American masculinity

The Crisis of American Masculinity

Eric Garland Uncategorized 18 Comments

In the aftermath of national tragedy, we have been convulsing in a desire to discuss the role of firearms and violence in American society. It has been noted in very few places, however, that another trend is formed throughout these massacres – they are almost all perpetrated by young men. Gun violence is not the exclusive purview of men in their teens, twenties and thirties, but almost all spectacle public horror shows are authored by hollow-eyed young males, each looking deficient and twisted in their own way. There are men in the forties and fifties who occasionally show up to shower a public place with bullets – almost always their current or just-past workplace – but those cold visages (of names I shall not mention) are almost all callow and beardless.

We have a crisis of masculinity in America. Young men are failing to reach mature adulthood in massive numbers, mostly for lack of role-models and reasonable paths toward success. Yes, some are so lost that they create bloody sideshows to express their pain – but the real issue lies in manhood itself.

The world after feminism

The 20th century was a critical time for women around the world. Undeniable progress was made in most countries toward freedom, justice and opportunity for females. Laws were written to make women voters, property owners, athletes, and equal partners in the creation of our society. You could no longer treat women like children when it came to their own health – especially reproductive health. You could no longer legally keep women from any profession except for combat soldier (Israel excepted.) Rosie-the-RiveterWomen were no longer to be treated like helpless infants when they went away to school. All of this was reflected by the popular culture, from the Flapper 1920s to the Rosie-the-Riveter 1940s to the Gloria Steinem 1960s and 70s.

In the past few decades, this progress has blossomed in ways I’m sure the original activists would never have dared dream. Women have either run or been elected to head the governments of Great Britain, Iceland, Germany, France, the United Stated, Chile, and many more nations. Women are 51% of the graduating medical school classes in the West. They are CEOs, engineers, national security advisers – as well as holding their original societal roles as mothers, wives and family matriarchs. This is not without conflict – witness the perennial tussling over women “having it all” – but the dialogue is vibrant and continuing to have an effect. Feminism is a rousing success.

But what about men? Where has my gender been during this century-long transition? Some men have cheered women along on their path toward self-development and societal recognition. Many men have been on the defensive, arguing against these changes as deleterious to society as a whole. Either way, we have gone along on the journey and found ourselves in the early 21st century with women in a largely peer position. We are raising daughters in this new environment, and it is doubtful that they will return to the dynamic of 1875.

Which leads me back to – what about men? What have we been doing to analyze the role of men and how it is changing? Ask that question in any social setting and prepare for quizzical silence. What do you mean the role of men? They are the guys in charge, right? Their only role, one supposes, is to cede their unfair advantages over the feminine gender and…what? Keep just doing whatever they should be doing, right?

Actually the sand has been slipping out from beneath the feet of men – not because of feminism, mind you – but because of the economic and cultural institutions in society. Men are crying for help – and we have not yet evolved the ability to listen to this cry of distress and do anything about it.

Men caught in the vice between myth and reality

Crisis of masculinity

Being a male in America is a confusing affair. Manliness is supposedly very important for Americans, and we have several mythic images to which we should live up.

One of the original images of manhood in America is the rebel soldier, the George Washington figure who is supposed to be able to fight oppression with guns and bring honor to his native land.

A powerful image of the American male is the homesteader, out in the prairie of this “uninhabited, savage” land (read: with Indians still around) – expected to both till the Earth and protect his family from the elements (and the Indians, who are still around.)

There is the farmer, cultivating the land with nothing but a plow, a horse and the muscle and sinew of he and his sons.

As we move into the cities, the image of the prominent and wealthy businessman – say, Andrew Carnegie – enters the national consciousness, thrust into our imaginations by way of the wealth he created with his own work and ingenuity.

Manhood crisis

Then there is the pater familis of the mid-20th century, the Ward Clever image of a man safely andcomfortably in control of his home environment, providing for his growing family by way of a reasonably prosperous middle class job.

Which of these images are likely to be attained by males in American society? How can we reach up to the heights of these mythic images? Before you answer, consider the following images that have been foisted on American males to the contrary of our deepest archetypes.

As a young man, what does this Pepsi ad tell you about men in society? It deals with class issues and alpha males, right?

 

And how does this Doritos ad inform us about young men and/or corporate culture?

