Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Buying Masculinity

Others have noted the homoerotic um, admiration, that many rightwing men channel toward "authoritarian strongmen" like Vladimir Putin, men who display hyper-masculine traits. Labeling traits like strength, virility, and violence as those that are essentially male, and then vaunting these traits as superior to their "opposite" female counterparts, the line between whether a man wants to, say, be Putin, or be with Putin, does seem to be blurred at times.

Indeed, reading many rightwing, anti-woman, and/or MRA-type (the lines between these groups often blur, as well) sites in the blogosphere, it is appalling to imagine some male commenters as fathers, brothers, and sons. Mostly because those nouns often imply that such men have real-life relationships with women, for whose safety I am incredibly concerned.

Homosexuality might appear to be a logical response to woman-hating, were it not for the inconvenient fact that men who hate women are often too insecure to fathom having an intimate relationship with a gender equal, another man, as such a relationship would not be based on the sexual hierarchy of man-on-top-(of-woman). While many anti-gay people claim that they are not scared of gays, homophobia nonetheless seems an apt word for men who fear equality in their personal relationships and interactions. They fear being "the same as" others, especially women.

In seeking to preserve male privilege and power, rightwing woman-haters display an extreme anxiety about hyper-masculinity being exposed as the mere performance it is.

And with that introduction I present the following column by Doug Giles, writing at Townhall, who has compiled a list of man-gifts for Real Men. If it weren't posted at Townhall, I would have taken it as a feminist parody of the caricature that misogynist and misandrist gender essentialists paint of men.

But alas, no.

The biggest question about its authenticity instead rests in whether the piece is a legitimate article or a tacky advertisement-in-disguise for the brands Giles highlights.

What is abundantly clear is that it's an advertisement for that performance of manly man-ness that is associate with power over others, as each item either literally or figuratively represents that inherent position of men. Because this list of man-gifts is supposedly what Real Men, on the basis of them being men, would like to receieve, the article frames this dominance as authentic maleness. It is the classic, This Is How Men Just Are Ooga Booga gender essentialist bullshit narrative that is at once condescending toward men, while also justifying and excusing male violence.

Giles begins by bemoaning those "fussy metrosexuals" and contrasting them to his manly buds:

"The patriots I run with, however, are pretty easy to satisfy. Herewith are my suggestions for what to get the man on your list who doesn’t mind being a man but rather celebrates the gift of living in the God-blessed testosterone fog."

Men are basically a mixutre of Paul Revere and cavemen, still running amok through the countryside, unable to control their manly testosterone-laden impulses. Boys are entitled to stay boys forever, entitled to run on pure id, letting everyone else deal with the consequences.

Because men are inherently that way, they'd love to receive:

1) Boots

The better to stand on your neck with, m'lady? Who knows. What matters is that men need a specific boot from Zimbabwe. From a $pecific boot company, actually.

2) A gun

I note here that embedded within this article is a klassy advertisement wherein Nancy Pelosi's head is pasted within that old Nintendo Duck Hunt game. No word on how those Red State Feminists feel about that violent call to arms, although we can guess how they'd feel if it were Sarah Palin's image readers were urged to shoot at.

3) A knife

From a specific kife company, natch.

4) A bible

From a specific bible company.

5) Something called a "'Who Would Jesus Whip' power band'" which is, apparently, a product Doug Giles, the author of this article, created.

It's basically a knock-off Livestrong bracelet that advocates violence. Violence is apparently okay when it's violence Jesus Would Have Done. Jesus ain't no girlyman!

6) Like the bible, three more books by dudes about dudes.

One about the "original intent" of the "founding fathers," one about a Christian pastor, and another about warriors.

7) A painting

Painted by Doug Giles, author of this article.

He saved the best gifts for last:

8) A cigar

Not just any cigar. But a specific Cuban type of cigar known for its "big ring gauges." Because, "'If you’re going to smoke a cigar, make it a long and strong one.'"

9) Real Man Juice, which is a specific brand of whiskey with a dude's name all over it. One that's "complex, powerful, incredibly smooth and retains the [Real Man] signature smokiness."

Got it, fellas? All that, and masculinity can be yours! For the not-so-cheap price of.... wait, how much does all this shit cost again?

On a serious note, I don't actually think many rightwing men who fetishize hyper-masculinity are gay, although some undoubtedly are. Although being a Real Man is supposedly something a Real Man just is, accessories must be bought, books must be read, violence-advocating bracelets must be worn, and actions must be taken to prove to others that one is a Real Man. It is a culture that is overinfatuated with the romanticized idea of what Real Men Are. It is a culture that builds men up by tearing women and femininity down.

To be a Real Man is to be better than to be a woman, and what distinguishes men from the lowly woman, in their eyes, is the phallus. So as they clench their teeth around that long and strong cigar, they thank their god with all their femiphobic might that they weren't born female.

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