Masculinity links and thoughts

Fighting is so manly– this reminds me if some of the cultural narratives that lead to WWI. It was a war that was caused by a flimsy excuse, because the men in power at the time (most notably Willie II) were feeling emasculated by the peace they had been born into. And the same urge to become a “man” was visible in many of the young men who were also itching for a war to fight in. And even abroad, as far as the US, young men were itching to join the war-effort to become “men”. because according to the cultural narrative, that’s what being a soldier did: making men out of boys. Interestingly, this is a form of toxic masculinity that has been dying in many places, even to some degree in the US (though the narratives of how joining the military will make you a better “person” are still very much present). Unfortunately though, in some ways, the narrative still exists. Wilhelm II of Germany started a war to prove his manliness. And so did George II of America, since it’s very hard to interpret the Afghanistan war and especially the Iraq war as anything other than posturing to not look weak “in the face of terrorism”.

The Boy Code — this one made me think of the “be stupid” Diesel Jeans campaign. I’ve written before about how there’s always been a conflict in the Patriarchy about where educated men stand in the Manly Man competition, but it was always a conflict tempered by the fact that women weren’t allowed in higher education, thus at least making being highly educated a masculine domain. Now that women are all over higher education, and slowly gaining more ground even in the most masculine disciplines, being smart and educated has lost the battle to the “Wolverine” kind of masculinity completely. being stupid and aggressive and impulsive and perpetually angry is now the only way to be a Real Man. But the MRA’s still insist that it’s the feminists’ fault that boys now fall behind in many academic subjects.

Oh yeah, and also reminds me of a line from the movie Gran Torino, in which the actress playing a young Hmong woman says something along the lines of “our girls go to college, our boys go to jail”.

Colbert on telling candidates to “man up” — no comment on this one; just an apology to my non-american readers since IIRC Comedy Central can’t be watched without an American proxy.

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22 comments on “Masculinity links and thoughts

  1. David Marjanović says:

    IIRC Comedy Central can’t be watched without an American proxy

    You’re wrong! The video is (slowly) streaming right now. :-) :-) :-)

    Also, “March to Keep Fear Alive”? Colbert for president in 2012. I mean it.

  2. David Marjanović says:

    Watching Colbert teaches me a lot about my intercostal muscles (the ones between the ribs). :-D

    being stupid and aggressive and impulsive and perpetually angry is now the only way to be a Real Man.

    There’s a word for that ideology: fascism.

  3. Paul says:

    There’s a word for that ideology: fascism.

    I must admit that I’m not a fan of the modern tendency to describe anything one doesn’t like as fascism. I know you’re more nuanced and probably have your tongue at least partially in cheek, but just wanted to point out that that’s not quite right. Also, I feel bad when you’re the only one responding to a post =P.

    Interesting links.

  4. David Marjanović says:

    I’m not even slightly joking. Fascism glorifies action for its own sake; the (male, duh) hero in fascism is “aggressive and impulsive and perpetually angry”. While “stupid” could be an exaggeration, fascism very explicitly prefers action over thinking and is heavily anti-intellectualistic.

  5. Paul says:

    fascism very explicitly prefers action over thinking and is heavily anti-intellectualistic.

    I don’t deny that they tend to go together, but one can have glorification of aggression and such hallmarks of Toxic Masculinity outside of a fascist system. I don’t think it’s helpful to call fascism because there is pressure for men to be aggressive and impulsive, because such pressures have existed outside fascist systems and doing such makes it too easy to treat it as something that bad fascists do, instead of realizing it is something that can pop up in other systems as well.

  6. johannes says:

    It was a war that was caused by a flimsy excuse, because the men in power at the time (most notably Willie II) were feeling emasculated by the peace they had been born into. And the same urge to become a “man” was visible in many of the young men who were also itching for a war to fight in.

    It’s true that, around the year 1900, many cultural movements – Decadence, Futurism*, Vorticism etc – considered the modern world to be overly effeminate and materialistic, and were hoping that a war would restore heroism and manliness. Wether such fin-de-siecle feelings did influence those who held actual political and military power, or were restricted to artists and intellectuals, and the middle class kids who read their books, is another matter**. Members of the general staff probably preferred Lieutenants who read drill manuals to those who read Weininger – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_Weininger – or d’Annunzio, and Wilhelm II wouldn’t have touched what he once called “gutter art” with a ten foot pole. I think the causality is the other way around: It wasn’t proto-Fascism as a form of rebellion against the effeminized modern world that caused WWI, but it was the upheaval caused by the war which made it possible for people like Sorel’s disciple Mussolini to aquire a mass following and break into the mainstream.
    BTW, the idea that there were no conventional wars*** between 1871 and 1914 is somewhat eurocentric, Italy and Russia were traumatically defeated by Abyssinia and Japan, respectively, and the British empire’s phyrric victory against the Boors was almost as traumatic.

