Saturday, June 29, 2013

Noah Brand - The Masculine Mystique (at the Good Men Project)

This interesting post from Noah Brand (at the Good Men Project) is an exceprt from his new book-in-progress (with Ozy Frantz), What About the Men? You can read the introduction and primary principles here. Below are links to other excerpts from the book-in-progress.

The Masculine Mystique


Chapter Two, Part 1 (of 4) in Noah Brand and Ozy Frantz’s book about masculinity.

This is part one of the second chapter of a book in progress; we have also published parts two, three, and four. Chapter one may be read here.

Nobody ever has to specify what they mean when they say “man up” or “be a man” or even just “grow a pair”. Everyone knows what those phrases mean. Or do we? Could you actually define specifically what it means to “be a man”? We all think we know what constitutes manliness, but somehow when we look at it that sure knowledge becomes nebulous. If we’re going to address masculinity, first we’re going to have to pin the damn thing to the mat. (Quick: why do you think that’s a manly metaphor?)

The modern feminist movement began with “the feminine mystique”, the name given by Betty Friedan to the outrageously restrictive social roles and expectations placed on women in postwar America. The identification of this problem helped set off a massively successful wave of social change that did nothing less than reshape our society for the better. But as we observed in the last chapter, you can’t have a set of horrible assumptions about women without creating a parallel set about men, a fact that Ms. Friedan noted when she described men as “fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill”.[1] Forty years on, we still need to ask: what is the masculine mystique?

Hegemonic Masculinity

One of the biggest misunderstandings people have about gender in our society is that they confuse the fact that some men are privileged with the idea that men, in general, are privileged. If you look at people at the top of society, overwhelmingly, they are going to identify as male. However, that doesn’t mean all men are privileged; instead, it means that certain kinds of men are privileged. Sociologists refer to this privileged form of masculinity as “hegemonic masculinity.”

Hegemonic masculinity is “a particular variety of masculinity to which others—among them young and effeminate as well as homosexual men—are subordinated.”[2] Short version: hegemonic masculinity is the form of masculinity that men are told to aspire to, and fall constantly short of.

This ideal, this perfect hegemonic masculinity, is, it’s safe to say, oddly specific. The sociologist Erving Goffman described the traits commonly associated with hegemonic masculinity: “a young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual, Protestant, father, of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight and height, and a recent record in sports… Any male who fails to qualify in any one of these ways is likely to view himself—during moments at least—as unworthy, incomplete and inferior.”[3] That definition has shifted a bit since Goffman made his list in 1986, but that gives the general outline.

I’m sure everyone reading this could add a couple of items to the list: cisgender; obsessed with vanilla sex with young thin large-breasted women; able-bodied and neurotypical; tall; employed in a professional career; not a nerd or a punk or a member of any other weird subculture; not a fan of romantic movies or anything theater-related; intelligent but not too intelligent; doesn’t cry. You could also debate the necessity of being married or a father, but the authors think that depends on age—twentysomething men are supposed to be more promiscuous, and then around thirty settle down and get married and start reproducing.

That guy—and there’s about five of him in the entire United States—generally has it pretty good. After all, the entirety of the kyriarchy is set up in his favor. Obviously, he doesn’t have a perfect life: entire issues of the New York Times Book Review have been devoted to ways in which this man, usually in his disguise as an English professor, can be unhappy; several genres of movies are devoted to his pining after the quirky, artistic girl who will teach him how to love, or to the travails of the mid-life crisis where he learns to be content with his existing level of comfort, privilege, and societal endorsement. Not to say those are invalid stories; needs are no less needs for being higher on the Maslow hierarchy.

And, of course, it’s silly to blame those five guys for all the kyriarchal nonsense. They didn’t choose to be born white, heterosexual, athletic and the rest of it, any more than someone else chose to be born black, gay, and lousy at sports. They’re just lucky. There is no point in hating someone because of privileges they can’t change.

However, hegemonic masculinity is problematic for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it’s inaccessible to the vast majority of men. If you’re born gay, or trans, or disabled, or poor, or a person of color… well, sucks to be you, because you are officially Not A Real Man for a bunch of things you can’t change. Hell, Real Manhood can be lost for something like being born short or with a small penis. How stupid is that? Your worth as a person is not based on your physical attributes; yet we have a social system in which millions of men feel bad about themselves because their genes decided they ought to be 5’6″ instead of 5’11”.

Even if you managed to win the genetic lottery for the inborn traits, you’re not safe. Hegemonic masculinity is a status that can be lost at any time. Like fruity drinks? Poof, you lost some. Broke down sobbing when your girlfriend broke up with you? Boom, you’re lower on the Real Man totem pole. Failed to properly defend your manliness in intragender competition (or, worse, got shown up by a girl)? Expect several people to inform you that your manhood no longer exists.

As of this writing, one of the expressions of enforcement is the concept of a “man card.” All over the internet and in homosocial male conversations everywhere (circa 2013), one hears “you just lost your man card” or “turn in your man card” or similar phrases. This expression literally conceptualizes masculinity as a fragile privilege that can be revoked at any time, on anyone’s authority. The usual reasons are what you’d expect: ordering the wrong drink, wearing the wrong shirt, expressing a recognizable human emotion. The very vagueness of the unwritten rules of manhood means that anyone can be accused of violating them at any time for almost any reason.

Once you’ve lost your hegemonic masculinity through such horrific sins as getting sick of Robocop after the tenth time, listening to the wrong song, or saying something honest, you can earn it back through a disciplined program of being as manly as possible and pretending that whatever it was you did wrong never happened. You’ll have to repress the hell out of your emotions, perform masculinity according to whatever standards the people nearest you are enforcing today, and if possible overdo it. The fact is, many of the ugliest stereotypically-male behaviors are acceptable forms of overcompensation. Men who worry that their heterosexuality is questioned will be socially rewarded more for adopting a pose of contemptuous objectification toward women than for openly loving women. The latter contains emotions, after all. Men whose masculinity is being questioned will win back more points by being aggressive and violent than by being temperate and reasonable. Men trying to prove they’re manlier or tougher than other men will not win by claiming to be dedicated and untiring fathers to their children. Hegemonic masculinity prizes an ideal that vaguely resembles a troglodytic caveman with lots of money and a taste for rape.

That is, perhaps, an oversimplification. In day-to-day practice, there are multiple double binds in hegemonic masculinity. In “emphasized femininity” (the female equivalent of hegemonic masculinity), women are characterized as either a virgin or a slut—both of which are equally unacceptable to conventional wisdom. Similarly, men are trapped within double binds. A real man sleeps around—and he commits to one woman. A real man isn’t “pussywhipped”—and a real man buys diamonds and other tools of the romance-industrial complex. A real man is capable of violence—and a real man doesn’t hit. Managing the contradictions of hegemonic masculinity can be difficult for even the most masculine of men.

Feminism has made great strides toward pointing out the stupidity of the feminine mystique: there is no reason that women can’t play sports or work outside the home; if they don’t want to, then that’s wonderful, but there’s no sense in leaving half the human population to knitting and baking cookies just because they identify as female. When Katie Goldman, a little girl who loved Star Wars, was bullied for liking science fiction more than the color pink, fans around the globe sent messages of support and gave her gifts; she even got to meet the actor who voiced Yoda.[4] This is not to condemn what happened to Katie: support for kids who are bullied is important. But try to imagine an equal outcry about a first-grade boy who was bullied for his love of Disney princesses. Take a minute to actually picture it. That cognitive dissonance you’re experiencing right now? That’s what we’re talking about.

