Men and the woke's Jungian shadow
This evening after chasing flights of geese across the rainy hills near my village, I stopped into a store to buy some groceries, and upon leaving saw something which touched me in a way so startling I’m still trying to grasp it.
I was standing outside the store putting my groceries into the saddlebags of my bike, and past me walked a man and a woman. The woman was pregnant, far enough along that walking wasn’t very easy. The man beside her, looking roughly her age, was carrying several items they’d just bought from a children’s furnishing store.
They walked hand in hand, the man slowing his gait to match hers, and then suddenly she appeared about to stumble. He righted her quickly, his movements fierce and deft, and she smiled back at him.
What startled me was the look they shared. I know the expression that passed between them, and so do you if you’ve ever loved someone. Care, kindness, and a shared relief to be together. It’s the look my partner gives me when he arrives home from work and finds I’ve taken care of everything for dinner. It’s the look I give him when he’s done the same, or when he notices I’d not poured my coffee yet and so he pours it for me. Or when I bring him a coffee in the morning when he’s still in bed, or when we’re working on a building project and something’s about to fall on one of us and the other one catches it before it does.
If you’ve been in love, you know this look when you see it, and you cannot help but smile when others give it to their beloved.
And yet it startled me to watch them, and I feared a bit for them. Having spent much of the morning working on a section of my manuscript on woke ideology, some of the more depressing aspects of that mess were still lingering in my head. Specifically, I’d been writing about the category of “cis-hetero-white-man,” the apex oppressor class in the hierarchy of social injustice.
There are so many contradictory conceptions of that figure, so many cited reasons why they are bad and ought to be hated, that one starts to suspect there is a kind of Jungian shadow mechanism occurring. It’s like when a kid going through puberty swears he or she hates and cannot stand and really wishes dead some other child. There are all kinds of reasons the other kid is loathsome and awful and icky that, eventually, you start to notice maybe all those protests are to cover up actually liking the target of vitriol.
That’s the Jungian shadow at play. Usually obsessive hatred about an Other is tied to some unreconciled and buried (“shadow”) aspect in the person expressing that obsession. If you find you cannot stop thinking about how awful someone is, and you can list lots and lots of reasons why they’re awful, and especially if other people don’t immediately see what is bad about that person, then it’s probably your shadow at work. You might actually like the person, or want to be them, or see in them all kinds of things that mirror parts of yourself in really uncomfortable ways.
In woke ideology, the cis-hetero-abled-white-man is the living embodiment of the opposite of all oppression categories. Everything is wrong with him, because nothing is wrong for him. He’s male and okay with that, likes the opposite sex and doesn’t apologise for it, doesn’t have any disabilities, has the dominant skin color that protects him from all racial oppression. He doesn’t suffer like all the rest of us, we who are defined not in relation to ourselves but in relation to his normality. He has everything, which means he must be nothing to us, no better than trash.
So I was standing by my bike, loading groceries into a bag mounted on the back of it, watching this man act out his love for a woman, a woman who will birth the child they created together, and startled by how much of a disconnect there was between all these woke conceptions of such men and the men themselves.
In the fourth installment of my series, “The Woke Grift,” I made reference to something I’d been thinking about for a long time but never could quite put together until today:
The white cis-abled-heterosexual-male worker especially becomes the target of all our trauma and the cause of all our oppression. We treat him as if he is our dead-beat dad, constantly refusing to take responsibility for children whom he correctly suspects he never fathered.
I had one of those dads, by the way. He divorced my schizophrenic mother when I was 12, leaving me to fend for myself and my two younger sisters while keeping my mother from killing herself or us. I hated him for a long time on account of all that, as I think most kids would have.
That happened around the time that the “Moral Majority” in the United States had made quite a political show about the epidemic of single mothers and the disintegration of the institution of the family. The liberal response at that time was to deny there was any sort of crisis at all and to assert that anyway single motherhood was a sign of societal progress.
It turns out there actually was something happening. Here’s a chart to give you an idea:
The image above is a screenshot, while the original chart is interactive and gives more detailed data. Between 1970 and 1990, the number of children living with only one parent more than doubled (from 820,000 to 1,893,800), exactly as the conservatives said. 1
Unfortunately, much of the focus (by both conservatives and liberals) at that time was on single mothers, leading to the sense that is was somehow the fault of women that so many children had only one parent. What this focus missed was that the number of children living with their dad instead of their mom rose by the same factor during that period, and continued to rise up until about 2010 (after which it has remained stable).
Eventually, liberals got wise to the fact that there was a legitimate problem occurring, but their solution ended up being the same solution Republicans had been arguing for. That’s how in 1996, Bill Clinton signed into law the “Welfare to Work” act, fulfilling one of his own campaign promises to “end welfare as we know it.” The liberal and conservative justification for this act was that the easy availability of welfare was leading to the increase in single-parent children. Government programs were essentially replacing the absent partner’s income, meaning that single parents had less interest in finding a partner to raise children with.
From a feminist and Marxist perspective, they were correct. That’s Silvia Federici’s core argument, for example: women who can take care of their own and their children’s material needs are less likely to attach themselves to men, since the economic protection factor is not in play. And ultimately, this is a good thing: no one should ever be forced to be with someone just so they can survive.
