Why Feminists Shouldn’t Use “Neckbeard”

neckbeard-title

My newest “Everyday Feminism” cartoon.

This entry posted in Cartooning & comics, Disabled Rights & Issues, Fat, fat and more fat, Feminism, sexism, etc, Gender and the Body, Men and masculinity, Sexism hurts men. Bookmark the permalink. 

42 Responses to Why Feminists Shouldn’t Use “Neckbeard”

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    It has been my observation that the left a) claims that the use of stereotypes helps oppress people and identifies the users as racist/sexist/etc., etc., and b) uses them quite often themselves.

    What got me to really start noticing this happened during the same-sex marriage debates. The Rev. Susan Russell, a lesbian Episcopal priest who runs http://www.inchatatime.blogspot.com, was posting about opponents to same-sex marriage in the Anglican Communion (the world-wide association of national churches related to the Church of England). One very vocal one is an African bishop who is obese. She wrote postings, complete with pictures of the man, ridiculing his weight. I called her on it. She refused to even answer me and continued in the same vein.

    Since then it’s become pretty clear that there are numerous people on the left who will claim that stereotypes are a horrible thing but have no problem with “neckbeards”, “rednecks”, etc., etc. It seems to me as though it’s aligned with the concept that you can’t be racist towards white people because they supposedly have all the power.

  2. 2
    Lee1 says:

    It has been my observation that the left…

    It’s been my observation that any sentence that starts with a blanket claim about “the left,” “the right,” “white people,” “black people,” “LGBT people,” etc. is typically BS. It’s great to see my past experience validated here.

    Since then it’s become pretty clear that there are numerous people on the left who will claim that stereotypes are a horrible thing but have no problem with [insert stereotype here].

    Sure; it’s also abundantly clear that the same phenomenon occurs among many on the right. Essentially every group (self-identified or otherwise) contains people who suffer from this form of flawed thinking. I’m not sure what your point is by singling out “the left” for it. Is it to point out what you see as hypocrisy? Sure, that’s there in abundance. Just like it is for many conservative Christians who couldn’t care less about Christ’s actual teachings in terms of how they treat society’s outcasts. Where does that leave us going forward?

  3. 3
    RonF says:

    It leaves us at a point where we understand that a great many people on the left don’t hold nearly the moral superiority and exercise the lack of hypocrisy that they think they do. If you want to point out that there are people on the right in the same position, fine. You’re very likely correct. But decrying the use of stereotypes and especially accusing the other side of oppressing people through the use of language seems to be a more general position of the left rather than of the right.

  4. 4
    Mandolin says:

    A lot of people on the left don’t give a fuck about fatphobia in particular. I actually think it’s worse among lefties than righties in a general sense (though the activism I like seems to mostly be a leftist thing, just not a representative one). So, her not responding doesn’t surprise me.

    Also, a lot of people on the left have fucked up race politics. So.

    I guess, i mean, just because someone is on the left doesn’t mean they actually give a damn about any of those things. They may or may not claim to. Some don’t.

    I guess I’m saying left =/= interested in social justice. People who focus on elections in particular are, IME, less likely to be social justice fluent than people whose focus is broader. But, ymmv on that, maybe I’m confirmation biasing, or just looking at a skewed sample.

    I do not like or use (I hope. The chances of my brain coughing a random word up from time to time are not nil.) the term rednecks. It’s really unacceptable. It’s massively unacceptable from a leftist point of view, as its origin is deliberately demeaning workers. I’ve argued about it, but you know. People choose how they want to respond, and for some reason, not everyone chooses to listen to me all the time. ;)

  5. 5
    Mandolin says:

    I suspect this is a problem with condensing uneasy coalitions of people into a single entity called ‘the left.’ Not insulting people based on identity traits (this isn’t actually the argument, but it’ll do for a condensation) is a priority of my group, but really not a priority of every group. (And of course people can totally claim to care about things and then act otherwise.)

    I know I do the same thing with groups I oppose. The “women should support themselves and not leech off men” group is not the same group of anti-feminists that also say “women should never work,” but they’re allied on so many issues that it’s easy to look at the two groups as one and go “…how do you possibly believe both those things?”