Come on, Eric,” you’re thinking. “This is just some harmless humor when young American males are involved. It’s not like our advertisers are coming straight out and saying that American men are hapless victims with nothing left in their life but juvenile sensory pleasures.”

And to answer that, I present you with the Most Horribly Insulting Advertisement In History about the Dodge Charger – a car that helps you accept that you’re a loser with no choices whose best hope for happiness is going vroom-vroom on the way to and from your soul-killing, unstable corporate job.

The American male isn’t trapped between its mythical images and its crushing reality? Then why are advertisers using these images to sell to us? Because they know it touches a nerve.

American masculinity, modern style

Every male in America grows up with these older images of masculinity – soldier, cowboy, farmer, family man – and fewer men than ever are able to connect their real lives to those archetypes. Something in recent years has changed for men. I contend that America is now a very anti-masculine place – and not for the reasons one usually hears about liberal political correctness.

Consider that today’s America is a place of cradle to grave institutions. Our images draw a picture of man against the elements, man in his natural state using his wits, man as a strong-willed individual in a world of uncivilized chaos. The reality of living in America is being funneled into one sclerotic, outdated institution after another.

cubicleMen from coast to coast are sent into the school system somewhere around age five, if not before. There, they will encounter an institution that prizes conformity and quiet acquiescence, even from ages eight to fifteen, when such behavior for males is unreasonable if not impossible. They will be judged on a national standard and separated into tracks with the goal of entering the university education system and continuing the process of sitting and studying for another four to seven years. To leave this system is to be labeled a “high school graduate” alone and face jobs whose wages are falling beneath the poverty line.

So you do your best to thrive in the school system, repressing any innate desires to proceed at your own pace, explore different avenues of your personality, and heaven knows, buck any authority figures. You study up and get some great SAT scores and go to a Good School. Maybe even a Well-Regarded Grad School. Now you’ve won entry into another gargantuan pyramidal structure – perhaps a megabank, a top consultancy, a pharmaceutical behemoth, or the DC Beltway Patronage System. Enjoy your cubicle. Perhaps one day, if you’re lucky and tenacious, you’ll win yet again another opportunity to climb to the top of these structures and watch young men try to scurry upward while you reap the rewards of the rentier.

As an individual man, what sides of you are being tested all throughout this process? What are you showing to compare yourself to the soldier, the homesteader, the farmer, the pater familis in your mind? Is it your ability to prove your manhood through individual tests of bravery? Strength? Individualism? Resistance against the madness of crowds? Where are you dealing with the chaotic power of nature using spirit and skill?

Nowhere. Where did you get such a silly idea that society needed things like that? This society prizes a sensitivity to the conventional wisdom. It rewards those who would never dare outshine one of the Bosses. It promotes those who turn Inevitable Office Politics to their advantage, outpacing their rivals the old fashioned way – by sucking up to the Assistant Director, who may become VP at some point.

Ooh. Manly. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say the last thing we want is for you to act like a man, defending his territory, irreverent toward authority, protecting his pride, willing to brave the elements of nature rather than go mad in captivity. Maybe that works in the movies, kid, but it’s not something for the office.

The demented new visions of masculinity

It’s not that our young men are lacking role models, it’s just that they are perverted versions of our old mythical images. Let’s say you’re going to be a Man’s Man in today’s America. What images will you use?

You can tune into professional wrestling, or its realistic cousin, Ultimate Fighting, which show us muscley, tattooed pugilists hoping to Ground And Pound™ their weaker opponents. (Click here to see how they do versus actual Marines.) Hand to hand combat is classic masculine stuff, though this version seems more vicious than the old days of Cassius Clay and his poetry about bumblebees.

Mitt-Romney

In business, we’ve replaced actual industrial bootstrappers like Andrew Carnegie (who was not a saint, incidentally, but was surely a self-starter) with the square-jawed sons of privilege like Mitt Romney, or banking sociopaths like Jamie Dimon.

Even our legitimate heros who don’t depend on giant bureaucracies for their success have been faltering. Maybe the last one we could really hang onto was Lance Armstrong. He was the modern image of man against nature, a cancer survivor on a bike against the Pyrenees and Massif Central. It was thrilling to watch – but we’re forced to admit that after all these years, he seems to be just another guy working the system, intimidating critics with his lawyers and bending the rules to his own ends.

