The world needs a safe space to house its growing population of extremely breakable men.
New York Times columnist Bret Stephens shattered to pieces because a university professor jokingly compared him to a bedbug. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said he won’t take millions of dollars the European Union has offered to help combat Amazon rainforest fires until French President Emmanuel Macron apologizes for past critical comments.
Male fragility seems rampant.
An editor at the New York Times was recently demoted in part because he responded to an author’s correct criticism of his racially insensitive tweets by demanding the author apologize to him.
A sitting member of Congress, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, is suing Twitter and two parody accounts that regularly make fun of him, saying in the lawsuit that their tweets are something “no human being should ever have to bear and suffer in their whole life.” One account pretends to be Nunes’ mom and the other pretends to be a cow from Nunes’ family farm. A cow!
And, of course, we have our super-not-at-all-insecure president, Donald Trump, who on Tuesday tweeted:
“They do stories so big on Elizabeth ‘Pocahontas’ Warren’s crowd sizes, adding many more people than are actually there, and yet my crowds, which are far bigger, get no coverage at all. Fake News!”
That tweet resulted in a WHAAAAAAAAmbulance being dispatched to the White House.
The most remarkable thing about most of these men and their Fabergé-egg-like egos is they’re often the first to gripe about the ills of “political correctness.”
Take Mr. Stephens, a conservative columnist who has railed against “safe spaces,” saying in a 2017 commencement address at Hampden-Sydney College that worrying about hurting other’s feelings might lead to stifling all speech: “If we want to accommodate the sensitivities of our fellow students, shouldn’t that accommodation extend not only to what we say around them, but also to what we say anywhere — or what we allow to be said anywhere?”
He continued: “In the name of being ‘safe,’ the job security of professors and administrators has been put at increasing risk — lest they espouse, teach or merely fail to denounce a point of view that contradicts the political certitudes of the moment.”
Stephens apparently forgot those concerns when, following news there was an outbreak of bedbugs in the New York Times newsroom, David Karpf, an associate professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, jokingly tweeted: “The bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens.”
Hardly anyone saw the tweet, as the professor at that point had few Twitter followers. But Stephens saw it — and it hurt his feelings. So much so that he sent an e-mail to Karpf and the university’s provost, writing: “I would welcome the opportunity for you to come to my home, meet my wife and kids, talk to us for a few minutes, and then call me a ‘bedbug’ to my face.”
Stephens was clearly trying to leverage his status as a Times columnist to get Karpf in trouble, all because he was mad the professor called him a bedbug. So much for Stephens’ worries about “the job security of professors.”
On Tuesday morning, I received an e-mail from a reader calling me an “amoeba.” I sent a tweet noting that “I’m not going to report him to his boss because it’s only the 12th meanest thing someone has called me today. (It’s 9:10 a.m.).”
Does that make me a tough guy? No way. If you Google “macho antonym,” a picture of me should come up.
But male fragility isn’t about toughness or a lack thereof. It’s about insecurity.
I’m secure in the knowledge that I’m not an amoeba, so I don’t feel the need to track down the person calling me one and exact professional revenge. If someone calls me a bedbug, I’m not going to tell that person to come “say it to my face” like an aggrieved 10-year-old at recess. (My apologies to any 10-year-olds I may have insulted with that comparison.)
And if I’m the president of the United States of America (God help us), I’m definitely not going to whine about a presidential candidate’s crowd sizes getting too much attention. Why? BECAUSE I’M THE DAMN PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND I DON’T NEED TO DO THAT KIND OF THING!
This isn’t hard, fellas. Don’t punch down, don’t overreact, admit when you’ve made a mistake, listen to other people and learn from them and stop acting like you’re the only one in the world whose feelings matter.
If someone is being threatening or repeatedly harassing you, take it seriously, of course. But a one-off insult? Or your own perception that people don’t laud you enough? Please.
Fragile men are doing serious damage to the world, whether they know it or not. (They definitely don’t know it, and if they did they wouldn’t admit it.) And they’re doing it while mocking others who, at the end of the day, just want to be treated fairly, regardless of their race, gender, faith or sexual orientation.
If you think being called a bedbug or getting mocked by a fake cow on Twitter or having your feelings hurt because people aren’t saying enough nice things about you is bad, talk to a few women or people of color who have Twitter accounts. Talk to a few female newspaper columnists or sports reporters. Ask how many times each day they’re called something many orders of magnitude worse than “a bedbug.”
They aren’t the ones demanding apologies for minor criticisms. They aren’t tending to their egos before putting out fires.
It’s men doing that. Fragile men. Men whose insecurities may be the death of us all.