Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Very Idea of Masculinity is Under Attack

 

Masculinity is being attacked on a theoretical level, one where it barely manifests itself.

A few days ago I was reading an article about men’s workout clothing. Specifically how the market for high dollar designer gym gear had grown exponentially in the past several years. Nike, Under Armour, Lululemon, and GAP have all released men’s lines of fashion-conscious workout clothes and are apparently raking in the cash. There were many quotes surrounding how many men are now caring more about their appearance while they work out.

This got me thinking about the ways that traditional masculinity manifests itself versus femininity. Not to compare them, just the differing nature of the manifestations. Before I go any further, I should issue a disclaimer. Warning: generalizations ahead.

Now, anyway. When you think about ways in which the masculinity in a man manifests itself, it is almost always related directly to something he is doing, something based in the physical and practical. He has big muscles because he exercises. He wears rugged clothes because they keep him warm and dry while he’s doing stuff outdoors. He has guns (and cleans them, talks about them, shows them off, talks about them, and memorizes massive amounts info about them, ahem) because he likes hunting or just plain shooting. He eats massive amounts of food to fuel his activities. These are functional manifestations of male impulses.

Most of a man’s mental focus is on the actions themselves, less on the state of being. For instance, when a man likes to fish, it’s because he enjoys catching (and eating) fish, not because he has said to himself “I want to be a fisherman.” When he picks out camo for hunting, he thinks more about what will hide him from the prey than how it looks on him.

Females, on the other hand (remember: generalizations), are much more deliberate in the way they manifest femininity. They spend a ton of money on skin care products and makeup in order to achieve a certain look. They are much more detail-focused when buying clothes; specifically concerning how they look and — not unimportantly — how they feel when wearing them. When they decorate a room, they go to great lengths to create a look and feel for the space. This is how women tend to manifest femininity: with creative presentation in order to evoke a certain feeling in themselves and/or others.

Now it’s no secret that masculinity is under attack from the print, broadcast, and social media. Just google the phrase “traditional masculinity is dead” for pages and pages of examples. And in the age we live in, the attacks can be spread by any and everyone with the click of a button.

But if you look closely, you will see that the majority of the attacks are couched in the female paradigm that I generalized above. They assume that the masculinity they are attacking is “a look,” or style adopted. The same way that a female would choose a hairstyle because she thinks it’s cool. They seem to see masculinity as a theoretical idea to be adopted and deliberately acted upon.

The recent Gillette ad that caused so much controversy is a perfect example. Specious assumptions aside — the main visceral objection to the ad was that men would choose their razor based on the level of social morality exhibited by the brand. But if you think about it, this is exactly something a female would do. The popular Naked makeup line comes to mind, part of the appeal is that the parent company Urban Decay is said to be cruelty-free and does not do animal testing. (I have never until just now wondered how you test makeup on animals.)

A traditional masculine man choosing a razor probably starts with “how well does this shave my face” and ends with “how much does it cost.” So men are put on edge from the very beginning simply because the ad is couched in a format seems directly aimed at feminine consumers.

A frequently made point is that the people who think that there should be less traditional masculinity in society will change their mind if they need a firefighter, rig worker, snow plow driver, soldiers, etc. Right? You hate rednecks until your car breaks down and Bubba shows up with a bunch of tools in the back of his truck. This should be a legitimate counterpoint to the attacks, except that it is taking place on a completely different battlefield. When this is brought up, it is referencing the practical not the theoretical/lifestyle choice arena. You are comparing apples to oranges, and your counter-argument will fall on the deaf ears of someone who just wants to enjoy some virtue signaling.

Activism in the theoretical arena (for lack of a better term) has been gaining more and more power. Consider that Proctor and Gamble, a giant company whose only real concern is the bottom line, felt like releasing the Gillette ad would be a good move. Not because they thought that men would switch razors or even be better men, but because of the value of the social capital they would gain. Right now they have plenty of women defending the ad, they have a large number of men mocking any man who expressed outrage over the ad, and they are all over national news broadcasts. All publicity is good publicity so to speak.

