How Privilege Proves Itself

A tip of one of my many hats to Mary Anne Mohanraj for pointing out an article on (no relation) about what internet anti-feminist trolls/Men’s Rights Activists are like in person.

While the journalist behind the piece took the time to interview some of the falling stars of the men’s rights movements, the focus of the piece is one guy he managed to meet up with because he happened to be local and vocal at the right time. The subject, who is identified only by a pseudonym, had this to say during one of their public meetings:

“If both of us stood up on this table right now and started yelling what we think about feminism, somebody might tell you to shut the fuck up. But they would lynch me.”

You hear this a lot, from people who are against feminists or “SJWs” or “the PC thought police”: the fear of the so-called “lynch mob”. And yes, I’m using both scare quotes and saying “so-called”, because… seriously? Every time I see someone engaging in this bit of highly disrespectful hyperbole, I invite the person doing so to consider the implications behind what they’re saying. I’m usually told that words change meaning all the time, which is weird because supposedly it’s us weird lefty fringe types who are re-defining words in order to strip them of their meaning and weaken them.

This example of misappropriating the word “lynching”, though, is almost breathtaking in the stark simplicity of what is happening. If I could talk to the person who said this, I would ask him what I usually ask people in this situation: what exactly is it that he’s actually afraid of happening, when he says that he’ll be “lynched”?

Because I doubt very much he means that he will be publicly tortured and then murdered before a crowd of people who are in little danger of facing any consequences for their actions, which is what lynching has entailed at its historical worst. He certainly can have no realistic fear of even a physical attack for speaking his mind.

So what does he mean, exactly?

What exactly is he afraid will happen?

The same thing that every straight white dude who talks about his fear of “lynch mobs” means: he is afraid he will be criticized. He is afraid that if he were to speak his mind, other people would also speak their minds, doing the exact same thing that he’s doing.

So if we parse out his statement with the hyperbole translated into plain speak, what we would be left with is this:

“If both of us stood up on this table right now and started yelling what we think about feminism, somebody might tell you to shut the fuck up, and that’s okay. But they would tell me to shut the fuck up, too, and that’s terrible.”

This is how privilege proves itself real, again and again: in the fact that its defenders regard any criticism of themselves as being so awful that it’s comparable to the murderous treatment that others have received (and continue to receive) for merely existing.