Monday, March 20, 2006

The Manly New York Times

It's an odd thing for the Gray Lady to do, this catering to the wingnut men. They must have carried out a marketing study which proves that they make more money by pissing off every single thinking woman if only they can get a few wingnut guys to subscribe. Who am I to argue that this might not be the best strategy to follow? I don't have thymos.

According to David Brooks, thymos is the secret ingredient in men, the thing that makes them tick. Not the puppydogs' tails, after all. Had there ever been a female Freud she might have had her question about what men want answered easily: men want to be recognized:

Let me tell you what men want. Let me tell you why some middle-age men wear the sports jerseys of semiliterate behemoths half their age while others customize their cars with so many speakers they sound like the hip-hop version of the San Francisco earthquake as they roll down the street.

Recognition. Men want others to recognize their significance. They want to feel important and part of something important.

Some people believe men are motivated by greed for money or lust for power. But money and power are means to get recognition. They are markers of success, and success makes men feel important and causes others to pay attention when they walk in the room.

Plato famously divided the soul into three parts: reason, eros (desire) and thymos (the hunger for recognition). Thymos is what motivates the best and worst things men do. It drives them to seek glory and assert themselves aggressively for noble causes. It drives them to rage if others don't recognize their worth. Sometimes it even causes them to kill over a trifle if they feel disrespected.

Brooks is trying to hedge his bets about whether women might want similar things, too. On the one hand, he has just read a really fun and supportive book about Manliness. On the other hand, he wants recognition from women as the kind of guy who might not bash them on the head and drag them back to the cave for some... recognition.

I smell patriarchy in the air at the New York Times. So does Garance Franke-Ruta. Her long piece on the number of women writing on abortion in the Times is depressing reading:

... the officially pro-choice New York Times has hosted a conversation about abortion on its op-ed page that consisted almost entirely of the views of pro-life or abortion-ambivalent men, male scholars of the right, and men with strong, usually Catholic, religious affiliations. In fact, a stunning 83 percent of the pieces appearing on the page that discussed abortion were written by men.

Probably because these men want recognition and women don't.