If you’ve gotten into a fight with a faceless twitter user, or been on certain sub-reddits, you might be familiar with being called a “cuck.” Short for “cuckold,” the slang term has become one of the American alt-right’s favorite insult used to emasculate men perceived to be weak or being taken advantage of, in an attempt to shame them towards their point of view, or better yet, shut them up. If you look at the core fears of Trump supporters, it’s clear no one is more terrified of being a “cuck” than the alt-right.
Where did “cuck” come from? “Cuckold” is a derogatory term for a man whose wife or girlfriend sleeps with another man, originating from a Middle English poem written sometime between 1189 and 1296, entitled, “The Owl and the Nightingale.” The word is a derivative of the French term for the cuckoo, a bird which lays its eggs in other birds’ nests, leaving others to raise its offspring.
Shakespeare was a big fan of the term, and used it frequently in many of his most famous plays. The term made a comeback in the mid-2000s amongst the BDSM community, but was co-opted by 4chan users during the infamous and nauseating GamerGate, shortened to rhyme with a more visceral obscenity, and injected into internet discourse.
In short, “cuck” is a humiliating term. Michael Adams, a linguistics professor at Indiana University, explains how it’s different than other emasculating insults. “‘Cuck’ stays in the masculine sphere, but it says you’re an unnatural man, someone who can’t stand for himself…inadequate, unable to hold on to what’s his.” To be a “cuck” is to be taken advantage of and made to look weak or foolish.
Unsurprisingly, users on the Donald Trump sub-reddit, “r/The_Donald,” adopted the term to describe their political opponents and those who like “watching the interests of others surpass the interests of their country.” The interests of the American nation were predictably tied most closely with those of white people and men. The word was tweeted 63,000 times on November 6, having risen steadily during the election cycle. Thomas Middleditch and Kumail Nanjiani of “Silicon Valley” were harassed by two men in a bar and called “cucks” after the inauguration.
So who’s a “cuck”? Are you a feminist? You’re a “cuck.” How about if you’re in favor of LGBTQ+ rights? You’re a “cuck.” Do you support movements like Black Lives Matter and others striving to eliminate racial disparities? Definitely a “cuck.” Do you acknowledge differences in privileges between different identities? Oh my goodness, even “cuck”-ier! Did you vote for Hillary Clinton, are a democrat, support immigration, and/or believe in climate change? Then on all charges you are a “cuck.”
The alt-right’s perception of all of these alignments and beliefs as signs of weakness clearly illustrates exactly what they are most afraid of. They feel threatened, they feel cheated, and they feel taken advantage of. They feel like a bunch of “cucks.”
The opposition towards feminism is a fairly transparent retaliation against the notion of women having any bodily autonomy. Many men may feel they can only have women if they’re able to control or own them. Alt-right demagogue Milo Yiannopoulos has stated that men whose girlfriend’s are on birth control are “cucks,” implying women on birth control are undoubtedly sleeping around or cheating on their partners, an absurd myth built on a hatred for women’s sexual independence, but one which plays directly into the fears of many in the alt-right.
No doubt, many alt-right men know the only way they could ever keep a girlfriend is if she couldn’t get away, and are deeply distrustful and fearful of the women in their lives. They think women are going to take advantage of them and literally make them cuckolds. Calling feminist men “cucks” is a projection of the alt-right’s own fragile sense of their masculine identity.
Those who hate the so-called “experts” in Washington or the scientific community are clearly lashing out because they resent the idea of someone being more intelligent than them. Rather than accept an inevitable fact of life, which is that there is always going to be someone who knows more about something than somebody else, the alt-right shuts their ears and scream. The men and women who profit from the denial of climate change cheer them on.
A rejection of LGBTQ+ rights is another symptom of the alt-right’s own insecurity. The integration of new identities and expressions of gender threaten hierarchical power structures maintained by established roles. Men are supposed to be the free-roaming breadwinners and women are there to take care of them and push out kids. Gay, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, and non-binary people upset such an uneven system which benefits straight men. The acceptance of gay men in particular threatens the uniformity of a patriarchy by introducing differing definitions of manhood, thereby breaking down the sharp gap between what’s masculine (greater) and feminine (weaker). The alt-right fears such social changes will make them weak. Sad!
Similarly, immigrants and POC represent threats to the privileges white men continue to enjoy in America. The alt-right claim their opposition to the immigration of POC stems from a desire to preserve white nationhood and culture, and while these ideas are already a reflection of a twisted racial philosophy, there’s a deeper reasoning behind them.
They’re scared they’re being erased, frightened of losing their stronghold on American culture, and insecure in the knowledge that if the power structures which benefit them did not exist, many of them would not be successful. They itch at the idea of inter-marriage because they see it as a threat, their xenophobia intersecting with their desire to trap and keep women. The alt-right fears the inclusion of new cultures into the American life because they’re afraid of becoming irrelevant. They’re horrified by the idea of having to watch while America shares some of the love. Sound familiar?
Jokes aside, I do want to make something clear. Many of these beliefs are spread and perpetuated by manipulative demagogues, glorified trolls with microphones like Alex Jones, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Yiannopoulos, Tomi Lahren, Steve Bannon and Donald Trump.
These people prey on the disenfranchised with their twisted ideas, and I do not intend to mock those who are actually suffering. I don’t want to deny the desperate struggle of workers whose entire lives are built around dying industries like coal, or those who are trapped in destitute poverty and feel they have nowhere else to turn. People who are in desperate situations are easy to trick, and I don’t want to make fun of those with serious problems.
These Americans are owed better than the idiotic ideals of the alt-right, and it’s important to expose the ideology as a twisted, insecure, and weak belief system, perpetuated by small, mean-spirited people and spread by online trolls to poor and working-class white people with nowhere else to turn, intended to seriously harm and destroy the lives of countless women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, people of color and everyone in-between.
When all is said and done, the alt-right is a group of bullies, and bullies are classically acting out of a sense of gnawing inadequacy, so the alt-right are figuratively and literally angry children. However, their motives ultimately don’t matter. The alt-right’s insecurity doesn’t excuse them, but does explain why they’re so intolerable, and makes clear just how small and sad these puny little people really are. Dismiss the demagogues and trolls. You’re stronger than them. Don’t let those “cucks” get you down.