The masculine mystique remains largely unchallenged. Just like there is no logical reason to assume women must be stay-at-home moms, there is no logical reason to assume men must work outside the home. Just like women should watch action movies if they want to, men should watch romantic comedies and historical dramas if they want to. Although still limited by gender roles, women have greater social sanction to choose from a wide variety of possible behaviors; men are still circumscribed.

[1] Levine, Jo Ann. “Betty Friedan.” The Christian Science Monitor. April 1 1974.
[2] Carrigan, Tim, et al. “Toward a New Sociology of Masculinity.” Theory and Society 14:5 (1985): 551-604.
[3] Goffman, Erving. Stigma. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall. 128.
[4] Gumbrecht, Jamie. “‘The Force’ Is With You, Katie.” 2010. CNN.

Photo: paalia / flickr

Friday, June 28, 2013

Documentary - Crossover Kids (on Transgender Children)

In Arizona, Republican lawmakers tried to push through a bill that would prohibit gender-variant children from using the bathrooms of their sexual identities - and fortunately it did not get adequate support to move forward.

Meanwhile, in less back-assward news:
A Colorado family celebrates a huge win this week for their transgender first-grader, who has won the right to use the girls' restroom at her school. What message does this send to kids sharing the school yard with transgender children?
The child in this ruling, Coy Mathis, is featured in the film below.

Other states or cities are also supporting the rights of gender-variant children, as well as those who are openly transgender:
  • The San Francisco Unified School District recently added a transgender category in student health surveys. The survey found that 1.6 percent of high school students and 1 percent of middle school students identified as transgender or gender variant. Elementary students weren't in the survey, but Kevin Gogin, the program manager for school health programs, says the district has seen more young transgender and gender variant students, too.
  • In California, which has had protections for transgender people for some time, a new law requires schools to provide transgender and gender variant students with "equal and full access to programs and facilities," such as gender-neutral bathrooms, if need be, and private changing areas for gym and sports.
  • Overall, attitudes about differences in gender identity have been changing, even in the last decade, says Eli Erlick, a transgender student and graduating high school senior in Willits. When Erlick began her transition from boy to girl at age 8, she says that even she didn't know what the word "transgender" meant. She just knew that she wanted to live life as a girl. "I thought I was the only person like this," she says.
  • Now Erlick is the director of an organization called Trans Student Equality Resources, which provides schools with training and information about students like her. Erlick also has helped her school district and others in California develop transgender policies.
  • "There is definitely more awareness," says Kristyn Westphal, vice principal at Grant High School in Portland, Ore. There, they've established a student support team to determine how well the school is meeting the needs of transgender and other students. Earlier this year, the school also created individual gender-neutral bathrooms that any student can use.
This site offers support resources for the parents of gender-variant children. And with that background, here is the documentary, Crossover Kids (transcript also available).

Crossover Kids

On the surface, Coy Mathis is a typical six-year-old girl. She likes dressing up, gravitates towards the colour pink, and enjoys playing with her dolls. But Coy was born a boy.

Recently she won the right to use the girls restroom at her school in Colorado. The decision was made by the Colorado Civil Rights Division on Sunday that the Fountain-Fort Carson School District created an unnecessarily hostile situation for Coy Mathis by not allowing her to use the female bathroom.

Transgender advocates are hailing the decision as a major step forward for transgender rights. By not allowing Coy to use the girls’ restroom, the Eagleside Elementary School in Fountain ‘creates an environment rife with harassment,’ Steven Chavez, the division director, wrote in the decision.

Crossover Kids investigates the complex and fascinating world of transgender children. Backed by medical experts, a growing number of parents in the United States are allowing their kids to live openly as the other gender.

For the children involved, the switch can end years of unhappiness and feelings of being trapped in the wrong body. But like other members of the transgender community, they can face deep social stigma and discrimination.

How young is too young to change sex?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Benjamin Schwarz - The Rise and Fall of Charm in American Men

In an article for The Atlantic (June 2013 issue), Benjamin Schwarz looked at the concept of charm in American culture and it's relative absence today (with the exception of George Clooney, which Schwarz suggests is the single example that highlights his point - Clooney is the one man most men and women will name as charming).

I wonder if charm has become a generational concept. Today, it seems, we judge male figures by the "cool" factor (Edward Norton, Robert Downey Jr., Matthew McConaughey, Mekhi Phifer, Jared Leto, and others) or their "bad boy" image (Sean Penn, Colin Farrell, Shemar Moore, Christian Bale, Johnny Depp, Edward Furlong, and others). And then there are people like Charlie Sheen (might be fun to hang out with), or Sean Combs (the epitome of cool and success in the Hip-Hop world, as well as in the popular culture), and the "pretty boys" (Channing Tatum, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Ryan Reynolds). But are any of these men charming, really charming, as described in this article?

The Rise and Fall of Charm in American Men

Few possess it, and few want to. Explaining men's ambivalent relationship with an amoral virtue.

MAY 22 2013

If one were to recast The Rockford Files, as Universal Pictures is intending to do, would the Frat Pack actor Vince Vaughn seem the wisest choice to play Jim Rockford, the character James Garner inhabited with such sly intelligence and bruised suavity? Universal apparently thinks so.

One can say many things about the talents of Vaughn, and were Universal embarking on a bit of polyester parody—remaking, say, Tony Rome, among the least of the neo-noirs—Vaughn’s gift for sending up low pop would be just so. But to aim low in this case is to miss the deceptive grace that Garner brought to the original, and prompts a bigger question: Whatever happened to male charm—not just our appreciation of it, or our idea of it, but the thing itself?

Yes, yes, George Clooney—let’s get him out of the way. For nearly 20 years, any effort to link men and charm has inevitably led to Clooney. Ask women or men to name a living, publicly recognized charming man, and 10 out of 10 will say Clooney. That there exists only one choice—and an aging one—proves that we live in a culture all but devoid of male charm.

Mention Clooney, and the subject turns next to whether (or to what extent) he’s the modern version of that touchstone of male charm, Cary Grant. Significantly, Grant came to his charm only when he came, rather late, to his adulthood. An abandoned child and a teenage acrobat, he spent his first six years in Hollywood playing pomaded pretty boys. In nearly 30 stilted movies—close to half of all the pictures he would ever make—his acting was tentative, his personality unformed, his smile weak, his manner ingratiating, and his delivery creaky. See how woodenly he responds to Mae West’s most famous (and most misquoted) line, in She Done Him Wrong: “Why don’t you come up sometime and see me?” But in 1937 he made the screwball comedy The Awful Truth, and all at once the persona of Cary Grant gloriously burgeoned. Out of nowhere he had assimilated his offhand wit, his playful knowingness, and, in a neat trick that allowed him to be simultaneously cool and warm, his arch mindfulness of the audience he was letting in on the joke.

Grant had developed a new way to interact with a woman onscreen: he treated his leading lady as both a sexually attractive female and an idiosyncratic personality, an approach that often required little more than just listening to her—a tactic that had previously been as ignored in the pictures as it remains, among men, in real life. His knowing but inconspicuously generous style let the actress’s performance flourish, making his co-star simultaneously regal and hilarious.