  6. 6
    La Lubu says:

    Huh. All this time, I thought “neckbeard” referred to folks with beards that covered and/or are longer than their necks (think: ZZ Top). Then again, it’s what I think of as “internet slang”—slang that seems to bypass being adopted where I live, though people get a kinda/sorta familiarity with it (however wrong) from the internet.

    So, when I saw people using the term on the ‘net, I thought it was intended to insult hipsters co-opting a tougher, biker look.

  7. 7
    Sarah says:

    @Mandolin,

    You make a good point about “redneck.” I feel similarly about calling people who hold despicable beliefs or engage in harmful rhetoric “trash,” “garbage,” etc. which seems to have become common among social justice activists recently, especially on Tumblr. As insults, those words come directly from classism and especially attitudes about the inferiority of homeless and very poor people. It seems utterly incompatible with leftist politics.

    Also, the fedora thing – fashion choices are not quite the same as grooming or body shape, but they’re similar enough that I see them as falling into the same category. It seems like “a person’s body and anything they’ve put in or on it are off-limits for mockery re: a person’s value as a human being” would be a good rule. Hearing people snipe at fedoras takes me back not-so-nostalgically to before I did all the psychological work of trying to stop seeing physical appearance as an indicator of human value, and it might be petty, but I have a hard time taking people seriously after that whip that one out.

  8. 8
    desipis says:

    It seems like “a person’s body and anything they’ve put in or on it are off-limits for mockery re: a person’s value as a human being” would be a good rule.

    I think part of the reason why this is such a problem within the left comes down the privilege theory and in particular standpoint theory. There are specific ideological positions held by certain parts of “the left” that stipulate that one’s perspective and thoughts on an issue are more or less valid depending on one’s body. In practice this seems to result in people wanting to use someone’s identity traits as a convenient means to categorically dismiss their argument, along with the use of language that is indistinguishable from the mockery that people seem to want to avoid.

    The times I’ve seen “neckbeard” used as a genuine insult (as distinct from light hearted in-group self-mocking) it’s usually about highlighting both someone’s maleness and their social ineptitude in a way to dismiss their perspectives on particular social or political matters. The “berniebros” slur seems to have been constructed for a similar purpose; oh you’re male and not supporting a female candidate, of course you’re an abusive misogynist.

  9. 9
    Ampersand says:

    The “berniebros” slur seems to have been constructed for a similar purpose; oh you’re male and not supporting a female candidate, of course you’re an abusive misogynist.

    This seems uncharitable, to put it mildly.

    I’ve seen multiple Bernie supporters complain about the behavior of “Berniebros.” Are they also motivated by disdain for people not supporting a female candidate, in your opinion?

    Rather than assuming the term is being used in bad faith, why not assume that people are using “Berniebros” to refer to what they say they’re referring to? Which is: overbearing, sometimes misogynistic pile-ons and sea lioning by male Bernie supporters.

    I think part of the reason why this is such a problem within the left

    The phrasing “such a problem with the left” implies that it’s a particular problem on the left, as opposed to either not a problem, or not nearly as big a problem, on the right. (Although then again, maybe that was just careless phrasing, and not what you intended to imply).

    But for the record, I don’t think it’s “such a problem with the left.” In my experience, there is a virtually endless supply of right-wingers and/or anti-feminists and/or MRAs who happily use anti-male and anti-fat attacks on me. (Antisemitic comments, too, but those are less frequent.)

  10. 10
    Mandolin says:

    David Futrelle lists a lot of the attacks on him… They’re incredibly fat centered. Also insults about his assumed sexual prowess, but there are very few people of any ideology in my experience who see that as a problem.

  11. 11
    desipis says:

    Ampersand:

    I’ve seen multiple Bernie supporters complain about the behavior of “Berniebros.” Are they also motivated by disdain for people not supporting a female candidate, in your opinion?

    Criticising the behaviour is fine. The problem is promoting the use of a label that connects the behaviour to a particular candidate and a particular gender, as if it’s a unique an unusual phenomenon connected to that candidate or gender, when there has certainly been similar sorts of behaviour by supports of other candidates.

    Imagine if someone was pushing the term “HillaryHags” as a criticism of older women telling younger women that they’re young and naive and that they have a moral obligation to vote for Hillary because she’s a woman (see e.g Madeleine Albright) rather than on the basis of her policies. Wouldn’t using such a term for political gain bother you?

