Monday, May 19, 2014
The Art of Manliness Blog lists several "must reads" for men. Sadly, the first book on that list is the absurd, cryptic, and melodramatic headcase that is Robert Bly's Iron John, a book about which I've blogged before. For those unfamiliar with Bly's work, it is a male self-help book about emancipating the Wild Man in You so that he can find that perfect Wild Woman out there in society and make crazy (yip, Wild) sex and feel what it means to live (that Wild) life.
Pretty much everything else in the Art of Manliness list is a self-help book, usually about self-esteem and its surrounding issues. And that makes me wonder: Is the list an unintended parody? A reading list for self-help books.......about.....manliness?
I'm not trying to suggest that manliness is obvious and it's definitely not straightforward. But perhaps the best that can be said about manliness is that it's paradoxical, vexed, strange, and always will be, no matter what a bookshelf of self-help books will say to the contrary.
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
A new book from Jeffrey McCune titled Sexual Discretion: Black Masculinity and the Politics of Passing from the U of Chicago Press. The description from the Press:
African American men who have sex with men while maintaining a heterosexual lifestyle in public are attracting increasing interest from both the general media and scholars. Commonly referred to as “down-low” or “DL” men, many continue to have relationships with girlfriends and wives who remain unaware of their same-sex desires, and in much of the media, DL men have been portrayed as carriers of HIV who spread the virus to black women. Sexual Discretion explores the DL phenomenon, offering refreshingly innovative analysis of the significance of media, space, and ideals of black masculinity in understanding down low.
From Rosin's Slate article:
It used to be that women had to worry about men disappearing after they got pregnant or divorced. Now, some women have the opposite problem. A growing fathers’ rights movement is aggressively challenging what it sees as the courts’ assumption that the mother is the only real parent. Men’s rights activists air their grievances about unfair child custody laws on sites such as A Voice for Men and on subreddits like Men’s Rights and The Red Pill.
One recent study showed that people are generally in favor of joint custody, but they believe that divorce courts are seriously slanted toward mothers.
And, this too:
But is this actually true? “There’s a real perception—even women share it—that courts are unfair to fathers,” says Ira Ellman, a custody expert at Arizona State University. But in fact the great revolution in family court over the past 40 years or so has been the movement away from the presumption that mothers should be the main, or even sole, caretakers for their children. Individual cases like Patric’s may raise novel legal issues, but on the whole, courts are fair to men, particularly men who can afford a decent lawyer.
Friday, May 2, 2014
I am only about half through with Evan Wright's fantastic book. (Alas, I am six years late in reading it, and having never known that there was an HBO series based on it.) Wright was a reporter for Rolling Stone and he was embedded with a Marine Recon unit (the Marine version of the Navy SEALS). The somewhat poorly titled Generation Kill (the book contains poignant episodes of humanity and moving affect) is Wright's account of that time.
The writing, plain and unpretentious, reminds me of Tim O'Brien's fine work, but it seems, in places, even more prescient and subtlely interesting than O'Brien's much lauded books. Wright captures well the paradoxes, contradictions and deeply tender moments of male bonding and manliness, as forged in the harshest of circumstances.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Monday, April 21, 2014
.... here. The interested reader may peruse it, but the said eight lessons take their cue from....Vikings. No, not the NFL team from Minnesota. I mean VIKINGS (like in the picture above).
It's hard to know whether to know whether to read the putative eight lessons as parody or earnestness, or some combination of both. So much of manliness cannot help but be expressed in the style of both, I suppose.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
According to the Art of Manliness Blog, the three moral imperatives (the Three Ps) for manliness are:
1/ to Protect
2/ to Procreate
3/ to Provide
I tend to agree with the accuracy of the general proposition. But I don't think that it has as much relevance for my students' generation. I hear my female students complain (or reflect amusedly) that there are few "real men" these days. Most just want their XBOX, their bro-friends, and worst of all, their mommies (or proxy mommies).
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, men apparently have more leisure time than do women.
“In virtually every country, men are able to fit in valuable extra minutes of leisure each day while women spend more time doing unpaid housework,” according to the OECD. But the sharper point was that gender inequality is most stark in India, where the average man spends just 19 minutes a day on “routine housework” and the average woman spends almost five hours on such duties.
Of course, stats must be taken with some qualification and skepticism. Somehow the claim that there is more leisure time for men seems apt for those who can afford not to work. There is this to consider as well:
Millions of Indian men do huge amounts of housework — but in single-man or all-male households. Three years ago, I spent a few weeks in Mumbai interviewing dozens of auto rickshaw drivers for a long essay about their lives. An overwhelming majority of them lived in all-male households, often sharing a single room and cooking for one another. It’s not just them. Millions of poor and lower-middle-class Indian men leave behind their villages and families every year to work in cities as daily wage laborers, construction workers, auto rickshaw or taxi drivers, security guards, fruit or vegetable sellers, waiters or domestics, transferring the small surplus incomes of their city lives into economic security for all of their dependents back in the village.
