By now we’ve all heard of, read, and/or seen the tweets about Esquire’s March issue.
In the cover photo, sits a white kid, on his regular-ass bed, in his regular-ass room, his face holds a scowl or confusion or maybe he has a fart. He wears a flannel, a hoodie beneath, and is
fitting his socked-foot into a fashionable sneaker. It’s tagline reads, “What it’s like to grow up white, middle class in the era of...#MeToo, and a divided country.”
You can guess the reactions. The Left made assertions about representation. Fox News ran the story ‘The Left Decided It Hates Young, White Men’. We all know our roles in this dance.
When I saw the cover, I laughed--because it was connected to this tweet by Fran Tirado “finally, the representation we’ve been waiting for”. That is objectively a well written joke—and it basically ends there for me. And I knew for the internet it wouldn’t; that all these voices would ‘weigh-in’ and do what they do to get views/likes/clicks. It would keep showing up on my feed, in the news I read, so I decided to read the article.
Drumroll...it was uneventful. It was boring.
Probably cause it’s not for me. It’s for Esquire’s market, which according to David Granger, Editor in Chief, “Esquire is special because it is a magazine for men...a magazine about the interests, the curiosity, the passions, of men.”
Also, this isn't some quote buried in the recesses of the internet--I found this on Esquire's sit. We're men. We're loud. We're here and when we got here we pretended to 'discover' here because here did not exist pre-men.
It was also written for those of the Left, the wealthy, white Clinton voters, to shake them, to show them the forgotten America; the land and its peoples between the coasts. This is not a new conceit. It’s a perfectly fine conceit in fact; and somewhat necessary. However, it’s not easy.
A number of years ago, I attended a lecture by George Saunders. At some point, he said, the hardest book to write in America would be a sympathetic rendering of a Republican. It’s certainly one of them.
The article’s intention was to humanize this kid, who holds views that particularly under this administration are hard to swallow: he’s a fan of Trump, he’s anti-abortion, he’s fairly entrenched in genders role; he he got into a physical altercation with a female peer, “she smacked him in the face. He smacked her back.” The kid’s explanation being, “I hit her back because I didn’t know how to react.” At some point he reasons that a woman can do whatever she wants to a man, without fear of punishment and he ends with, “I still don’t really understand. I know what I can’t do, I just don’t know what I can do.”
Well, that was a lot. I should mention the consequences for the assault were as followed: he spent a couple hours in detention. He got a ticket sending him to municipal court. End of story.
I used to work with this white guy in LA. This guy had grown up in liberal LA, he liked hip-hop, liked basketball, had a college degree from a liberal California college, and all he ever did was say out of pocket shit.
At this particular job, conflict mediation and resolution played a big role, which meant, I had to sit and listen to a bunch of veiled, dog-whistle racism and xenophobia because he didn’t know any better and was trying to learn and how was he suppose to learn, when people kept criticizing him? He, like the Esquire kid, expressed that he felt targeted as a white man--that the world was against him.
I did say to him, in one of my less-patient moments, to cry me a fucking river.
In order for him to do this work, I had to bite my tongue, coddle fragility, and listen to nonsense. It was also expected that I practice patience. For when I exhibited anger, I was out of control, I was lecturing, I was being unfair; I should’ve known better. When he exhibited anger, it was necessary for his progress and growth.
We are consistently asked to turn an offense into a teachable moment. We are asked to not be offended.
In his defense, he tried hard and grew because of it; he even apologized to me, on a couple of occasions. However, I’m not sure what I got out of my interactions with him.
These are important questions for young white men to be asking—and they have every right to a safe space. They’re just asking the wrong people.
Consider your dream career. One of the first steps, you might take, would be to find someone in the position you want and ask them how they got there. Maybe young white men should be doing that. Go find an older white man, who you believe isn’t being attacked for his white male-ness, and ask how he escaped our wrath. If you cannot find a mentor, perhaps try the library. Either way, it’s not my fucking job. I really do believe and commend this work and I simultaneously believe, it’s not my fucking job.
One last freebie: Hey Esquire boy, here's something you can do that no black or brown man could ever do, you can smack a white woman and get nothing more than a parking ticket for it.
This article’s pitfall was its inability to humanize this kid. It held him up as a banner for young, confused white men, trying to find their footing. It even makes an interesting play towards analyzing the white default, that is, how difficult it can be for someone deemed to be a part of the default (privileged white male reality) and still feel he does not fit in. I imagine that’s not easy but I wouldn’t know because I live in your world. I don’t say that as a slight. I mention it because it’s no longer inherently interesting—maybe it never was. What is it like to be middle class, white, and male? Turn on the television. Open a magazine.
This story has always been told and will continue to be told—and that’s fine, I guess. Think about how many spin offs there have been of the CSI franchise. People still watch them.
Same story, different cast. But with each season the ratings have dropped. Maybe ratings are just dropping for middle class white men .