Straight White Men Against the World
A four-word anthem played on Twitter the other day, and I fell silent in awe: “SOCIAL MEDIA IS DISCO.”
The author was Emily Nussbaum, a cultural critic I’ve admired for a long time. She was answering a question I’d raised about why women, gay people and nonwhite people revel in the very forms of Internet culture that make some of the prominent straight white men who write about the Internet most dejected, fearful and furious. Those forms include message boards, online video, social networking, online publishing, various mobile apps and chat technology — all the digital stuff I happen to find more or less miraculous.
This article is just strange. As a college-educated, uptown-living, straight black man in his 20’s (for a few more months, anyway…30 comes oh so soon), who is also a tech-sector guy, this just doesn’t make sense. First, almost every man I know is straight and white. And almost every one of them posts to Twitter and Facebook at least ten times daily, and most have a Tumblr, a Posterous, and a blog that they are posting to at least daily.
In contrast, among the nonwhites and women that I know (I don’t run into a lot of GLBT folk, since I’m at the seminary almost all the time), while all use their Facebook on most days, only one has a Twitter feed, and – other than the ubiquitous mommy-blogs – none have a blog of any sort that’s maintained with any regularity.
So what’s going on here? Am I living in a pocket of the Twilight Zone that snuck into my little urban area? Am I just not paying close enough attention? And why does Heffernan seem to go to such great lengths to make this distinction between the SWM (that’s straight white male) and everyone else? Why does she try to make it empowering to lump all of us “others” into one group?
That’s a long list of questions, and I can’t answer any of them. I can, however, marvel at some of the ridiculous non sequitors and other strange linguistic gymnastics in this column:
“I sense in the dismissal of digital technology not just nostalgia but a firm idea that these people — African Americans, gays, women, Anthony Weiner, theater people, the “perverts” on Twitter — should not be making culture.” I spend a lot of time online, probably 100 hours weekly, if you add work and play. Most of what I see on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, et al, is posted by SWMs. So who exactly started associating social media with “these people”? I believe that’s a windmill, Q.
“The video was widely viewed and applauded — lyrical pushback by a young, gay, black man living in the projects.” Apparently, those nefarious SWMs are out there advocating rape against non-SWMs, and this “young, gay, black man living in the projects” bravely stood up to them. Jerks.
“The Web has officially bugged and bedeviled a lot of people. But, like disco, it’s already done something for the rest of us that’s a little bit freaky, and a little bit outta sight.” This is the story of every intellectual technology, as far back as the invention of the alphabet (probably farther still).
Basically, this is ridiculously irrelevant commentary, that is not seeking to expose the truth or express a different perspective on the issue, but just to cash in on the much-loved pastime of bashing straight white men. It doesn’t lift up or encourage anyone – except Antoine Dodson, of course – but even then, he’s not even mentioned using social media…he was on TV (that evil, traditional, SWM-dominated form), and someone else made a YouTube video. It seems he’s only worthy of inclusion because he’s young, black and gay (and from the projects).
Why do white women seem totally incapable of seeing the rest of us as individuals, and an not as groups that can be divided and amalgamated to suit their writing purposes? Oops, I guess I’m not immune to it myself.