Bless Their Hearts, Conservative White Men Are Feeling Traumatized

Apparently there is a growing outcry on the right about how conservative white men are being traumatized.

The sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh have sparked a wave of unbridled anger and anxiety from many Republican men, who say they are in danger of being swept up by false accusers who are biased against them.

From President Trump to his namesake son to Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), the howls of outrage crystallize a strong current of grievance within a party whose leadership is almost entirely white and overwhelmingly male — and which does not make a secret of its fear that demographic shifts and cultural convulsions could jeopardize its grip on power.

Philip Rucker and Robert Costa go on to document how we are hearing this anger and anxiety expressed by Rep. Steve King, Rush Limbaugh, Jordan Peterson, and Ben Shapiro. Donald Trump, Jr. also weighed in.

“I’ve got boys and I’ve got girls, and when I see what’s going on right now, it’s scary,” Donald Trump Jr., a father of five small children, said in an interview with DailyMailTV aired Monday.

Asked whether he was more worried about his sons or daughters, Trump Jr. said, “Right now, I’d say my sons.”

In response, we’re seeing some memes develop whose purpose is to mock this so-called “trauma.” One woman posted a list on Facebook of the “20 preventative measures for men who have expressed their concerns about being falsely accused of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or sexual misconduct.” If you check it out, you’ll recognize all of them as “advice” women often receive about how to avoid being sexually assaulted. They sound ridiculous going in the opposite direction.

Similarly, the Onion posted an article titled, “Nation Urged To Be Extra Sensitive To Men Reliving Trauma Of Not Getting Something.”

“It’s certainly not easy to watch Brett Kavanaugh live out this nightmare on the national stage, and our hearts go out to all men who have ever experienced something similar—if you know a man who has ever been denied something or who even feels as if they have been denied something, be sure to make time to check in with them and let them know that you support them,” said specialist Robert Kusinski of the Harvard Center for Masculine Trauma, explaining the importance of excessive empathy in understanding the overarching isolation, shame, and anger felt by adult males who have never even briefly been denied something they wanted upon hearing any version of the word “no.”

I have always thought that the “point and laugh” response to the absurd is not a bad strategy. But we have to keep in mind that what is happening here is deadly serious.

To all the men who feel traumatized by these recent events, I would suggest that Steve Bannon actually predicted what is happening. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s what he said in response to Oprah’s speech at the Golden Globes last February.

In the new paperback edition of his book “Devil’s Bargain,” journalist Joshua Green writes that Bannon, the former Trump campaign chairman and White House chief strategist, “thought Oprah might represent an existential threat to Trump’s presidency if she decided to campaign for Democrats in 2018.”

But, Green wrote, Bannon believes the most powerful backlash to Trump is bigger than Winfrey, who’s been the subject of much 2020 speculation. He’s most concerned by the women-led wave of liberal, anti-Trump activism, fueled by the #MeToo movement.

“The anti-patriarchy movement is going to undo ten thousand years of recorded history,” Bannon told Green. “You watch. The time has come. Women are gonna take charge of society. And they couldn’t juxtapose a better villain than Trump. He is the patriarch.”…”This is a definitional moment in the culture,” Bannon told Green of the Hollywood awards ceremony. “It’ll never be the same going forward.”

You know what that means? Now might be the perfect time to go back and listen to what Oprah said during her speech.

I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they’re in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They’re part of the world of tech and politics and business. They’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military…

For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up…

So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “Me too” again.

Bannon was right (for once) when he said that conservative white men should be worried about “the women-led wave of liberal, anti-Trump activism, fueled by the #MeToo movement.” The fact that the response is described as “trauma” is a reminder of the old saying that “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression,” so I don’t doubt that the anger and anxiety they are feeling is genuine. But when it is designed to simply maintain their privileged positions of power, it’s hard for this southern-raised woman to say anything other than “bless their hearts.”

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.