We still have the military to provide us with masculine imagery, but after a decade of wars abroad, we’re also face to face with the trauma that goes along with the archetype. The pure imagery of the soldier is contrasted with the strain we have put on these men, resulting all too often in their infirmity, suffering, and suicide. These remain men to look up to, without question, but the reality is chastening. It’s a very complicated image now.

A generation of men without heros

Bushmaster-assault-weaponThink of these flawed images of masculinity when you see young who look directionless, hopeless, and empty. James Howard Kunstler talks about the youth of America looking like a bunch of “sinister clowns.” Men of the lower socio-economic classes are taken with body modification and droopy pants, a clear statement that there is no image of manhood to which they aspire.

Look into the eyes of men sitting in the cubicles of Middle American bureaucracy.

Look into the eyes of men sitting in the plush offices of Top American bureaucracy.

Do you see anything heroic? Any sense of a man steeling himself against nature’s test? Any clear sense of pride?

And is it any wonder that we get ads like this one from Bushmaster about their assault rifles?

Some men of strength carve out a space for their pride and individuality somewhere in the land of overgrown bureaucracies. And some are not strong enough. Some men have mental weakness or character defects and they fail to find a path through this thicket of confusing archetypes to emerge and become a man. They are in pain. They are searching.

Is it any wonder that they come upon gun violence, one of the last sure signs of masculine power? The firearms manufacturers are sure to capitalize on that image of masculinity. The movie studios that produce films with Real Navy Seals capitalize on that image. We all “know” that violence is for the strong. For the average person, that realization is not so important that they would turn to violence.

But for men in crisis, men with no hope of power, no spirituality, no internal peace, no heros, no past and no future – that violence may be the least worst option. They can end their sad lives and demonstrate their suffering to all. I couldn’t believe in my own power – but you will never forget it.

We need masculinism

Feminism developed because society could not progress while denigrating half of its members. We couldn’t expect women to build battleships while the men were fighting in Europe and the Pacific, and then expect them to take a lower position in society. Feminism was urgent.

Masculinism is urgent too. We are a people that puts a great premium on masculinity, but provides ever fewer paths to achieving it. Our heros are absent, and our men are sick. We hear their cries in the sad regularity of tragic gun violence.

We will be tempted to focus on guns, with good reason. But we cannot give up this chance to make healthy, whole men in our society. Let us dedicate the next century to it.

  • christina

    I have long said that the Feminist Movement was a downfall for men. It has taken away their ability to provide for their family comfortably. There is no more skilled jobs that pay enough for a family of 4 to pay their bills, take a vacation and just enjoy life. I am in no means against the feminist movement, but as with many things, the giving to one group has taken a toll on the other group.
    I have been angry for a long time that it is no longer possible to be an “at-home” mom. Women have to work just to give the family of 4 their survival needs. It is ridiculous that not only men cannot make enough to live in comfort, but when the man and the woman work, they are still just “surviving”.

  • Darian

    Your archetypes don’t relate to EVERY male sir. You only mention White, mostly anglo images. What about minorities that have to deal with a whole other set of issues not related to White privilege and it’s waning. I hate to play the race card, but none of your examples really pertains to me as a black male, whose ancestors were stripped of this masculinity 100’s of years ago. The progression is always to becoming more of a juvenile, it’s just that people of African descent have been living this for much, much longer. Maybe now you see a glimpse of what erasing someone’s culture does.

    • Too bad you didn’t pose this in more of a question, as in, “Hey, did you notice that your images are all white anglo dudes? What about all the Jews, blacks, hispanics, etc?” And I would respond, “Yeah, these are images of the ‘dominant culture,’ one that’s not especially functional.” I agree with you – the destruction of individual agency being visited upon men with white skin is part of the same system in effect against African-Americans and natives for many years. Check out Russell Means, native activist who just died this year, in his piece about “Welcome to the Reservation.” He thinks that the white man is just getting what’s been going around elsewhere for centuries.

      Can’t argue. Freedom is freedom. The universal is universal.

      God bless.

  • bulletsarepeopletoo

    “But we cannot give up this chance to make healthy, whole men in our society. Let us dedicate the next century to it.”

    I think we should be working on making healthy, whole human beings in our society. Get rid of the stereotypes of what a woman or man’s role is in society, what they can and can’t do based on their gender, what it means to be feminine or masculine and let each individual decide where they fit in without disparaging or belittling whatever role they choose. For me, that’s what feminism is all about; not one gender taking away from the other.