The theoretical realm gains more influence simply because there are more men who treat masculinity as an idea. Just look at the existence of “Lumber Sexuals.” Their flannel shirts, full beards, and wool caps are choices made to create a “look,” not to protect them from the elements. And the fact that major brands like Nike and Under Armour are latching on to this trend is tangential evidence that more men are valuing this kind of thing.

Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing inherently wrong with choosing to be a lumber sexual or to wear workout gear from Lululemon (seriously they have some of the best lifting shorts). But let’s remember, when our masculinity (or the masculinity of those you care about) is under attack, we need to identify which battlefield we are fighting on. Is it the theoretical where emotions reign and virtue signaling is commonplace? Or is it the practical realm that truly affects how our masculinity manifests itself. And, above all, remember that the ones who are close to you still appreciate your masculinity when the phones are put down and the TV is turned off.

There are 30 comments.

  1. Ralphie Member

    I think the ad was improperly attributing masculinity with machismo, a pretend type of manliness often adopted by those without good examples of what real men are like.

    • #1
    • January 17, 2019, at 2:31 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  2. The Reticulator Member

    Jerminator: You hate rednecks until your car breaks down and Bubba shows up with a bunch of tools in the back of his truck.

    If we had proper government services like in a civilized country, we wouldn’t need some unlicensed, uncertified Bubba who hasn’t had sensitivity training to stop by to help.

    • #2
    • January 17, 2019, at 3:49 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  3. Jerminator Member
    Jerminator Post author

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Jerminator: You hate rednecks until your car breaks down and Bubba shows up with a bunch of tools in the back of his truck.

    If we had proper government services like in a civilized country, we wouldn’t need some unlicensed, uncertified Bubba who hasn’t had sensitivity training to stop by to help.

    Can’t tell if serious. Suspect not

    • #3
    • January 17, 2019, at 3:54 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  4. Kay of MT Member

    I have 4 grandsons, 2 that shave and 2 that don’t, never asked which razor they preferred. However, all of them prefer Under-Armor for winter wear as it is very warm and lasts for years. Nothing to do with fashion. Wal-mart stuff is ready for the trash bin in a year.

    • #4
    • January 17, 2019, at 3:56 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  5. The Reticulator Member

    Jerminator (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Jerminator: You hate rednecks until your car breaks down and Bubba shows up with a bunch of tools in the back of his truck.

    If we had proper government services like in a civilized country, we wouldn’t need some unlicensed, uncertified Bubba who hasn’t had sensitivity training to stop by to help.

    Can’t tell if serious. Suspect not

    Serious. Also sarcastic. Pretty sure that’s a line they will take, though. 

    • #5
    • January 17, 2019, at 4:10 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  6. Full Size Tabby Member

    How many razors (and other things) are bought by women for their men? Who is the audience – the men who use or wear the product or the women who select the product from the store shelf?

    How many of these marketing departments and ad agencies are female dominated?

    • #6
    • January 17, 2019, at 4:12 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  7. Randy Webster Member

    My guess is that my wife would consider the Gillette ad silly.

    • #7
    • January 17, 2019, at 4:47 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  8. Bob Thompson Member

    Is this modern form of masculinity some sort of community product that is shared amongst those who want or need some? I saw it mostly from an individual perspective and that worked but my time has come and gone.

    • #8
    • January 17, 2019, at 5:48 PM PST
    • 1 like
  9. WillowSpring Member

    Ralphie (View Comment):
    I think the ad was improperly attributing masculinity with machismo, a pretend type of manliness often adopted by those without good examples of what real men are like.

    Living in the country, we have lots of examples. The land around us is slowly transitioning from farmland to 3+ acre lots and new houses. We have lived here for 18 years, so are still part of the “new ones”

    One of our friends has a business card with the title “Cattleman”. He is hauling hay every day this time of year for his cattle. A near neighbor has a huge snowplow he can install on his tractor and after big snowstorms, he goes around and plows the drives of the recent homeowners who aren’t prepared.

