- Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era by Michael Kimmel
New York, NY: Nation Books, 2013, 299 pages, $26.99
The discourse surrounding the tragic events at the University of California Santa Barbra in May of 2014, often cited entitlement as a precipitating variable. The perpetrator of the day’s events felt entitled; entitled to women, their bodies, and unquestioned respect. In his newest book, Michael Kimmel explores the ways in which race, class, and gender intersect among White men to produce a unique framework of masculinity, one rooted in entitlement, control, and uncontested dominance. There is a sense among America’s angry White men, however, that this ideal of masculinity is gradually slipping away. Against the backdrop of conservative talk radio, the rise of the Tea Party, and growing equality for racial and sexual minorities, Kimmel examines the various ways that angry White men express masculinity within this shifting political landscape. Each chapter in the text is devoted to a particular group of men, and while some may be of more interest to higher education professionals than others, taken together they provide the collective canvass on which so many men make sense of their masculinity.
In the introduction Kimmel highlights how masculinity has historically been constructed among White men, most notably through the myth of the self-made man. This distinctively American trope leaves men in a consistent state of restlessness. Today, according to Kimmel, this anxiety has turned to anger: anger at racial and sexual minorities, government bureaucrats, and feminists, all of whom are responsible for the demise of America. Chapter 1 focuses on the ways in which White men’s anger is manipulated and redirected at these groups, most notably through conservative talk radio. These populations become the collective “they” to the “us” of White men, the abstract others that threaten claims to dominance, respect, and authority.
Chapter 2 examines young White men and violence. Kimmel contends that young White men who go on rampage shootings are not deviants, but rather overconformists to a traditional framework of masculinity rooted in violence and control. In this chapter Kimmel explores the stunning similarities between shooters over the last two decades: young, White men from rural and suburban communities who encountered relentless bullying, gay-baiting, and physical torment at school.
In chapters 3 and 4 Kimmel shifts his attentions to organized groups who look to restore traditional notions of male dominance: men’s rights activists (MRAs) and father’s rights groups. These chapters document the motivations of such groups, their origins, and the ways in which the internet serves as a catalyst for their rage.
Chapter 5 addresses White men’s violence against women. Here Kimmel profiles men who felt entitled to women and sex. When denied, men felt a similar sense of entitlement to use violence as a means of restoring their honor and status as men. In this regard violence is not an isolated act or a mere loss of control, but rather an intentional expression of power of men over women. Further, a number of useful studies are cited that challenge claims of gender symmetry in domestic violence.
In chapter 6 Kimmel turns his attention [End Page 633] to White, working-class men, and the shifting political landscape in which they operate. Decreasing wages, coupled with an increase in racial minorities and women in the workforce, has created a distinctively different reality for these men than their fathers or grandfathers experienced. Kimmel explores the ways in which rage and anger manifest from such realization, both internally and externally. This chapter underscores the ways in which men’s rage is redirected from corporations and Wall Street to racial minorities, immigrants, and women.
The text concludes with an examination of the extreme right, including White supremacists and neo-Nazis. Kimmel introduces the reader to a number of individuals on the extreme right and the ways in which social class, particularly downwardly mobility, unites such groups.
When one considers the sample of White men that Kimmel interviewed for this book, finding implications for working with students in higher education...