For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to identify two kinds of exclusion. One is a genuine issue, where people are not able to participate because their needs are not met – usually by something inherent in the location that assumes everyone can leap off buses, bound up flights of stairs, squeeze into small toilets and so forth. Or because there’s prejudice against them in some way – gender, race, sexuality etc. Exclusion based on not considering what some potential participants might need, is a bit shit, through to a lot shit, depending on how big and professional an outfit you are supposed to be. Exclusion based on prejudice is abhorrent.
Type two exclusion, is when a space is offered as particularly for one set of people – that tends to be about gender and lgbt spaces, ethnicity, and disability, sometimes it can be about religion. The logic behind this kind of space is that it allows people to talk about their specific experiences. Bringing together fellow travellers to talk about issues is an opening move to getting things done, often. I think these are good spaces to have. The trouble is, that this kind of group pretty much always excludes young, straight, cis-gendered, moderately affluent, able bodied white boys, and this really, really winds some of them up.
These are the chaps who, if you talk about domestic abuse will say ‘men are victims too’ – not because they have been, but to derail the conversation. These are the men’s rights activists, who think hashtags like #nohymennodiamond are a good thing. Because female virginity is a male rights issue, obviously. If a group is about an ethnic minority, it’s racist for excluding them, women’s groups are sexist for excluding them, and so on and so forth. They’re very present on twitter and very easy to spot, and they are angry, and they feel left out, marginalised and unfairly treated.
Most sane people treat them as a bit of a joke. As they are the kind of joke that sends death and rape threats to women who dare to speak about sexism in the gaming industry, to take an obvious example, I think it is worth considering their issues. Why are they so angry? Why are they so bothered about not having a place in groups that manifestly have nothing to offer them anyway? It’s easy to make them choose to go away. Say you want to talk about the agonising details of childbirth or the mechanics of menstruation, and you won’t see them for dust. Say ‘no men’ and they take offence. You might instead get some friendly chaps at your talking about blood group who would like to be better informed, and you might decide you can make the time to inform them, and if you can’t, they may feel a bit sad, but are unlikely to tell you to go and kill yourself.
I’ve done a bit of an informal study, because twitter makes that easy. Who are these angry young men? Well, based on their tweets, they aren’t terribly articulate, nor do they have much to say when they aren’t hating on someone. Most have a handful of followers, so they aren’t popular and don’t have many friends or fans. Most show no signs of having much going for them – they don’t talk about personal achievement, they don’t have anything to show. If their profile pictures are indicative, none are especially well dressed, fit or good looking by conventional standards. These are guys you would pass in the street without a second glance.
I suspect they’ve grown up well enough off to feel entitled, but not so well off as to be safe forever, but they don’t have much going for them, so making their own way in the world will be hard. They have neither the money nor the looks, nor the personalities to attract women, and are painfully ignorant on the subject of relationships. With no emotional literacy worth mentioning, they have little hope of sustaining relationships, as their lack of online friends often indicates. Take away their young white male straight cis-gendered privileges, and all they have left is being barely able to string a sentence together, a spotty face, a bad wardrobe, and a dead end job. Of course they’re angry. Rather than deal with their own shortcomings, they project that anger outwards.
I think the problem is that, having nothing going for them and no prospects, they do feel marginalised. All the spaces for marginalised people have no room for them, because they look like young white straight male privilege. Desperate for attention, desperate to make a mark, they strike out because they do not think they are capable of doing anything better, and they resent anyone who in face of having nothing going for them, by their standards (being female, ethnic, gay etc) are trying to do something.
It must be a whole world of pain. So if you run into one acting out (usually on Twitter, but no doubt they lurk in other places, too), pity them. They belong to that most marginalised of groups – the privileged white guy who expects it all handed to him on a plate but isn’t seeing any action. They can’t admit to feeling marginalised because that would mean admitting to being failures by their own standards. So they envy those whose reasons for feeling marginalised aren’t shameful, and who are supporting each other. It hurts them every time someone else gets up. It hurts them every time no one is impressed by them being white boys. They belong in a different century. Pat them gently on the head and tell them that they can have a sandwich, the trick is to take their sorry ass out the kitchen and make it all by themselves.