    From my standpoint, the world needs more “good old boys”.

    • #9
    • January 18, 2019, at 4:59 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  10. Jerminator Member
    Jerminator Post author

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    How many razors (and other things) are bought by women for their men? Who is the audience – the men who use or wear the product or the women who select the product from the store shelf?

    How many of these marketing departments and ad agencies are female dominated?

    This is a really good point. I just figured most men are like me and pretty particular about their razors. But there’s probably a large number of men who have their wife buy the razors and just use whatever.

    • #10
    • January 18, 2019, at 6:06 AM PST
    • 1 like
  11. Ray Kujawa Coolidge

    Jerminator: A traditional masculine man choosing a razor probably starts with “how well does this shave my face” and ends with “how much does it cost”.

    Could this be why companies like Gillette are losing their edge to Harry’s Shave, who encourage you to put some German engineering in your medicine cabinet and let her decide what a good job it does? (shameless plug for Harry’s — from the Ricochet Silent Radio announcer voice)

    • #11
    • January 18, 2019, at 5:54 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  12. Ray Kujawa Coolidge

    Jerminator: But lets remember, when our masculinity (or the masculinity of those you care about) is under attack, we need to identify which battlefield we are fighting on. Is it the theoretical where emotions reign and virtue signalling is commonplace?

    When masculinity is under attack, suspect … metrosexuals … but blame … Crab People!

    • #12
    • January 18, 2019, at 6:03 PM PST
    • 1 like
  13. Randy Webster Member

    Ray Kujawa (View Comment):

    Jerminator: But lets remember, when our masculinity (or the masculinity of those you care about) is under attack, we need to identify which battlefield we are fighting on. Is it the theoretical where emotions reign and virtue signalling is commonplace?

    When masculinity is under attack, suspect … metrosexuals … but blame … Crab People!

    I only eat the claws and legs.

    • #13
    • January 19, 2019, at 3:18 AM PST
    • 1 like
  14. She Thatcher
    She

    Jerminator: The recent Gillette add that caused so much controversy is a perfect example. Specious assumptions aside – the main visceral objection to the add was that men would chose their razor based on the level of social morality exhibited by the brand. But if you think about it, this is exactly something a female would do.

    I think it goes without saying that this ad was aimed at women.

    The popular Naked makeup line comes to mind, part of the appeal is that the parent company Urban Decay is said to be cruelty-free and does not do animal testing (I have never until just now wondered how you test makeup on animals….).

    Wonder no more. You don’t want to know. My opposition to animal testing for other than scientific or humanitarian purposes is what brands me as Washington County’s leading animal rights wacko. On a side note, Urban Decay was founded by Sandy Lerner, an extraordinarily bright woman who, while a student at Stanford in the early 1980’s, and with her partner Len Bosack, worked on a project to connect the schools computer systems, and using the knowledge gained, founded a small technology company. They called it Cisco Systems. When it got big enough to have a “Board” and CEO, the Board and CEO bounced Sandy Lerner, whom they found “difficult.” I expect she was. She took her very substantial payout from Cisco and founded Urban Decay. Since then she’s gone on to make her mark in the humane farming and organic foods market, and has contributed millions of dollars to the study of, and preservation of the legacy of, Jane Austen, of whom she is an unregenerate fan. I’ve met her (Sandy, not Jane). A very interesting woman. But, I’m sure, difficult. Very difficult.

    • #14
    • January 19, 2019, at 4:37 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  15. WillowSpring Member

    She (View Comment):
    Since then she’s gone on to make her mark in the humane farming and organic foods market,

    She lives fairly close to us and raises heritage livestock. They also have an upscale restaurant and a butchers shop in Middleburg, Va (very tony town).

    • #15
    • January 19, 2019, at 5:59 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  16. She Thatcher
    She

    WillowSpring (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):
    Since then she’s gone on to make her mark in the humane farming and organic foods market,

    She lives fairly close to us and raises heritage livestock. They also have an upscale restaurant and a butchers shop in Middleburg, Va (very tony town).

