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Going to Work in Mommy’s Basement

IN FEBRUARY 2016, the Internet buzzed with news that Roosh V —a pickup artist and creator of the anti-gay, anti-feminist website Return of Kings—appeared to be hiding out in his mother’s basement. Life imitates meme: the readiest insult to sling at such men—that they live in Mommy’s basement—turned out in this case to be true. Roosh V’s violent rhetoric really was compensating for a lack in the real world. However, the troll in Mommy’s basement is no joke; he is an emerging cultural and political figure, and Mommy’s basement—or its workplace analogue in the world of tech, a theme to which I will return—is an increasingly significant incubator for conservative ideas.

Of course, we must not lose sight of the fact that when we flip on the light switch in Mommy’s basement, we also find Mommy. The retreat of Mommy’s basement depends upon the devalued labor of caring associated with Mommy—not necessarily a specific mother, but “the Mother” in the psychoanalytic sense of attentive care feminized by virtue of its very diminishment. Indeed, the privilege of escaping responsibility for how much one’s care costs is a defining characteristic of masculine power. It is one of the ways patriarchy works.

The grown white man in his underwear in Mommy’s basement is the poster boy for a new identity category, the gender separatist. A composite sketch gathered from his browser history reveals a twentyto thirty-year-old disenchanted male and video-game addict who participates in men’s rights discussion boards on sites such as Reddit and 4chan. He is perhaps an incel, having committed himself to the male abstinence movement, or else an adherent of the misogynist pickup philosophy espoused by men such as Roosh V.

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About Boston Review

From the breast pump to egg freezing, new technologies have long promised to “liberate” mothers, but the results are often uneven, freeing some women while worsening the oppression of others. Once and Future Feminist considers how technology offers women both advances and setbacks in the realms of sex, career, and politics. In the age of Silicon Valley, these issues are more pressing than ever, and this collection pushes readers to consider not only whether emancipatory feminism is possible today, but what it might look like.