    • If I may, that’s what we’ve been doing under the feminist banner. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that men and women are equal, but not equivalent. Basically, the people doing all the shooting are dudes. We have to police up our own shit here. Lend a hand.

  • Marianne

    Another thought provoking piece, Erik. It seems that there is no good answer to this. It isn’t simply a matter of “masculinism.” Time after time we see threatened old white guys in state and national congresses trying to keep a status quo that never quite was; dismissing equality, punishing unwanted reproduction, kicking out pillars of support. I feel that few of us, both men and women, really have a sense of pride any longer. Our bodies are not fit enough. Our looks are not good enough (watch the old time Twilight Zones – there are a lot of common faces that would not be cast today). Our work isn’t good enough. Our bosses are demanding more hours, less pay, and no respect, threatening to replace us or outsource our jobs if we don’t do better. And the thought of a true vacation, getting away from everything, is a threatening nightmare for many.For the jobs that can’t be outsourced, we find ways to discount them. There are few of those jobs we actually want our children to grow up to be. They are the tipped (service workers like waiters or hairdressers), or the strong (police or fire fighters or milirary).

    And these distinctions will continue to grow. Children of the rich will continue to go to private school and be legacy candidates for the best Universities. Others who may need a better education themselves will homeschool their children. Only the needy or foolhardy will volunteer for the military. There will be no common ground for people to meet and learn about each other. EEO policies will be lost. Thus we become stratified, never understanding folks unlike ourselves.

    In Europe, it is not like that. Jobs have honor. The street sweeper has pride. A waiter is a noble profession that many apprentice to. Because of high unemployment jobs are treated differently. There are forms of job sharing, and generous vacation times. At least until recently, a second income in a family was highly taxed. There is little fear of job loss. Unions are represented on company boards. The social safety net is strong.

    Less fear, more pride is what I think we need. That and a living wage for all.

    • Less fear, more pride, living wages. Rock. On.

    • DavidEvan

      Hi Marianne, when I started this reply to your post, I had no idea it was going to be this long. All that nonsense on the news about the end of the Mayan calendar meaning that today was the end of the world was a deliberate misunderstanding to manufacture a story. The Mayan calendar apparently starts another 5000 year cycle today, and I suspect this post was inspired by the need for a new beginning.

      I enjoyed reading your comment and I agree with much of what you said, especially about the hideous pressure placed on employees by corporations whose ONLY concern is profit. However, I grew up in England, my brother-in-law is Greek and I have friends in France. The picture you paint of Europe is slightly romanticised, perhaps from an earlier time. The Europe you describe is being eroded. Why is this? Well, let’s get this out in the open: it is widely understood that the people of Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain and Italy systematically cheated on their taxes. Then they voted for governments who would give them free stuff and a nice life, all on credit. That behaviour will erode any way of life. But for the rest of Europe and other parts of the industrialised world, there is more to the story.

      There is an extraordinary phenomenon around the world that American ideas, whether a great one (Apple Mac) or a lousy one (Big Mac), are all eventually taken up by other countries. I am not seeking to blame anyone – this is not America’s fault but perhaps people in the US don’t quite realise what an impact your culture has on the rest of the world. This has a lot to do with the extraordinary power of the US cultural industries of film, TV and popular music. But it must also have something to do with the worldwide influence of the American banks, the US control of the IMF and the thoroughly corrupted dark science of economics coming out of American universities (watch ‘An Inside Job’ to see how banks have turned economists into apologists). The world outside the USA is often referred to by American corporations as one vast market known as ‘Foreign’. So, rather than seeing Europe in an idealised way, Americans need to understand that the same corporate forces that are undermining your way of life are vigorously attacking other societies in their restless, endless search for ever-greater profit, no matter the human cost.