In short, Grant suddenly and fully developed charm, a quality that is tantalizing because it simultaneously demands detachment and engagement. Only the self-aware can have charm: It’s bound up with a sensibility that at best approaches wisdom, or at least worldliness, and at worst goes well beyond cynicism. It can’t exist in the undeveloped personality. It’s an attribute foreign to many men because most are, for better and for worse, childlike. These days, it’s far more common among men over 70—probably owing to the era in which they reached maturity rather than to the mere fact of their advanced years. What used to be called good breeding is necessary (but not sufficient) for charm: no one can be charming who doesn’t draw out the overlooked, who doesn’t shift the spotlight onto others—who doesn’t, that is, possess those long-forgotten qualities of politesse and civilité. A great hostess perforce has charm (while legendary hostesses are legion—Elizabeth Montagu, Madame Geoffrin, Viscountess Melbourne, Countess Greffulhe—I can’t think of a single legendary host), but today this social virtue goes increasingly unrecognized. Still, charm is hardly selfless. All of these acts can be performed only by one at ease with himself yet also intensely conscious of himself and of his effect on others. And although it’s bound up with considerateness, it really has nothing to do with, and is in fact in some essential ways opposed to, goodness. Another word for the lightness of touch that charm requires in humor, conversation, and all other aspects of social relations is subtlety, which carries both admirable and dangerous connotations. Charm’s requisite sense of irony is also the requisite for social cruelty (see, for example, the excruciating interrogations to which Grant subjects that virtuoso stooge Ralph Bellamy in both The Awful Truth and His Girl Friday).

Male charm is all but absent from the screen because it’s all but absent from our lives. Most men hold charm in vague suspicion: few cultivate it; still fewer respond to it; hardly any know whether they have it; and almost none can even identify it. Women commonly complain about the difficulty in gaining any conversational purchase when, say, trying to engage the fathers of their children’s classmates or the husbands of their tennis partners. The woman will grab from her bag of conversational gambits—she’ll allude to some quotidian absurdity or try to form a mock alliance in defiance of some teacher’s or soccer coach’s irksome requirement. But the man doesn’t enter into the give-and-take. The next time they meet, it’s as though they’ve never talked before; the man invariably fails to pick up the ball, and any reference the woman might make to a prior remark or observation falls to the ground. Men don’t indulge in the easy shared confidences and nonsexual flirtations that lubricate social exchange among women. Even in the most casual conversation, men are too often self-absorbed or mono-focused or—more commonly—guarded, distracted, and disengaged to an almost Aspergerian degree. (Garner’s futile efforts to engage the unengageable—be they flinty triggermen from Detroit or by-the-book feds—is a running gag in Rockford.) Men consistently fail to meet the sort of obvious standards set by guides to etiquette and to the art of conversation common 50 years ago.

This isn’t to attribute the dearth of charm to some cultural and social declension, although clearly charm—with its emotional, even aesthetic, detachment—could hardly have retained its social sway after that most overwrought of decades, the 1960s. Any culture that celebrates youth necessarily provides stony soil for charm, which is by definition a quality reserved for adults: the young can be charming, which is an inadvertent attribute; they cannot have charm.

More important, charm, for all its appeal, isn’t a moral virtue—it’s an amoral one. Americans, especially American men, have always been, for some very good reasons, ambivalent about charm. It’s an attribute alien to many men because they are ingenuous, a quality that can itself be either admirable or unlovely. Many American military men deserve our esteem; the many I have known indeed do, but I have never met one with an ounce of charm. Indeed, what American hero has possessed it? The quintessential modern American hero, the eternally jejune and earnest Charles Lindbergh, who became a god when not yet a man, was in every way the antithesis of charm. America’s entire political history has been in some basic way a struggle between Jefferson—self-righteous, humorless, prickly, at once intellectually ardent and woolly—and Hamilton, a man foreign-born, witty, stylish, coolly brilliant, generous, possessed of a rare rapport with and an understanding of women. And just as Hamilton’s political vision triumphed, so did Jefferson’s political style. To be sure, we’ve always had sports heroes—Sonny Jurgensen, John McEnroe, Jim McMahon, Arnold Palmer—whose sly irony and authority-defining insouciance lends them the adolescent glamour of Peck’s Bad Boy, a posture that, while sometimes winning, can be mislabeled as charm. (Its limits are clear in the persona of a non-sportsman exemplar, Bruce Willis.) Indeed, sports—youngsters’ games pursued in earnest—essentially lack charm. The seriousness with which American men take sports both confirms and exacerbates their suspicion of charm.Of course, all of these social and cultural shifts, which are themselves inimical to charm, are rooted in a more basic change—the ever-widening infection of social relations by market values. That development, whether good or ill, indisputably makes for blunter and more crudely utilitarian manners. After all, in a way, charm is just small talk.

In the old days, the phrase a charming man was often code for “a gay man,” and undoubtedly the undying but unfounded speculation about Grant’s bisexuality is based on the suspicion that no man so charming could possibly be heterosexual. There is no getting around the basic womanliness of charm. One of the three most important virtues in a man, according to Christopher Hitchens—among the very few charming men I’ve known—is the ability to think like a woman. (The other two are courage, moral and physical, and a sense of the absurd.) Certainly this is one reason many men find charm so alien and alienating. But a man’s ability to think like a woman, and its concomitant—an understanding of and interest in women—is probably rooted not in sexuality but in a sympathetic relationship with his mother or other women who raised him. That today foppishness, campiness, and a proclivity to dish get conflated with male charm indicates, as does the notion of Vaughn as a contemporary Garner, the culture’s incomprehension of that quality.So there’s nothing new about the troubled relationship between men and charm. The dearth of charming American leading men seems acute now, but only for a brief cultural moment, from the mid-1930s to the early 1940s, did American movies elevate male charm—not coincidentally, during a time when middle-class women made up the pictures’ largest audience. Even then the roster of charming lead actors was pretty much limited to Grant (foreign-born and -raised, and entirely self-invented—a man without a country), Gable (endearing, although his charm was always at war with his compulsion to establish his masculinity), William Powell (a bit asexual), and—strange but true—the perennially underrated Fred MacMurray. As for most other male stars, even of romantic comedies, which was the only genre that celebrated charm, the distinction that separates youth from age applies: Jimmy Stewart in his fumbling ineffectuality and Gary Cooper in his galumphing diffidence could be charming—the modifier boyishly naturally appends itself—but they didn’t have charm.

In fact, it’s precisely his uncomplicated heterosexuality that makes Garner such an important American man. Garner—who possessed a casual wit, a good-natured ease, a liking for and appreciation of women, and a quizzical detachment—is unambiguously straight. But unlike Clooney—who, though raised in Kentucky and Ohio, has never been, thanks to his Aunt Rosemary, provincial—Garner, the hardscrabble Oklahoman, is at once worldly and untainted by sophistication. (Gable’s roots were similarly rustic, but he could never overcome the talk about what it took to vault himself out of his circumstances—a stint as a long-lashed rent boy.) Strikingly unlike Clooney, Garner is impossible to imagine comfortable in black tie—and, really, how many men are?

Cliché has it that a charming leading man appeals equally to both men and women (although for different reasons). That’s immensely difficult to manage. Even if American men could appreciate charm, they still wouldn’t trust it—and it’s impossible to really like a man whom you can’t trust with your wife. But as an actor, Garner had a magical ability to convey his offscreen persona of red-blooded, hardworking, plain, and thorough decency, even as his charming onscreen persona didn’t fully gibe with it. He thereby made a light touch and an ironic stance qualities that men found not just appealing but worthy.