    I don’t think it’s helpful to call fascism because there is pressure for men to be aggressive and impulsive, because such pressures have existed outside fascist systems and doing such makes it too easy to treat it as something that bad fascists do, instead of realizing it is something that can pop up in other systems as well.

    While most, if not all cultures consider successful warriors heroes, and such men need to be aggressive – if not necessarily impulsive, most concepts of masculinity include some degree of self-control – the agression is usually a means, not an end. Men fight for wealth, glory, to protect their community, etc. In Fascism, however, being aggressive and impulsive is considered an end in its own right.

    ¡Muera la inteligencia! ¡Viva la Muerte!(Death to intelligence! Long live death!) José Millán-Astray y Terreros, 1936

    * real man don’t eat pasta:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurist_meals :-D
    ** the working classes were pretty immune against fin-de-siecle thought, too. My great-grandfather did not join the army because of Langbehn’s woo, but because the Socialist party told him to defend old age pensions and indoor plumbing gainst the czar
    ***of course there were countless counter-insurgency operations in the colonies

  7. johannes says:

    * real man don’t eat pasta: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurist_meals :-D

  8. strange gods before me says:

    need more mothers and big sisters taking little girls to the firing range

  9. David Marjanović says:

    need more mothers and big sisters taking little girls to the firing range

    Already happens. YouTube is chock full of videos that show entire families having fun blasting stuff.

  10. Martin says:

    Comment by strange gods before me

    Wait, what ?? SGBM here ? Hey mate, hope all is well with you, I missed you !!

  11. strange gods before me says:

    Comment probably went to spam, so I’m delinking it.

    “Already happens. YouTube is chock full of videos that show entire families having fun blasting stuff.”

    There’s a selection bias on Youtube, of the exception-proves-the-rule sort. Randomly dropping into a firing range, you will see far more men and boys. Unusual sights end up on Youtube.

    But on second thought, “more mothers and big sisters taking little girls” won’t do enough to change the perception that gunplay is by default a masculine activity. For that it’ll take more mothers, sisters and aunts taking little boys to the range.

    “Wait, what ?? SGBM here ? Hey mate, hope all is well with you, I missed you !!”

    I’m good. You’ll see more of me. I did drop in once.

    scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/11/the_molly_that_truthmachine_wi.php#comment-2907298

  12. Jadehawk says:

    yes, your comment went into spamfolder. you were in interesting company there, between an ad for an escort service and M*bus. Since it’s almost identical to the comment you posted, I deleted it. No reason for hiccups, right? :-)

  13. Martin says:

    So unbeknownst to me SGBM recommends me for a Molly, and then he goes on to spam my blog today and calls me all sorts of things.I’ll never understand that guy….

  14. David Marjanović says:

    For that it’ll take more mothers, sisters and aunts taking little boys to the range.

    Agreed.

    Speaking of spam, I got interesting spam today among all the megabucks and corpses: “Re: Muhammad was not a prophet, but a cult leader.REPENT. Reject 666″Rev-13-8-18.“, a long letter explaining why everyone should, like the author, convert from Islam to Christianity because Islam is evil, wrong, and evil. Addressed to the author himself; the rest of the world must be in bcc — it really is spam, it’s not addressed to anyone in particular. Supported by lots of Qur’an quotes and a few New Testament quotes. Funny how the violence in the Old Testament, which surpasses that in the Qur’an, is completely glossed over.

    I should actually blog about it. But before I start a blog, I ought to apply for a Humboldt grant* and, well, write two papers. :-( And catch up with the endless thread…

    * Unless I get that job in Chicago. But they almost certainly haven’t made a decision yet, and they’ll only contact me if I get into the next round.

  15. David Marjanović says:

    Back to the original post:

    And so did George II of America

    Hmmm… that one was about the price of oil. Counting Washington as George I, you’re thinking of George II’s son, the one that has been called King George III (chillingly enough).

