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Baldwin, and a potential new approach to the severely embittered misogynist problem

By Amanda Marcotte
Sunday, May 31, 2009 15:59 EDT
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Until I saw this blog post, I didn’t realize that Alec Baldwin had made a rather unfunny and bizarre joke about buying a Filipina or Russian mail order bride. His apology for it is focused on getting you to give money to a Christian sex trafficking group, which of course sounds like the worst idea in the world since many of those groups actually think blocking access to contraception and education will help their cause.

What I find fascinating about the whole thing is that despite his claims that it’s a joke, he went there pretty much as soon as Letterman gave him a chance. Apparently, if you go MRA, you have to buy in completely. There’s no half measures, like simply blaming your wife because your kids don’t love it when you scream at them and call them names like “pig”. No, you have to start obsessing over how feminism has “ruined” American women, and fantasizing openly about a never-never foreign land where bitches know their place, don’t talk smack, and accept being treated like combination maids/womb factories with levels of gratitude usually reserved for winning the lottery. No amount of good fortune, money, or fame will slow down a man’s journey towards a place where he thinks he’s upsetting evil uppity American bitches by threatening to take himself off the market and marry a woman from his fantasy never-never land where women love oppression. (MRAs like to pretend that it’s love of oppression, but it’s more like severely restricted choices in play.) Of course, if you’ve heard the tape of Baldwin screaming at his daughter, then you can’t help but hope that he knows that buying a wife would do even more harm to his reputation, because god forbid he inflict that asshole on another woman who has severely restricted means of getting out. It’s obviously too much to ask that he quit winding down the path of escalating misogyny, and instead show a little gratitude towards the woman (Tina Fey) who has given him an opportunity to shine so much on TV and deflect some of the reputation degradation.

Interesting news for those who’ve seen but don’t really get why MRAs are so crazy and weird: There’s a move towards classifying this sort of severe bitterness as a syndrome. Hat tip.

The disorder is modeled after post-traumatic stress disorder because it too is a response to a trauma that endures. People with PTSD are left fearful and anxious. Embittered people are left seething for revenge.

“They feel the world has treated them unfairly. It’s one step more complex than anger. They’re angry plus helpless,” says Dr. Michael Linden, a German psychiatrist who named the behavior.

Embittered people are typically good people who have worked hard at something important, such as a job, relationship or activity, Linden says. When something unexpectedly awful happens — they don’t get the promotion, their spouse files for divorce or they fail to make the Olympic team — a profound sense of injustice overtakes them. Instead of dealing with the loss with the help of family and friends, they cannot let go of the feeling of being victimized. Almost immediately after the traumatic event, they become angry, pessimistic, aggressive, hopeless haters.

As the Alec Baldwin example shows, this sort of irrational bitterness can start to take over a person’s life until they’re not functioning well anymore—Baldwin is putting his career in jeopardy with this shit, and even as he gets more loudly misogynist, he is leaning on the glow from working on a female-produced and written show to keep from falling into the career abyss of irredeemable assholes, where Ted Nugent and his own brother Stephen Baldwin have fallen. But you definitely see this situation with other MRAs, and in fact the fantasy of the submissive “foreign bride” (Which is the official term MRAs try to use when talking to feminists, in a weak attempt to blur the difference between mail order bride companies and just happening to meet and fall in love with someone of another nationality. But as the Baldwin joke shows, when MRAs feel like they’re in like-minded company, the old-fashioned terminology “mail order bride” comes right out.) has so much power precisely because the crippling bitterness is interfering with their social lives and their ability to get along with women at all. And so of course they’re going to spend time believing there’s a way to get the benefits of having a woman in their lives without having to go through the trouble of treating her like a real person.

What’s interesting is the article also suggests that an all-consuming obsession with revenge is one of the major features of the syndrome. Again, I can’t help but think about how many MRAs spend unbelievable amounts of money and years of their lives suing their ex-wives. And how the organized MRA movement is always coming up with new and inventive excuses to sue your ex-wife. The enthusiasm for demanding itemized receipts for what child support was spent on is a good example of something that a man falls back on when he’s exhausted all avenues of torturing his ex-wife by constantly suing to have child support and visitation reworked.

Of course, it’s hard for those of us who deal with MRAs to muster up compassion, because their bitterness comes directly from having massive entitlement issues in the first place. If they just got it in their heads that they aren’t entitled to treat women like crap, and really embraced the belief that women are human beings instead of helpmeets put here to provide sexual and domestic service without complaint or compensation, then they wouldn’t be so bitter, right? True, but it seems to me that intervention needs to come long before the divorce that sends them into a spiral of embittered misogynist ranting, and powerful fantasies of buying compliant women. The common element throughout MRA narratives is that they never even saw the divorce crumbling, and they feel like they had something taken from them without even getting a chance to make it right. I do believe that they feel this way, though I imagine that objectively there were tons of warning signs, but they just didn’t notice these because their incredible sense of entitlement keeps them from even considering the possibility that they have to listen to their wives. So I have no doubt that when the divorce comes, it really does feel like a surprise, and therefore the pain that sends these men hurtling towards unmanageable levels of bitterness is quite real. Sure, their pain is unjust. They think they’re superior and can’t handle it when others don’t play along with that delusion.

But that doesn’t make it less real. It’s a classic example of how Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too—it can, in many cases, raise expectations of being treated as a superior and authority so high that when you don’t get that respect, it can be devastating. That specific sort of distress probably does need a specific mental health response.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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