Such a man runs his own household expertly and sometimes with evident pleasure, shopping, chopping, cooking and cleaning at high speed, being ribbed by his mates all the while. On his annual visit back to the village, though, he puts his feet up and doesn’t do even the 20 minutes of routine housework that would make him above average.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
1/ For every woman who is tired of acting weak when she knows she is strong, there is a man who is tired of appearing strong when he feels vulnerable.
2/ For every woman who is tired of being called “an emotional female”, there is a man who is denied the right to weep and to be gentle.
3/ For every woman who is tired of being a sex object, there is a man who must worry about his potency.
4/ For every woman who is called unfeminine when she competes, there is a man for whom competition is the only way to prove his masculinity.
5/ For every woman who takes a step toward her own liberation, there is a man who finds the way to freedom has been made a little easier.
I've rehearsed some of these musings as well.
Friday, February 21, 2014
The Good Men Project has another earnest, but rather boring, post about what it means to be a gentleman. The adjectives marshaled are mundane and unhelpful even as they endeavor to wear their virtues on their respective sleeves.
A quote from the Spanish writer Antonio de Guevara begins the post:
“A gentleman is to be measured in his speech, generosity in giving, sober in eating, honesty in living, kindness in forgiving, and courageousness in fighting.”
Measured in speech? Generosity in giving? Sober in eating? Honesty in living? Kindness? These seem to be virtues which we commend in women as well, right?
The only descriptor that has been traditionally ascribed to men has been the last one: courageousness in fighting. It is, alas, a most vexing and paradoxical virtue.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
.....so spoke Magic Johnson, the greatest point guard in the history of the National Basketball Association, about his gay son, who has a boyfriend. No commentary; I just thought it was a cool story about a dad embracing his gay son.
.....thus runs a hypo posed by a column in Truth Wins Out, an LGBT website. The author, Wayne Besen, worries that Martin would have been propelled from being "not black enough" to being "too black."
I agree that this may have been possible. But who is to say? There is something morally gratifying about a bullied kid getting some payback against his tormentor, not in a sadistic way but in a way that is just even if that justness is procured through a strong shove or a headlock. So too much of manliness, frankly, doesn't rest on such crude dichotomies as Mr. Besen suggests: either get bullied or fight back. There are preemptive measures that boys (at least many boys) know about which can signal to the other party--without having to resort to violence--that they are not to be messed with.
None of this is to say, of course, that Jonathan Martin deserved any of the abuse or that the monstrous Incognito should not be punished.....
Monday, February 17, 2014
We now know that Richie Incognito, the Dolphins' lineman, was a notorious and vicious bully. So, one can forgive National Review, that proud conservative daily, for articles like this, written in November. Or, perhaps even this, written at the end of last month.
But now that Incognito's sadism has become clear, what does the National Review have to say? Nothing. I don't point this out because I revel in making fun of NR; I really don't. I point it out because I think it's sad that NR wont man up and say that Incognito should be punished. Instead, NR seems to mimic Incognito himself: NR is keeping mum after the truth has come out.
This is why I think young folks are leaving the GOP; it's behind the times. To the extent NR tracks the GOP, the former is becoming less and less relevant to today's culture.
Michael Sam, the All-American from the University of Missouri, is the first openly gay football player. Some NFL teams have already supported his candidacy and it seems that the media is supporting him too.
On the other hand, as you probably know, the NFL doesn't seem to be a hospitable place for cultural differences, as suggested by the ordeals suffered by Jonathan Martin.
This conflict between the gentleman and the brute, which I've examined elsewhere, seems never ending.....
Friday, February 14, 2014
Charles Blow has a NYT column titled "Masculine Mistake." His is neither an interesting nor insightful set of observations. His thesis reads:
The idea of the effete, feminized liberals threatening to suffocate the last remaining expression of true manliness is rife in Republican rhetoric. They are selling the right wing as the last refuge of real men.
But something else caught my eye:
The problem with having your message powered by machismo is that it reveals what undergirds such a stance: misogyny and chauvinism. The masculinity for which they yearn draws its meaning and its value from juxtaposition with a lesser, vulnerable, narrowly drawn femininity.
What Mr. Blow says is plainly true. Yet it also misses something. Manliness's other rival--perhaps its chief rival, or better, object of contempt--is effeminacy, not femininity. For femininity is also imbued with redeeming charms; this is why manly men love their mothers, sisters, wives, friends. But effeminacy--while a derivative of femininity--lacks any virtue. It is the condition for a man who lacks both a woman's charms and those of a man. Effeminate beings therefore invite contempt from both men and women, gay and straight.
Of course, this observation doesn't entail whether to so contemn them is justified, a subject for another day.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Christina Hoff Sommers writes in a NYT Op-ed:
Boys score as well as or better than girls on most standardized tests, yet they are far less likely to get good grades, take advanced classes or attend college.
