…And for those of you concerned, Evan has mandated a cut-off for these posts. As important as they are, and as many interesting questions as they raise, there’s only so many weeks in a row we can dedicate to beating a dead horse.
I feel first that I should clarify some of my points in my original response. When I was first drafting it, I was concerned that Kat (who had written a rather personal piece) might take it the wrong way- I’m glad that she gave me the benefit of the doubt on it. Truth is, my issue isn’t with Kat (who I think would agree with most of what I’m about to argue) but with the wider implications of Deschanel’s statements (though there were a few points I take issue with in Kat’s response- but we’ll get to that).
Deschanel argued that “we can be powerful in our own way, our own feminine way“. My response was “No, you ****ing can’t”.
Not “no, you *****ing can’t be powerful”, not “no, you can’t be feminine” (whatever “feminine” means), but rather “no, you can’t have your ‘own feminine way.'”
Although those fans were also very quick to jump ship when more and more women stepped forward to accuse Ghomeshi.
Recently, another claim of assault has sprung up in the media, and once again, some people seem quite sure that the victim made up his story in order to get attention.
In a recent interview with Dazed magazine, Shia LeBeouf said that during his #IAMSORRY event in February “one woman whipped [his] legs for ten minutes and then stripped [his] clothing and proceeded to rape [him].”
Last week I mentioned that I had stumbled across an online publication called Primer, marketing itself as a young man’s magazine for coping with life after college. I noted it bore a lot of similarities to Art of Manliness, and I had stated I wanted to compare and contrast the two once I had read up a bit more.
I’m not going to do that.
Don’t get me wrong, I did read Primer (and re-read Art of Manliness)- it’s just that the differences between the two aren’t going to take up an entire post to list off. Instead, I’m going to be looking over Primer, which is a pretty dang solid publication all around and fully deserving of a post all to itself.
GORDON: Moved by your incessant letters, as well as tearful pleas from more than one head of state, yours truly has returned for this and only this installment of Evan and Gordon Talk
You’re welcome, America.
EVAN: Truly, you are too gracious. [Also, we cater to an international readership].
This week the two of us will be discussing men and manliness [or masculinity]. Which makes perfect sense since we are, after all, men.
GORDON: MANLY men. We once made an axe using nothing but things we found in the woods. On the very same day, we built a grave for a drowned beaver.
EVAN: He is not lying. But, moving forward, one of the reasons I brought up this topic is because it’s loaded with possibilities. There’s the idea of the, for lack of a better term, the “Barney Stinson,” the fratbro who watches Spike TV day in and day and out, and this recent ad that appeared in The Times of India due to the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman [click on the image to visit an article on it].
GORDON: Well, let’s narrow down some the of core qualities that make a man a man. Or at least, commonalities in all cultures and subcultures of what “manliness” is.
EVAN: How about- the ability to provide for one’s family.
GORDON: We’ll take it. Ability to defend oneself, with either words or deeds?
EVAN: I think we could expand that to simply being physically able. Physicality means both being able to defend oneself and loved ones as well as attack others for whatever reason you might have.
GORDON: Assertiveness- that’s it. Not taking guff from any of these swine.
EVAN: Who exactly “these swine” are aside, I’d also like to suggest that, in essentially every culture out there, manliness is directly associated with heterosexuality.
GORDON: The Spartans, actually, were unbelievably gay. Heck, the entire basis of western civilization is pretty gay. I want to strike that one from the record; highly sexual would probably be a better statement.
EVAN: I’m gonna have to stick by it. The majority of cultures out there use the term homosexual derogatorily, I think it’s hard to look past it.
GORDON: I guess I’ll allow it. Tough. A man is tough. Stoic. Potentially emotionless.
EVAN: That sounds pretty good to me. Want to total them up? Really just list ’em all out for us.
GORDON: [AND THEN GORDON LISTEN THEM ALL]
A man is tough.
A man provides for his family [loved ones].