  12. 12
    desipis says:

    The phrasing “such a problem with the left” implies that it’s a particular problem on the left

    Referencing “the left” probably didn’t help articulate my point very well. My main point was about the specific ideological positions that force one’s identity traits into any attempted discussion, and are used to give a thin veneer of legitimacy to emotive appearance-based attacks on people.

  13. 13
    Harlequin says:

    Sarah:

    I feel similarly about calling people who hold despicable beliefs or engage in harmful rhetoric “trash,” “garbage,” etc. which seems to have become common among social justice activists recently, especially on Tumblr.

    I talk to a specific set of tumblrites, so I don’t know how common this is, but most uses of “trash” and “garbage” I see are self-deprecating references to the person’s own behavior: “I’m such trash for Hillary Clinton” is a weird way of saying you’re a huge fan and making fun of your own behavior. Lots of people object to it for just the reasons you articulate, though.

  14. 14
    Lee1 says:

    @ 3 RonF

    It leaves us at a point where we understand that a great many people on the left don’t hold nearly the moral superiority and exercise the lack of hypocrisy that they think they do.

    Others have responded better than I probably can, but I’m absolutely baffled that you don’t seem to see this same behavior among many people on the right. I obviously don’t know and interact with the people you know day-to-day who call themselves conservatives. But the examples among prominent conservatives we would both be familiar with are endless, from people who talk about the sanctity of marriage having affairs, to people who talk about the horrors of homosexuality secretly engaging in homosexual acts, to people who talk about the horrors of drug use being caught using something illegal. The occurrence and frequency of pretend moral superiority and blatant hypocrisy do not fall along political lines.

    But decrying the use of stereotypes and especially accusing the other side of oppressing people through the use of language seems to be a more general position of the left rather than of the right.

    OK, so maybe many on the left are different in their hypocrisy than many on the right. Is that your point? The particular form the hypocrisy takes? I can accept that point of view, but it doesn’t change the fact that the right (painting with a very broad brush) is just as bad as the left (painting with a very broad brush), just in somewhat different ways.

  15. 15
    Sarah says:

    Harlequin,

    I hear that a lot, too, and that use isn’t one I have a problem with. I actually use it myself occasionally. I don’t think it’s related to the “human garbage/white trash/trailer trash” meaning – or at least, for me, not closely related enough to raise the same issues.

  16. 16
    closetpuritan says:

    Is the guy in the “lets misogynists who look like this off the hook” panel meant to be someone specific? I kinda get the feeling it is based on the way the picture looks. I thought at first maybe Elliot Rodger or Daniel Holtzclaw, but the guy in the panel is probably a little too baby-faced to be them, and as far as I can tell from looking them up, neither Rodger or Holtzclaw have that neck tattoo like the guy in the panel does.

  17. 17
    Ampersand says:

    No one specific!

    That panel was by far the most difficult panel for me to draw – really good-looking people are outside of my usual wheelhouse! So the face just came about as a result of a lot of erasing and moving this line a tiny bit and changing the hair and adding sideburns and so on.

    If I HAD thought about it, I might have tried a caricature of the porn star James Deen, who’s been credibly accused of raping and abusing women. But that didn’t occur to me while I was drawing it. I just put in the neck tattoo to make him look young and fashionable.

  18. 18
    Jeff Heikkinen says:

    My thoughts on this strip, as posted on Facebook when my sister shared it, because after going to the trouble of writing them I thought I might as well throw them at a somewhat wider audience. Some of this refers back to an ongoing discussion with her about feminism in general, and so might be slightly out of context (e.g. the first word is “obviously” on a point that won’t be obvious to anyone here because you don’t know me from Adam). For some context, her views are probably pretty close to Barry’s while mine are more or less those of Scott Alexander.

    Without further ado:

    1. Obviously I agree with the general thrust of it, and probably over 90% of the particulars as well, and nothing below is meant to suggest anything different.

