Pussification: A Response
I’m glad this issue was finally brought up, because it’s certainly a valid one. I think we’re seeing the folly of an experiment of the last 20 years to convince boys and men to drop their traditionally masculine traits in favour of a blended feministic and non-offensive masculine dynamic. I read with eagerness what this lone voice had to say about the issue and left shaking my head in disbelief. “The Pussification of the Western Male” has been a popular essay on the Internet the past few years. If Kim du Toit is our representative of masculinity, then we are in serious trouble.
First of all, he suggests that giving women the vote was a bad move, because the involvement of women in politics has weakened the stance of a once aggressive nation. It’s a nice daydream, but it’s a false one. Mr. du Toit states that “there was a time men went to war because we recognized evil when we saw it, and knew that it had to be stamped out.” But oddly enough, in both World Wars, American politicians before the widespread “influence” of women were slow to recognize that evil had to be stamped out, judging by their late entries in both wars. American foreign policy was a clear one: let Europe fight its own battles and we’ll stay home. It is only in the latter half of the twentieth century did Americans change their stance in foreign affairs and subsequently engaged in conflicts not rooted in morality but political wrangling and economic issues. The two engagements in Iraq for example are all about regional economic interests and not about ridding the world of the hideous Saddam Hussein. As someone who revels in the idea (but not the actualities) of warfare, Mr. du Toit should be happy with the course of politics in the last fifty years. Far from putting down the guns and staying home, Americans have rushed headlong into conflicts with reckless abandon. And all of this has happened with the increased visibility of women in the political arena.
This leads me to believe that Mr. du Toit does not object to the role of women in politics for any specific reason except that giving women power and equal footing in the decision-making processes of society makes him uncomfortable and insecure. His issue of social security is a smokescreen. Any good society helps people who have fallen on hard times and protects people from the “tyranny of the majority”. This is not a free pass for people to milk the system. Trust me, I hate those people as much as anyone. But to me, being a real man means helping out my fellow citizens when they need it (not necessarily when they want it; there is a difference), not turning my back on them. And all this nonsense about “nanny laws” have little to do with women; they are a reaction to sue-happy Americans who abuse the legal system to get corporations to cough up when they are the victims of their own carelessness. This is not caused by women, but by the greedy.
I do wholeheartedly agree with his analysis of men on television today. I will give him no arguments there. The typical portrayal of men today is that of a slovenly, slow-witted buffoon who thinks of nothing but beer, cars and sex, and “needs” a woman to keep him grounded and stable. This to me is just as offensive as the idea of past decades that women need men to be complete and that there sole purposes is to act as a brood mare and to feed their men and keep their houses clean. “Now you be a good Maxwell House wife… or you’ll walk the plank!” says a husband to his wife on a boat in one Maxwell House coffee commercial in the sixties. But Mr. du Toit’s alternative? Let me list them.
1. “Men are taught violence is bad.” Personally I agree that if someone breaks into my house, I perceive them as a threat to my family and I will do what it takes to render them incapable of harming my wife and child, up to and including killing them. But I believe in using violence judiciously and in most cases, as a last resort. Mr. du Toit? He believes in using violence… whenever he feels like using it, hiding under the umbrella of “that’s the way real men are.” Not really. Real men know how to use their fists, certainly. Real men also know when to use their fists, and when using them is not appropriate. Sure, I loved a good brawl… and then I grew up.
2. “… men are, by and large, slobs.” No, we’re not. Taking care of yourself, and taking care of your home and your possessions is the mark of a real man. Women don’t change this “ideal”, it is either taught to us or it isn’t. This idea that women are responsible for eradicating slobbish behaviour is completely without logic. If Mr. du Toit has ever spent any time in the armed forces, he would know that one of the most masculine institutions in the world has zero tolerance for slobs or slobbish behaviour.