A man doesn’t take **** from anyone.
A man gets it on.
Scratch that last one and you have the stereotype of a black woman.
EVAN: Okay, now rate yourself by that list of qualities.
GORDON: I realize that there are billions of people out there who have hellish existences, but taking in what I’ve dealt with in my own life, I’d say I’m pretty tough.
EVAN: You’re definitely pretty emotionless.
GORDON: I don’t have a family, but I certain provide for myself, proud proletarian that I am.
I’ve yet to be in a situation I’ve been unable to diffuse diplomatically, but I certainly have my limits and lines that I will not allow to be crossed.
And I view my sexuality as my own business. I ain’t exactly good with the ladies (see the emotionless bit), but I also think anyone who judges a man’s worth by his sexual activity isn’t worth the time of day anyhow (see the “no taking crap from anyone” bit).
Yeah, I’m a man. Or a woman. It kinda falls apart.
EVAN: A man is tough: I’m a pretty emotional dude. I distinctly remember crying after I saw A Walk To Remember. I was also 13, but I guess that’s neither here nor there.
A man provides for his family: Like you, I don’t have a family. I live with my granddad, though to be fair I do take care of him, so I’m good in that area.
A man don’t take none: I am not a confrontational person. I also can’t say I’ve been in a fight-or-flight situation, though, This remains to be seen, I guess.
A man get it on: Since I live by a certain religious standard, I have not yet gotten it on. See my post on virginity. I am a virgin.
A man don’t take none: I am not a confrontational person. I also can’t say I’ve been in a fight-or-flight situation, though, This remains to be seen, I guess.
So how do we stack up as men by most cultural standards?
GORDON: I think we stack up well, all things considered.
EVAN: Okay, I just remembered why I wanted to discuss this topic in the first place, and it pertains to the last manly attribute on our list [the one that we both happened to fail]:
Click on the image to read it in a new tab.
GORDON: . . .
How exactly does one respond to that?
EVAN: I’d say an ellipsis sums it up pretty well.
GORDON: Yeah, I’m going to call BS on that. I couldn’t begin to list the number of men who were celibate and achieved more in their lives than this guy ever will.
EVAN: Which I agree with completely. It is pretty messed up, though, how many people [guys] live by this rule of thumb.
GORDON: I think the point remains that this isn’t any reasonable way to spend one’s existence. Nikola Tesla accomplished more than a week than I imagine this guy fishing on Omegle will in his lifetime.
EVAN: To take a line from your book, touché.
GORDON: Going back to the original list, the issue is that most of this could just as easily be said of a woman. I work with people who are in pretty rough situations. Many of the women I work with a single mothers, living below the poverty line, struggling to provide for their families. Pride is really the only thing they have left. They don’t take crap from anyone, and they can’t allow themselves to be dragged down by their circumstances. Are they “manly” woman?
EVAN: I’d say that they fit three of the four categories, but it depends largely on how you want to view the word “tough.” I felt like we sort of defined it as having to do with emotions, which, and I don’t think I’m spouting insanity right now, are something that women seem to be pretty in touch with. Which would then put them at 2/4, or half the qualities.
GORDON: Certainly we can agree that these women quietly endure crap that would have most white-collar executives curled up in the shower weeping.
Barring the issue of promiscuity, everything we’ve covered would be- by our standards today and most standards the world over- “womanly” characteristics.
EVAN: Including the predilection towards physicality and violence towards others?
GORDON: You ever fought a woman?
EVAN: You know neither of us have ever fought anyone.
GORDON: Speak for yourself. I studied Judo for five years, and I had my share of matches against female opponents.
EVAN: We’re talking actual fights, though. Not martial arts matches with set rules and moves without the added chaos of scratching and biting [which I would probably carry out with gusto].
GORDON: Believe me, I got my butt handed to me plenty of times. There’s nothing but prejudice keeping women from being just as effective at fighting as men.