    2. As reasonably widely-read online feminists go, Barry/Ampersand is… not one of the really bad ones, at least, and Ozy (the first person he thanks at the end) is awesome and you should totally read her stuff if you don’t already. (Linkety link link: https://thingofthings.wordpress.com/) Of course, Ozy’s also part of the rationalist community, and while I’m not a big LessWrong guy or anything I think it’s fairly obvious why certain aspects of that would appeal to me.

    (There are subjects where I think that community is right on the money and subjects where I think it, or at least many of its key members, achieve the maximal humanly possible level of pants-on-head. It should not be hard to guess which are which.)

    3. Pace panel six, I’m not convinced that this sort of thing is usually a response to anything that could fairly be called misogynistic. For some of the people who use this sort of insult (under colour of feminism or otherwise, though it’s more obnoxious in the former case), almost any social faux pas that could be connected to dating ineptitude and/or geek culture is enough to get you labelled in this manner. Indeed, it’s commonly a direct response to complaining about difficulties getting dates, and thus has a kicking-people-when-they’re-down character that I find stomach-turning.

    4. Relatedly, people in general *are* demonstrably quite willing to forgive or explain away pretty horrible behaviour on the part of very attractive people and condemn the exact same, or even much milder, behaviour on the part of less attractive people. (I personally think this, all by itself, probably explains like three-quarters of uses of the word “creepy”.) Feminists universally condemn this behaviour in men, and rightly so. Whereas even the better ones seem… not approving exactly, but much more understanding when women do the same thing. (E.g. Barry mentions this and admits it’s a problem, but his critique is pretty bloodless.)

    But the REALLY bad ones the “neckbeard” thing comes out of often seem to use feminism to construct elaborate rationalizations for this behaviour, painting shitty treatment of unattractive men as acceptable and even virtuous, some kind of blow for sisterhood or whatever the fuck. As if any guy that looks like the cartoon “neckbeard” is any closer to the top of the patriarchal heap than the average woman!

    But the problems with this type of feminism aren’t limited to its effects on men, or even its poor choices in *which* men. It’s a “feminism” that only seems concerned about the problems of young, attractive, middle-class, mostly white women. Who else, of whatever gender,* would even consider trying to politicize what seems to boil down to “the guys who are hitting on me are not the guys who I would prefer to have hitting on me”? And feminists not fitting that description (i.e. young, attractive…) are starting to notice. In this, it more closely resembles high school bullying – people of relatively high but not the highest privilege picking on those with less – than it does any sort of movement for positive social change.

    ( * I very nearly said “either” gender and name-checked Ozy in the same post. Oops.)

  19. 19
    Mandolin says:

    This is a very strange comment, and does not seem to understand what feminism is. The commenter also does not seem aware that, essentially, Ozy and Barry hang in the same real life circles–I think he’d be surprised by just about everyone’s response to this comment that he name-checks. Like, how on earth is there a conclusion that “blows against unattractice men” are for the “sisterhood”–and how on earth is it to be taken seriously that modern feminists regularly use “sisterhood” in anything but an ironic (or sometimes in elevated formal language which emphasizes old-fashoned words) sense? And how on earth is it concluded that Barry would be okay with that? I mean, no. I suspect the commenter actually has no idea that fat acceptance and feminism are not identical — in fact, they are overlapping but distinct, with most fat acceptance folks being feminists — but not vice versa. I also question the use of the word ‘rationalist’ (and am amused–does he think Barry isn’t a ‘rationalist?’ We’re not all atheists here, but we’re mostly atheists here, and Barry’s one of ’em). We’re the scary atheism plus people, though.

    I guess if you had to figure out how to square reading A Voice for Men and Ozy’s blog, this is how you’d do it. But it requires an absolute mutilation of the concept of feminism, and the beliefs of individual feminists.

    But hey, Barry. You’re not the worst.

  20. 20
    Mandolin says:

    I do also hope that, since you dislike anti-male insults, you have never yourself referred to anyone by one, such as mangina.

  21. 21
    pillsy says:

    I think this is probably my favorite of Amp’s politically oriented comics, not so much because of the message[1], but because of the way it’s put together. Maybe it’s because so much of the insult behind “neckbeard” is about appearance, but the visual element (and all the different exaggerations of the guy’s neck and/or beard) was particularly engaging and amusing this time.

    [1] I mean, I don’t have anything against the message, and haven’t used “neckbeard” in a while in response to a previous comment from Amp.

