The global war on sissies

Here’s Brazil’s president:

One day after announcing he had tested positive for coronavirus Jair Bolsonaro has come under fire for allegedly using homophobic language to mock the use of face masks.

The Folha de São Paulo, a leading broadsheet, claimed Brazil’s far-right leader had baited presidential staff who were using protective masks, claiming such equipment was “coisa de viado” (a homophobic slur that roughly translates as “for fairies”).

And here’s modern China:

The Chinese government banned what it called “sissy men” from television Thursday and directed broadcasters to serve the people of China with “revolutionary culture.”

The change to eliminate what China calls effeminate men from the national spotlight comes as President Xi Jinping leads a government campaign to tighten control over society at large in China and reinforce official views on morality.

And here’s what’s going on in Russia:

One group that has been organising such bullying campaigns is Male State, which describes its ideology as “national patriarchy”. It was founded by Vladislav Pozdnyakov, a bodybuilder, in 2016. In 2018 he was convicted on a charge of inciting hatred of women; his group had harassed many of them individually. A year later Mr Pozdnyakov fled to Poland.

Exile, however, has not stopped him from revving up his angry male fans. Male State says it opposes Russia’s current leaders for being too pro-women.

And back in the USA:

Fox’s Tucker Carlson, the most important nationalist voice in America, seemed to sympathize with the gender politics of Taliban-supporting Afghans. “They don’t hate their own masculinity,” he said shortly after the fall of Kabul. “They don’t think it’s toxic. They like the patriarchy. Some of their women like it too. So now they’re getting it all back. So maybe it’s possible that we failed in Afghanistan because the entire neoliberal program is grotesque.” (By “neoliberalism” he seems to mean social liberalism, not austerity economics.) . . .

“We’ve come across a lot of content that’s U.S.-based extreme far-right websites saying how good the Taliban victory is, and why it’s good for their cause,” said Adam Hadley, director of Tech Against Terrorism, a U.N.-supported project that monitors extremists online. One neo-Nazi website, which I won’t link to, has a tract hailing the Taliban victory in part for showing that a small band of armed fundamentalists can defeat the American empire.

As for the rest of the pro-Taliban right, the Proud Boys and incels and MAGA splinter factions, some of them are probably just trolling. But as groups like QAnon and the civil war-hungry Boogaloo Bois show, a movement can seem absurd and still be a source of real radicalization. 

Rational centrists >>>> woke people >>>> pro-Taliban right



34 Responses to “The global war on sissies”

  1. Gravatar of Maximus Maximus
    7. September 2021 at 12:20

    Reminds me of Tyler Cowen’s recent posts about the feminization of society. Yes, we are becoming “sissies” because we also also getting richer as a society; it goes together. I see a lot of nostalgia about how the manufacturing jobs of the past are gone and with them the manly work they provided. Yet, if we go back some centuries, people saw manufacturing as making men weaklings. Read Chapter 1 of Book V of the Wealth of Nations as an example – it was the Native American hunters and central Asian shepard who were real men. The poorer or less developed the society, the hardier the men.

    I suspect that a century from now society will (likely) be much wealthier and there will be people lamenting that their contemporaries aren’t as manly as their early 21st Century ancestors.

    Do I admire certain aspects of those hardy societies of the past? Sure. Is there any way to adopt those values en masse given the increasing level of wealth throughout society? No, not without forced poverty and no one should want that.

  2. Gravatar of Jason Jason
    7. September 2021 at 12:47

    Tucker Carlson has become a poster child for the alt right.

    He’s a 21 century Father Coughlin.

    Get him off the air.


  3. Gravatar of Lizard Man Lizard Man
    7. September 2021 at 18:34

    What’s the justification for wokeness being better than talking heads on the right? They both seem to be mostly stupid and destructive. Of course, there are people who take the ideas swirling around in those social milieus and try to turn them into something more pragmatic, something of an ethic, in response to a perceived need for some kind of narrative people can use to make sense of their lives.

  4. Gravatar of Student Student
    7. September 2021 at 18:37

    No fan of the freakin Taliban, but I am sympathetic to the reaction to the feminization of society. Its getting rediculous.

