Aaron Gordon isn’t sure what the modern man is, but he knows it’s not Roger Goodell.
This piece is part of a special series on the End of Gender. This series includes bloggers from Role/Reboot, Good Men Project, The Huffington Post, Salon, HyperVocal, Ms. Magazine, YourTango, Psycholog
To completely plagiarize the introductory paragraph of Tom Ley’s excellent piece, a lot of writers will be capably discussing the various issues raised by Hanna Rosin in her essay entitled “The End of Men.”
I am not one of these writers.
I know nothing about gender issues. I watch way too much sports, read a lot of economics journals, and write for the Good Men Project about where those two intersect. There aren’t a lot of discussions about gender in either topic. So when I was told this week was the “End of Gender” Week at GMP, I had no idea what I was going to write about. Here’s a quick glimpse into my thoughts on the subject:
I need to write about gender. In order to write about it, I kind of need to know what it is. Maybe I should read the article Ryan linked to about it, by that Hanna person. Wait, but we are arguing with it, so I probably shouldn’t reference it for a definition of gender. What is gender? I’m pretty sure it goes beyond simple anatomy, but shit if I know more than that. And why is it ending?
So if you’re looking for a really insightful, expert opinion on gender, this is not the article. But, most people aren’t insightful or experts regarding gender. It’s a difficult topic, exponentially more so than sports. So this is an exercise in encountering the concept of 21st century gender roles from a man who spends vastly more time on Football Outsiders than interacting with women (they still exist, right?).
If I don’t know anything about gender, where should I start? Well, Rosin’s article was about the end of the traditional male gender role or something. So who do I think embodies the traditional male gender role? That’s easy, it’s Roger Goodell.
When I think of the traditional male, he’s the breadwinner, the patriarch who delegates tasks to the various members of his family. He’s very survivalist in nature, like if a strict structure wasn’t upheld, the family risked starvation. He’s the man who works all day, comes home, wants dinner from his wife on the table, but she better not say anything too confrontational. The buck stops with him. He’s essentially Chris Cooper’s character from American Beauty, minus the weird homophobic/homsexual dynamic and abusiveness. This is a stereotype, but it’s what comes to mind when I think of the “traditional male.”
This is how Roger Goodell runs the NFL. He requires all league decisions be run through him, and acts as if any dissent within league operations could jeopardize the organization to its very core. He’s the judge, jury and appeals court for any personal conduct violations. He seemingly lacks any personality to speak of whatsoever, which adds to his image as a disembodied figurehead of a sports league. Sometimes, it’s easier to believe he’s a robot created by the NFL than an actual human being.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence Roger Goodell is hated by a vast majority of NFL fans because of these very traits. After all, the 18-49 male is the major demographic of the NFL. The NFL is the sport of the “modern man,” whoever he is. So is Hanna Rosin right? Is this the end of men?
Sure, it might be true that men are becoming less “dominant” (to use Rosin’s term), but just because the modern man is different than the traditional male role doesn’t mean this is the end of men. It might be the end of the Roger Goodell-type man, who is instructed to express no emotion, expects to reign over a family or company with unquestioning power, and has no trace of individuality or personality.
But that’s fucking awesome.
Sometimes we lose sight of this, but overall, right now is the single best time to be a human being than any other time in history. I’m not just saying this because we have iPads and cell phones and the Internet—although from a purely Darwinian perspective, I question my ability to survive without the Internet—but because more people are freer than ever before. It took the human race an unfathomably long time to give equal rights to most people on the planet. We aren’t completely there, but taking an historical perspective, we’re damned close.
This includes sexes as well. Women have had equal rights to men for only about .07 percent of mankind’s existence. That’s mind boggling, that’s insanity, and it seems completely ludicrous it took that long. The end of this traditional “male” role is an incredibly good thing. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left for men to do.
For all Roger Goodell represents, he’s weak. He’s the owner’s puppet, a figurehead. (I might even go as far to say he compensates for his lack of influence with the owners by asserting undue influence on issues like player suspensions.) The commissioner used to be elected by owners in order to have the best interests of the entire league—owners, players, and fans—at heart, not just the owners. Roger Goodell exemplifies none of the traits associated with neutrality. He’s essentially a lobbyist.
I don’t know what the modern man is, but I know what it isn’t. I know when millions of other men like me analyze the actions of a single person so closely and virtually unanimously conclude he is not like us, he does not represent me, this carries more significance than what any single writer could say.
I don’t know what gender is, or what a “man” is (even if Miller Lite does). But I know who I am, I know how I want to act, and I don’t want those things dictated by anyone else. That’s my version of the modern man. What’s yours?