      Take for example socialised medicine, one of the greatest post-war achievements of the UK, and an idea that has spread to a greater or lesser extent to many countries like Canada, Australia, France, Germany and so on. In the UK, after the Second World War, the idea was to provide medical care that was free at the point of delivery to anyone who needed it – everyone would contribute through taxation, so that no-one would ever go untreated for lack of money. Private medical insurance was and is still an option for those who wanted ‘silver service’ treatment. Of course there is bureaucracy and waste in the National Health Service – but it works. However, this system is under sustained and vigorous attack by private industry, inspired by American corporate thinking on healthcare and sometimes actively led by the American ‘healthcare’ juggernauts. Healthcare providers and big Pharma are the biggest lobbyists in Washington and they are constantly looking for ways to lift more money out of the hands of patients in the USA and spread that plundering behaviour around the world. US medical costs are a scandal to people outside the States. The exact same drugs for which you pay hundreds of dollars are available for a tiny fraction of the cost elsewhere in the world. You are being robbed at the point of a scalpel by people whose interest is not in making people well but in making themselves obscenely rich. And if you can’t pay, you are going to die and that is just fine by them. An Aussie friend of mine had a serious asthma attack in LA and went to the emergency room. For that visit and minimal treatment, she received a bill for $10,000. Obscene. The next time she fell ill, she did not have the money and so bluffed her way onto a Qantas plane back to Australia, nearly died on the flight and then spent 3 weeks in hospital, for which she was charged nothing. Nothing. She was covered by the universal insurance we all pay for here through our taxes. Corporations attack this because there is huge money to be made from the unwell and profit at all costs is their motive. Socialized medicine is not there to make a profit but to promote health. This is in the national interest – and only against the interests of profit-motivated companies who want to get their hands on our families’ wallets just when we are most vulnerable – when someone we love is sick or injured. Cripplingly overpriced health care contributes not only to the US national debt but it also undermines the sense of wellbeing and sense of safety for the citizens – and that affects productivity in all sorts of areas. Even from an economic rationalists’ point of view, there is good sense in keeping people healthy and there are lots of studies to back this up.

      France has long been a target for ‘free’ market criticism, especially on Wall Street. The French are ‘unproductive’, still quite highly unionised, insist on retiring at 60 (they burnt buses in the streets when they were told that the irresponsibility of the world’s bankers meant that the nation would now retire at 62), their farmers insist on being paid more by retailers than it costs them to produce the food (an idea that is outrageous to the likes of big supermarket chains – supermarkets are another incredibly successful US invention that has created great convenience but done untold harm in dislocating local communities from the retailers and ultimately the farmers that used to serve them), the French take the whole of August off to be with their friends and families, they still make hundreds of different cheeses, they have subsidised film, television and theatre cultures, and so on. None of these habits are in line with the ‘free’ marketeers’ gospel – everything should be left to market forces, for ultimate ‘efficiency’. But just try living in France and compare that to life in the USA or Australia, for that matter, where I live. The quality of life is higher in France. And the citizens are engaged. They are not ready to lie down and have the corporate bullies kick them with threats of outsourcing.

      1776 was your year to start the process of shaking off external shackles, a time when a very few were rendering the lives of many miserable. 2013 is the year when you as engaged, conscious citizens – not ‘consumers’, citizens! – need to write a new declaration, and the new plunderers need to be shown the door. This time, your enemies are within, Just so you know, I am an educated, middle class man of 52 and have thought long and hard about using words likes ‘enemies’, but everything about the behaviour of these corporate robber barons fits the definition of enemy. They ignore the law (on the rare occasions they get prosecuted, look at the billions of dollars they pay in fines for knowingly breaking the law), they lie through their teeth about any ill effects their activities create (lead in gasoline, cancer-causing chemicals in drinking water, tobacco, asbestos, and most appallingly, massacres in schools, etc, etc), they have no loyalty to any nation (look at how they avoid taxes and pay lobbyists to make sure the loopholes stay open), they fire workers without a backward glance, and they recklessly endanger the only biosphere we’ve got for short term gain.

      Self-government is hard work. If you don’t keep your eyes open, someone tells you, “That’s okay, I’m an expert, I’ll run your life for you.” And before you know it, you are living under the heel of a bunch of heels – again. America has the power to influence the world. I am hoping against hope that a more coherent version of Occupy Wall Street can coalesce and that a second great change can emerge from America – let’s call it the American Evolution – and the nation famous for its love of freedom can start to be that beacon of freedom again. People all over the world will surely respond.

  • T.L. Bodine

    THANK YOU for this. I’m a woman and a feminist, but I’ve been crying out — mostly to dumbfounded silence — about the need for a discussion of masculinity in a productive way. “Where are the men’s studies classes?” I ask, and people look at me like I’m insane.