  5. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. September 2021 at 19:17

    Maximus, Once we abandoned dueling we all became sissies (by 18th century standards.)

    Tucker, What’s especially sad about people like Carlson and JD Vance is that it’s all just an act. They know they are spouting nonsense.

    Lizard, The woke attack the strong while the new right attacks the weak.

  6. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    7. September 2021 at 22:27


    “The woke attack the strong while the new right attacks the weak.”

    Comment of the year. Never seen it expressed so well.

    As for the feminization discussion… was taken aback that even Tyler Cowen joins in this fad. The fad btw can be traced back to the Romans who already did a lot of hand wringing about this, or parallel discussions about supposedly weak and ill city folk and strong and healthy rural folk.

    Not only is this discussion as old as the planet, cultural habits are so country- and period-specific. Go to India, see men holding hands casually. Oh yea, they’re wearing skirts too (sarongs). Go to the British a couple hundred years back, see men in long hair and high heels. Go to Africa’s Woodabe, see men holding beauty contests with lots of make-up. All over the world, some of the most popular men in society are … singers. I mean, come on, I can’t take this discussion seriously.

    So if anyone starts hand wringing about feminization of men, the first thing I I know right away is that that person doesn’t travel, doesn’t read books, and has no idea of world history. Which begs the question, why Tyler Cowen? He should know better. Or, are people only worried about feminization of “their” country, “their” men, while it doesn’t count what others do?

  7. Gravatar of Student Student
    8. September 2021 at 06:09


    I will admit I have trouble putting my finger on exactly why I feel American society (it’s where I live, and is my primary field of reference). What’s going on in some obscure place i may never set foot in is less relevant to my lived experience…

    I don’t think it’s about styles and what people wear or what they do for a living or if they live in cities, etc… it’s about society shaming masculine traits (which honestly are not well defined, I admit).

    It’s things like, schools forcing boys to behave like girls, sit still. Be quiet. Don’t offend, physical aggression is a (perhaps the) mortal sin. You need a permission slip to hit on a girl.

    For example, I recall my ex wife being very upset my late teens early 20s son got into a bar fight. She’s like, OMG, did u see he has a black eye. He got into a fight, what are we gonna do about it… and I am like u mean a twenty something young male got into a bar fight and defended himself… no… how could he lol. Ummm, u realize he is a twenty something male and that they sometimes get into fights… it’s part of becoming a man in some strange way. Sometimes men need to fight. Look at all this bully stuff going on in schools. You know what you do to a bully, u punch them in the face as hard as u can and the bullying is over, even if you lose the fight.. all you need to do is stand up for yourself and show ur willing to hit the bully in the mouth. I recall as well my son being bullied and ending up getting it big trouble for defending himself. They called me into school and were trying to shame him and I flat out said, I will not punish him. He stood up to a bully and I frankly I am proud of him for it and will under no circumstances be punishing him for it. They looked at me like I was from Mars, all these women.., they one male in the room kinda gave me a secret look of approval but was unwilling to say it out loud.

    Also look at marriages, women run the show now and 70% of divorces are initiated by women. Men are supposed to be subservient these days it seems culturally. Women get the kids in the courts during divorces, we have to equalize standards of living even in cases where both parents worked and went to school… why? Feminine standards of fairness.

    We see this even in sports. Equal playing time, etc. I remember a situation where a friend of my kids kept losing his wrestle off and the women are like well he should get a chance to start to… it’s not fair. And I am like, dude lost the wrestle off. The other guy is better. There is no fairer way to determine the starter than to duke it out and to the winner goes the position. Sorry it makes u sad for the kid, but he needs to learn how to lose fair and square. Is what it is. We all lose to someone.

    Hunting and killing animals, so cruel, as they eat their salmon plate or roasted turducken. Come on. OMG, the husband was drinking while his wife was pregnant. He should pretend he is pregnant too and share in the woman’s pregnancy by pretending he to is pregnant.

    And if a guy has sex with your wife, you just need to accept that you weren’t meeting her needs and befriend they guy she leaves u for… really? No we not gonna be friends and all get along after that, rather than stand up for your family and beat the home wreckers (the guy that violated and destroyed the intact family of my children) face in. You don’t get to move in on a mans wife and his children’s family life without the consequences associated with it.

