Sunday, July 18, 2010

George Davis - What makes a man a man?

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A while back, Kathleen Parker said Barack Obama was our first female president (I mentioned it here, and had a few things to say) - although she did qualify her statement to mean that he is suffering from "rhetorical-testosterone deficit."

The other day, George Davis, author of the Modern Melting Pot blog at Psychology Today, wrote a post directed to Parker in regard to her article.

Measuring Manhood

What makes a man a man?

If you are not a cowboy you are not a real man. Was that what Kathleen Parker was implying in "Obama: Our first female president" in The Washington Post last month?

Parker throws around phrases like “we perceive and appraise him according to cultural expectations.” And automatically the question springs to mind: who is this “we” you’re talking about? Kathleen, you mean “I” or “people like me perceive and appraise. . . .” Not we.

As a black male, I don’t perceive and appraise manhood the same as you do. Many culturally progressive white people, male and female, also don’t. Most young people who voted for Obama are not included in your “we”. Does the First Lady think he is a lesser man than, let's say, your husband down there in Camden, South Carolina?

Kathleen, when you say “. . . cultural expectations” perhaps you’re talking about the expectations of people who live in a shrinking part of the American cultural mix. I guess they would think that a singer like Curtis Mayfield, who sang in a high-pitched falsetto, had a girl’s voice. No, it’s a man’s voice. It’s another side of manhood.

Some of the ideas in your book, Save the Males: Why Men Matter Why Women Should Care, indicate what you think both masculine and feminine nature and roles should be. For example, you seem to believe that:

  • erectile dysfunction is caused by young, sexually aggressive women
  • women put the nation at risk by serving in the army.

As far as you and Obama are concerned, the problem is indeed with perceptions and appraisals. Here’s a joke that illustrates how your perceptions and appraisals can be viewed. It was sent to me by an African American woman who looks a little like the First Lady, but not as tall. This woman views Obama as a “heartwarming” male.

The joke:

One day the Pope came to Washington to visit with the President. Being the gentlemen that he is- President Obama took the Pope for a cruise down the Potomac on the presidential yacht.

While they were sitting and chatting on deck, the wind blew the Pope’s high hat off and into the water.

Being the gentleman that he is- President Obama quickly hopped overboard; tip-toed across the water and retrieved the hat.

He tip-toed back, climbed aboard the yacht and placed the hat back on the Pope’s head.

The Pope thanked the President and they sailed on.
From that joke, Kathleen Parker might write a column “Obama Can’t Swim!’’

Kathleen, you said Obama “lack of immediate, commanding action was perceived as a lack of leadership because, well, it was.” Says who? Scholars who have thoroughly researched it say that Obama has achieved more as our leader in his first term than any President since FDR. As a preface to Obama’s list of achievements, Dr. Robert P. Watson wrote:

“What most impresses me is the fact that Obama has accomplished so much not from a heavy-handed or top-down approach (Oh, Kathleen, I get it. Top-down is male) but from a style that has institutionalized efforts to reach across the aisle, encourage vigorous debate, and utilize town halls and panels of experts in the policy-making process (And that’s female? Wow!)”

By your reasoning does George Bush and his immediate, commanding action make him a real man? I guess, for you, a man like Obama who opposes torture (which you say you oppose), or who opposed inflicting “shock and awe” on the population of Baghdad (which I think you opposed) is not a real man.

At the remotest hint that you might not be able to hang onto your entitlements, a real man will torture and kill because that’s what men do. And you, a real woman, will speak against torturing and killing but welcome a real man home to bed.

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