  22. 22
    Mandolin says:

    Pillsy — do you think it’s also because the flow seems so personal? It reminds me most of this one: https://amptoons.com/blog/?p=4892

  23. 23
    pillsy says:

    @Mandolin, that could be it. I the one you linked to a lot, too, and it shares both the personal angle and the visual inventiveness.

  24. 24
    Elusis says:

    I’m working on purging this from my vocabulary.

    Something that sticks in my craw though, and I’m willing to hear either 1) OK that’s got some validity to it or 2) nope, that’s some bias I’ve got to work through and acknowledge:

    “Neckbeard” gets used in circles I’m familiar with PARTICULARLY to describe men who are 1) aggressively sexist/misogynistic, and 2) really insistent that the only valid and desirable women are super conventionally good-looking.

    The “appearance-based insult” seems somehow fitting for guys who have incredible double-standards around appearance – take little or no care of their own appearance (there’s a “slovenly” or “non self-aware” implication for me) while also being really cutting and cruel to women who don’t meet their incredibly narrow standards. Like, for me, the canonical use of “neckbeard” would be toward a guy who is aggressively mansplaining something on a feminist website while also making disparaging remarks about how fat and ugly and un-fuckable the feminist commenters are.

  25. 25
    Jeff Heikkinen says:

    Mandolin, you have misunderstood me so comprehensively and in such strange ways that it’s hard to know where to begin correcting you, or even whether it’s worth the bother. But this seems like as good a place as any:

    “Like, how on earth is there a conclusion that “blows against unattractice men” are for the “sisterhood”–and how on earth is it to be taken seriously that modern feminists regularly use “sisterhood” in anything but an ironic (or sometimes in elevated formal language which emphasizes old-fashoned words) sense? And how on earth is it concluded that Barry would be okay with that?”

    I’m not concluding that Barry would be okay with that kind of treatment of unattractive men, or with using feminism as a way to rationalize it. Quite emphatically the opposite, in fact. I am criticizing the exact same people he is criticizing here, albeit from a slightly different angle, namely the sort of feminists I typically have seen use the word “neckbeard” as an insult. Indeed, I am using the fourth- and fifth-from-last panels of this cartoon as a jumping-off point in doing so.

    I can’t even make sense of your comments about the relationship between feminism and fat acceptance, but my own perception is:
    (1) Virtually all feminists, or at least all the ones relevant to the discussion, at least pay lip service to intersectionality, and therefore would also be fat-acceptance people if they were consistent.
    (2) Despite (1), a noticeable number of feminists are not in practice fat-accepting at all. (I make no claims about the size of this group relative to feminism as a whole, but it’s enough that one notices and that they seem to have some influence.) This should be pretty uncontroversial in the context of discussing this cartoon, it’s part of Barry’s point.
    (3) I make no claims at all about non-feminist but fat-accepting people, though I assume there must be some.

    I have no idea what purpose comment 20 serves other than to be gratuitously insulting for its own sake, and don’t understand how it got through moderation.

  26. 26
    Ben Lehman says:

    Elusis:
    It is not in any way used in those limited circumstances, but even if it was, it wouldn’t be okay.

    A parallel: It’s not okay for a Christian call another Christian a “Jew” as an insult, because there’s nothing wrong with being Jewish. You get this, right?

    Similarly: It’s not okay to call a misogynist “neckbeard” as an insult, because there’s nothing wrong with being fat or being ugly or having facial hair.

  27. 27
    Ampersand says:

    I’m at work now, and I intend to be at work for a few hours yet, so I’m not going to comment on this thread until tonight or tomorrow.

    But, Jeff, since you brought up a moderation question, let me say:

    1) Welcome! I hope you’ll enjoy commenting here.

    2) If you think a comment should be moderated, please email me, rather than bringing it into comments. That’s because I don’t want the comments to turn into arguments over moderation. If you really want to bring it up in comments, rather than privately, please consider bringing it to an open thread.

    3) Mandolin is a moderator here. (And a co-blogger).

    4) This is literally your first day commenting here. With all due respect, I think you should put off criticizing the moderation until you’ve been here longer.

