Saturday, February 14, 2009

Crisis of Masculinity Blogging: Special Saturday Edition

In the first installment of this series, one anonymous commentator wrote this about The Art of Manliness:

It's a bit antiquated (they emphasize the importance of wearing hats and shaving with double-edged razors a little more than I would), but the message seems to be pretty uncontroversial. Take care of your family, don't cheat on your wife, be a gentleman at parties and with guests. There's a section about how to throw a bachelor party that specifically celebrates the fact that strippers and sexual debauchery are falling out of fashion. Another section about men's magazines takes off points for juvenile attitudes toward sex, or with Maxim-like spreads of undressed starlets. I just came across "10 Reasons Real Men 'Go Green"".

I'm sure that you'll come across stuff that deserves criticism, but I think you might want to redirect your fire. No need to look for enemies.

It might seem this way at first. These people seem fairly innocuous. They are certainly not the fire breathing misogynists of so-called men's rights sites. That said, I'm not sure they are not spouting an equally disturbing brand of women-hating here. It's just in less vomit-inducing language. Here is a post by Will Briggs the site put up yesterday entitled, "Is Manliness Obsolete?" I find the attitudes and sexism in this post profoundly unpleasant.

For instance, Briggs bemoans what he calls, "post-manliness." What does this mean? It's a world where "we don’t admire courage, procreation, or the old manly ways." Since for these essentialists, masculinity=fatherhood, small families are an attack upon masculinity. Briggs worries that Europe and blue state America are committing a form of gender and race suicide, sending the old ideas and traditions to the grave and giving the floor over to the immigrants with their "different" (read dangerous and wrong) traditions.

What about women who don't want to have children? They don't play any role here. This is the quietly misogynist attitudes I am talking about. Ultimately, Briggs assumes that choices about children reside with men.

So, if men have given up on the old values, what do we have? Briggs poses the apocalyptic gender suicide question: "Would the human race be better off if each man were an irresponsible, impotent, stingy coward who couldn’t hold down a job or keep a friend?"

Wow. Which part of this question is more offensive/ridiculous:

A. That pussy boys can't hold a job or be a friend to anyone?
B. That having a potent sexuality that creates many children is the core of manhood?
C. That masculinity somehow relates to generosity? And does this then mean that people like Briggs loathe Wall Street CEOs, the Republican Party, and America's unwillingness to give foreign aid to poor nations? Somehow I don't think so. Not enough of a disconnect here I know.
D. That traditional notions of masculinity have led/would lead to a wonderful world?

All of the above? That's my answer. All 4 of these assumptions fall between laughable and rage inducing.

Actually, the most offensive is none of the above. The answer is in the explanations of the various points and in the conclusions. Because at the end, the real reason to be a traditional dick-swinging man is that women want it:
It’s a paradox: women don’t want the men they love to kill themselves on motorcycles, but they still don’t find cowardice in men attractive. (Neither do men, for that matter.) And it’s not symmetric. I don’t know many men who would say, “I think a woman should be strong and brave, to protect the man she loves.” Or women who hope for the relationship to go that way, either....

It delights women, too. To be blunt: if you say manliness is obsolete and we’re all just a mix of feminine and masculine, it probably won’t hurt you much socially with the ladies. But if you act on it — if you become that irresponsible, impotent, stingy coward who can’t hold down a job; or if you drop the symbols of manliness for a more feminine style, plucking your eyebrows and wearing a tastefully lacy dress (!) — it won’t just be other men who shudder and look away; it’ll be the women too.

I'm not entirely sure that anyone is saying humans are a random mix of masculine and feminine, but let's leave that aside. I certainly could focus on the deeply annoying homophobia in this statement. But I think I'm even more offended by the idea that if I don't take up traditional masculinity (as if such a thing isn't set in stone and isn't always shifting) and spread my seed and have children and be willing to kick the shit out of anyone that crosses me that I won't be able to hold a job, have a meaningful relationships with people, save a life if I ever find myself in that situation, give my time to helping out the world, or attract a person sexually, be that man or woman.

Manifestos like this are littered throughout The Art of Manliness. They are even more common in the discussion boards at so-called men's rights sites and at mail-order bride sites. While this site avoids the overheated anti-women pejoratives of those sites, the philosophy behind Briggs and the other writers over there should piss off both women and men. They are offensive to both.

In other words, here is my response to Will Briggs--Fuck you, you essentialist sexist insulting bastard. I suppose I should offer to fight you or something, but I'm not enough of a man to do so.