M.ith a book called “Political Masculinity”, which shows disastrous restorative tendencies in societies increasingly characterized by equality, the momentum is certainly on your side as a publisher. The assault on the Capitol made it clear to even stubborn appeasers that authoritarian, divisive and chauvinistic politics can lead directly to extremism. A guy who dances through the halls with buffalo horns, another who places his boots on the desk of a powerful politician: Here you can see caricatures of traditional images of men trying to regain space that they thought had been lost.
Editor in the “Life” section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.
The inexhaustible question of what masculinity actually is today and what it could be is not Susanne Kaiser’s topic; she has found enough material in what is now often referred to as “toxic masculinity”. She has gone deep into their abysses and now presents a meticulous representation of dark male milieus, which, if they are not directly connected to one another, nevertheless stimulate one another. You shouldn’t be fooled by strange self-labeling: “Pick-up artists” are neither gallant womanizers nor “Incels”, the “involuntary celibates”, ie people who are involuntary celibate, and harmless nerds. Both groups share the contemptuous view of women – with the difference that some believe that they can get and subjugate everyone, while the other cannot get any and do not forgive women for that.
King of the Incels
The “well-organized network of misogynist actors who act globally” has, according to Kaiser’s analysis, outgrown such angry expectations. For these men, owing to the triumphant advance of feminism, the power relations have reversed: the real oppressors have long been women. By portraying themselves as victims and a strategic minority, men legitimized violence as resistance. It is well known that 90 percent of verbal violence on social media is perpetrated by men. Kaiser rightly regards the reflexive roaring down of female voices on the Internet as “the well-organized work of misogynist trolls and haters”, although not a few freaks in front of the computer are allowed to live out their misogyny in a lonely and unorganized way.
More and more often, however, verbal violence turns into real. Kaiser refers to a study which found that in a third of the mass shootings in the United States in the past ten years, the perpetrators also harbored misogynistic motives. The “mannosphere” on the Internet is their echo chamber, where they are celebrated by like-minded people. Elliot Rodger is revered as the “King of the Incels”. He killed six people in California in 2014 and targeted women because they denied him “sex, fun and pleasure”; “Going ER” is now an expression of wanting to do the same to Rodger.
What are the solutions?
There are some arguments against it, but also in favor of classifying acts like those of Rodgers as terrorism. As Kaiser points out, many attacks have long followed certain patterns. The comprehensive pamphlet Rodgers, from which Kaiser quoted too extensively, reveals not only a kind of terrorist ideology, but the delusional narcissism and sadism of a person who dreams of locking the majority of women in a concentration camp and them watch starvation from a watchtower. As dangerous as such failed existences can become, patriarchy cannot be built on their shoulders. Only very few misogynists want to instigate a war of annihilation against all women, but all of them want to push back the influence of women.
It is therefore right and important that Kaiser’s book also scrutinizes the reactionary political movements in selected states. She deals in depth with Poland, for example, where nationalists and religious fundamentalists have formed an ominous alliance. Here in particular, however, it is not entirely reliable. Although President Duda was just re-elected in office in the summer of 2020, contrary to Kaiser writes, this was not a re-election of the national-conservative government; In Poland, the president primarily has representative functions, which is why the authoritarian restructuring of Polish society does not come primarily from Duda, but from PiS party leader Kaczyński, whose puppet Duda is considered to be.
If there is anything else to complain about about Kaiser’s meritorious work, then it is – besides the missing register – the fact that it does not offer any solutions for its depressing time diagnosis. But here, too, a look at America may help: As the example of Trump illustrates, with a bit of luck, many a dark man can end up doing himself.
Susanne Kaiser: “Political Masculinity”. How incels, fundamentalists and authoritarians mobilize for patriarchy. Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin 2020. 268 pp., Br., € 18.