    5) I think this may be a matter of differing perspectives. From your perspective, anti-feminists (of various stripes) using insulting anti-male terms for male feminists – like “virgin” or “mangina” or “white knight” or even “neckbeard” and so on – might not be something you see a lot. If so, then comment 20 probably seemed out of the blue to you.

    From my perspective, anti-feminists using terms like that is a pretty common thing. (Which makes sense, given who I am.)

    So in the couple of days since the cartoon came out, when I’ve seen so many anti-feminists use this cartoon as an opportunity to talk about (in essence) how much we feminists suck and are anti-male, it’s occurred to me more than once that I’ve NEVER seen an anti-feminist object to anti-male slurs being used against male feminists and SJ guys. Let alone a largish anti-feminist website (equivalent to “Everyday Feminism”) publishing a big article (or cartoon) about it.

    So I’ve been wondering when I’ll see all these anti-feminist guys stand up against anti-male slang among themselves. And Mandolin knows that I’ve been wondering that (we’re friends, we talk). So I think that was her context for wondering if you’ve ever used such terms. So I read Mandolin as trying to remind you that anti-male comments aren’t some exclusive feminist invention, and that anti-feminism doesn’t have any moral superiority on that score.

    6) But if you say you’ve never used such terms, then I entirely take your word for it.

  28. 28
    Mandolin says:

    Most feminists claim to practice intersectionality: somewhat true at this point if you hang out in certain parts of the internet, because it’s relatively easy to find pockets where only intersectional feminists hang out. But there are a whole lot of feminists you can annoy the shit out of with that word. This is an enormous battle within feminism: whether it must necessarily embrace the dismantling of other types of oppression, or whether it should focus on women only. An example: a convention invites a feminist author who goes on a spree of gratuitous anti-Islam remarks. Does the convention focus on the feminism, or consider the intersectionality? Big, big fight, and I can point you to rooms you can still light up with anger about it.

    Intersectionality should include fat acceptance: While I essentially agree with you, in my experience a fairly large chunk of feminists do not agree that fat-hate is a phenomenon that needs to be discussed. Therefore, they are not being hypocritical when they are fatphobic. In my experience, there are also some bloggers who have been grumped at by other feminists enough to stop using many fat-based insults or certain anti-fat arguments, but who don’t believe those are harmful (if the story is not apocryphal, a prominent atheist [though I don’t know if he’s also a feminist] agreed to stop singing a song written to insult fat people, not because it wasn’t okay to question our humanity in that way, but because we are already so pathetic that he didn’t need to kick us further when we’re down). Those people would happily latch on to a new word with stealth connotations, and by their own lights, not be hypocritical.

    That said, some feminists who accept fat acceptance use the term neckbeard. The term is relatively new (at least relatively new as far as I can tell) and its meaning unclear to many people–see La Lubu above saying she assumed it was hipstery facial hair. I thought it was a reference to odd goatees until Barry corrected me. I asked on Twitter at the time to see if Barry’s connotation was in most people’s minds, and got a range of responses. No doubt many people who are superficially intersectional did know what it means, or did have a connotation with it that meant to include fat people, which is why the comic is intended to convince them otherwise. This is normal practice for when an insult is sufficiently gratuitous against a group that they raise a fuss. It’s how ‘lame’ got knocked out of common feminist use, and it’s how some activists are trying to eliminate ‘crazy’ (though I disagree with them). Although these waves of argument have traditionally been about terms that are so embedded in the language most peopel don’t even really think about what they mean, they have been and presumably will continue to be critical of emergent forms of slang as well.

    It is not a surprise to anyone who holds an ‘intersectional’ viewpoint that social bigotries will consistently continue to manifest, which is why consciousness raising is a thing. Emergent stuff doesn’t tend to go away on its own; you have to point out whose feet are being stepped on, and make your argument. (Which only works if people agree those are feet that shouldn’t be stepped on, which again, many feminists don’t.) Since most intersectional feminists believe oppressions often function on a subconscious level, it is not a contradiction in feminist philosophy to assume that people, including proponents of social justice, will continue to lapse into behavior patterns supporting those oppressions unless they are active and aware. (The cartoon addresses the aware; only individuals can address active.)

