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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 5 April 2013

The Wussification of American Men and What Tough REALLY Looks Like

I read these two articles in tandem yesterday:
Of course, if you're on the far political right, both authors "don't get it" - they are, to you, enablers of the wussification of men.  Screaming at kids, deriding them as "less manly" (ie, gay as a Spartanbrotherly/paternal love between men) makes them tougher, as does throwing balls at their heads.  People like Mike Rice are tough, aggressive, bombastic - what men are supposed to be.
If the alpha male is so tough, then, why do they seem to need so much protection?  How can they feel so put-upon if their hides are so thick?  In some subsets of Islam, women need to cover themselves to create a wall between them and men, who would otherwise be too tempted by them.  You know, like Oscar Pistorius, tough guy, masculine athlete.  Fellow tough guys like Femi Fani Kayode seem to feel the need to circle the wagons around him, too, defending him from a mean world and telling us that his girlfriend made him kill her
Canada's most infamous boxer, Senator Patrick Brazeau, is another exemplification of alpha-tough; ex-military, powerfully built, likes to trash-talk.  He got beaten by a leaner, more strategic opponent in the ring, got caught behaving unethically in his position and quite likely took to assaulting his girlfriend to subconsciously prove to himself that he could still dominate at something.  When he was recently called out for making a stupid April Fools' joke about stepping down from the Senate (where he has clearly not been working hard enough to earn the people's money), his response was "I played the media" - implying, at least to himself, that he was in control.
Another sporting fella with a reduced on-the-job-energy expenditure is Rob Ford - football coach, tough guy, tough Mayor.  Except that he constantly whines about media criticism and is so wounded by it that he simply refuses to engage them.  I wouldn't expect a tough guy to rely so heavily on 911; maybe he just needs a gun.

If you have a gun, you're to be feared.  You have control over the life and death of others.  Owning a gun makes one feel powerful.  Power and dominance, of course, play a big role in gang culture - as it does in any gun culture, including the one in the States.  What guns don't do is make their wielder tough.  Any scrawny tech-geek can learn to use a gun and with it, take down the burliest of men without getting their hands dirty.  If anything, depending on an external tool like a gun to define one's ability to dominate makes one less tough, not more. 
When I look at the big picture, this is what I see; alpha males like Eric Bolling want a licence to dominate the herd and aren't willing to face criticism.  They call themselves tough, but they're not very resilient.  Indeed, there's a definitive fragility to their egos that seems to require protection from verbal assailants by their fellow alpha peers.
It's as true of tough-minded Political Parties as it is of individuals; they want unquestioned authority to dominate the landscape and have no one challenge them on resource usage.  That's the whole point of being alpha - you swat down any challengers.  Facts don't matter - he who wields the club defines the rules.
There's a bigger trend here, if you look for it - the "wussification of American men" plays out as the emancipation of everyone else.  So, the real issue isn't one of declining strength, but of increased responsibility and sharing of power. 
So, yes - Bolling is right, in a sense.  The American Culture of the Founding Fathers is in decline.  At least according to these mortal words in the Declaration of Independence concerning the rights of men:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The focus here is on the rights of men (White, Anglo-Saxon land-owning men specifically), rights endowed by God.  Mike Rice exercised his rights - smacking around kids over whom he had authority made him feel powerful, which is always a good feeling.  Oscar Pistorious defended his right as a man, removing a barrier to his unalienable right to be content.  The veiling of women (when imposed), the beating of wives, the rape of daughters can be interpreted as expressions of a masculine right to freedom and pursuit of self-gratifying endeavours.  But the implication here is that rights are the unalienable property of men, only and suggests nothing about responsibility.
But the Delectation of Independence has something to say about responsibilities, too:
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
The abolition of slavery, Suffrage, Civil Rights, Gay Marriage - these are all efforts to reduce the yoke of despotism that have historically denied the rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness to non-whites, the socially disenfranchised, religious and ethnic minorities and of course, women.
I attended a talk yesterday that focused on domestic abuse in Aboriginal communities.  The women who spoke told tales of horrific abuse; one had her jaw broken by her husband.  Another explained how alcohol saved her life, because during a fit of rage, her husband was too drunk to find the right bullets for the gun he planned to shoot her with.  Another talked about visiting rural communities and having to explain to 15 year old girls that no, she didn't have to submit to sex with her father or uncle.
There were tears during these presentations, but there was also indomitable strength.  These women had endured horrors far beyond the scope of a man-cold and yet had continued to support their children and seek opportunities for a better life.  Instead of expecting their fellow women to circle the wagons around them, these ladies had taken it upon themselves to empower other women and together, reduce the yoke of abuse that has historically denied them their unalienable rights.  They knew it was an uphill struggle that would continue for generations, but that didn't stop them - it only fueled their determination.
Internal strength, super-human resilience and a sense of responsibility for one's peers - that's what toughness really looks like.  As formerly oppressed groups gain increasing access to the market of personal independence, they truly are changing American culture into something that is equally strong, resilient and which balances personal freedoms with social responsibility.  American society, as it were, continues to evolve.
Which is the big weakness of Alpha males like Bolling or the GOP entire - they don't do evolution very well
I guess they're lucky to have tough, resilient and proactive progressives there to take their hands and help them move forward.

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