It’s true that white feminists have at times weaponized stereotypes about the hypermasculinity and violence of marginalized men. Women’s rights activist Frances E. Willard advanced her crusade against alcohol by suggesting that white women in the south were threatened by drunk, “dark-faced mobs” — an argument that implicitly justified lynching. Hillary Clinton infamously referred to some criminals as “superpredators,” a racist dogwhistle.
But the penal system is not run by feminists. Instead, it’s run by politicians, who too often seek to bolster their own masculinity through tough-on-crime rhetoric. When Trump calls Mexicans “rapists,” he’s demonstrating his own masculine resolve by calling out and denouncing (supposedly) dangerous men. In this way men are ground up in the prison industrial complex in order to fuel the egos and the political careers of other men.
The crisis of masculinity Peterson’s fans talk about is deliberately vague. The real crises of masculinity, though, are much more quantifiable. There were close to 45,000 suicides in the U.S. in 2016. There were approximately 38,000 gun deaths. There were around 2.3 million people in prison. Men bore the brunt of all of these problems. And yet the solid, demonstrable problems facing men are rarely discussed, while the fictional crisis of men oppressed by a lack of sex has obsessed putatively serious pundits.