Thursday, November 26, 2009

Meet Tucker Max

Don't shake hands with him, though. He is a wannabe comedian and a real fried-in-the-c*m woman-hater. Jaclyn Friedman wrote about him last September:

Tucker Max thinks that "all women are whores" and that "fat girls aren't real people" -- and those are some of his family-friendlier observations. So why do so many women love him?

If you're not 19 and don't regularly scan the best-seller list, you may need an introduction to the Max oeuvre. Max, a hedonistic folk hero to his fans, got his start in 2002 when, egged on by a friend, he started a blog detailing what he calls his "life as a self-involved, drunken womanizer." The site now gets more than a million unique visitors every month. It has spawned a book, "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell" -- more than 100 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list -- and his exploits have been adapted for the big screen in a movie opening this week.

Max and his growing audience share an unabashed focus on three basic adolescent obsessions: bodily functions, drinking toxic amounts of booze and "scoring." The women in his stories are insulted, tricked, coerced, traded and discarded. One conquest is vomited on and videotaped without her consent.

The author is now in the midst of a 31-city film tour, attracting sold-out crowds at every location, just as he does on college campuses across the country. And according to Max, his audiences are nearly always at least half female.

These women are not reluctant dates dragged there by men exacting revenge for being forced to sit through the "Sex and the City" movie. They are die-hard fans, willing to do almost anything to get their hero's attention. For one fan at a recent stop in College Park, that meant using her mouth as a receptacle for a male audience member's chewing tobacco. Another female fan sought out Max, slept with him, and then tattooed an explicit sentence commemorating the event just below her hip bone, thus earning the Holy Grail of any Maxite: an original Tucker Max blog entry featuring her.

This is Max's magic trick: The Amazing Max Mistreats Women and Makes Them Love Him For It! It's also his ultimate defense against critics, one that he has repeatedly deployed after the protests at some of his recent tour stops, insisting, "I am still waiting for a protester to answer the question: 'If Tucker hates women, why does he have so many female fans? Why is half of each screening women?' "

I shall return to those questions a bit later, but first I'd like to share a few more Tuckeresque examples with you:

For those unfamiliar with Tucker Max: he has a website, and has published several books, the most well-known being "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell." Recently he wrote and produced an ill-fated movie by the same name. Quotes are offensive, and promote rape and violence. Examples include "I'm going to get you so drunk you can't consent," "Your gender (women) is hardwired for whoredom," and "Get away from me or I'm going to carve a fuckhole in your torso." Some people find it funny – some find it offensive.


Students wrote statements, read speeches, and actively debated the issue. Those in favor of the event re-iterated that students had a choice to attend the event, and that Tucker Max was not to be taken seriously. Those against it found it hard to believe that statements saying women Max finds unattractive are "generally just so annoying that you have to actively restrain yourself from kicking her in the crotch and stomping on her throat until she drowns in her own blood. There is no insult too mean or crude for her, and basic human rights do not apply to her," could ever be construed as anything but misogynistic violence, and objected to the fact that the fund that brought Tucker Max to campus came from tuition money.

Did you know that Hitler was a vegetarian and liked dogs?* There's always two sides to everything. Even misogyny might be perfectly acceptable if it is funny enough. Besides, women are not a minority so hating on them is fair game as one Johns Hopkins student (I believe he is a student) stated it while writing about a recent Tucker Max event at the college. There are days when even a goddess despairs about this get-women-to-be-treated-like-human-beings shit.

To return to the questions Tucker Max posed in the above quote:

"I am still waiting for a protester to answer the question: 'If Tucker hates women, why does he have so many female fans? Why is half of each screening women?' "

Jaclyn gives several answers to these questions, and I only want to add a few observations:

Let's begin with those questions themselves. Suppose that Tucker's audience consisted of all men. Would those men be there because of all that juicy misogyny? He seems to think so, if his counterargument has any weight. That's a very scary idea in itself, you know.

Next, note that misogyny is not just something men might be infected with. Women can be misogynists themselves. Just think of the Aunties in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Or of some conservative female pundits who tell us that women shouldn't have the vote. Female misogynists hate other women.

But a different explanation for Tucker's female fans seems more likely to me, and that is the way we women often learn to regard the cultural messages about women as applying to other women, not to us. It's they who are the sluts, the bitches, the c*m-buckets, the whores. We are on the other side, laughing at the jokes with our boyfriends who would never regard us in those terms. Besides, we are cool and can laugh at raunchy or objectifying jokes with the best of the boyz.

Or it could be that the real explanation has to do with human beings as social creatures. We want to be accepted, we want to belong, and if the price of inclusion is to be bullied or despised, we sometimes even swallow that. This is not something special about women or girls, by the way, but about all humans.

Whatever the explanation for this particular phenomenon, misogyny is part of the popular culture of this country. Sometimes it is foregrounded, sometimes it is just an irritating background hum. Where Tucker's particular version differs from that background hum is in its explicitness: Men are callous hunters and women are stupid prey animals. If the prey gets caught it's her own fault:

Max is fond of telling women that "men will treat you the way you let them" -- in other words, if you've been used, abused or assaulted, you must have done something to invite that behavior.

*I was told that this is not true. But he did praise his mother!