    Again, I am not exactly sure why it is I feel this way, but I do. I don’t feel as though I am allowed to be a man anymore. Male behaviors are frowned upon. It really does seem to be the case.

  8. Gravatar of BC BC
    8. September 2021 at 06:24

    “Rational centrists >>>> woke people >>>> pro-Taliban right”

    Quite a roundabout endorsement of all three Bushes (Sr, Jr, and Jeb) and Mitt Romney.

  9. Gravatar of BC BC
    8. September 2021 at 06:50

    “The woke attack the strong”

    One exception in our secular society might be sincerely devout Christians. Maybe, “weak” is the wrong word; more like genuinely nice while maligned by the nasty and petty.

  10. Gravatar of Student Student
    8. September 2021 at 07:04


    Christians are to be meek… which isn’t weak as we perceive it. It comes from the Greek for a well trained battle horse… not wreckless. Calculated. In control of their emotions, courageous under fire but not crazy.

  11. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    8. September 2021 at 07:38


    I don’t doubt that many males in the US these days seem to feel this way. I just don’t think it is novel or corresponds to reality. On being not novel, I harked back to the Romans, but taking your examples, say, sitting still in school – this was much more harshly enforced ca. 1780-1969 and if anything, the hippies of all people “softened” that up. More importantly – while at the time, for example, hippie culture might have seemed like males lost their edge, being long haired, sensitive and all, by today’s standards hippie culture was rampantly abusive of females, sexually exploiting them and being generally insensitive.

    And while today’s standards may seem superficially more egalitarian and “favoring female sensitivities”, sexual reality is always there in the background and finds its way. I am constantly surprised at how, on the outside, US culture is overtly egalitarian and inclusive and sensitive, and by statistics, it is gun toting, rapist and sex crazed. By the standards of other Western Educated Industrialized Democratic (WEIRD) nations, that is. From abroad, the US still comes across as macho and brutal.

    Or, to stop beating up on US society and let the Scandinavians have it for a while: the more egalitarian the society and the more equal the opportunities, the more men and women self-segregate into jobs clearly discriminated by gender. This is known as the Scandinavian gender paradox. Now, people such as Jordan Peterson claim this is proof that there is “truth” to females choosing “natural” female gender appropriate jobs and males choosing male appropriate jobs but there is something else going on. Experiments in Scandinavian kindergartens have shown that the more you treat males and females equally, the more they exhibit their gender in gender specific behavior (toys for example).

    Finally, and I totally forgot where I read this conjecture – some sociologist suggested that the US exhibited a kind of hypermasculinisation and hyperfeminisation during the pioneer period (which arguably ended about in the 50s). Reason, the sociologist in question argued, was that males and females want to differentiate themselves from each other. In the pioneer society, females needed to be hands on, physical, take occasional leadership, in other words, intruding on to “masculine” roles. As a result in early US society females overcompensated by behaving overly feminine, and males by behaving overly masculine – simple to re-establish the gender contrast, if you will. And, think back to the Scandinavian kindergartens – same thing happening, as if to to re-establish a male-female contrast! And the job roles in Scandinavia, again, same thing. As far as the US is concerned, society being less and less “pioneer” – having less discrimination by gender roles or behavior might just be a reversal to the mean after the protracted pioneer period – finally. Males and females can be different without so much huffing and puffing about it, basically.

    My point: no matter what society does, males and females will act accordingly to re-establish a contrast between genders. Chill, society’s gonna be fine. And remember – Indian men have worn sarongs for millenia and there’s more Indians on the planet than Europeans and North Americans combined. Indian men must have done something right, nevermind the sarongs.

  12. Gravatar of Max Max
    8. September 2021 at 07:40

    It’s an easy way of raising your social value while lowering others’. Women totally accept this line of thought, too, or else men wouldn’t do it (this is all about showing off for women). Don’t forget a majority of white women voted for Trump and against Clinton and that Trump actually improved with women against Biden, so this type of grandstanding pays off.

  13. Gravatar of Student Student
    8. September 2021 at 08:25


    Fair points. I just don’t like where the pendulum is in my sphere of the world lol.