    I think everything you say here is dead on. Either “masculinity” (and gender as a construct) needs to go away entirely (something a handful of people would love to see, but I seriously doubt will ever happen)…or we need a new, better model for masculinity that works in our current world. Women are crying out about their desire for an “alpha male” (just look at the 50 Shades phenomenon), but there seems to be no way to achieve alpha male status without being a dick.

    I agree that the need for “masculinism” is something that arose independently from feminism — I think it’s a side effect of modern culture and economic forces, and only tangentially related to feminism. Women aren’t ‘doing’ this to men, in other words. But at the same time, when there’s an active dialogue happening that basically says “Everything that’s wrong in the world is caused by privileged white men”…well, it must really suck to be a young white man. You simultaneously grow up feeling powerless and hopeless, but also being told that you are essentially the cause of all terribleness on earth.

    Little wonder, then, that video games are so popular among my generation of men (and plenty of us women-folk, too). Video games are more rewarding than real life. If only we could find that kind of empowerment and gratification in our daily lives…

    • “There seems to be no way to achieve alpha male status without being a dick.” Ha! Yes.

      Coming into manhood in the age of Boomer feminists, I recognized this weird tension between what society was saying it wanted – soft, tender, flexible, partnering, reformable males – and what it celebrated, which were aggressive, egotistical, dominant über-douches.

      Actually, Matt Ridley examines this extremely well in a book on evolutionary biology entitled “The Red Queen.” He calls it the Safe Dads/Sexy Sons dilemma. Human females, because of the long gestational cycle and the time it takes to raise kids, require men who will stick around and provide resources. HOWEVER, they also want to produce offspring capable of attracting mates. You don’t want some sad sack who’ll definitely stick around, but who’ll produce similar beta males. And you don’t want the sexiest bad boy on the block who will impregnant you with a rakish, handsome lady killer – and then do the same with twenty other girls. A balance must be struck for maximal genetic effectiveness.

      I loved this perspective because it seemed to dovetail with what I saw in real life – women want you to be a man with some spine, but hopefully not a raging dickhead. Life is, after all, about balance.

  • There is much of value here, but there are critical elements missing in the analysis. Feminism as a movement has elevated the status of women in our culture. And that is a good thing. The path to that achievement has, however, been destructive of manhood in the culture. As with so many things, the way to empowering one group is found in the denigration or belittling of another. In this case, in order to prove that women are equal the feminist culture has been systematically and effectively attacking the value of men. Today it is common, in fact almost universal, to see men in media portrayed as bumbling, incompetent, weak, distant, ineffective, the list goes on. Where there are exceptions men are portrayed as evil, destructive, violent, dishonest or depraved. There are very few images of men in our media that portray them as successful, equal, honest, capable, leaders.

    Every area of culture has been reworked in the feminist era to reflect the power of women and the failure of men. Even our reproductive politics reflect this new reality. So often the debate over Roe v. Wade continues along the narrowly defined paths of either religious morality or secular concepts of individual rights. Seldom do you find anyone willing to address the broader gender and cultural implications of the law. The :”right” to terminate a pregnancy that we now hold as absolute in the woman is fraught with cultural dangers to both men and women. No women ever got pregnant alone, but we have decided that she alone must bear the responsibility for determining the fate of the fetus. In this one way we have separated men in our culture from their responsibilities for the child created and decreased the cultural ties between fathers and children.

    Critics will immediately say that “dead beat dads” are part of the reason why women need this right and should be able to make the decision on their own. I respectfully suggest that making the women the sole decision maker in this process increases the likelihood that men will take no responsibility for the children they father. After all, it was not their decision to have a child so why should it matter that the child was born. The woman made the decision on her own and she must now bear the consequences alone. While this goes against everything I believe, it is the unavoidable (although I submit unintended) outcome of the policies we now hold sacred.

    I don’t expect my view on this to be well received. On the contrary, I expect to be flamed and attacked. How I could possibly be right in this when my logic flies in the face of all the modern and especially feminist ideas of individual rights and gender equality. It’s OK I’ve been flamed before I will certainly be flamed in the future. But as you sit down to attack my idea, ask yourself this question. How will we create men who matter in the future if we continue to build a culture that denies their responsibility and accountability in the most basic areas of human existence?