What all of this doesn’t include, however, are the effects on children. Yes, of course alternative family structures have always existed in every society, but that doesn’t mean those children of single parents were actually in such structures. I definitely wasn’t, though maybe you could say that my two younger sisters being raised (and provided for) by their older brother were in some sort of “radically re-imagined family.”
Even still with all the utopian talk on the left about communal child-raising and alternative families, the most common complaint I hear from friends who are single mothers is that they are stuck doing everything for their children themselves. The few such arrangements I do know that are working involve co-parenting arrangements, whether that’s a mother and her partner or a father and his partner, both homosexual and heterosexual. More often than not, though, you’ll mostly hear complaints about how a child’s “baby daddy” still won’t pay child support, rather than hearing glowing reports of how great being a radical single parent is.
The burden—even in radical communities—is still primarily on women to raise children. In a two-parent situation, a woman can at least theoretically rely on a second person to bring in income and to help with the children, even if that second person isn’t very good at those things. When that second person (usually a cis-white-heterosexual-abled-male dad) isn’t there to help out or abandons the woman and their children, the children ultimately suffer as much as the mother.
That’s what happened to me, and also to my sisters. That’s also the experience of more than half of my closest friends, even if their situation was a little more stable than ours. It just really sucks to have only one parent, even if the absent parent wasn’t a good parent.
I was one of those children in those figures, and the number of children like me doubled in just 20 years in the United States. Maybe it’s not all that much of a stretch to ask whether the social disruption this sudden doubling caused led to the woke conception of men being “trash” or a kind of apex-oppressor class. Decades of kids watching their mothers try to feed them—as both liberals and conservatives dismantled what was already one of the most austere welfare systems in the capitalist world—might definitely have bred some degree of resentment towards the men they wished they knew and who seemed to have abandoned them.
Of course there’s a contradiction here, which is that the woke cannot simultaneously argue that men are inherently oppressive, violent, and whatever else while also arguing that men are duty bound to provide and care for their children and the women who are those children’s mothers. This second part of the argument would therefore mean that men have some inherent necessity in the lives of others, in society, and especially to children and thus aren’t actually “trash” or apex-oppressors. This also weakens one of the core thrusts of more modern feminisms, which posit that women needing men at all is a mere artifact of patriarchal sex relations.
This problem is what made the gesture I witnessed today so startling. No politics nor ideology can account for this most basic of human relations—the two parents of a soon-to-be-born child extending love and care to each other, the one not carrying the child in the body offering to steady the one who was, while carrying baby blankets and a teddy bear in his other arm.
Of course here in this country, if he leaves the mother of their child, she and the child will be materially okay. The welfare system in place here makes the Clinton welfare reforms look like the equivalent of kicking an orphan who’s picking through a trash can. Marriage rates here are very low, so they may not even be married. And unlike in the United States, it’s likely at least one of their close relatives is doing well enough to help take care of the child if she is alone.
Yet for that kid, I hope the dad’s not a deadbeat. And for the left in general, I hope we can maybe start to think again how some of those “patriarchal” situations of two parents giving a stable life for a child maybe had some logic to them.
And for the woke? I hope they can eventually confront the shadow of the “deadbeat dad” like I did.
Decades later, I finally understand why my dad left my mother. He was an uneducated low waged factory worker trying to deal with a woman hearing voices and talking complete gibberish for days on end and occasionally hitting him. He sucked at dealing with it, but no one else around her had seen schizophrenia before or knew what to do. So he left, and left his kids to deal with her instead, fleeing from the insanity and the absurd burden of trying to provide for four people on a wage that could barely support himself.
It was a shitty situation, and he made a shitty choice that resulted in more shit for his kids. But that hardly makes him trash or some kind of oppressor, which is what I once believed. I resented him for years, but only recently understood what part of that resentment was. He had left a nightmarish situation, but I couldn’t. He got to go live another life, but I had to live that one. He no longer had to listen to my mother talk about demons and threaten to kill herself whenever she didn’t get her way, but I had to.
The thing is, it all turned out okay anyway. Not for her or for him, but for myself and my two sisters. One’s a high level director at a multinational corporation, the other has a successful pottery and education career. I’m living in an idyllic village with a beautiful and artistic partner, and I have a fulfilling writing and publishing career.
To get here, I had to let go of the bitterness and resentment I held towards my dad, and also towards others who got good families, and especially towards a made-up category of apex-oppressors who had “everything” and so therefore I had “nothing.” White-cis-hetero-abled-men aren’t some superior race of people, nor are they cause of everyone’s personal sufferings and failings. They’re just idiot humans like all the rest of us, making decisions based on what they know just like the rest of us do.
And they’re necessary, just like everyone else is. Older ideas of what their necessity meant aren’t all the same in every society, and not all those ideas led to the oppression and subjugation of women. Rejecting all such “natural” roles on the left doesn’t do us any good, nor does painting such men as the core root of all social evil. An ethics—or perhaps even a mythos—situating men back again into such roles, encouraging them to act like dads again, to find nobility, value, and meaning in such acts—would do a lot better for us all.
Population growth in the United States rose only 25% percent during that same period, meaning that the increase of children in single-parent homes cannot be accounted for by population increase.