    Finally, as far as using this comic as a battering ram against feminism: I think there’s a sufficient amount of hypocrisy to go around when it comes to the term ‘neckbeard’ since it is used both by feminists who do accept the importance of intersectionality, and by MRAs who otherwise criticize language they view as having anti-male connotations. The intersectional feminist version of this cartoon, pointing out intersectional feminist reasons not to do it, indicates that using this insult against misogynists unfairly tars fat people, lower class people, neuroatypical people, etc. An MRA version would have a slightly different emphasis.

  29. 29
    closetpuritan says:

    it is used both by feminists who do accept the importance of intersectionality, and by MRAs who otherwise criticize language they view as having anti-male connotations

    Somewhat tangential, and partially repeating a previous comment on a previous thread, but to emphasize the point that “neckbeard” is not confined to a feminism-vs-MRAs context: My husband has seen it mostly in online game forums to refer to other online gamers who are being socially awkward/annoying–in those spaces, “neckbeard” means something like, “someone who goes on and on in the forum complaining about changes to the game” or “the type of person who would talk to acquaintances about their game character when the acquaintances don’t even play the game”. He also says, “Now that nerd and geek are no longer pejorative, it’s almost like neckbeard has replaced them–as someone who’s socially awkward and too interested in a subject.” (Sort of echoing Mandolin’s point that pejoratives will keep trying to crop up.) He also notes that unlike nerd/geek, “neckbeard” is not necessarily associated with being good at school or, usually, good at anything.

  30. 30
    Elusis says:

    A parallel: It’s not okay for a Christian call another Christian a “Jew” as an insult, because there’s nothing wrong with being Jewish. You get this, right?

    Similarly: It’s not okay to call a misogynist “neckbeard” as an insult, because there’s nothing wrong with being fat or being ugly or having facial hair.

    Definitely agreed on your Christian/Jew example. But the use of “neckbeard” I see most is one that is not saying “there’s a problem with being fat, ugly, and having facial hair.” It’s saying “there’s a problem with being fat, ugly, and having UNKEMPT facial hair, ACTING ugly (particularly toward women), and then being contemptuous of women you think are ugly while acting like you’re entitled to have conventionally attractive women as your girlfriends/sex partners.”

  31. 31
    Ben Lehman says:

    Elusis: Good luck working through it.

  32. 32
    Jeff Heikkinen says:

    Thanks for the substantive replies, Amp and Mandolin (and those who used those as springboards for further comments). And I apologize for the remark about the moderation. I don’t have time right at this moment to respond to everything but I do want to at least note that I appreciate its existence.

    One quick comment on where I’m coming from: I would consider myself neither a feminist nor an anti-feminist, and I intensely dislike all gendered insults toward anyone. (“Mangina” is a new one on me though the intended meaning is, I suppose, as clear as it needs to be for a word I never intend to actually use outside quotation marks.) If you’ve been called any such thing over this cartoon, I abhor that and would like those responsible to please fuck off. But I’m afraid I can’t quite say I’m a counter-example to your claim that anti-feminists never object to such slurs, because I don’t consider myself anti-feminist per se, just anti certain toxic elements I often notice within feminism.

    When I discuss feminism with my sister and other avowedly feminist friends, we don’t usually disagree much at the object level, I mostly dislike the term and hesitate to apply it to myself because I feel like that well’s been poisoned by some of the more toxic sorts one sees all too many of. She disagrees, finding much of value in the term and not wanting to cede it to those people.

  33. 33
    Jeff Heikkinen says:

    (I also thought the blog was moderated in general, as my first comment was held for moderation. Since my other ones haven’t been, I now realize this assumption was erroneous. I guess it is only one’s first comment that normally gets moderated, presumably for anti-spam reasons. So that’s part of where I was coming from with the remark on comment 20.)

  34. 34
    Charles S says:

    Elusis: “there’s a problem with being fat, ugly, and having UNKEMPT facial hair, ACTING ugly (particularly toward women), and then being contemptuous of women you think are ugly while acting like you’re entitled to have conventionally attractive women as your girlfriends/sex partners.”