    Yes, I’ve been there. Mr. She and I attended a beekeeping workshop several years ago, and stayed at a Bed and Breakfast just outside Upperville. They were doing tours of the farm, and we took one, which was interesting, and then I guess the timing was right, we toured the house (which she’s done up in Jane Austen Regency style, absolutely stunning), and Sandy Lerner was there. We had a nice chat. She lives (or lived at the time, anyway) in a log cabin on the grounds, and the house itself was given over to the cats. As she pointed out, “I used to be crazy, but now I’m rich, they just call me eccentric.”

    It’s lovely country, but I can’t imagine what it costs to live in the area. We ate at the “Hunter’s Head Tavern,” and shopped at the butchers. Lovely. A very memorable weekend all round.

    • #16
    • January 19, 2019, at 7:01 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  17. She Thatcher
    She

    Thinking about Sandy Lerner has made me think about the thesis of this post, since the historical period that captures her interest is the British Regency period–roughly the second decade of the nineteenth century, when George III was sidelined, and his son, the future George IV was, essentially ruling as “Prince Regent” (Battle of Waterloo time frame). It was a time when much attention was paid to appearance by men and women of means, and when the term “dandy” came into its own to describe a man perhaps overly dedicated to, and fussy about, his appearance. At the same time, I’m sure that ordinary men and women had work to do, and probably didn’t bother overly much with such things. Perhaps status, or a state of financial well-being, or having the time to fiddle with one’s appearance has something to do with it, too. Certainly, those of a certain status in the early decades of the nineteenth century, including the men, paid great attention to their appearance and their clothing, and the impression they made on others.

    • #17
    • January 19, 2019, at 7:13 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  18. Gary Robbins Reagan

    I couldn’t find the address for the Gillette Company. Google only wanted to give me the address for Gillette Stadium. Here is my letter to Procter & Gamble, the owner of Gillette.

    The Procter & Gamble Company

    1 P&G Plaza

    Cincinnati, OH 45202

    Re: Gillette Ad

    Dear Procter & Gamble:

    I have been a faithful customer of Gillette for years. The ad that attacks men and boys is unacceptable. Boys will be boys. To argue to the contrary is stupid. Male mammals are different from female mammals. Period. 

    I have no more need for my Gillette razor as I bought a Schick razor last night. I am returning my Gillette razor to you.

    You should apologize immediately. This is the worst corporate move since the New Coke and the Edsel. I don’t know how you are going to escape this. However, I would be happy to make an example of this so that you and other business never ever do this again. 

    Very Truly Yours,

    GARY E. ROBBINS, P.C.

     

    By: Gary E. Robbins

    • #18
    • January 19, 2019, at 3:42 PM PST
    • 1 like
  19. Basil Fawlty Member

    I’ll give them my jock when they pry it from my cold, dead thighs.

    • #19
    • January 19, 2019, at 3:51 PM PST
    • 1 like
  20. David Foster Member

    She (View Comment):
    She took her very substantial payout from Cisco and founded Urban Decay.

    I have wondered: Why would anyone choose to call a cosmetics line (or anything else) “Urban Decay”? It sounds like something that might be done by a Goth nihilist, intending to appeal to other Goth nihilists.

    Did Sandy L strike you as a nihilistic sort? Or just a weird sense of humor?

    • #20
    • January 19, 2019, at 3:52 PM PST
    • 1 like
  21. Henry Racette Contributor

    She (View Comment):
    My opposition to animal testing for other than scientific or humanitarian purposes is what brands me as Washington County’s leading animal rights wacko.

    Yet even you can’t avoid an implicit verbal microaggression. ;)

    But seriously, the end of my decade as a radical libertarian began with my posting (on CompuServe, which gives you some idea how long ago that was) of a piece I’d written advocating limited animal rights, and with the blowback that precipitated.

