Friday, May 04, 2007

More on A Man's Field

The title is a reference to yesterday's post on this topic. The Los Angeles Times has an opinion piece with much the same thesis as mine: that much of the discussion about haircuts and wind-surfing (Edwards and Kerry, respectively) has to do with the fear and loathing of femininity which is seen as weakness. Coincidentally, I read a comment somewhere last night where the writer accused the Democrats of pussyism and said that they might as well just spread their legs.

Back to the LA Times opinion piece:

George W. Bush learned an unforgettable lesson about the anxious nature of American masculinity when Newsweek branded his father a "wimp," a perception Bush 41 never really overcame. The resolve never to look like a wimp is the key to Dubya's psychology: the you-talkin'-to-me pugnacity at news conferences; the Top Gun posturing on the aircraft carrier, in a crotch-gripping flight suit that moved G. Gordon Liddy to swoon — on "Hardball," for Freud's sake — "what a stud."

Doesn't all this machismo and locker-room homophobia protest a little too much? What can we say about a country so anxiously hypermasculine that it produces Godmen, a muscular-Christianity movement that seeks to lure Real Men back to church with services that feature guys bending metal wrenches with their bare hands and leaders exulting, "Thank you, Lord, for our testosterone!"

The trouble with manhood, American-style, is that it's maintained by frantically repressing every man's feminine side and demonizing the feminine and the gay wherever we see them. In his book, "The Wimp Factor: Gender Gaps, Holy Wars, and the Politics of Anxious Masculinity," clinical psychologist Stephen Ducat calls this state of mind "femiphobia" — a pathological masculinity founded on the subconscious belief that "the most important thing about being a man is not being a woman."

Praising the Lord for testosterone is so old hat. The Orthodox Jews have had a prayer about that for a long time. But I agree with the argument that being a "man" is often defined as not being a "woman". In the usual flow of events this ends up meaning that every good attribute will be assigned to the male category and every not-so-good attribute will be assigned to the female category by those who worry about their own masculinity. Nothing is left over for the "human being" category.

This a false duality. It is as if we take the sexual organs of men and women, see that they have opposite uses and then decide that everything about men and women should have opposite uses. Hence "the opposite sex" term can annoy me, too. If it was used logically a man walking upright would require a woman crawling only horizontally and so on.

The emotional costs of this false duality are obvious for women. We can witness a public struggle among politicians to prove that they are not at all like us and therefore worthy to lead.