Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?

In a world of movie-star masculinity, Josh Bowman wonders how to reconcile what he thinks is “manly” with the man he truly is.

I can see myself standing in the middle of the town, like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, or countless other Western cowboy archetypes. My calloused hands rest loosely on the mother-of-pearl Smith and Wesson revolver handles, jutting out rebelliously from my snake leather belt. I’m squinting like Eastwood does, to block out the noonday sun. My skin is dark and tanned. I’m chewing on a toothpick. I’ve been wronged, and there’s only one way to settle the score. It’s him or me, and it sure as heck ain’t gonna be me. We draw. I fire first, one hand pulling the trigger, the other hand working the hammer. The dust swirls up around me, as my opponent falls to the ground. I tip my hat and slowly saunter away. I’m a real bad ass, and nobody messes with me.

There is something to be said for ‘Masculinity’ (with a capital ‘M’). It’s dirty, sweaty, tough, honest. As we enter another Hollywood blockbuster season, where tough leading men will formulaic-ly beat the crap out of aliens, monsters, and other assorted baddies, I can’t help but be reflective and a bit jealous. You see, I’m a young, white collar, politically liberal, pro-feminist, university educated man. I have sensitive skin, and work in theatre. I have lots of emotions, I joke around, and I suck at confrontation. I haven’t been in a physical fight since elementary school, really (I’ve been close from time to time, but I’ve cleverly and diplomatically avoided fighting for most of my life).

The thing is, I rightly or wrongly associate hyper-masculine men with all kinds of values and beliefs that I find politically and socially abhorrent: misogyny, homophobia, conservative politics (or no political beliefs at all), being mean jocks, and liking Nickleback. I’m also kind of afraid to get into a fight. I have no interest in being stabbed, shot, or beaten to a pulp over somebody stepping on my shoes or being rude on a streetcar. At its worst, I see hyper-masculinity leading to near psychopathic behaviour. Then again…

I’m often deeply jealous of those guys who seem so at ease with their identities as men. So comfortable punching each other on the arm, yelling in public, burping, farting, and generally being morons. I find it very difficult, as a left-of-centre softie, to justify my desire to become just a bit more Cro-Magnon; get drunk, fist-fight a guy in a downtown parking lot, and then go home and have rough sex with my woman.

I want to be a ‘good man’, a man who respects women and gays and lesbians and people of all shapes and sizes. But sometimes, I also want to be Will Munny or John McClane. How do you do both?

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About Josh Bowman

Josh Bowman is a professional fundraiser, story-teller, comedian, and blogger. He has worked and consulted in Vancouver, New York, and now Toronto for almost a decade. Josh improvises around Toronto, including regular shows with Opening Night Theatre, and also blogs for the Huffington Post. You can email Josh or follow him on Twitter. If you want to submit a guestpost or know more about Josh, check this post and this post out first.

Comments

  1. Jamie Reidy says:

    Dude, that “Rock Star” song is awesome! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRM2XgfSybI

  2. Here’s what I wrote on my blog a few minutes ago:

    In a poignant post, Josh Bowman reveals his deep ambivalence — love, jealousy, judmgnet — towards Masculinity.

    He titles his post, “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?” leading me to wonder if he ever really understood the cowboy archetype. I find myself identifying very much with his perspective. Men, the son of a farmer and macho blue collar man in a small Western town, discovering myself to be sensitive, artistic, and school-loving.

    But I see no contradiction between healthy masculinity and reclaiming the cowboy archetype. There are good cowboys and bad cowboys, but Bowman seems to think they are all bad-ass gunslingers. The good cowboys are good men, noble, honorable, and only show force when it’s absolutely necessary to protect the good.

    • Amen, the cowboys that Gary Cooper and John Wayne, even Clint Eastwoon portrayed were only ‘Badasses’ with the ‘Bad Guys’. They treated women with the upmost respect and lived by a really very strict ‘moral code’. And while none of us growing up watching these movie chracters were going to strap on ‘Shootin’ Irons” and go slay the bad guys, I think they helped show young men some of the ways to perhaps be a ‘Good Man’.

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  1. [...] Read the rest of this week’s post here Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  2. [...] an interesting post by one of my favorite bloggers, a fellow Torontonian named Josh Bowman, about his struggle to [...]

  3. [...] Read the rest of this week’s post here /* Filed Under: Ten Things I've Learned, Uncategorized Tagged With: Bruce Willis, Clint Eastewood, die hard, hollywood, masculinity, Men's Issues, Unforgiven, Will Munney, Yippee-ki-yay-motherfucker About Josh BowmanJosh Bowman is a professional fundraiser, story-teller, comedian, and blogger. He has worked and consulted in Vancouver, New York, and now Toronto for almost a decade. [...]

  4. [...] Read the rest of this week’s post here /* Filed Under: Ten Things I've Learned Tagged With: Bruce Willis, Clint Eastewood, die hard, hollywood, masculinity, Men's Issues, Unforgiven, Will Munney, Yippee-ki-yay-motherfucker About Josh BowmanJosh Bowman is a professional fundraiser, story-teller, comedian, and blogger. He has worked and consulted in Vancouver, New York, and now Toronto for almost a decade. [...]

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