Friday, April 9, 2010

Salon - "Retrosexuals": The latest lame macho catchphrase

Salon author Aaron Traister is not a fan of the newest "manly" word, Retrosexual. Having just read the Retrosexual Code at the radical-conservative site, I'd have to say that this is somewhat embarrassing. What an ass-backward collection of nonsense. I have some comments below the list, and then the Salon article.

A Retrosexual, no matter what the women insists, PAYS FOR THE DATE.

A Retrosexual opens doors for a lady. Even for the ones that fit that term only because they are female.

A Retrosexual DEALS with IT, be it a flat tire, break-in into your home, or a natural disaster, you DEAL WITH IT.

A Retrosexual not only eats red meat, he often kills it himself.

A Retrosexual doesn't worry about living to be 90. It's not how long you live, but how well. If you're 90 years old and still smoking cigars and drinking, I salute you.

A Retrosexual does not use more hair or skin products than a woman. Women have several supermarket aisles of stuff. Retrosexuals need an endcap (possibly 2 endcaps if you include shaving goods).

A Retrosexual does not dress in clothes from Hot Topic when he's 30 years old.

A Retrosexual should know how to properly kill stuff (or people) if need be.

This falls under the "Dealing with IT" portion of The Code.

A Retrosexual watches no TV show with "Queer" in the title.

A Retrosexual does not let neighbors screw up rooms in his house on national TV.

A Retrosexual should not give up excessive amounts of manliness for women.

Some is inevitable, but major reinvention of yourself will only lead to you becoming a frou-frou little puss, and in the long run, she ain't worth it.

A Retrosexual is allowed to seek professional help for major mental stress such as drug/alcohol addiction, death of your entire family in a freak tree chipper accident, favorite sports team being moved to a different city, favorite bird dog expiring, etc. You are NOT allowed to see a shrink because Daddy didn't pay you enough attention. Daddy was busy DEALING WITH IT. When you screwed up, he DEALT with you.

A Retrosexual will have at least one outfit in his wardrobe designed to conceal himself from prey.

A Retrosexual knows how to tie a Windsor knot when wearing a tie - and ONLY a Windsor knot.

A Retrosexual should have at least one good wound he can brag about getting.

A Retrosexual knows how to use a basic set of tools. If you can't hammer a nail, or drill a straight hole, practice in secret until you can - or be rightfully ridiculed for the wuss you be.

A Retrosexual knows that owning a gun is not a sign that your are riddled with fear, guns are TOOLS and are often essential to DEAL WITH IT. Plus it's just plain fun to shoot.

Crying. There are very few reason that a Retrosexual may cry, and none of them have to do with TV commercials, movies, or soap operas. Sports teams are sometimes a reason to cry, but the preferred method of release is swearing or throwing the remote control. Some reasons a Retrosexual can cry include (but are not limited to) death of a loved one, death of a pet (fish do NOT count as pets in this case), loss of a major body part.

A Retrosexual man's favorite movie isn't "Maid in Manhattan" (unless that refers to some foxy French maid sitting in a huge tub of brandy or whiskey), or "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood." Acceptable ones may include any of the Dirty Harry or Nameless Drifter movies (Clint in his better days), Rambo I or II, the Dirty Dozen, The Godfather trilogy, Scarface, The Road Warrior, The Die Hard series, Caddyshack, Rocky I, II, or III, Full Metal Jacket, any James Bond Movie, Raging Bull, Bullitt, any Bruce Lee movie, Apocalypse Now, Goodfellas, Reservoir Dogs, Fight Club, etc.etc.

When a Retrosexual is on a crowded bus and or a commuter train, and a pregnant woman, hell, any woman gets on, that Retrosexual stands up and offers his seat to that woman, then looks around at the other so-called men still in their seats with a disgusted "you punks" look on his face.

A Retrosexual knows how to say the Pledge properly, and with the correct emphasis and pronunciation. He also knows the words to the Star Spangled Banner.

A Retrosexual will have hobbies and habits his wife and mother do not understand, but that are essential to his manliness, in that they offset the acceptable manliness decline he suffers when married/engaged in a serious healthy relationship - i.e., hunting, boxing, shot putting, shooting, cigars, car maintenance.

A Retrosexual knows how to sharpen his own knives and kitchen utensils.

A Retrosexual man can drive in snow (hell, a blizzard) without sliding all over or driving under 20 mph, without anxiety, and without high-centering his ride on a plow berm.

A Retrosexual man can chop down a tree and make it land where he wants.

Wherever it lands is where he damn well wanted it to land.

A Retrosexual will give up his seat on a bus to not only any women but any elderly person or person in military dress (except officers above 2nd Lt)

NOTE: The person in military dress may turn down the offer but the Retrosexual man will ALWAYS make the offer to them and thank them for serving their country.

A Retrosexual man doesn't need a contract -- a handshake is good enough. He will always stand by his word even if circumstances change or the other person deceived him.

A Retrosexual man doesn't immediately look to sue someone when he does something stupid and hurts himself. We understand that sometimes in the process of doing things we get hurt and we just DEAL WITH IT.
Some things on this list are just good manners (offering your bus seat to a woman, or opening doors for women), but much of this seriously entrenched in the mythic-belief, authoritarian, law-and-order worldview - and yes, it is retro, because REAL MEN are much more evolved than this. A REAL MAN is not afraid of a tv show with the word "queer" in the title, or afraid GLBT people period.

A REAL MAN might hunt for food, but would not kill a person unless there was no other option, and would hate that it happened. A REAL MAN knows that seeking therapy to deal with emotional pain takes a lot more courage than adopting the "man up" mentality that leads to depression, rage outbursts, or substance abuse.