3. “…Tim Allen’s excellent comedy routine on being a man…” What the fuck? Tim Allen’s comedy routine on being a man is indicative of what Kim du Toit is pissed off about in the first place… men not being taken seriously in our media. Tim Allen’s routine of the grunting man playing with power tools and screwing up and looking like Neanderthals is merely poking fun at what Mr. du Toit holds dear… and he doesn’t get it. It’s no surprise that Home Improvement is the way that it is, because it’s what Tim Allen’s routine was about all along. Men’s simple-mindedness and needing women to solve their problems. The Man Show was lampooning the same things, just in an unabashed sort of way.
4. “Warning labels are indelibly etched into gun barrels.” Women didn’t do this. Gun manufacturers did this with the advice of their legal departments because America is the Land of the Lawsuit… something men are just as responsible as women for. It has nothing to do with a Mother Hen figure wagging her finger at the government.
5. “…our President, who happens to have been a qualified fighter pilot, lands on an aircraft carrier wearing a flight suit, and is immediately dismissed with words like “swaggering”, “macho” and the favorite epithet of Euro girly-men, “cowboy”.” First of all, President Bush may have been a qualified air pilot, but we all know the “champagne brigade” status of his unit and his shenanigans within the unit itself. du Toit does not consider Al Gore a “real man” but keep in mind Gore actually served in Vietnam. So did John Kerry. Why didn’t George W. “real man” Bush serve in Vietnam? du Toit doesn’t really get around to that question because it’s inconvenient to his position. I don’t know, but I’d trust the opinions of Gore and Kerry when it comes to war over Bush. They’ve been there; Bush, by conscious choice, wasn’t. Period.
Bush was dismissed with words like “swaggering”, “macho” and “cowboy” for two reasons. First of all, he is the President, and as such people expect him to act with a little bit of class, especially when his (non-combat) military service is highly questionable. Second, with the “mission accomplished” banner behind him (which would be screamingly funny if it wasn’t for the fact that thousands of American troops have died in this fiasco of a war), most people knew the whole thing was a pile of crap… and I include most conservatives, whether they want to admit to it or not. The President with his swagger and his drawl ended up once again looking foolish.
While I think Kim du Toit has several valid points, he clearly has a lot of trouble understanding what in fact does make a real man. The real problem is he is using “masculinity” and “macho” interchangeably. And that is the very same problem that has plagued our society in the last 30 years or so in regard to raising our boys. So-called “male” traits were deemed harmful and frowned upon in our media and education system. They lumped competition and bullying together, the idea that competing for something and winning it is wrong, because the loser feels bad, instead of teaching the winner to win gracefully and fairly and the loser to analyze their mistakes and try again. They taught that aggression is wrong and replaced it with “assertiveness”, instead of teaching boys how to use their aggression in a wise and focused manner. Things got so bad that the education system have rewritten their curricula to be advantageous to girls. I have nothing against teaching so girls have an equal footing when it comes to learning (and yes, boys and girls do learn differently), but boys were sacrificed in this process, and it shows today… dropout rates for boys are substantially higher than that of girls. Rates of boys pursuing higher education has dropped steadily, to the point that some educators are calling it a crisis in the making.
During the most idiotic phase of feminizing boys, suggestions like taxing men because men are responsible for the vast majority of crime and traffic fatalities were seriously discussed. As Mr. du Toit mentioned, playing cops and robbers has been deemed bad and eradicated without a second thought about the long-term effects this might have. It is playing these games that teaches boys the tangible value of right and wrong in terms that can be understood. Same with comic books and movie heroes. Where Mr. du Toit and myself part ways is that Mr. du Toit implies that vigilantism is not only okay, it should be encouraged. I disagree. Vigilantism is frowned upon for a very good reason: too many innocent people wind up dead. We have a legal system and due process for good reasons, because common sense fails us more often than we like to think. Turning suspected wrong-doers over to authority is not an act of weakness; it is an admission that an individual should not have the authority to determine who lives and who dies, even if that person may be a lawbreaker. The individual is sometimes wrong and even sometimes unscrupulous.
