Friday, February 5, 2016

Amanda Taub accidentally reveals how the "Bernie Bro" smear works

...Sanders supporters perceived the complaints about Bernie Bros as a threat to the Vermont democratic socialist’s candidacy, and decided that they needed to set the record straight... And so, predictably, the "Not All Men" portion of the debate followed... [but] the kerfuffle over harassment by Sanders supporters isn’t about Bernie. - Amanda Taub
This comparison to the "not all men" rhetoric doesn't actually work, but it's quite revealing that Taub tries to draw on that line of criticism.

Feminism often speaks in generalizations about men. It's justified in doing so because there are things intrinsic to the identity "man" that we can speak about generally. For example, if you are a man, you are positioned to earn more money than women simply by virtue of being a man. If you are a woman, you will understandably want to talk about this problem, and you should not have to go out of your way to hedge and qualify that conversation to account for every man who, through sheer accident, is not earning more than every woman.

Obviously it is not always fair to make generalizations about identity groups, or to criticize people who take exception this. To give a relatively innocuous example, consider the old stereotype that people with red hair are prone to lose their tempers. It may very well be the case that some people with red hair do have short tempers - but this clearly isn't intrinsically true, and it's certainly reasonable for a red-haired person to point that out. Similarly, some short people may be unusually aggressive, but this clearly isn't something intrinsic to being short, and a short person would have every right to speak out if "Napoleon" became a popular slur for people who are short and aggressive.

This is just liberalism 101: if you're making generalizations about some group that aren't actually intrinsic to that group's identity, you're just dealing in negative stereotypes. This is a completely different universe from discourse that addresses the privileges and oppressions that are intrinsic to identity.

Taub wants to pretend that "Bernie Bro" implies nothing about Sanders and his supporters (despite the name), but the feminist critique of men does imply something about all men, even if there happen to be incidental or superficial "not all men" exceptions. That she compares the two reveals the smear at the heart of the Bernie Bro rhetoric: the suggestion that there is something reactionary intrinsic to supporting Sanders, even if not all Sanders supporters happen to share this affliction.