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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.

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