But despite all the efforts of people to stamp out masculine behaviour, it has simply cropped up in increasingly idiotic ways. In the past ten years or so, not coincidentally with the rise of the Internet, unfocused “macho” behaviour is making increasingly intrusive strides into our mainstream culture. Gangsta rap is the most extreme example of this and I completely agree with Mr. du Toit that this music is unabashedly packaged, marketed and sold to suburban white boys as fantasy fulfillment and generally not “an honest representation of life in an inner-city ghetto” which is the usual justification. The same ethic applies with the meteoric rise in popularity of pro wrestling, underground fighting videos on the Internet and “literature” like Maxim magazine. All these institutions cater to a man’s machismo, or the negative connotation of a man’s masculinity, but does nothing to nurture masculinity and its responsible use for the betterment of himself, his loved ones and the society that the man lives in. What we wind up with is a generation of men in a constant state of arrested development, unable to handle the responsibility that society requires of positive masculinity and instead takes pride in slovenly and oafish behaviour disguised as “real manhood”. That is not to say that men can’t take a break and do things like ogle strippers and get drunk, but the real man understands that his life can’t be lived around such things.
What amazes me about Kim du Toit’s rant is that he wants to be able to do what he wants according to his own sense of masculinity (and apart from “shooting criminals” and “driving fast”, nobody is stopping him) but routinely denies the same choices to his fellow men. In his world, it’s his way or no way. A “real man” in his eyes is mostly a ficticious one, gleaned from inaccurate history books and Hollywood. It’s interesting how often Mr. du Toit refers to characters rather than people when telling us who “real men” are, the most laughable being when he quotes John Belushi: “Did we quit when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” I have to remind Mr. du Toit that:
a) a character that John Belushi portrayed in a movie uttered that line, not John Belushi, the person
b) the line satirizes people who don’t think before they act
I could take “The Pussification of the Western Male” a little more seriously if Mr. du Toit doesn’t constantly contradict himself. He wants individuality… and yet wants everybody else follow his blueprint of life. Perusing a sampling of some other essays on his site, he lauds individualism because he believes in the goodness of most people. And yet much of his writing reeks of paranoia and fear of his fellow citizens and the world at large. What Mr. du Toit really wants is the right to act like a moron. I don’t wish to deny him that right. He can act in any manner that doesn’t interfere with me. But don’t confuse his ideals with the true ideals of masculinity; responsibility, duty, wisdom, hard work, looking out for your fellow man and sacrifice. Actually, it’s not much different than the ideal feminism. It’s just that men reach these ideals in different ways. That is what I object to. I don’t wish to achieve maturity via what is traditionally feministic, because I’m not wired that way. I don’t feel the need to constantly communicate my feelings, I enjoy rough and violent sports, I am polite and cordial, but cross the line with me and I’ll plant my foot square in your ass, and yes, I enjoy a good smoke after a meal… I just don’t smoke in the presence of my son… because a real man would make that sacrifice for the health of his children.
I have a feeling that “Pussification” is acting out whatever is perceived as manly simply because Mr. du Toit is uncomfortable with the alternative; everyone having a say in the direction of their nation, including women and so-called “girly-men”. One of the principles that the United States was founded upon was the exact opposite of what Kim du Toit proposes. Real men shouldn’t be afraid of women, they should be concerned about the ineptitude of those in authority by both sexes.
I object to the metrosexual revolution as much as Mr. du Toit does, but for different reasons. Metrosexuality has been around for centuries. We used to call it foppishness or dandyism. Now we call them metrosexuals. What I object to is not that some men are like that, but that I am being told by the commerical culture steamroller that in order to be a “modern man”, I have to be that way as well.
I don’t. And I’m comfortable with that. Let my neighbour be who he wants to be and I’ll do the same. Only an insecure fool would want otherwise.