Should Straight White Men Be Ashamed of Themselves?

by The Concessionist


The Concessionist gives advice like… once a month maybe? Whatever. I’m busy. Trouble? Write today.

Hi Concessionist,

Ha, okay this is going to be awful.

So maybe not as a dogma, but I think there’s some validity to the idea that white guys have kinda ran their course? It’s inspiring to read Saeed Jones’ statement that black women are the future! Even the Times review of that Jon Ronson book was able to interact with its ideas while keeping his influence to a minimum. I would love it if white guys used their patriarchal nonsense status to limit themselves and fold their influence into smaller and smaller pocket squares until some ambitious person of color can reach down and scoop them into her lapel. That should be the future of white dudes.

The only problem is that haha I am one of them! Whoops. I am a white boy with an ostensibly flexible gender orientation but really let’s be honest I just don’t want to be hetero because ugh. And I’m not sure how to reconcile the stuff I just said with my jealously-guarded self-esteem: nobody wants to be a pocket square, but maybe I should be one?

I don’t want to apologize for who I am, a) because my brain makes me do that anyway, and it’s probably unhealthy for me to perceive that the universe is validating depression-y insecurities, but more importantly b) self-loathing white guys with persecution complexes are just noooooooo *gasp* stooooop. And I don’t want to have one! Being me should be, like, fine, and not anything to be upset about.

It would be fine if I did my job and then shut up and watched Star Wars or something. Except I want to be a writer! I have good words to write about things that I want eyeballs to see. But I don’t want to be another white dude writer taking up space and eyeballs. I even write flippantly to avoid owning the thoughts on the page, because who wants another earnest dude anywhere ever? They (we? ack) are boring in practice and probably even morally objectionable in a cosmic sense — and yeah, rather interchangeable.

How do I submit pitches without feeling that I should stand down in favor of a more deserving word-brain? How do I get a book written without a very good and smart person saying it shouldn’t have been written by me?

Thank you Concessionist and sorry for the dummy email, because I am embarrassed for putting these bad thoughts into words and sharing them.

Thanks and sorry again,

King Of The Patriarchy

Hi, KotP,

So we meet again, white man.

There are a few things here, and I might have to break them up, okay?

Do who and what you want…

“Ostensibly flexible” is not a thing. Flexible definitely is! Thank God for hot bi guys. But it’s not something that you can or should trick yourself into.

Just like the rest of us, you shouldn’t suck anyone’s dick out of self-hatred.

Why not become the best heterosexual you can be? You sound youngish, and maybe in that particular period where you are trying to imagine yourself into being someone you are not. I had about three years of that, specifically about 20 through 23 for myself, and then it failed as a process, because you can’t really keep that up. You yam what you am, or, you am who you are naturally becoming.

You can’t fuck some different way for an imaginary revolution. You wanna bang and get banged in return by the people you do, and that’s all there is. You can’t trick your holes!

You’re right. Don’t spend a lot of time apologizing for this. In fact, quite the opposite. One service the straight white man can do is getting really good at the useful services he performs. I believe Valerie Solanas covered this ages ago?

People don’t want you to feel “ugh” about getting down and nasty with them. People want you to be like “YUM LET’S GET DOWN TO THIS TOGETHER.” Like off the diving board into the deep end, in it to win it, not like, “M’lady of the weaker sex, may I touch your elbow?” That’s gross and (almost!) nobody wants it like that.

Did you examine the drawings in the now-infamous Cosmo article chastely entitled “16 Lesbians Draw Their Best Cunnilingus Tips and the Result Is Amazing”? Start there, I guess!

Time to be a sexy sex object, buttercup.

…because you might have this backwards.

Actually (#actually) you being glib and ironic and self-effacing might be the opposite of useful. It’s just part of the noise in your head, as you point out. Why don’t you get stronger, more affirmative? You want to be a writer, for whatever reason, so become a better, stronger writer. Your job is to learn to nail down mushiness, instead of retreating from it. It’s to learn to be a lie detector.

I mean basically I’m saying… don’t be a wussbag. And there’s a good feminist reason for that. It’s not possible to trust someone who’s deeply uncomfortable with who he is. Eventually, they snap.

In any event, there are a number of things, in general, that many women might want from a man-type person.

For one, maybe a good deal less sexual assaulting, and a lot less harassing, and a lot less general gross assholeness. Can we assume you have that covered? I’m also assuming you don’t run an “indie literary journal” and aren’t this guy or this guy or basically any of these guys.

Now, moving down the list… a less interrupting, undermining, overtalking, idea-stealing, under-bus-tossing and backstabbing?

And then… well, I can only relay what straight women have told me over the centuries. But basically they would like you to be you. Falseness and unknowability and internal conflict in a person makes it impossible to get to know someone. So in that way you can’t be good to other people until you slap yourself together a little.

So, are you naturally a simpering wuss-biscuit? Then that is FINE. Be that.

But what if you’re actually a loud alpha dog, who needs to run free and bark loudly with other alpha dogs of all genders? You cannot deny that. It would be deeply unsexy of you to deny that. Be yourself tonight!


Has anyone told you not to “be” a writer? (Besides incredibly successful writer Felix Salmon, so, ignore that?) If they haven’t, here, I’ll tell you: Don’t be a writer. I mean, go for it, you sound young, have a ball. Go write! Perform the act of writing. But just know you’re probably putting off something inevitable. There’s no end game, no “other side,” no end of the story, no successful outcome. It’s like, you were a freelance writer and then you were a writer who freelances and, in the end, maybe you’ll get paid to write freelance sometime.

Meditate on your 401(k) instead.

If you are going to pursue writing… then you have to make yourself not-interchangeable. It’s true, from an editor’s perspective, what you think about straight white men. There are a thousand of them writing and they are not so distinctive. There’s lots of fairly talented, relatively readable young and middle-aged dudes. If you scrambled all the bylines in the mens’ magazines, I’d almost never know!

The answer is that you basically have to overdevelop some specific talent to the point of swole roid-rage. Like, are you naturally a good reporter? Then triple-down on it. Are you funny, or visually mind-blowing, or a better historical researcher, or what? Not one of us can begrudge actually great stories. Make your pitches better than the women you’re working with. Make your stories twice as good. Somewhere you have one talent that puts you ahead, and you should ride its coattails to success.

And then, when you find out what writerly success is, I hope that talent will also serve you well in a real industry.

N.B. On purpose I did not address some crucial aspects of your question, particularly about race. I’m torn about doing so and not having done so. I think there’s a lot to say, I am not sure if I’m the one to say it, and so on. I think my best recommendation is “listen to the experience of people of color in the industry (and outside of it).” Saeed just wrote this after all. Anyway.

Drawing from Flickr by The Daily English Show. The Concessionist is an adult human in New York City who is somewhat worn down and willing to make a good number of sacrifices for a peaceful life. Is it decision fatigue? Or just ennui? That’s probably a question for a psychiatrist. Anything else, ask me. I agree to keep your identity between us unless like an emergency exists.


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