  14. Gravatar of steve steve
    8. September 2021 at 08:50

    “It’s things like, schools forcing boys to behave like girls, sit still. Be quiet.”

    I would never have thought of those as masculine or feminine. (Would love to go back to boot camp and tell my DI he was turning us into sissies and see how that went over.) Mom’s always worry when their kids get hurt. I think most Dads do also. Not a lot of future in bar fights, unless you like the kind of jobs you can get with a police record. Not sure why that is masculine or feminine.

    I think this is much more about women entering areas that used to be dominated by men. Women also now make more money and can be more independent. Guys can still spend all of their time in bars hanging out with other guys drinking if they want. No one is really stopping them, but women now get to decide if that is the kind of man they want since they can afford to wait if they want.


  15. Gravatar of Student Student
    8. September 2021 at 09:19

    Fair points Steve. Family formation rates, family stability, etc all seem to be trending poorly. Maybe that’s natural or maybe it’s not bad… but in find it to be ugly. Not sure that’s masculine or feminine, but I think the role of the father is involved and affected by the feminization of culture. Maybe I am just becoming bitter as I age. My views could evolve as I learn but I feel this way now.

  16. Gravatar of Student Student
    8. September 2021 at 09:25

    Not the troll in me… I bet Steve is shamed if he stays up with his buddies playing poker late into the night on a weekend, rather than getting up early and going to home goods to look at new dishes… 😆

  17. Gravatar of Mark Z Mark Z
    8. September 2021 at 09:46

    ““The woke attack the strong while the new right attacks the weak.”

    Really? That’s not what I’ve observed (at least beyond the fact that most people on the left and right both primarily attack famous, influential people on the ‘other side’). They seem happy to attack anyone who belongs to the wrong demographic groups, however poor or powerless. I think you’re just regurgitating the ‘woke’ definition of what the ‘woke’ do.

  18. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. September 2021 at 10:02

    mbka, I didn’t get the impression that Tyler was worried about it.

    Mark, Just to be clear I’m not defending the woke, who I think are awful.

  19. Gravatar of TMC TMC
    8. September 2021 at 10:03

    Carlson was not defending the Taliban, just saying the woke military made the Afghan people more sympathetic to them. Maybe flying a gay pride flag in a Muslim country was a stupid idea.

  20. Gravatar of Mark Z Mark Z
    8. September 2021 at 10:05

    I actually deigned to watch a couple of the Carlson clips, and it turns out, credulously citing an NYT oped on right wing figures is about as dubious an idea as it sounds. Is he wrong to claim that imposing gender quotas on military and government officials on a bronze age country is doomed to fail? Maybe it’s sideshow of little relevance, but trying to socially engineer American gender norms in a hostile, ultra-traditional society, even if those norms are correct, is foolhardy. Getting them to be slightly less theocratic is already a tall enough order.

  21. Gravatar of TGGP TGGP
    8. September 2021 at 10:31

    I don’t think Tucker is making a pro-Taliban argument (there’s no “I have seen the future and it works”, instead he has bemoaned that there are Americans stuck there under the mercy of a “medieval theocracy” and that they’ve seized our military equipment). He’s saying we lost, we should be embarrassed and learn from what we did wrong rather than doubling down. he refers to the Taliban as “brutal religious extremists” and said that the support they have in Afghanistan is evidence of how incompetent & delusional our occupation has been in comparison. He also mocked people in the US government for saying they trust the Taliban. In the specific segment being cited he refers to the Taliban as “the single most notorious and reviled government in the world, primitive people famous for their brutality, rigidity & humorlessness”, which again is a superlative statement made to show just how bad our alternative must have been in comparison.

  22. Gravatar of Michael S Rulle Michael S Rulle
    8. September 2021 at 12:03

    I cannot watch any of the news programs on any channel–cable or the local/national news.—I used to enjoy it—not sure it’s changed–but I am sure I have—but it is like watching the movie “Network” —-in Groundhog Day fashion—-same movie—every day.

    Network as satire —would not work anymore—-you cannot satirize that which is already satire—–

  23. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    8. September 2021 at 12:40

    Speaking of sissies–(not sure that the word sissies is used anymore)–but, whatever–On another note, what should we be called when “charter flights with Americans”, according to Blinken, are not allowed to leave Afghanistan—even as we “are doing everything in our power to get them off the ground”?