That capacity to simultaneously inhabit a role and remain outside it epitomizes charm. Garner always played likable rogues, although the accent sometimes fell more strongly on the likable (Maverick, Rockford) and sometimes more on the rogue. In The Great Escape, he was able to turn an ingratiating scrounger and operator (a type familiar to and pretty much universally loathed by mid-century American males, weary veterans of both military life and the corporate office) into a Great Guy, but in The Americanization of Emily (Garner’s own favorite among his movies), he deployed the same charm to pimp for lascivious admirals.

Pampered and petted as a child of profligate gifts, Welles throughout his life was a man who knew just how to exploit his immense charm. As a young man in a hurry, the energetically heterosexual Welles exercised a beguiling power on a series of influential gay men (Thornton Wilder and Guthrie McClintic among them), and on stage and in the movies his fellow players and crew were captivated by the abundant evidence of his devotion, even as they knew that his only loyalty was to his self-promotion—a project that was both entwined with and in opposition to his art. Grant and Garner, on the other hand, had to haul themselves out of circumstances in which charm counted for nothing; they came to their charm only in film, and perhaps as a consequence, they, like most men, had a far more troubled relationship with it. In the first two pictures Grant made with Hitchcock—Suspicion, in which he played an amoral bounder apparently intent on murder, and Notorious, in which he played a spy-pimp—he was purely, genuinely charming, even as he established that the line between charmer and sociopath is very fine indeed. These performances, by far his most technically accomplished, are so brilliant and daring not merely because Grant risked upending his carefully built film persona but because he conveyed how those performances were in fact true to that persona.The movies and the most-discerning actors in them showed us charm’s allure—and its menace. For men and for women, encountering a charming man is a moment of unique delight in the pictures, as in life. It prompts a heady mixture of exhilaration and the ease that accompanies the recognition that one is in good hands. The opening 66 minutes of The Third Man hurtles the audience through war-scarred Vienna with the ineffectual and doggedly callow Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), a man clearly out of his depth in the chilly cafés with their aged, stone-faced Mittel-European gigolos. But just as we begin to feel intolerably oppressed by the weight of all that bleak Atmosphere, Martins’s eyes, and ours, fall on the Face of Charm—Orson Welles’s Harry Lime, briefly illuminated with one knowing, self-mocking eyebrow raised; and with the ironical lilt of the zither, we are ineffably but unforgettably uplifted. The effect of that glimpse of Welles’s charm is just as Pauline Kael described the effects of Grant’s: “We smile when we see him … It makes us happy just to look at him.” It’s the one joyous scene in the movie, and it’s among the most enchanting in any movie. Our delight intensifies when we meet Welles, who bounds up to Cotten with a theatrical hint of apology (“Hello, old man, how are you?”). He envelops us along with Cotten in his relaxed assurance, his amused, trusting manner. He draws Cotten in as a confidant, even as he maintains his seductive command. It’s the greatest moment of flirtation between heterosexual men in cinema. We feel Cotten’s desire to be taken in hand by Welles, and we half want him to be. Of course, by now we, and Cotten, know that Welles is an evil opportunist who must bend Cotten to his needs. Never mind, because even as Welles charmingly, openly confirms all that, he forever wins us over with his parting words to Cotten: that cuckoo-clock speech, the most-famous lines in the picture (they’re not in the Graham Greene book; Welles wrote them).

The genius of Garner and Grant was the way they expressed both their delight in their charm and their own suspicion of charm, and so spoke to men—and to women, who, to survive in this world, have always had to know in their bones the truth of Anita Brookner’s assertion that a true man of charm must be a liar. One could reply that our suspicions should be raised only by the superficial charm that psychiatrists attribute to psychopaths (see Joseph Cotten in Shadow of a Doubt). But Grant and Garner knew that charm in all its guises is ultimately, if not merely, superficial—“real charm” is an oxymoron.

Most men’s obliviousness to charm supports the proposition that the quality is not essential, even as that obliviousness makes for a decidedly less pleasant world. Charm is a social—a civilized—virtue. But its very refinement, the weight it places on self-presentation, means that it is inherently manipulative. All of Grant’s characteristic winning expressions—the double take, the cocked head, the arched eyebrow, the sideways glance—signaled that he was pulling something off. The charming man (or woman) always knows that he (or she) is pulling something off, no matter whether that charm is used to put the wallflower at ease, to get the soccer dad to exchange some pleasantries, or to close the sale. The charmer knows that he or she is manipulating—and in the end, it’s impossible not to be at least slightly contemptuous of the object of one’s manipulation. Welles, a real charmer, insouciantly and cynically took all this for granted, which made his portrayals of charm the most offhand and naturalistic, and also the most sinister. Grant, the greatest film actor, could methodically show charm’s double face, an exquisite balancing act that simultaneously subverted and enormously enriched his appeal. But Garner—Garner could amble up to the American Man, put an arm around his shoulders with the sort of good-natured nonchalance that the best salesman attempts for a lifetime but can never achieve, squint in an open but jaded way while looking him straight in the eye, grin in that crooked, easy, worldly-wise manner, and, well, confide to him: Charm is charming. Just don’t be charmed by it.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Marc Tracy - Here Come the Daddy Wars

This article originally appeared at The New Republic just before Father's Day (obviously I am a little bit behind in my posting), but the main points are still highly relevant. Men are going to face some tough decisions (some already are) and there are going to be some intense societal struggles in determining how men should be fathers and how much they will be allowed to be fathers.

I don't see there being any time soon where men are given equal post-natal time off from work (paid or unpaid, but with job and position security) to that of women - hell we don't even offer women much on average. It's not likely we will be anywhere near France's (22 paid days off, 318 total days off), Spain's (18 paid, 312 total), Germany's (47 paid, 170 total), Sweden's (47 paid, 163 total), or Norway's (44 paid, 150 total) position on parenting in my lifetime . . . or yours.

For the record, the U.S. offers 0 paid days and 24 total days off for maternity/family leave (these are days given by law, and all stats are from 2008).

Here Come the Daddy Wars

June 14, 2013

The average American spends $144 celebrating Mother’s Day, while for Father’s Day, the figure is $82. And that Father’s Day was inspired by Mother’s Day rather than vice versa is probably the least surprising fact you will read today. Mainly, Mother’s Day’s relative prominence is a vestige—and, to a lesser extent, a reflection—of society’s view that women are primarily mothers whereas men are fathers but also other things. This view not only gives women whose ambitions extend beyond the household a bum deal—for reasons I hope I don’t have to elucidate!—but it also fails men who might like to be more prominent as fathers and caregivers than societal norms currently encourage.

Women have fabricated a way of talking about the conflict between women who hope to find most of their self-fulfillment in the home and those for whom being a homemaker and child-rearer is not enough—and not only that, but believe it should not be enough for most women. This is the enlightened, productive side of what are commonly called the Mommy Wars. My question, as Father’s Day approaches, is: Where are the Daddy Wars?

Every day I see smart, career-ambitious women having an intelligent, heated conversation, informed by personal experience and strewn with first principles, about what a woman’s proper roles are, and what society, men, and other women could do to realize a better world. I don’t feel as though I’ve been kept out. But I do think men have been altogether too shy about joining this conversation or, perhaps, starting their own.

However, in the past few weeks, there have been a bevy of articles and studies that all point to this news: At long last, the Daddy Wars are coming.

The trends are both economic and sociological. Economically, as writers like Hanna Rosin have amply documented, women are finally gaining some level of equality with men—not at the very top, but at least in the middle. A new Pew report found that four in ten households with children have a woman as the prime or sole breadwinner, up from one in ten 50 years ago. Partly this is a function of single mothers, but in more than five million of such households, the mother is married yet simply makes more than the husband—and in such marriages, median income is higher. A Third Way study noted that employment trends are better for women than for men.