A REAL MAN cries because that is a natural response to emotional pain, and his not ashamed of that. And a REAL MAN does not pledge allegiance to any flag, but honors all people as worthy of love and respect.

To me, the retrosexual thing sounds like a new reworking of the old mouth breather sexism.

That said, her is the Salon article.

"Retrosexuals": The latest lame macho catchphrase

A trend piece about "Mad Men"-style macho guys is silly, but it points to a troubling identity crisis for men


As the androgynous days of the hipster draw nigh, what terrible new archetypes will rush to fill the powerful sucking of the trend-piece vacuum?

I woke up this morning to discover my local paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, peddling a story about America's new favorite model of man: the retrosexual. Normally I ignore almost everything in my local paper, but this, in combination with a recent article in the New York Times about the sequel to "The Official Preppy Handbook," has got my knickers in a bunch.

The retrosexual is a clever play on that other dusty gem of modern trend masculinity, the metrosexual. Unlike metrosexualism, which encouraged men to worry about their appearance and spend copious amounts of money on beauty products and clothes to mask the kinds of insecurities normally pushed on women, the retrosexual trend encourages men to worry about their appearance and spend copious amounts of money on products and clothes to mask more traditional masculine insecurities, like being gay, or a broke loser, or a gay broke loser.

That's right, fellas -- put away your eyebrow tweezers and cancel your appointment at Aveda; it's time to return to the barber with his butch-ass straight razors, listen to jazz (hopefully the authentic Negro kind), shop at Brooks Brothers, and wear "authentic 1960s Florsheims" and a "trilby cocked just so" (whatever that means). But wait, being a retrosexual is not just about dressing like a fictional character from a popular period-themed TV show (of course, I'm talking about "V"), it's also about returning to a time when men were men, and women were proud to be frog-marched around town on their squires' Houndstooth-covered arm. That glorious time when men could chivalrously open doors for women (especially attractive ones) without fear of vicious reprisals from angry door-holder-hating feminists. A simpler time when it was clear what it meant to be a man and what his responsibilities were. Come on, I know lots of guys who wear Brooks Brothers clothing and listen to jazz; they just don't have any pretensions about what it means for their masculinity.

I find it hard to believe any guy beyond the schmucks in this article would actually be dumb enough to identify themselves as "retrosexual." Then again, I find it hard to believe that Donovan McNabb plays for the Redskins, so what do I know? But the currently nostalgia, or at least longing, for a time when gender roles were more clearly defined is undeniable. Take a look at the recent spate of advertising targeting guys' manxiety, all those stories about the crisis of men, and the popular idea that we need to reclaim our inner asshole or some other intangible manly quality that has been taken from us. Or to quote the article:

"For thousands of years, being a man meant being honorable, having courage, having competence," said Brett McKay, 27, a law school graduate turned blogger who writes "The Art of Manliness" from Tulsa, Okla. "Till the 1950s, manliness meant action and a force for good."

Then, feminism disturbed that order. "We created this new world where men and women were equal," McKay said. "A lot of men were confused. What was my role now?"

This statement has obvious problems (I didn't realize courage and competence were gender-specific), but I don't think it's an uncommon view for many young men, and I think there is a growing desire to pick up where our grandfathers left off -- if not in fashion, at least in attitude. I have to wonder: Are we so ill-equipped for any competition that we have to point our fingers at those advancing and say they're the reason we fell behind? Is our only answer to lay blame at someone else's feet and try to turn back the clock? What, exactly, are we trying to recapture?

I have a great deal of love and respect for my grandfather. He was a B-29 pilot in the Pacific during WWII; he became a potato farmer when he returned home from the war. He always took care of his family and his responsibilities, but he was not an easy man for his family to be around. For all his amazing qualities, he was as deeply conflicted about his life and what he had done with it as many of my male friends are today. For all his "manliness" he was not a particularly happy or fulfilled guy.

Sometimes it can feel like my generation of men was raised by wolves, and that we are trying to cobble some approximation of what it means to be a man through vague and intentionally incomplete recollections of an increasingly distant generation -- or, worse, from media's portrayal of the men who came before us. We want to remember them as giants of masculinity completely unconflicted about who they were. How could we ever hope to live up to that unachievable standard? It is so easy for us to forget that for every John Wayne that stalked the earth a Noel Coward was treading on the same hallowed ground, and they spent equal amounts of time in hair and makeup.

It is also important to remember that as brave as these men were, as many sacrifices as they made, as many challenges as they faced, many of them were unable to rise to the challenge of even a modest leveling of the playing field between them and their wives and sisters and eventually daughters. The confusion of my generation and my father's generation regarding their role and what is expected of them is a testament to that fact.

Buried in this ridiculous trend piece is a truth: Men are at a crossroads. Do we have such a lack of imagination, are we so afraid of figuring out what it means to be a man in 2010, are we so uncomfortable in our own skin, and with our own sexuality, and the new sets of responsibilities we've been confronted with, that we have to pretend to be from a different, more magical time? Because that's not actual being your own strong man. That's not forging your own path. That's just cosplay, and we all know what that looks like. It's just creepy dress-up.


Unknown said...

You do realise this 'retrosexual' thing is just a joke, right?

This is a form of humour I am quite familiar with and often enjoy, it takes the old, contrictive ideas of masculinity...and then laughs at it, this page should explain how this humour works

Anyone who calls themselves 'retrosexual' is just having a laugh, and their probebly laughing at you becuase you took it seriously.

Even if they are somewhat serious about believing in old fashioned ideas about men, they certainly don't beleive crap like 'all men eat red meat.' and such nonsense.

william harryman said...

actually, they do believe that stuff - you need to get out more