Kaleb Blake wades through “essentialist crap” on masculinity in The New York Times’ new roundtable discussion.
I stumbled upon a series of articles on the New York Times today titled, “Room for Debate: Are Modern Men Manly Enough?,” which included eight debaters—multiple genders—who weighed in on the debate. Upon reading this title I took a deep sigh to prepare myself for the same “You don’t know what it means to be a real man” essentialist crap.
To spark this debate, the author of the article poses the question: “But is all this exfoliated, chiseled perfection what women really want? And should men really be making it a priority?”
Needless to say, the problem arose before the debate took place. As many of us would presume, male-grooming and “metrosexuality” would of course play a part in this debate—but for women? Are we really going to start this debate under the assumption that masculinity is defined by what “women really want”? A huge heteronormative step backwards if you ask me.
Being the staunch Mad Men fan that I am, I was immediately pulled to the Joel Stein’s two-cents, titled “Rediscover the Don Draper Within.” “Your dad was manlier than you,” he proclaims, “His dad was manlier than him. And so on, for all of history back to the Stone Age.” Sure, Mr. Stein, as the species lives longer, its men become less manly.
Stein believes that feminism and the Enlightenment are to blame for our loss of “self-reliance” and “ability to protect”—which apparently is at the very core of our “manliness.” He believes his feminist mother messed him up in teaching him that “gender was a construct.” He believes that all in these quests for higher knowledge, we’ve become nerds, and we all know “being a nerd will never get you any action.”
We must look back in time at men like Don Draper who “ripped off his shirt like Superman” to fix a busted pipe in order to rediscover our masculinity. Men like me, who would inclined to call for service instead of feigning plumbing savvy for the sake of my penis, are in dire crisis that can only be solved by “fixing our own toilets, exercising outside at 6 a.m., and hunting the meat that we cowardly eat from far crueler factory farms.”
I do not subscribe.
Thank Adam for Mark Simpson’s answer, titled “We Need Nuance, Not Lumberjacks,” in which he asks: “If women won’t be women for men anymore, why on earth should men be men for women?” Amen, brotha, for is this not what sites like The Good Men Project are about—men establishing a deeper understanding of masculinity through our own subjectivity—our stories?
Simpson argues that while men have progressively treaded towards metrosexuality, cooking, child-minding, sensitivity and sensuality—so what? What is the alternative, a dated “manliness” that was “largely about repression. And homophobia”? I think not.
And then there are those like Natasha Scripture, who are asking “Where are the Meat and Potato Men?” Of course Scripture does not represent all women, but when the issue of men and masculinity arises, she clearly represents a collective that paints men as “rugged,” “strong,” and “potent” … “The kind of guy who can build you a log cabin on a whim with his own bare, callused hands.” I mean honestly, who are these people—Alcide from True Blood? Don’t we wish.
In sum, it is completely ridiculous to assume that masculinity was at its prime in the Stone Age and that any intellectual curiosity we might have will seal our daunting fate known as the “man-crisis”. Sorry Joel Stein. As for Natasha Scripture and other women-debaters on the topic, like Loni Love who suggests that each man “take [their] shower, slap on some Old Spice and get on with [their] day,” it is 100% okay for the ladies to look for their very own Paul Bunyan; to each her own. But don’t be surprised when you find yourself lost in the big city wondering where all the “good men” are.
I’m going to have to stand with Simpson on this one: “Men aren’t the new women. Men are the new everything. Just as women have been for some time. Stop worrying and get over it.” It appears that, despite popular belief, we seem to be quite manly enough for the modern world—what are others thinking?
Read more on The End of Gender.
—Photo credit: Plutor/Flickr