    I will wait for more time and info before I make a final judgment–but so far President Demento and the Laughing One make me ill.

  24. Gravatar of steve steve
    9. September 2021 at 06:00

    “Not the troll in me… I bet Steve is shamed if he stays up with his buddies playing poker late into the night on a weekend, rather than getting up early and going to home goods to look at new dishes”

    LOL. I am not allowed to do the dishes except for the pots and pans. Wife says I leave spots or something. I dont stack them correctly in the dishwasher either so that is out. The only shame I get from staying out late to play poker is that I kind of suck at poker. Lose more than i win, but we have fun and dont take it too seriously so it is a good group of guys. Have always done better in fantasy sports but I am giving up baseball for a while. This obsession with the long ball is ruining the game I think.


  25. Gravatar of Mike W Mike W
    9. September 2021 at 08:15

    Looks like we’re trying to connect the Taliban to the American right now. Gimme a break.

  26. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    9. September 2021 at 08:22

    @Michael Rulle:

    Has a single American civilian died yet in the Afghanistan pullout? It’s a mess but it was always going to be, ending stupid occupations always is. Credit to Trump and then Biden for finally getting us out.

  27. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. September 2021 at 08:25

    TGGP, Wait, so you are saying this quote is made up?

    “They don’t hate their own masculinity,” he said shortly after the fall of Kabul. “They don’t think it’s toxic. They like the patriarchy. Some of their women like it too. So now they’re getting it all back. So maybe it’s possible that we failed in Afghanistan because the entire neoliberal program is grotesque.”

    Or are you saying that you don’t find that quote to be offensive?

  28. Gravatar of TGGP TGGP
    9. September 2021 at 14:00

    Scott, I know your reading comprehension is good enough to know I said nothing about whether it’s “offensive” or not. I was strictly making a point about Tucker’s expressed opinion of the Taliban, and how that relates to his remarks about U.S intervention in Afghanistan, rather than MY opinion of Tucker.

  29. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. September 2021 at 18:05

    TGGP, Fine, then your previous comment has no bearing on this post, and hence I’ll ignore it.

  30. Gravatar of TGGP TGGP
    10. September 2021 at 21:49

    It’s relevant as to whether he’s “pro-Taliban”, which was your phrasing above. I remember the GWB administration when supporters of military intervention accused their opponents of being “pro” Saddam or whoever. You’re better than they were, and you don’t have to stoop to their level.

  31. Gravatar of Michael S. Michael S.
    11. September 2021 at 05:16

    mbka, Student,

    the Romans lost an empire (of two) to primitive barbarians (much less numerous than themselves). Everybody was orders of magnitude worse off for centuries as a result. Whatever it was precisely, they did something extremely wrong.

    Does it sound like what the USA are doing right now? Not on such a grand scale, and reasonable observers can disagree, but the power gap to their adversaries is shrinking, and Afghanistan was a blueprint how *not* to defend frontiers of the empire. (And yes, in today’s world, Afghanistan is a frontier.)

    Now, the Romans may have been as stupid as we are in diagnosing our resp. societies’ ills, and gender may be a conceptual dead end. ‘Sissiness’ — less so. Many fewer Romans were prepared to put their life (and treasure) on the line to defend their lifestyle than Huns, Germanians etc. were prepared to do attacking them.

  32. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    11. September 2021 at 14:14

    TGGP, I certainly didn’t claim that Carlson was pro-Taliban in any overall sense; I suggested he was somewhat sympathetic to their views on feminism. The term “pro-Taliban right” appears elsewhere in the article I quoted, not in reference to Carlson.

    Michael, So the Taliban might sack Washington DC? Sorry, but I don’t see your point at all.

    (Just to be clear, I favored the US intervention after 9/11, which was aided and abetted by the Taliban.)

  33. Gravatar of Student Student
    17. September 2021 at 06:59


  34. Gravatar of Student Student
    17. September 2021 at 07:08

    Look at this picture. So meme’able. This pretty much says all that needs to be said.

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