    I”ll try coming at this from a slightly different angle than Ben tried. Is there no longer a problem with that sort of behavior if you replace the first part of that description with “well-groomed, good looking, muscular men who act ugly?” If there is still a problem (and I assume you agree that there is), then why focus the insult on being conventionally unattractive instead of on being a misogynist asshole? Hot men are not entitled to have conventionally attractive women as their girlfriends/sex partners either. No one is entitled to have anyone as their sex partner.

    I really can’t imagine that you’d read some misogynist asshole online and be really pissed at him, and then you’d see a picture of him that showed he was a fashion-forward hottie and change your mind and think he was okay. Given that, it seems nonsensical (and counter-productive) to have a special insult for unkept or fat misogynist assholes.

    Also, of course, it’s a shitty insult because it tars all fat, unkempt men with being entitled misogynist assholes simply for having a particular style of facial hair, which is cruel and unreasonable.

  35. 35
    Elusis says:

    Charles – I’m feeling you, thanks.

    Trying to suss out what is it that I find so particularly provocative about these guys – obviously the behavior wouldn’t be acceptable from a well-groomed good-looking guy. What about from a poorly-groomed good looking guy? That feels more aggravating.

    So there’s something about the lack of effort, not the underlying qualities of the guy per se? (Of course having cultural capital in the form of looks privilege makes it easier to be unkempt and yet get a “pass.”) Something like, they expect women to like them without making any effort to be the kind of person women like???

    Thanks for helping me pick this apart, this is thought provoking.

  36. 36
    Tamme says:

    “Something like, they expect women to like them without making any effort to be the kind of person women like???”

    I’m sure there are plenty of women who don’t care about how well groomed a person is. Or even prefer the scruffy, ungroomed look.

  37. 37
    Kate says:

    “Something like, they expect women to like them without making any effort to be the kind of person women like???”

    I’m sure there are plenty of women who don’t care about how well groomed a person is. Or even prefer the scruffy, ungroomed look.

    The thing is, neckbeard is short hand for a collection of attitudes and behaviors which not all men of that physical type exhibit, and many men without those physical features exhibit the collection of behaviors and attitudes. So, I agree totally that the term neckbeard should not be used to speak about them. However, some sort of shorthand is needed, because it is a particularly nasty dynamic.

    I think Elusis is starting to get close to it. These are men who think they are entitled a woman who meets a very narrow beauty standard, without putting the least bit of thought or effort into their own appearance. But, it is more intimate. It’s not just about looks. It’s also about bathing and brushing teeth as well. These are, men – fat, thin, with and without hair on their necks – who think they are entitled to a BJ when they haven’t showered in a few days AND will be disgusted by the slightest bit of body hair on a woman.

    Again, I reiterate, that it is not o.k. to use the term “neckbeard” to refer to them.

  38. 38
    Ampersand says:

    Hey, Jeff, if you’re still here, you may be interested in this exchange I had with Veronica S. on Tumblr.

  39. 39
    Mandolin says:

    I thought Brony was an in group term. I’ve certainly heard people self identify that way.

  40. 40
    Ampersand says:

    Brony was (still is?) an in-group term. But bronies were the target of over-the-top hatred among some of the online liberal left for a while. (Still are?)

  41. 41
    closetpuritan says:

    FWIW, the only bronies+porn rant I witnessed was basically, “Bronies don’t care that when a small child searches for MLP:FIM, a bunch of porn comes up, and their response is only, ‘children shouldn’t be on the internet/should be constantly supervised by a parent’.” But I don’t know the frequency of that argument vs the “argument” of “brony porn is weird!” Also, I do know that there is/was some sort of project making sure that google image results were regularly checked on to make sure that porn did not come up in searches (that were not for porn) for MLP and other kids’ cartoon shows.

  42. 42
    closetpuritan says:

    The class thing is kind of interesting in the “living in mother’s basement” stereotype. The person in question is living in their mother’s basement, so their mother has a basement, presumably (co)owns her own home, and is probably middle-class. The person is not sharing an apartment or a trailer with their mom, or living out of their car. It assumes that the person comes from the social-default middle class, even if based on income the person themselves is not middle-class. My gut feeling is that classism towards different social classes is a bigger problem than this purely-income-based classism, but purely-income-based classism is more likely to cause splash damage to non-neurotypical or disabled individuals (in addition to other people who just happen to live in their mom’s basement but are not terrible misogynists).