Tom Matlack wants to clarify that ‘The New Macho’ isn’t just for men.
My piece on “The New Macho” among men has received, as usual, mixed reviews. To be clear I wasn’t so much trying to put down women as to point out how men and women are different to say that men are not quite as bad as we have been made out to be. That it is possible to be macho and good at the same time. But to do that we have to rethink what it means to be a man and to be macho. And to focus on the best of the best among our gender rather the dismal statistics about how we are falling apart.
Some female readers took particular offense—despite my clearly saying that the new macho, which includes an aggressive moral compass and a willingness to take risk, a big tent that can certainly include women—that I underestimated the entrepreneurial contributions of women when talking about the likes of Facebook and Apple.
Arlen said, “Dorothy Hodgkin. Discovered penicillin, insulin, b12. Got a Nobel Prize for it, too.” And Amber said, “I seriously just want to add that a woman invented kevlar, the metal that protects the soldiers fighting our wars.”
Just to clear up any confusion, I wasn’t passing comment one way or the other on the relative importance of women in history. What I was commenting on was their relative macho-ness. Kevlar and Penicillin are in fact incredibly important discoveries. But I was speaking about building huge companies from scratch, and the willingness to risk it all over and over again like Steve Jobs did when the whole world literally thought he was insane and wrong.
Nevertheless, perhaps I should have spent more time talking about women that I do think are macho, though the piece was really about encouraging men. I have a passion for writing about both men and women who show the kind of guts that is the key to being macho. Here are some ladies that I have written about in the past that surely qualify and should inspire us all no matter what your gender.
The best female rower in American history, and one of the most courageous athletes I have ever interviewed, is Michelle Guerrette. She rowed the single in the Olympics against the reigning world champion from Belarus twice her size and managed to beat her in a heroic come from behind victory. She’s a freak of nature physically but also for her amazing pose under extreme pressure.
For a time I wrote extensively on the leaders of the revolution in stem cell science. There are a group of three amazingly young and brilliant Boston-area researchers who quite literally have the chance to change the face of medicine. They have done things like take skin cells, turn them back into stem cells, and then transform that very same cell into a beating heart cell. One of the three scientists is an amazingly tough (she often publishes articles that rip apart her peers’ work if she thinks they are wrong) and smart woman named Amy Wagers. Here is my story about her.
Then if you want to talk about writers (one commenter said that it was Stephen King’s wife Tabitha who really should get the credit for Carrie because she dug it out of the trash) I would say my great aunt Pearl Buck has some pretty major balls. She grew up an American girl trying to uncover the bones of little Chinese girls killed because of their gender and tell the world about it. This piece is a discovery of just how inspiring my ancestor was through the eyes of a recent biographer.
So the new macho is in fact a big tent. There are women who are already members of the club. We just need more. Just like we need to see the men who are already macho and doing good for what they are and to encourage our boys to think outside the box.
Also: “The New Macho” by Tom Matlack
—Photo from “The Row Warrior” by Tom Matlack with permission