EVAN: Right, but that’s not a cultural expectation, is it?
GORDON: Not in this culture, no, but in other cultures this does exist. I’d point to the high numbers of women in the militaries of countries affected by leftist ideology- Nepal, for example
EVAN: We are talking the majority of cultures, though. Just as I don’t think I’d
equate homosexuality with “manliness” because the Spartans [who were very manly] engaged in it, I’m likewise not willing to accept that most societies placed women in that physically aggressive role.
GORDON: Point taken.
EVAN: But I get what you’re saying.
A number of the key qualities we defined as being “manly” are, in general, key qualities of being successful human beings.
My entire issue with contemporary feminism is that it tries spin traditionally “feminine” (i.e. submissive, weak, emotional) traits as being equally as healthy- if not more so- than traditionally “masculine” traits rather than trying to divorce itself from the old “feminine” trait set entirely.
I like my women like I like my men: self-assured, tough, and independent. That probably didn’t come out quite the way I intended.
EVAN: Don’t worry, I took it at face value.
And, since we’ve successfully transitioned away from a discussion on masculinity towards more of one discussing feminism, I’m forced to admit that we are well past our time limit.
GORDON: That we can agree on.
Until we get internet, it’s radio silence on my end.
EVAN: So I suppose you’ll have to say good-bye to these nice people until then, while I scramble to maybe find a replacement writer for the next little while.
GORDON: For whenever I get back, I’d recommend that we talk about our generation’s greatest strength or victory, as we spoke a while ago about our generation’s greatest failing.
EVAN: And I am going to recommend . . . okay, this is ridiculous, but our ideal girl. Just because I know your answer is something everyone wants to read.
That is all for today, folks. I’d like to thank Gordon [who left before this conversation could end] for heading over to his grandparents’ and getting online for this, he’s a real champ. Thanks for reading!
Even if you haven’t recognized it for what it is, chances are, you’ve seen elements of it. The resurgence of beards, comments on period piece clips like “Why don’t we wear hats anymore?” or “Dang- they knew how to dress back then.” Or perhaps you’ve stumbled across The Art of Manliness or are (like me) a faithful apostle of Ron Swanson.
Now whether you’re aware of it or not, there is a growing culture based around this general perspective of “manliness” that supposedly existed from 5,000 BC to 1974 AD. The resurgence in the popularity of the beard, the wave of internet memes centered around being “classy,” our love affair with period pieces- all of this compounded has created the beginnings of a whole new subculture.
Don’t believe me? Just take a look at some of our favorite TV characters.
Don “F***-You, Liver!” Draper
Jack “Even Ayn Rand Thinks I’m Egotistical” Donaghy
Rick “Bad Decisions” Grimes
Walter “Tied with Draper for Making People Love Fedoras” White
Barney “Legen- wait for it… -DARY!” Stinson
Cullen “I Will Punch You For No Particular Reason” Bohannon
Comedy, Drama, Action/Horror, Westerns- this is a pretty broad range, and we’ve got the same strong, dour antihero type in all of them. Men who remind us of our fathers and grandfathers. Tough as nails bastards who came to this country with only a dollar in their pockets- who took a break from their honest 8 to 8 jobs of hitting metal with other pieces of metal to kill Nazis and look dapper doing it.
So what’s this culture all about? As with any group, we can talk about the superfluous or cosmetic elements- in the case of the “manly” group, handshake etiquette, strait-razor whetting, and driving stick- but to really understand ’em, we’re going to need to look at the underlying values in play here.
What do all the men shown above have in common? A degree of independence. They’re DIY guys. Men who aren’t reliant on the help or charity of others- in short, dudes who can take care of themselves in most any situation, from car repair to providing for the family to killing the undead. And on that note…
These are all men who don’t allow themselves to be victims. They’re proactive moment-seizing leaders who don’t wait idly by for someone to step up. Good or bad, they’re leading the way- and speaking of bad…
These are guys who tend to lend credence to the stereotype of the unspeaking, unfeeling male. At best, the strong, silent type- at worse, the uncommunicative lout. One way or another, they don’t let the situation get the better of them. That’d be undignified, and if there’s one thing that they’re about, it’s…
It’s in the way they dress, the way they speak, the way they expected to be treated. A kind of code that prohibits some things and makes others compulsory. You can’t hold your head high, then what’s the point in having one?