    There is so much more to this that I believe we should be discussing, We should be attacking the culture of unrestrained violence in the media. We should be tearing down the incredibly destructive false premises of multiculturalism that leave us with no core values upon which to base our moral decision making. We should be working together to wrest our core institutions from the grip of intellectual liberalism that continues to diminish the capacity and the will of our young people to produce and create success for themselves. We should be attacking the culture of “self” and working to rebuild the culture of “us.”

    • As moderator, I hereby proclaim DO NOT FLAME THIS GUY, or I shall give you the title of FLAMEDOUCHE EXTRAORDINAIRE.

    • Kevin, may I make an inquiry as to your framework of the culture of “self” versus “us?”

      Is “intellectual liberalism”really the sole banner-carrier of the individual? If you’re referring to liberalism in the 18th century sense, yes, it was the intellectual movement responsible for asking for justice of the individual over the needs of the monarchy and church.

      But in the modern U.S. political sense, aren’t liberals regularly involved in framing questions around collective well-being? And isn’t the conservative movement more typically found talking about the individual? You can’t swing a dead cat at a GOP meeting without hitting someone who will tell you all about Ayn Rand and the rugged individual.

      From my point of view, it’s today’s conservatives who go into fits if you tell them about a plan to improve collective outcomes for “us,” using our collective will, aka “government.”

      So how is liberalism the promoter of the individual over the collective?

  • Jordy

    Eric, I’ve been following your blog regularly since the big election post. I love your writing, and it seems to put into words how I feel about a lot of subjects. This post in particular spoke to me, as I spend a lot of thought and energy on gender and deconstructing it. I feel like I’m one of the few fortunate ones — I was raised by someone who didn’t enforce gender binaries, encouraged my brothers and me to be our own individuals, and taught us to find our own “masculinity.” Despite this, it was very difficult for me to come to terms with my own bisexuality and femininity (in the traditional sense) and not be brainwashed by the same cultural ideas you discuss above, relating to work, heroes, etc. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for men who “are sick” because of the influence of this culture to wrestle with the many facets of life and gender and still be true to themselves. Thanks for posting about this, and thanks for once again making sense in a world where people rarely do.

  • One issue not mentioned is the continued expectation that males make more and be able to “provide” despite this image being equally archaic to the apple pie and poodle skirt images of the 1950’s housewives. Even the youngest and most liberated of women still expect this, though the avenues to do this are fewer and fewer, but men are still thought as unworthy for not bringing that to the table. Then people wonder why they call generation Y the “lost generation”.

  • I agree with you 100%. When I was a kid. my hero was batman. I first saw the film when I was 4. It was the 1989 one with Michael Keaton. But somewhere along the way I lost touch with that hero and that image of masculine heroism. Even saying the word masculine brings up images for me of selfish sexual perversion. That’s what society has said we are. BUT I AM VERY ANGRY, EVEN RAGEFUL AT TIMES. I’M MAD AT WHOMEVER MADE ME LIKE THIS. I’M LOOKING FOR A FIGHT. I’M LOOKING FOR BLOOD. BUT I AM NOT ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO WOULD SHOOT UP INNOCENT PEOPLE. I WOULD NEVER DO ANYTHING THAT WOULD HARM ANOTHER HUMAN BEING. BUT IN A WAY, I AM A LION WHO HAS BEEN LOCKED IN A CAGE FOR A VERY LONG TIME. SO YOU CAN SEE WHY I AND MANY OF US MEN ARE VERY ANGRY.

    BUT AT THE SAME TIME I FEEL WEAK, AND CONTROLLED. AND I’VE FELT A CERTAIN RESENTFULNESS TOWARDS WOMEN IN MY LIFE WHO PLAYED THE MOTHER FIGURE. I FEEL AS THOUGH THEY ARE KEEPING ME UNDER CONTROL. BUT AT THE SAFE TIME SAFE AND PROTECTED. AFTER I LIVE IN MY STEP MOM’S HOUSE, DON’T HAVE A GOOD JOB. JUST UP AND WALKING OUT SOUNDS ILLOGICAL.BUT I WANT TO BE FREE FROM ANY FORM OF SUBJIGATION OVER MY SOUL. PERHAPS I SHOULD LEAVE MY HOUSE, MY JOB, SCHOOL, AND GO OFF TO WHO KNOWS WHERE. WHERE THE RULE shackles of family and society don’t exist.

    • LettuceFuq

      Damn that was powerful, dude. A lot of men out there including myself know how you feel. You should be mad as hell about this.

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