Esquire recently published an essay by Richard Dorment on the work-life balance that men face. It was fashioned as a response to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” Atlantic feature (which made mention of how men face similar quandaries) and unfortunately was riddled with condescension for the same people—chiefly, feminists—who should be his allies. (Salon’s Irin Carmon did a good job pointing out this curious dynamic.) Still it captured, I think, the feelings of many men, fathers and not, who were brought up to think in terms of career and providing for their families financially, with actual work at home getting short shrift.

Most men stress over the next step in their professions, with the attitude that if they happen to fall in love and settle down, well, that’s great, too. But recently, in many cases inspired by the women in our lives and the conversation they are having among themselves, we have begun to question whether our most basic priorities aren’t out of whack, and to wonder whether, for reasons both social and surprisingly biological, we shouldn’t be as “ambitious” to have children as we are to land the next great job. Plus, having had children, many of us hope to play a more active role in their upbringing than has typically been expected of fathers. Many of us were lucky to have mothers who, whatever other ambitions and accomplishments they had, clearly took great joy in raising us; some of us were even lucky enough to have similar fathers. Do we want it “all”? Who knows (or cares). But we want that.

In a smart response on New York’s The Cut blog, Kurt Soller noted that men will probably have to take their cues from ladyblogs and the like as they navigate this issue, and offered several smart thoughts, including the observation that when men mentor other men, the subject matter is almost exclusively confined to the professional and romantic, not the domestic. (He also noted that as a late-twenty-something he should be as fretful as many of his same-aged female friends are about the looming having-kids prospect, which is true, if also—gulp—terrifying.) Yet even Soller seemed somewhat uncomfortable raising this topic: “As ridiculous as this seems,” he wrote, “the Esquire article had me realizing that a lot of the anxiety surrounding ‘leaning in’ or ‘having it all’ does feel relevant to me as a man.”

The next step, therefore, is to make this not feel at all ridiculous. Because it isn’t. The next step is to make a magazine devoted to artisinal Brooklyn fatherdom more than a quaint Talk of the Town subject. It is to encourage, socially and even legally, paternity leave, which a large share of men don’t take, as well as respect at the office for caregiving fathers, which according to two new studies such fathers currently do not generally enjoy. In the future, when a man voluntarily gives up great responsibility to “spend more time with my family,” I do not want the notion that this could be a euphemism to even occur to me.

In short, it’s going to be the Daddy Wars. (Want that url? Don’t bother; my friend and I have been cybersquatting at for weeks.) The Mommy Wars consist of people—primarily other women—convincing women that it is in society’s interest, their children’s interests, other women’s interests, and their own interests for them to be more than stay-at-home moms. The Daddy Wars cannot be the exact obverse, since the playing field is already asymmetrical (for generations, the default for men was to find some balance between work and home, whereas the default for women was home). But they will be something like that.

Like the Mommy Wars, the Daddy Wars are going to require, as Carmon put it, “a negotiation between what’s possible, what they’ve been taught to expect is normal, and what they might really want.” Like the Mommy Wars, they are going to require walking a fine line between the ideology they forthrightly advocate—men should be home more—and respect for individual choice, of the “I choose my choice!” variety, accounting for not only the choices of the men themselves but also of their childrearing partners. (Yes, eventually, the Mommy Wars and the Daddy Wars will likely have to become one big Parents Wars, but first the right side will have to win the Daddy Wars.) Let’s see if we can’t get a generation of American men to think more of themselves as “Dad” or “Dad-to-Be.” That would be a good start.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How Men and Women Cooperate

In a new study out of the University of Arizona, researchers found clear differences in how men and women respond around mutual cooperation. During high mutual levels of cooperation with a (romantic) partner, men "typically experience an inphase response to their significant other's emotions. That is, if the woman in the relationship is feeling more positive, the man will feel more positive. If she feels less positive, he will feel less positive." On the other hand, women seem to experience more of "an antiphase pattern during high mutual cooperation. If her partner is feeling more positive, she will tend to feel less positive, and vice versa."

To me, this sounds almost as though men are more emotionally attuned to their partners in these instances than are women. Not surprisingly, the authors of the study see it differently - they see the women as emotional regulators in relationships.

Imagine that?!

How men and women cooperate

by Alexis Blue

(Medical Xpress)—While men tend to match their partners' emotions during mutual cooperation, women may have the opposite response, according to new research.

Cooperation is essential in any successful romantic relationship, but how men and women experience cooperation emotionally may be quite different, according to new research conducted at the University of Arizona.

Ashley Randall, a post-doctoral research associate in the UA's John & Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences and the UA's department of psychiatry, has been interested for some time in how romantic partners' emotions become coordinated with one another. For example, if someone comes home from work in a bad mood we know their partner's mood might plummet as well, but what are the long-term implications of this on their relationship?

Randall wondered how the act of cooperating, a beneficial relationship process, might impact emotional coordination between partners.

"Cooperation – having the ability to work things out with your partner, while achieving mutually beneficial outcomes – is so important in relationships, and I wondered what kind of emotional connectivity comes from cooperating with your partner?" she said.

What she found in her recent study – published in SAGE's Journal of Social and Personal Relationships and featured in the journal's podcast series, Relationship Matters – were surprising gender differences.

She and her colleagues found that during high mutual levels of cooperation with a romantic partner, men typically experience an "inphase" response to their significant other's emotions. That is, if the woman in the relationship is feeling more positive, the man will feel more positive. If she feels less positive, he will feel less positive.

On the contrary, it seems women experience more of an "antiphase" pattern during high mutual cooperation. If her partner is feeling more positive, she will tend to feel less positive, and vice versa.

Take, for example, the following familiar scenario: A woman emerges from a department store fitting room and asks her husband what he thinks of a potential new shirt. He likes it, he says, hoping his time at the mall is nearing an end. So does the woman head straight to the cash register and make the purchase? Probably not. Chances are, her husband's enthusiasm won't be enough; she'll want to try on a few more shirts first.

Social psychology literature on cooperation tells us that women generally tend to cooperate more, while men often try to avoid conflict. Thus, men might be subconsciously syncing their emotions with their partners' during cooperation in an effort to avoid conflict or reach a speedy resolution, Randall says.

If that's the case, it's possible, although Randall's study didn't test for it, that women may pick up on the fact that their partner's agreeability is not entirely authentic. If she suspects he's not really as positive as he seems, or that he has an ulterior motive, she may become less positive herself in an attempt to get at his real feelings and reach a more mutually satisfying resolution, Randall suggests.

"If you think about a couple that is trying to cooperate with one another, the man might go along and say, 'oh sure, honey, this is great, are we almost done?' whereas the women might say, 'I'm so glad that you're happy, but I just want to talk about this one other thing because I think we're really getting at a resolution,'" Randall said.

In the end, Randall's results suggest that women may tend to serve as the emotional regulators during cooperation.

Randall based her findings on an analysis of 44 heterosexual couples who were videotaped having a conversation about their shared lifestyle related to diet and health. The couples were asked to watch the video back and, using a rating dial, provide momentary feedback about how they were feeling emotionally. Researchers analyzed the videos as well as the participants' responses to them.

Co-authored by the UA's Jesi Post, Rebecca Reed, and Emily Butler, the study has implications for better understanding how romantic partners' emotions are connected.