These men are all, to varying degrees, antiheroes. Guys with their own agendas and a certain degree of moral ambiguity that keeps you on your toes. There’s a level of egotism, self-centeredness, and disregard for others that makes them pretty good at what they do, but what they do not all that good- certainly they don’t fit the traditional mold of the selfless, self-sacrificial hero.
And while it’s not true for all of them, money tends to be a major element of their stories. A drive to be successful, prosperous, and (again) independent. It’s the age-old dream of being your own boss.
So what does all of this boil down to?
It’s about power. These guys represent everything we, as a generation, aren’t. Independent, wealthy, self-assured, proud. Does that sound like us? Not at all. We’re the casual dressed, globally conscious masses struggling to make it by, and taking whatever miserable, degrading soulless job we can find. We’re not strong like these glamorized images of our grandparents are (having conveniently erased the racism, bigotry, and misogyny).
But we want to be.
And so begins the perpetual motion machine of life-imitating-art and art-imitating-life. Epic Meal Time, Memes, Period Pieces- the list goes on.
So is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Well, there are good and bad elements to every culture (some more bad than good, and vice versa), but let’s list out the positives and negatives.
We can stand to toughen up a bit a lot as a generation. We don’t need to be bending horseshoes with our teeth, but some basic survival skills and a thicker skin when it comes to discomfort and hardship would be nice (battery running out on your phone doesn’t count as suffering).
In these tough economic times, be able to do basic repairs to your house and car aren’t just good- they’re necessary. Same goes for any of the thrifty elements of the culture.
Even if we don’t have it quite yet, demanding a certain level of dignity in our work and our day to day lives isn’t just good for you as an individual- it improves society on the whole.
While we probably shouldn’t worship the fedora or declare the suit to be the only appropriate clothing for a man over the age of twelve, it certainly doesn’t hurt to know how to dress ourselves, or conduct ourselves well in any given situation.
The glorification of the past can, as I jokingly mentioned above, lead to the uglier elements of it being glossed over. We hail our grandfathers as being great men, forgetting how easy it is to make a name for yourself when none of the good or prestigious jobs can be given to equally qualified women or non-white men.
The culture really doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for women at all, other than the kitchen. This is not to say that all adherents of the culture see it this way, but when you’re trying to espouse 1950s society, that includes 50s traditional gender roles as well.
It can’t be denied that there’s a strong conservative appeal in this culture, as well as hints of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. Glorifying wealth and success, especially when coupled with a “do whatever you need to do” mentality, can lead to the twisted perspective that poor people are poor because they are lazy.
This culture, despite the intentions of its adherents, does give a home for sexism. The uglier elements of the masculinity movement, those who view women as belonging in the home and nowhere else will doubtlessly find it a lot easier to fly under the radar in a culture that’s utterly dominated by males.
So what’s the final verdict?
“Manly” culture doesn’t appear to be either helpful or harmful- at least, not yet. The underlying issue being power, it’s going to be faced with the task of walking the thin line between empowerment and megalomania. So long as self-control is kept in mind, they oughta be fine.
Earlier today Evan sent me a link to a documentary on YouTube dealing with the subject of “hacktivists,” or more specifically, the rise of internet mischief and mayhem group “Anonymous.” For the most part, the movie was decent enough, though of course it wasn’t without its own agenda and a there are a few misconceptions resulting from that. But this post isn’t going to be a review. Rather, it’s going to launch off from an interesting phenomena I saw throughout the documentary- and that was the way people talked about Anonymous.