  16. Paul says:

    Oh hey, Walton got a Molly? Not surprising, I guess, now that I think about it. Alas, I’ll have to settle for just having been threatened with banning, I’m too irritated at the number of people on Pharyngula that have 90% of their responses pre-planned before even reading the comments they’re replying to. Some great people there, but the ratio started sucking several months back. Plus it’s a time sink, anyway…

    Nice to see sgbm, though. I’ll follow David’s lead and go back to the original post:

    And so did George II of America, since it’s very hard to interpret the Afghanistan war and especially the Iraq war as anything other than posturing to not look weak “in the face of terrorism”.

    I think that’s giving too much credit. King George III might have seen it that way, but they were most definitely calculated actions to make certain people very rich. You do them a favor to frame it as mere dick-waving. That said, certain people are manipulating the American propensity to establish dominance to become rich (which plays into the narrative you describe), but the hand behind the action is doing it for money and power.

    The only reason it’s “very hard” to interpret the wars as anything but posturing to look strong is because most people have difficulty wrapping their heads around the idea that people with significant power in government are wholly corrupt (which is odd, with how many “anti-government” types there are out there). It’s much easier to imagine people who are simply full of nationalistic hubris, rather than people who are willing to destroy countries to line their pockets.

  17. Paul says:

    A small addition to something I said. Re-reading my post:

    most people have difficulty wrapping their heads around the idea that some people with significant power in government are wholly corrupt

    I think it goes without saying, but then nobody on the ‘net really “knows” me (and I’ve seen people who will say that everyone in government is corrupt, etc), so I thought I should make my intent clear lest you all picture me with a fine tinfoil cap.

  18. strange gods before me says:

    “So unbeknownst to me SGBM recommends me for a Molly, and then he goes on to spam my blog today”

    That’s just my way of saying hello.

    “and calls me all sorts of things.I’ll never understand that guy….”

    The reader will note that I never called *you* anything at all. furiouspurpose.me/2010/12/04/the-silence-of-the-moderates/

    I called your statement bigoted.

    And I have further elucidated on my reasons for characterizing your statement as such, so that you may come to understand the issue, in the comment which you are currently holding in moderation hell.

    I don’t see what’s all that hard to understand. I praise you when you say something praiseworthy, and I criticize your words when they’re bigoted as all get out.

    Do let me know if you’re going to release my recent comment from moderation hell or not.

  19. strange gods before me says:

    As Paul does not have a blog to spam, I’ll have to settle for a *wave*. Hi, Paul

  20. David Marjanović says:

    90% of their responses pre-planned

    I’ve been noticing for years that most people try to classify people; as soon as they think they’ve found out what category one belongs to, they reply to that category instead of to the specific person (let alone the actual argument). The extreme is Nerd of Redhead, who has told maybe 5 people (minimum) to put evidence for their god on the table before they had a chance to declare themselves atheists.

    Of course, most of these people can also be fairly quickly convinced that they were were wrong, but that’s still 5 or 10 comments later.

    The recent drama between Ol’Greg and SC is an extreme example. They keep failing to understand each other, because they’re both very unlike anybody else on the planet, and therefore they keep talking past each other and getting upset about it. (And no, I haven’t understood either of them well enough either. Because they don’t belong to any category, any attempt to understand them has to start from scratch, and that takes more than two years on a blog.)

    some people with significant power in government are wholly corrupt

    Fearless Flightsuit’s motives for the Iraq war: wanting to be a war president, plus religion fed to him by his handlers.

    Richard the Lying-Hearted’s motive: Halliburton.

  21. David Marjanović says:

    Because they don’t belong to any category, any attempt to understand them has to start from scratch

    It’s like learning Chinese: you can’t cheat by using cognates. Even the negations don’t start with n.

  22. Paul says:

    The recent drama between Ol’Greg and SC is an extreme example.

    Recent? I have no sympathy there. They’ve had flare ups of the exact same type several times already due to jumping to conclusions. I’m crazy about both of them individually, but get them together and it’s just silly.

    For myself, I got tired of NoR even when I’d agree with him on the facts, as well as a couple other posters that would kneejerk attack me ever since PZ threatened to ban me for not getting along with his daughter. I was treated like a troll, even though I never participated in any such activity.

    It’s like learning Chinese: you can’t cheat by using cognates. Even the negations don’t start with n.

    That’s one reason Japanese is fun. True, their negations don’t start with n either, but they sure have a good amount of English loan-words incorporated into anything that’s not ancient literature. While the language itself is interesting on its won merits, it is nice to every once and awhile catch that “hey, pasokon comes from personal computer. neat!”

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