The scholars attributed this “misalignment” to differences in “noncognitive skills”: attentiveness, persistence, eagerness to learn, the ability to sit still and work independently. As most parents know, girls tend to develop these skills earlier and more naturally than boys.
Not being an educational sociologist, I have no idea if this is true, but the choice of words intrigues me. Attentiveness, persistence, ...the ability to...work independently--these are all, arguably, anyway, masculine virtues, aren't they?
From the Telegraph UK, a story about higher education in Britain:
In at least 20 institutions, there are twice as many female full-time undergraduates as males. The growing divide in further education follows a similar trend at school level, where girls now outperform boys in all age groups and subjects.
The head of UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, sort of like our College Board) said:
“Young men are becoming a disadvantaged group in terms of going to university and this underperformance needs urgent focus across the education sector.”
And concluding thoughts: "The growing divide is becoming a more pressing issue than the number of applicants from poorer homes, said the chief executive of Ucas, the universities admissions service."
Monday, February 3, 2014
Timothy Egan has a witty and incisive Op-Ed in the NYT. You can read his take for yourself. For now, consider the salient details of the story that he is commenting upon:
People love a man who tells it straight, the authentic stand-up guy who doesn’t have to let you know he’s that guy....
Chris Christie is not that guy. You may have heard Brit Hume, that is, Senior Political Analyst Brit Hume of Fox News, refer to Governor Christie’s problem. It’s not that he’s arrogant, paranoid, testy, bullying or too blunt for the P.C. culture. It’s just that he’s an “old fashioned guy’s guy” in a “feminized” world — an endangered species adrift on a floe of mush.
He said, “By which I mean that men today have learned the lesson the hard way that if you act like a kind of an old-fashioned guy’s guy, you’re in constant danger of slipping out and saying something that’s going to get you in trouble and make you look like a sexist or make you look like you seem thuggish or whatever.”
Christie, in Hume’s definition, is “very much an old-fashioned masculine, muscular guy.” The consequence of being that guy, he said, is the risk of appearing sexist or thuggish. He’s got it exactly wrong. A truly muscular politician — think Teddy Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson, both of whom brought lasting changes to American life by sheer force of their political skills — can govern without acting like a thug or a Neanderthal. (Johnson, of course, could also be a bully.)
As a compliment to the first eponymous post, I was curious: what do Real guy's guys do? Not shlubby Chris Christie, the former high school athlete and student body president, but REAL guy's guys? That would be the NAVY SEALS, of course.
And they....do yoga. Also, I've read memoirs by Navy SEALS Chris Kyle and Howard Wasdin. And, true, they do get into brawls at bars with other military guys and town yokels who are itching to test their manhood. But while on duty and during training, the SEALS learn curiously feminine virtues.
They learn to be very, very quiet (like saying almost nothing) while hiding in the jungle. They learn to breath very quietly in small, confining spaces. Absent pride, they learn to cooperate with their team. They learn....the virtue of learning (like learning about foreign languages, foreign cultures). And they learn that being "macho" in the conventional sense can also mean being really, really stupid when patience, passive tolerance, and quiet attentiveness are much more important for mission completion. In other words, so much of being a SEAL is about not being angry, not being "explosive," and not being a boaster (like saying you were a high school athlete and student body president--in addition to being a SEAL).
Chris Christie....Guy's Guys.....yeah.
Friday, January 31, 2014
Tracy has already discussed Joan Williams's WaPo essay. But I thought I might add my two cents (or one cent, whatever). First, an excerpt from said WaPo essay:
When asked at a September fundraiser in San Francisco how she manages as a woman in the Senate, Kirsten Gillibrand explained that most senators are older men, so they see her as a daughter. Rather than dismissing her, they have been helpful and protective, especially when she was pregnant while serving in the House. In this way, the New York Democrat is able to translate something relatively unfamiliar and potentially threatening — a female senator — into something comfortable and familiar. That comfort level allows her to build relationships and get other senators’ support for legislation.
Powerful women often take feminine stereotypes that can hold women back — the selfless mother and the dutiful daughter, for example — and use those stereotypes to propel themselves forward. I call it gender judo. The martial art of judo, which means “gentle way” in Japanese, focuses on using your opponent’s momentum to overpower him.
I quite understand and respect Tracy's dissatisfaction with this view. At the same time, from the perspective of a social scientist (yeah, "scientist,"....), I am intrigued by what "power" means in such contexts. I mean, sure, there is the surface familiarity of traditional gender hierarchy. Yet, on closer examination, who is exerting power on whom? Or, is even asking such a question too simplistic?
Judo (as in what Williams calls "Gender Judo"), after all, is different from other martial arts or boxing; it relies principally on redistributing the opponent's weight against her in lieu of direct assault. And like all martial arts, victory is whenever you have subdued your opponent, however that's done. Sounds kinda.....masculine.