See, whenever people talk about the group, they usually have to veer off into a parenthetical speech where they try to explain just exactly who these guys are, and how at the same time they can be anybody, because anybody can be “Anonymous.” The end result is that they wind up sounding like a paranoid schizophrenic or conspiracy theorist, and the explanation itself doesn’t sound all that believable. After all, how can any individual or group take on the mantle and conduct whatever hacking or pranking or ranting they do against their enemies without some leadership? How do they do anything if they have no demands or agenda?
The problem here (and elsewhere, but we’ll get to that in a minute) is that a completely wrong lens is being used to look at the group. People are looking for structure or goals- the two things that usually define any collection of people, and that’s where it falls apart. Anonymous isn’t a group, it’s an idea. It’s a culture.
Now that sounds strange, but bear with me here.
What’s a conservative?
You probably have an image in your head right now. You can probably tell me what a conservative would think about a certain issue, or how he or she would act in a certain scenario, or the general value system one might have, but if I really pushed you for criteria, my guess is that you wouldn’t be able to give me one. After all- there are varying ideas of “conservatism,” and no real defined boundaries. You’ll find conservatives who state that the “religious extremists” have a skewed view of conservative values, and those same extremists offer the exact same criticism of those wimpy fiscal conservatives. Regardless of the specifics, once you stand back, both groups do fit neatly into the category of “conservative.”
Now apply the same general lens to Anonymous.
What’s “Anonymous”? It’s not a group with an ideology- it’s an ideology with a group, or rather, a whole bunch of groups. Consensus isn’t made through secretive discussion boards or by a clandestine collective of angry computer-geeks. Consensus isn’t made at all- actions simply stem from a general set of perspectives and ideas (the most major of which is freedom of speech and opposition to censorship) held by the adherents. Anonymous doesn’t exist as a coherent, structured group anymore than any culture or subculture exists as a coherent, structured group. Sure you’ve got your major players, and you’ve got various projects or movements within, but at the end of the day, there’s no list of demands, just a set of values.
The reason I bring this up is that this kind of organic organization is becoming more and more prevalent in our culture, the most notable example perhaps being the “Occupy Movement.” Critics of the movement, in its early days, continually parroted the protest of “But what do they want?“- the issue with that being that there was no, and never could be, any list of demands. Occupy wasn’t a structured or unified group- it was, like Anonymous is, a culture. A massive number of people sharing (and developing) certain common perspectives and values and then taking actions based on those views (those actions further developing those views, and so on ad infinitum). Trying to get demands out of Occupy protestors would’ve been about as fruitful as trying to get demands out of conservatives. You’re going to get conflicting specifics, even if there is a general set of guiding principles.
And of course, there are others out there. Though there’s no real term or name for it yet, there’s a rising “Manly” culture, comprised of elements of survivalists, masculinists, and guys who debate each other on-line about how to build porches and properly maintain classic muscle cars. Now I can’t claim to know the origin of this- perhaps it’s partly a reaction against our increasing dependence on technology, perhaps it stems from our powerlessness in a time of political and economic hardship- but either way, it is a growing culture based in principals of independence, self-sufficiency, self-control.
On the other side of the spectrum, there’s the general philosophies and ideas of the trans-humanists, futurists, utopians, geeks, nerds, and people who worship the ground Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson walk on. Those who view technology as being the solution to most, if not all, human ills, and eagerly await the day when you can get a free jet-pack when you go in for your cancer vaccine.
Now why bring any of this up?
Because it’s important.
We’re currently breaking away from the liberal/conservative paradigm, and we’re going to need to understand what else is out there. This isn’t to say that we’ve only had conservative and liberal cultures- that simply isn’t true. But we can’t deny that there has been, over the past decade, developments of new value-systems which are really neither here nor there. New and alternative views for what the world ought to be, and how you ought to be in it. Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be focusing on dissecting these various concepts, so be sure to stop by next Monday for my examination of “Manly” culture.