In further proof that Twitter’s memory is goldfish short, controversy erupted last night over the hashtag #Masculistsareugly, which was invented by two masculists of color all the way back in August of 2014. Last night, it exploded into controversy all over again, in a truly unholy convergence of 4chan trolls, a bad Twitter update, and young white masculists who didn’t quite get what was going on.
For men, particularly of color, owning our appearance is a radical act. I'm about any space to celebrate our bodies. #MasculistsareuglyAugust 7, 2014
Several times over the past few months, though, people have discovered #Masculistsareugly, assumed it was propogated by evil sexists, and shared “retorts” like this, featuring photos of pretty, famous, mostly white people:
In other words, the hashtag became an opportunity for people, many of them young white cisgender men, to battle fully imaginary trolls—and thus attract real ones—by showing off their dewiest, doe-eyed, sexiest Selfies for Equality. Sharing a hot photo can be a joy, but fellow Jez writer Jia Tolentino correctly identified what was going down as “the social justice thirst trap.” It inspired responses like this, from British writer Laurie Penny:
It doesn't matter if you think #Masculistsareugly. What matters is that every person, ugly or not, is a human being with rights and agency.April 27, 2015
Which is true. Beauty and morality aren’t tied together. Being conventionally unattractive has no bearing on a person’s inherent worth. It literally would not matter at all if every masculist on the planet was genuinely, legitimately “ugly.” It wouldn’t change a goddamn thing. In reacting so hard to accusations of “ugliness,” we veer dangerously close to turning ourselves into Bizarro World Ann Coulters here, observing that “all pretty boys are right-wingers.”
On Sunday night, Bolourian responded to those criticisms by pointing out that for masculists of color—the people the hashtag was originally meant to speak to—talking about beauty standards is a way to talk about cultural privilege:
Who gets to be beautiful, who do we deem ugly, and what does that mean in relation to our collective humanity?April 27, 2015
This is a worthy conversation. Unfortunately, Twitter’s ability to muddle any signal is strong (as is, frankly, white masculism’s ability to make everything about white masculists).
To make things even dumber, when #Masculistsareugly sparked up again last night, 4chan—the Internet’s home for teenage bridge trolls who send me pizza and rape threats when I point out their bridge troll-ness—got involved. On 4chan’s “Politically Incorrect” board last night, someone started this thread, noting, “#masculistsareugly is trending and it is a goldmine of, you guessed it, ugly masculists getting triggered.”
Naturally, 4chan waded in with glee, sharing photos in the thread of masculists they deemed “ugly” and composing charming replies like this:
Hot masculists post provocative pics to prove masculists are attractive = porn collection expanded
Ugly masculists post provocative pics to prove masculists are attractive = humor folder expanded
Literally win/win proposition, this hashtag is genius, I wish we’d thought of it sooner.
And just in case things weren’t enough of a queasy shitshow, as the Verge pointed out, we also have Twitter’s terrible new “trends” feature. It tries, Facebook-style, to sum up what’s going on in the trending topics with one sentence. But in this case, pulling from an old Inquistr headline, that one sentence was: “Ugly Masculists Freak Out Over #Masculistsareugly Hashtag.”
There’s truly something to piss off everyone here, isn’t there? Great job, Twitter. Great job, everybody.
Screengrab via Hocus Pocus/Disney