“If you’re reading this then you—or the male you have bought it for—are the worst man in history.”
So begins Peter McAllister’s new book “Manthropology: The Science of Why the Modern Male Is Not the Man He Used to Be.” It’s yet another analysis of why today’s man is less of a man than ever—granted, this time delivered with more wit and less doom and gloom.
But McAllister’s argument is rooted in the bluntly physical (which we have our doubts about). We’ve boiled down the essential points for your consideration after the jump.
Men today couldn’t beat a Neanderthal woman in an arm wrestle.
Australian Aboriginal men could have easily beat last year’s record-setting Olympic champion, Usain Bolt, if they’d had the same shoe technology. McAllister, in an interview with Salon:
The Greek trireme rowers could do feats that can’t be duplicated by modern rowers. Our bones are about 40 percent less mass than the bones of Homo erectus, but genetically ours are not that different. It’s just that we don’t get put under that kind of pressure.
There are some interesting statistics there about how hard people could work during the Industrial Revolution—these rather small, malnourished men were able to wield these incredibly heavy sledgehammers all day, and the same phenomenon still applies to Nepalese hill porters. These little guys of about 55 kilos carry 90 kilo weights for about 75 miles over a period of days.
We don’t haze people much these days.
[Hazing] seems to be a very deep, masculine thing. I think it relates to human societies being so patrilineally based. And incidentally, we could argue that’s largely why there’s malaise among men these days, because we’re naturally so geared to being a part of a band of brothers. I’m not arguing, at all, in favor of hazing. I’m just pointing out that it does seem to have a very strong resonance within the heart of masculinity.
Muscularity is being genetically weeded out.
McAllister argues that Vikings—arguably one of the most violent society in history—were the most, uh, prolific in their coital exploits. (In short, the meanest, beefiest Vikings were the ones that got the ladies.) In today’s society, however, the genetic wind is blowing in another direction:
Aggressive men go to prison and they go for longer periods of time, and they commit more offenses that keep them in there, which impedes their ability to have a family life and reproduce. And thanks to the rise of reproductive control, like the pill, when women have liaisons with muscular males, it doesn’t have the reproductive consequences that it did. That’s good news for the cuckolded husbands of old, because studies show that they’re often stuck raising the children that result from women’s liaisons with the beefcakes.
Society still idolizes muscle.
Evidence? G.I Joe has been bulking up recently and we’re obsessed with male-saturated sports like hockey.
We Australians pride ourselves on having some of the most violent sports in the world, but we don’t have a sport where it’s actually OK to fight. The one predictor of how good attendance at a hockey match is going to be is the likelihood of having a fight there.
With sports in the past the need to participate was very strong … Some of the early European explorers, when they got to places like North America and Australia, witnessed these incredible contests of athletic strength that were really quite violent. People would die and people would get very seriously injured. But it didn’t matter who won; who participated, the act of being in the sport seemed to be the important thing.
Men: we really are what we eat.
In a nutshell: the discovery of agriculture has led to less diversity in our diets and hence weaker, smaller men. Only in the last century or so after improvements in sanitation and the development of antibiotics and medicine, have we started moving in the other direction.
Understandably, McAllister’s been getting a lot of guff for his arguments. Feminist blog Gender Without Borders started their analysis by calling the book “a stunning example of what happens when you mix science with unquestioned social constructions.” Jezebel notes that the whole premise seems to be based on “some pretty lame gender stereotypes.”
What do you think, readers? Does McAllsiter have a point? Are these physical arguments worth thinking about or is this just another sensationalist trend piece?
You tell us.