"Cooperation is something that's invaluable and instrumental in a successful relationship but men and women experience it differently," Randall said. "This research provides another avenue to understanding how partners' emotions can become linked, but future research is needed on how these emotional patterns may ultimately contribute to the longevity, or demise, of the romantic relationship."

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sarah Garrecht Gassen: Let's Stop Sexual Assault Where it Starts: With the Attackers

This editorial appeared in the local Tucson newspaper, The Daily Star, a couple of weeks ago. She advocates here for teaching our boys that rape is a criminal act, not a mistake or a bad decision. More importantly, we need to stop perpetuating the "boys will be boys" (the male rationalization) and "men can't control themselves" (the female explanation) nonsense that has been passed down from generation to generation.

Sarah Garrecht Gassen: Let's pin the issue of sexual assault where it belongs: on the attackers

June 06, 2013 • Sarah Garrecht Gassen Arizona Daily Star

Let's talk about the rapists. Conversations, including in those in Congress, about how to get thousands of military women who have been sexually assaulted to believe, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that their accounts will be heard and addressed with justice skips an elemental part of the equation: stopping the creation of victims.

So why don't we talk about stopping rape at its source? Why not instill in our young men the knowledge that rape, sexual assault, going too far, taking what you want because you can - whatever description applies - is not excusable? It's a criminal act, not a bad decision.

Let's focus on the people who attack, on the males who choose - assaulting another person is not something that just happens - to violate another person. Let's talk about the individuals who force themselves onto, and into, another human being.

Yes, into another human being. Let's not airbrush what we're talking about by couching it in language that buffers the reality of sexual assault.

The news is filled with stories of rampant sexual assault in the military. A Pentagon survey last year estimated that 26,000 troops - men and women - received "unwanted sexual contact" last year. Just 3,374 came forward to report they'd been sexually assaulted. Many do not report attacks for fear of retaliation or shunning from their military units.

Young women are familiar with the how-to-not-get-raped litany of don'ts: Don't get drunk, don't wear sexy clothing, don't flirt too much, don't be alone at parties, don't accept drinks and don't leave your drink unattended, don't trust strangers or people you know, don't walk alone.

How about this list of don'ts for young men: Don't assume. Don't take. Don't assault.

Don't rape.

It sounds so obvious. But it's evidently not. I've known otherwise intelligent young men who honestly do not understand that a woman is not automatically flattered by sexual attention - that trying to kiss someone who clearly doesn't want to be kissed isn't a compliment.

It goes beyond telling boys "no means no."

We have to take the conversation past the don't-be-a-victim to don't-victimize. The burden of stopping sexual assault belongs most to those in the position to attack.

The conversation has to go beyond telling a boy to treat a girl like he'd want his sister or mother to be treated. That's fine advice, but I'm willing to bet that few guys, no matter their age, are thinking of their mothers or sisters when they're choosing to take what they want, to exercise power and control over another person.

Shifting the responsibility from victims to perpetrators won't be a light lift. Take this insightful comment from Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., at a Senate committee hearing on sexual assault in the military.

"If we're going to have women in combat, I think the potential for the issue to increase is going to become even greater," Chambliss said. Most enlisted troops are between 17 and 23, he said, and added, "Gee whiz, the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things to occur."

The illusion that men can't control themselves is ludicrous. Millions of men work with women, talk to us, see us every day and don't become rapists. This isn't a problem of raging hormones or having too many women around.

This is a problem, in part, of expectations. Of what behavior and attitudes men will accept from other men. Of what's tolerated socially and what boys learn about respecting themselves and others when they're growing up.

My mind goes to a recent conversation with a couple of young men in their early 20s. I asked what they think of the "boys will be boys" attitude that's an undercurrent in many discussions about sexual assault. I wanted to know more about how young men learn what's OK and what's not.

James summed it up:

"Boys will be boys - until someone talks to them and teaches them, and then they'll be men."

Yes, they will.

Sarah Garrecht Gassen writes opinion for the Arizona Daily Star. Her column appears on Thursdays. Email her at

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Real Change Takes Time

Lest we forget, in our desire to be better men, better human beings, real change takes real time. We do not ever arrive at healed (it's a journey not a destination), and progress visible to our own eyes takes considerable time.

Real Change Takes Time

By Deborah Fike
The Change Blog

As a young adult, I had a nasty habit that I detested with all my being. I had a quick temper. I could easily lose my cool at the slightest insult and would snap at the people I loved. It didn’t matter if my behavior was justified or not, hurtful words just flew out of my mouth. Perhaps worse, over time I became cold and distant to many people without explaining why. This baffled many family and friends, and I lost genuine relationships over my behavior.

When I finally owned up to my anger problem during my senior year of college, I found it hard to change. I saw counselors that gave me relaxation techniques, but I did not use them consistently. I read books and articles about ways to cool my temper, but only followed that advice sporadically. I would be okay for a week or two, and then something would set me off, and I’d feel guilty for not being able to control my feelings. I felt trapped by my own personality, and I began to hate who I had become.

We all have things about ourselves that we wish we could change. It’s easy to read stories about people who make radical changes in their lives – losing 100 pounds, overcoming alcoholism, starting a new business. These media snippets make it sound so easy: a person just woke up one day and decided to take charge and boom! They led newer, happier lives.

If you read between the lines of all these stories, though, you’ll find that the “easy change” actually wasn’t so easy, nor did it happen in an instant. It took someone 2 years to shed 100 pounds. The person overcoming alcoholism tried 5 different programs before finding one that worked. The guy starting the new business lost money on 6 different products before getting it right. These changes took real time and effort.

Yet, why do we continue to think we can change overnight?

What I didn’t realize back in college was despite appearances, I actually was improving. Sure, I would feel my ugly anger rear its head now and again, but I would use those techniques that the counselors taught me and succeed in squashing my anger 80% of the time. Even after a bad blowout, I would sit down and analyze what went wrong. I visually pictured myself being provoked and not losing my cool. I also started avoiding situations that would make me angry, and thus, found myself happier overall.

Today, I’m proud to say I’m a much less angry person. Taming my temper didn’t happen overnight. It took several years of trial and error with many setbacks to learn how to calm myself. There wasn’t just one “a-ha” moment when I realized that I had “conquered” my temper. In fact, I still lose it now and again, but now it happens so infrequently that it’s become the exception and not the rule. I can now even walk away in the middle of a flare-up, something I never dreamed possible before.

So if you can learn anything from me, realize that real change doesn’t happen overnight. It will take time for you to make progress, especially if you have a big problem or are working toward a big goal. If you understand this, hopefully you’ll feel less guilty than I did trying to make great personal change.

And if you think you’ll never get to where you want to be, give yourself a break. Don’t give up. Just count all the small victories you’ve made instead of always blaming yourself for the small losses. You might be amazed at what you can accomplish if you give yourself some time.

About: Deborah Fike is a full-time mom and founder of Avalon Labs, which provides consultations and writing services for start-ups and online businesses. She believes in the power of self-reflection and positive change.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Gene Demby - We Mapped Out the Four Basic Aspects Of Being A "Bro"

According to the typology of this article (from NPR) on what comprises a "Bro," it seems they have chosen Ryan Lochte as the popular culture exemplar. I'm not sure about their 4 primary categories: jock, preppy, stoner, and dude - sounds like high school stereotypes.
With the elements of bro-dom thus explained, let us return to Ryan Lochte. He's a jock. He has a stoner affect. He competes in a preppy sport. He tweets pics of him and his dudes doing bro-ass things. So you can see why Lochte is the platonic ideal of bro-dom.
And Ryan Lochte as the exemplar of a Bro? Not. Maybe Russell Crowe, or maybe Colin Kaepernick (below).

