been echoed in social media comments and meninist forums on countless occasions as more and more people begin to believe that white men are in crisis and that they're “victims” of social progress. 

The notion of a slur is rooted in privilege. It is an act of hate speech that carries with it a kind of institutional power. 

The reason the “N-word” is so offensive when used by non-Black people is not because of the word itself but because of the weight of institutional and historical racism that it carries. 

Being a white male may get thrown back in your face from time to time in conversation, but it has never been something that will actively hold you back in life. 

Yes, I think we can all agree that the term is often used pejoratively, and maybe even rendered into an insult at times, but the overall story has more to do with what being a straight white man represents. 

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The “straight white male” insult is nothing personal 

In essence, straight white men shouldn’t take everything said about them to heart. If you care about ending debates around privilege then you need to join in with bringing an end to privilege itself. 

The straight white man has become a symbol for the constructs of privilege that many are raging against, but that doesn’t make these men victims. 

If you’re a white man or the parent of one, and you’re confident that you’re putting in work to be anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-misogynistic, anti-transphobic, and anti-privilege, then there’s no reason to feel like the insults hurled at straight white men apply to you. 

If, however, you still feel like white masculinity is being targeted, perhaps you should ask yourself, what does white masculinity mean to you? 

If you are uncomfortable with interrogating the privilege white men were born into then perhaps you feel white men are entitled to that unearned privilege and that other groups are not.

It is true that white men did not choose this life, so it can feel frustrating to be consistently reminded of a privilege you never requested. But this is exactly why white men should want to bring an end to it as much as the rest of us. 

White masculinity has to be about more than just dominating power and excluding others, so white men should be passionate about redefining it outside of these terms. 

In "Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America," Ijeoma Oluo lays this out eloquently:

“I do not believe that white men are born wanting to dominate. ... We need to do more than just break free of the oppression of white men. We also have to imagine a white manhood that is not based on the oppression of others. ... We must start asking what we want white manhood to be, and what we will no longer accept.”

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If white men are being targeted, how come they still dominate? 

The belief that white men are being “targeted” is undermined by the reality that we have yet to see any significant shift from this so-called targeting. 

Think of a cultural identity that antithesizes white men. Can you think of many women of color running countries? 

There are still more CEOs in the U.S. named “John” than there are female CEOs. There are only 5 Black CEOs running Fortune 500 companies. If white men are the victims of anything, their injuries cannot be that severe. 

So, why does it feel confrontational to be called a straight white man? Probably because it never really existed as an identifier until recently, at least not in the way we use it now. 

For centuries, being straight, white and male was the norm, everything else was defined in opposition. Our white fathers and grandfathers never had to think much about it. 

In this cultural moment, as issues of privilege are brought under the spotlight, white men and the privileges they benefit from are highlighted more than ever before. 

Telling white men they are victims leads to radicalization 

On an individual level, it doesn’t feel great to have your race, gender, and sexuality thrown in your face in these cultural debates. 

Of course, women, people of color, and non-straight people have been experiencing this for centuries so you don’t have to tell them how that feels. 

But by feeding into this white male victim complex we risk breeding a beast even more dangerous than your average run-of-the-mill privileged white man. 

By telling young white boys that they are victims or that their masculinity is in crisis, we are telling them that they deserve all the privileges that others are trying to redistribute evenly across all groups.

This breeds entitlement which, at extreme levels, turns to radicalization. 

Men who consider themselves victims of feminist oppression believe they are entitled to sexual access to women. Some groups have even used this to justify mass violence.

White men who are taught that they are being targeted by other racial groups become alienated from these groups and risk getting indoctrinated into white supremacy.  

Straight cisgender men who are conditioned to believe that LGBTQ+ identifying people are the enemy, begin to police gender and sexuality norms in violent, dangerous ways. 

Ending white male privilege should be the top priority of all people, no matter their identity. 

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. Keep up with her Twitter for more.