February 01, 2016

Malheur occupation shows toxic masculinity

As CNN reported on January 27:The weeks-long armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge headquarters in Oregon suffered two major blows when protest leader Ammon Bundy was arrested and another key figure was killed.What's interesting is what this affair tells us about white male attitudes in America:

What The Malheur Occupation Teaches Us About Masculinity

By Susan M. ShawTo feel powerless is to fail at masculinity. To be regulated, constrained, fined and jailed is to face challenges to masculinity. And often when men don't feel like "real men," they have to dominate something or someone to reassert their masculinity. In other words, "real men" are not dominated; they dominate. And so, to re-establish their masculinity, these men took up weapons, threatened federal agents, and destroyed federal property. Apparently, running around with guns and keeping the feds at bay made them feel tough; they felt like real men.

Of course, their sense of masculinity was also propped up by their intersecting white privilege and its attendant sense of entitlement. As white men they expect that ownership, power and success are their birthright. They expect to be heard. They believe that they have the right to demand what they want, even if it is over the law and over the wishes of the people of the region.

They demanded that federal lands be returned to "the people." But by "the people" they meant themselves and other white people like them. They certainly didn't mean the Burns Paiute whose land the refuge originally was and who asked them to leave. They didn't mean the people who live in Burns; they also asked the occupiers to leave. They didn't even mean the vast diverse majority of Americans who are free to enjoy the opportunities afforded by the refuge. Somehow, all of these other Americans are not "the people."

These occupiers also counted on their white privilege to protect them from federal assault. After all, we've witnessed the willingness of law enforcement to break up, often by force, the protests of Black and Native peoples. Yet, day after day passed, and the water and electricity stayed on, supplies still came in, and the occupiers continued to destroy the refuge and threaten Burns Paiute artifacts while the federal government tried to wait them out, despite pleas from the Oregon Governor and local officials to end the occupation.
Comment:  For more on Cliven Bundy, see Bundys Hold Paiute Artifacts Hostage and Bundy: Paiutes Lost Their Claim.

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