Jeah! We Mapped Out the Four Basic Aspects Of Being A "Bro"

June 21, 2013

A beautiful bro-ment: Ryan Lochte, left, and Michael Phelps give each other the traditional arm-wrestle bro-shake at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in June 2012. Mark Humphrey/AP

What up, bro? What's good, brah?

This is the chant of the bro, an increasingly parodied and often eye-roll-inducing genus of young male. They're called bros mostly because they refer to each other as such so frequently.

The usage of "bro" as a term of endearment isn't new, obviously. (As the indispensable Know Your Meme points out, people have been abbreviating "brother" this way for centuries, although its iteration as a synonym for "friend" — or more accurately, "friend who is a dude" — is much more recent.)

But over the last decade or so, "bro" has come to connote a specific kind of masculinity. Baseball cap with the frayed brim (possibly backwards), sky-blue oxford shirt or sports team shirt, cargo shorts, maybe some mandals or boat shoes. Y'all know who we mean. These cats right here.

The other day, the Code Switch team fell into a conversation about bros, as we're wont to do. When a member of the team described a person of color as being a bro, some of us wondered whether the description was legit. Weren't bros fratty white guys? Are there bros of color? Could dudes of color be bros independently of white bros? Or are they just like That Brown Friend in all those beer commercials — bro-y due to his social proximity to white bros?

Is bro-ness, well, raced? We asked people to conjure up an image of a typical bro in their mind's eye. What race is that guy in your head? Most people nearby said that guy was probably white.

We tossed the question out to Twitter.

Lots of people told us that yes, a bro is definitely a white dude. (But as Bryan Lowder at Slatewrote a few months ago, bros aren't necessarily straight.) Others said that most of the bros in popular culture are white dudes, but there are plenty of actual bros of color in the real world at places like USC. (Alas, even in bro-dom, people of color are underrepresented in the media.) Some folks even suggested that there were lady-bros — think Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids. And, of course, many people drew the distinction between bros and the term bruhs, which has a different (but occasionally still fratty) connotation among black folks speaking to other black folks.

(Damn right we're overthinking this. But rock with us a taste.)

We also realized that folks were employing different working definitions of bro-ness. We got the farthest in our articulation of bro-dom by asking people to send us examples of famous folks who fit the bill. A few names kept popping up: Matthew McConaughey, Joe Rogan, John Mayer, Dane Cook, the conveniently and appropriately named Brody Jenner. But we ultimately concluded that at the chewy nougat-y core of bro-dom lay in the eminently quotable Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte.

(Seriously: watch this. Then read this.)

We noticed a few themes from the Twitter suggestions, and after a few days, we settled on four major dimensions of bro. These pillars, which may overlap, are stonerish-ness, dude-liness, preppiness, and jockishness. (Bro-ishness seems to preclude any uncomplicated ease with sexual and gender fluidity, it seems.)

Below, we explain those dimensions in greater detail. But without further ado, allow us to present — the Bro-Map: 

Source: Franco: Valery Hache / AFP / Getty Images; Hammer: Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP / Getty Images; Harris: Ron P. Jaffee / CBS Entertainment via AP; Lochte: Daniel Ochoa De Olza / AP; McConaughey: Neilson Barnard / Getty Images for Veuve Clicquot; Penn: Matt Sayles / AP; Samberg: Ilya S. Savenok / Getty Images; Smith: Kevork Djansezian / AP; Tebow: Marc Piscotty / Getty Images - Credit: Alyson Hurt / NPR


Bros can be schlubby or scrawny, to be sure. But physical prowess, particularly in sports, seems to be a major part of the construction and performance of bro-ishness. Does the putative bro play a team sport? (And is that sport lacrosse?) Is the party thought of as his team's inspirational leader? Does the party in somehow manage to juggle a sporting life and his salubrious appetite for alcohol? That bro ranks high on our jockishness index. Fist bump!


Dudeliness is one's propensity to do bro things with other bros. You talk with your bros about bro things and you conspire to do bro things with your bros. Dudeliness is a measure of homosociality, a fancy gender studies term for what folks often call bromances — very close, platonic friendships between people of the same sex. A particularly dudely bro is someone you usually think of as an intrinsic part of a larger pack of bros. (Would that be a murder of bros?)


We're thinking less ascot-and-yacht preppy and more Abercrombie and Fitch preppy. The bro uniform isn't Brooks Brothers, but the sons of guys who wear Brooks Brothers. A bro's sartorial inclinations are conservatively casual. But in the event that a bro does suit up, it's all Barney from How I Met Your Mother: a nice suit that doesn't look like he's trying too hard.) A lot of people suggested that bros gleefully wield their social privilege. (But privilege and preppiness doesn't automatically equate with bro-dom; Carlton Banks, for instance, would be no one's idea of a bro.)


We don't use the stoner tag lightly; the racial politics of actual weed consumption are pretty complicated. Stoner-ish bros don't necessarily get high, but they do have a surfer vibe, and probably a speaking voice that simultaneously expresses both relaxation and bewilderment. This isn't to say that stoner-y bros aren't smart; James Franco is by many accounts a really intelligent dude behind his stoner-bro veneer.

With the elements of bro-dom thus explained, let us return to Ryan Lochte. He's a jock. He has a stoner affect. He competes in a preppy sport. He tweets pics of him and his dudes doing bro-ass things. So you can see why Lochte is the platonic ideal of bro-dom.

You could plot any number of youngish, contemporary celebrities somewhere on this Venn diagram. Andy Samberg is all about that crew love. Dudely. Tim Tebow is the bro-iest dude in a major American sport. Jockish. Armie Hammer is the quintessence of preppy; he even has that fourth-generation, high-society name.

So we need a couple favors from y'all. Tell us some public figures of color who might count as bros. (In the interest of keeping these comments relatively civil, let's avoid political figures.) Who are some youngish celebrity types who are most decidedly not bros? Is there anyone that you can think of who more typifies bro-ness than Lochte?

And you may disagree with some or all of the names on our map. So we also invite you to use this Google form to share your substitutes with us:


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ian Sinclair - Football’s Dangerous Masculinity

This is an interesting article from The New Left Project, based in the UK, on the issue of masculinity and football (soccer for the American readers). However, I suspect this perspective speaks equally well to our own issues with hyper-masculinity and American football.

Key observation:
As these representative examples show (I could easily have cited countless others) the type of masculinity constructed and reinforced in the footballing world shows football to be an important, highly conservative influence on contemporary gender relations, largely working to reproduce existing inequalities in society.
This is important to be talked about - when I was growing up in sports (football, basketball, and soccer), I had coaches who instructed us to "take out" the other team's best player. As we got older, locker room talk about females became incredibly objectified, boasting of conquests (sexual or otherwise) escalated, and subtle restrictions on what constitutes a "man" became more hyper-masculine and less human.

Then we wonder why some men grow up to be violent, emotionally cold, and insensitive to the feelings or needs of others.

Football’s Dangerous Masculinity

May 21, 2013
by Ian Sinclair

As the UK’s unofficial national sport and with the season running for nine months a year it often seems like it’s impossible to escape from football. It’s the default conversation topic from the office to the barbershop; the latest Premier League happenings round off television news broadcasts and large portions of our newspapers are dedicated to reporting and discussing every minute detail of ‘the beautiful game’. This cultural supremacy has been demonstrated by the recent retirement of Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United for the last 26 years. Treated in a similar manner to the death of a member of the royal family it was the top story on the BBC website and splashed across the frontpage of all the next day’s newspapers. Even Nick Robinson, the BBC’s Political Editor, felt the need to comment, gushing that Sir Alex was the “greatest living Briton”.

