Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Series: Wednesday Crisis of Masculinity Blogging

The other day, I was looking for images for my classes. I happened to run across this amazing and bizarre website, The Art of Manliness.

One of the strangest issues in American culture and history is this constant "crisis of masculinity" that American men seem to have. Going all the way back to at least the 1830s it seems that men are always freaking out about their manhood. I've discussed this issue in depth for the Progressive Era in both my master's thesis and dissertation. The rise of feminism sent a lot of men over the edge; the "thoughts" of these people, if in fact they deserve the title, can be seen on various men's rights websites and the trolls in comment threads at feminist blogs.

So I figure that it's a worthy project to document some of this weirdness, past and present, in a weekly series I'll be calling Wednesday Crisis of Masculinity Blogging. The Art of Manliness is like a punching bag for me, but I'll try and focus on other topics and websites too, both past and present.

The first post focuses on the manifesto of The Art of Manliness.

Welcome to The Art of Manliness- a blog dedicated to uncovering the lost art of being a man.

The Art of Manliness is authored by husband and wife team, Brett and Kate McKay. It features articles on helping men be better husbands, better fathers, and better men. In our search to uncover the lost art of manliness, we’ll look to the past to find examples of manliness in action. We’ll analyze the lives of great men who knew what it meant to “man up” and hopefully learn from them. Every week we seek to uncover the essential skills and knowledge today’s man needs to know. Since beginning in January 2008, The Art of Manliness has already gained 19,000+ subscribers and continues to grow each week.

Why the Art of Manliness?

My idea for the Art of Manliness came about as I was reading Men’s Health magazine. It seemed to me that the magazine’s contents were continually going downhill, with more and more articles about sex and how to get six pack abs. Was this all there was to being a man?

And as I looked around at the men my age, it seemed to me that many were shirking responsibility and refusing to grow up. They had lost the confidence, focus, skills, and virtues that men of the past had embodied and were a little lost. The feminism movement did some great things, but it also made men confused about their role and no longer proud of the virtues of manliness. This, coupled with the fact that many men were raised without the influence of a good father, has left a generation adrift as to what it means to be an honorable, well-rounded man.

Talking about good, clean, wholesome manliness was to me a niche seemingly not covered on the web or elsewhere and I decided to start The Art of Manliness to talk about all things manly- both the serious and the fun, but with the ultimate eye toward encouraging readers to be better husbands, fathers, brothers, men.
I don’t claim to have all the answers, nor do I claim that I’m an expert on all things manliness. I started this blog not because I had all the answers to being a man, but because I wanted to explore the questions with other men. Thankfully, I’ve found a whole community of men who wish to discover the lost art of manliness too.

OK then. There's more than a little baggage here. You can already see why this site is such a fruitful source for my interests.

Central to this blog is the idea that men in the past had qualities now lost. While this guy is less directly anti-feminist than some, he basically blames feminism for making men "confused." The answer--looking back to the great men of the past. Who are these men? Theodore Roosevelt (who I assure you will be a frequent topic in this series). John Wayne. Bare-knuckle boxers. Cowboys. Basically, romanticized visions of white men standing up for themselves, their women, their race, and their society.

Of course, what this doesn't take into account is the fact that Roosevelt himself was utterly freaked out about what it meant to be a man. The construction of the John Wayne like western hero in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a direct reaction to these fears. Providing a model of western manhood was a primary project of Progressive Era masculinity worriers. As the frontier was conquered and as swift and radical changes transformed American culture, American men worried that the core ingredients of American men were being lost. The Virginian and the dime novel westerns were popular because they provided access to a supposed lost past of masculine values. The Boy Scouts became popular as a way to teach these values to our children. Teaching boys to be men filled the annals of the period's children literature.

In other words, the posers on this website are looking back to posers of the past as examples of 100% red-blooded American manhood.

In order to get this series some attraction, I'm going to have special editions of Wednesday Crisis of Masculinity Blogging throughout the next week. You can see my marketing skills in full effect! Then we'll go to the weekly discussions. I'll probably focus mostly on this site for the next week.

Finally, I fully expect at some point to attract readers of this site who will hate on me. They'll accuse me of committing gender suicide or something. And it's true, I am a man-hater. So I apologize in advance to my fellow writers. But it could get real entertaining.