     

    • #21
    • January 19, 2019, at 4:22 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  22. Henry Racette Contributor

    Jerminator, I want to applaud you for taking the time to write a thoughtful piece about a truly big subject. The challenge to traditional masculinity, while a small part of the general tearing down of ideas that characterizes modern intellectualism, is itself a multi-faceted thing, and you’ve brought up some interesting aspects of it. Well done.

     

    • #22
    • January 19, 2019, at 4:30 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  23. She Thatcher
    She

    David Foster (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):
    She took her very substantial payout from Cisco and founded Urban Decay.

    I have wondered: Why would anyone choose to call a cosmetics line (or anything else) “Urban Decay”? It sounds like something that might be done by a Goth nihilist, intending to appeal to other Goth nihilists.

    Did Sandy L strike you as a nihilistic sort? Or just a weird sense of humor?

    Oh, she’s a very odd duck. Very, very bright and interesting. But I think a dark sense of humor, and I think she was working against the “pretty in pink” aspect of women’s cosmetics. She’s not big on artifice herself. Her lipsticks and eye shadows had names like “smog,” “rust,” and “acid rain.” Some of them are actually quite attractive, in spite of the names. Have to look up their tag line. It wasn’t “Pink Stinks,” but it was something like that . . . hang on . . . oh, right, “Does pink make you puke?” That was it.

    • #23
    • January 19, 2019, at 4:48 PM PST
    • 1 like
  24. She Thatcher
    She

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):
    My opposition to animal testing for other than scientific or humanitarian purposes is what brands me as Washington County’s leading animal rights wacko.

    Yet even you can’t avoid an implicit verbal microaggression. ;)

    What makes you think I was trying to avoid it?

    But seriously, the end of my decade as a radical libertarian began with my posting (on CompuServe, which gives you some idea how long ago that was) of a piece I’d written advocating limited animal rights, and with the blowback that precipitated.

    Good Lord, @henryracette, you’re a geezer. (#MeToo)

    • #24
    • January 19, 2019, at 4:50 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  25. Randy Webster Member

    She (View Comment):
    Oh, she’s a very odd duck. Very, very bright and interesting. But I think a dark sense of humor, and I think she was working against the “pretty in pink” aspect of women’s cosmetics. She’s not big on artifice herself. Her lipsticks and eye shadows had names like “smog,” “rust,” and “acid rain.” Some of them are actually quite attractive, in spite of the names. Have to look up their tag line. It wasn’t “Pink Stinks,” but it was something like that . . . hang on . . . oh, right, “Does pink make you puke?” That was it.

    I think I’ve posted before that my wife told me that if I got her a pink pistol, she’d use it on me.

    • #25
    • January 19, 2019, at 7:46 PM PST
    • 1 like
  26. Barfly Member

    Jerminator: When you think about ways in which the masculinity in a man manifests itself, it is almost always related directly to something he is doing, something based in the physical and practical.

    Jerminator: This is how women tend to manifest femininity: with creative presentation in order to evoke a certain feeling in themselves and/or others.

    The perception is strong with this @jerminator. Nailed it, he has.

    You see lots of explanations for the various dichotomies (right/left, male/female, artisan/intellectual, …) but I always come back to this one (with the Sunday afternoon corollaries added): Some of us value things of the world (and of God) and some of us value things of the mind (and the emotions.) To me, that explains the left and right at the level of the individual. 

    Another way to state the principle is that some of us support ourselves by making or doing some concrete thing and bartering it, and some of us support ourselves by persuading. That obviously translates into your active characterizations of masculine and feminine. It also makes clear that neither the masculine nor feminine paradigm is inherently superior – they are complementary, of course.

    I’d like to see the currents evolve such that both the objectively-oriented masculine men and the subjectively-oriented feminine women would see their interests coincide, and that they’d form a unified front against those of the third remunerative strategy: those who live by working the system.