However, considering football’s importance to many people and society more broadly, progressives have remarkably little to say about it. Certainly there is ongoing concern about the ever increasing capitalist nature of the game but what is almost completely lacking is an honest discussion or critique of the ideology of the game – in particular football’s relationship with men and masculinity. As Mariah Burton Nelson notes in her 1994 book The Stronger Women Get, The More Men Love Football: Sexism and the American Culture of Sports, “We need to take sports seriously – not the scores or the statistics, but the process. Not to focus on who wins, but on who’s losing.”[1]

As Men’s Studies scholars have noted about sport generally, the hierarchical and highly competitive world of football is one of the key sites for the construction and reproduction of masculinity today.[2] Through playing and watching the game boys learn what it means to be a man – which values and behaviour are manly and which are unmanly. “Be tough”, “be strong”, “play to win”, “get stuck in”, “don’t be intimidated”, “don’t cry”, “don’t wimp out” – all are common encouragements and admonishments to young footballers. And when they return home to watch Match of the Day they hear commentators praising their idols for “dominating” their opponents and “controlling” the game. Those players that play through great pain are heralded as heroes and those, like Roy Keane, who intimidate and revel in the violence and hyper-aggression are feted by fans and awarded with trophies. “I'd waited long enough. I fucking hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you cunt. And don't ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries”, wrote Keane in his autobiography about his premeditated revenge take down of Manchester City’s Alf-Inge Haaland in 2001, which effectively ended the Norwegian’s career. “My attitude was, fuck him. What goes around comes around. He got his just rewards. He fucked me over and my attitude is an eye for an eye." A subsequent investigation led to Keane being banned for five matches and fined £150,000, although sceptical readers may wonder how long a prison sentence Keane would have received had the incident occurred outside of a football stadium. Three years later Keane was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.

While Roy Keane was Manchester United’s enforcer on the pitch, Sir Alex ran the club like a dictatorship. “Fergie’s rule was absolute”, notes Channel 4’s John Anderson. “Loyalty was a quality to be demanded and repaid in equally unswerving fashion, and his word was law.” Pundits marvelled and chuckled at his ability to discipline his players and play macho psychological mind games with his opponents. On several occasions he has been banned and fined for using abusive language to match officials. In a widely reported dressing room incident he kicked a boot in anger that hit David Beckham in the face, requiring stitches. Never mind that this bullying management style would get him immediately sacked from every other workplace in the UK – Sir Alex, we have been told repeatedly in the last week, is the greatest manager ever to have graced the English game. His “achievements demand not just respect, they deserve to be studied and learned from”, argued Robinson. Tony Blair’s own enforcer Alastair Campbell may look up to Ferguson, but what has any of this got to do with those working for democracy, justice and equality except to serve as a guide about how not to behave?

As these representative examples show (I could easily have cited countless others) the type of masculinity constructed and reinforced in the footballing world shows football to be an important, highly conservative influence on contemporary gender relations, largely working to reproduce existing inequalities in society.

And nowhere is football’s resistance to contemporary gender norms more obvious than when talking about the total absence of openly gay players in the professional game. The first openly gay footballer was trailblazer Justin Fashanu – also the first one million pound Black player. "A bloody poof!" was how his manager at Nottingham Forest football club, Brian Clough, described him. Justin’s own brother disowned him when he came out in 1990. “He has come out publicly and stated his sexual preferences, so now he will have to suffer the consequences. I wouldn’t like to play or get changed in the vicinity of him”, said John Fashunu. John went on to present the hit TV show Gladiators. Justin killed himself in 1998.

While sports scholars like Ellis Cashmore and Jamie Cleland argue homophobia among football fans has significantly decreased since those dark days the lived experience on the ground gives less cause for hope. In January 2012, Robbie Rogers left Leeds United by "mutual consent". A month later he announced he was gay. In a statement Rogers said that remaining in football after declaring that you were gay was "impossible".

Football is also stuck in the stone age when it comes to women. This shouldn’t be surprising when you consider sports scholars have long explained that professional, organised sport as we know it emerged in the late 19th century in response to a number of challenges to men’s traditional power, not least the rising consciousness and power of women in society. As Michael Messner, Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California, notes:
Sport was a male-created homosocial cultural sphere that provided men with psychological separation from the perceived ‘feminization’ of society, while also providing dramatic symbolic ‘proof’ of the natural superiority of men over women.[3]
More than a century later and “the locker room” continues to be “the last preserve of the all male world”, according to Michael Kimmel, Professor of Sociology at State University of New York.

Football’s endemic sexism hit the headlines in 2011 when the Premier League’s top commentating team, Sky Sports’s Andy Gray and Richard Keys, were caught making disparaging and sexist comments about a female linesman and to a female colleague in the studio. In another incident Keys, off air and talking about Jamie Redknapp’s former partner, lewdly comments “Would you smash it [have sex with her]?... You could have gone round there any night and found Redknapp hanging out the back of it”. Gray and Keys were dismissed by Sky Sports, but it’s important to note their behaviour only became an issue when a (presumably disgruntled) colleague leaked the footage to the media.

What should be clear from all these examples is that the type of masculinity promoted reproduced in the footballing world is not an aberrant masculinity which can be dismissed as the way other men – criminal and psychopathic men, perhaps – act. Rather, it encapsulates many of the values and behaviours that make up mainstream, perhaps even the dominant, form of masculinity today.

The problem, as Cynthia Cockburn and Ann Oakley cogently argued in 2011, is that these “widespread masculine traits and behaviours are dangerous and costly both to individuals and society.” According to Government figures, in 2009-10 men were the perpetrators in 91% of all violent incidents in England and Wales: 81% for domestic violence, 86% for assault, 94% for wounding, 96% for mugging, 98% for robbery. 2009 Ministry of Justice figures show men were responsible for 98% of sexual offences, 92% of drug offences and 89% of criminal damage. 99% of child sex offenders are male. On the road men commit 87% of all traffic offences, 81% of speeding offences, 97% of dangerous driving offences and 94% of motoring offences causing death or bodily harm.

To summarise, the sport that so many of us support financially and emotionally, and the players we idiolise and cheer on, promote a highly conservative version of masculinity that is damaging, sometimes deadly, to women, children and society more generally. Where, then, are the progressive and feminist voices raised in protest and anger at the gender politics of football? Where is UK Feminista? Where is the Fawcett Society? Where are the critiques in the Guardian’s women’s pages? And where, most importantly, are the men who say they are feminists who want more equality between men and women? As chef and Norwich City fan Delia Smith once shouted: “Where are you? Where are you? Let’s be having you! Come on!"

~ Ian Sinclair is a freelance writer based in London and the author of The march that shook Blair: An oral history of 15 February 2003 published by Peace News Press. and

[1] Mariah Burton Nelson, The stronger women get, the more men love football. Sexism and the American culture of sports (Orlando: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1994), p. 8.
[2] For example Michael Messner, ‘Boyhood, organized sports, and the construction of masculinities’, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, January 1990, Vol. 18, No. 4, pp-416-44.
[3] Michael Messner, Out of play. Critical essays on gender and sport (Albany, State University of New York Press, 2007), p. 92-3.