    Men? Good. Women? Good. Lawyers? Wait a minute …

    • #26
    • January 20, 2019, at 10:33 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  27. Barfly Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):
    Oh, she’s a very odd duck. Very, very bright and interesting. But I think a dark sense of humor, and I think she was working against the “pretty in pink” aspect of women’s cosmetics. She’s not big on artifice herself. Her lipsticks and eye shadows had names like “smog,” “rust,” and “acid rain.” Some of them are actually quite attractive, in spite of the names. Have to look up their tag line. It wasn’t “Pink Stinks,” but it was something like that . . . hang on . . . oh, right, “Does pink make you puke?” That was it.

    I think I’ve posted before that my wife told me that if I got her a pink pistol, she’d use it on me.

    I hope this isn’t an indelicate question, but – why pink? Somebody analyze that phenomenon for me. A young girl in (e.g.) yoga pants and a black hoodie with PINK emblazoned across the back brings to mind the porn industry more than Lawrence’s answer to Gainsborough.

    • #27
    • January 20, 2019, at 12:01 PM PST
    • Like
  28. Randy Webster Member

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):
    Oh, she’s a very odd duck. Very, very bright and interesting. But I think a dark sense of humor, and I think she was working against the “pretty in pink” aspect of women’s cosmetics. She’s not big on artifice herself. Her lipsticks and eye shadows had names like “smog,” “rust,” and “acid rain.” Some of them are actually quite attractive, in spite of the names. Have to look up their tag line. It wasn’t “Pink Stinks,” but it was something like that . . . hang on . . . oh, right, “Does pink make you puke?” That was it.

    I think I’ve posted before that my wife told me that if I got her a pink pistol, she’d use it on me.

    I hope this isn’t an indelicate question, but – why pink? Somebody analyze that phenomenon for me. A young girl in (e.g.) yoga pants and a black hoodie with PINK emblazoned across the back brings to mind the porn industry more than Lawrence’s answer to Gainsborough.

    Not indelicate at all. She just doesn’t like pink. She thinks defining it as a female color is confining.

    • #28
    • January 20, 2019, at 12:37 PM PST
    • 1 like
  29. Jerminator Member
    Jerminator Post author

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jerminator, I want to applaud you for taking the time to write a thoughtful piece about a truly big subject. The challenge to traditional masculinity, while a small part of the general tearing down of ideas that characterizes modern intellectualism, is itself a multi-faceted thing, and you’ve brought up some interesting aspects of it. Well done.

     

    Thank you sir.

    It really is difficult to unravel all the interrelated issues surrounding stuff like this. 

    • #29
    • January 20, 2019, at 8:46 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  30. Henry Racette Contributor

    Jerminator (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jerminator, I want to applaud you for taking the time to write a thoughtful piece about a truly big subject. The challenge to traditional masculinity, while a small part of the general tearing down of ideas that characterizes modern intellectualism, is itself a multi-faceted thing, and you’ve brought up some interesting aspects of it. Well done.

     

    Thank you sir.

    It really is difficult to unravel all the interrelated issues surrounding stuff like this.

    Absolutely. There are a lot of aspects to it.

    There are those who see the harm men do and think, sensibly enough, that if only we could persuade men to be better, less harm would be done. And they’re right. There are those who consider the historic legal disadvantages of women, their limited autonomy and legal standing, and think that we should correct that. They’re a little behind the times: we have corrected that. But, as in the case of race, they choose to blame a current disparity with a lingering injustice, and so fight as if the matter is still amenable to legal redress.

    And then there are those who dislike the truth — at least, I think it’s the truth — that our national tradition is largely masculine, with a strong emphasis on individualism and self-reliance, on competition, on limited government. I think those people see masculinity as on affront, a hold-over from a more primitive time, and would like to negate all of the things associated with it in favor of a more paternalistic, less competitive culture.

    And there are the gadflies, the people who just haven’t thought very hard or lived very much, who think men and women really are the same, if only we’d stop telling them they weren’t. They’re the silly people of the gender-diversity movement, the science deniers, the ones caught up in a fad. They get a lot of the news now, and are sweeping our universities. I hope they grow out of it when they sashay out into the real world.

    • #30
    • January 20, 2019, at 9:03 PM PST
    • 1 like