Macho man. Stud. A real man. Tough guy. My attention has been recently drawn to a type of pick-up truck by the name of Ram, a product of Dodge and a very popular one. Today, when I saw a Ram with the profile of a military weapon as a window decal, I got to thinking what sort of mentality sees masculinity in terms of force, power, and violence.
OK, Ram people. Don’t get offended (a real man doesn’t get offended, he gets even….. or something). The appeal of Ram commercials feeds into this image though. A great many young men in this country (and I am sure in others) buy into this image. But why? Are there any good values hiding behind the veil of guns and nasty remarks about women (Harpoon a Fat Chick)?
We can never forget that we have always asked these young men to go into battle and commit horrible acts of violence in our defense. You can’t have it both ways. However, any number of relatively gentle souls have proved ferocious combatants when called upon, so I don’t think bathing a male child in this stew of masculinity is necessary. And nowadays more and more women find themselves in combat roles. What effect will that have on them? Will Dodge start marketing to women?
No, I don’t think a potential combat role has anything to do with hyper masculinity. And do not think I disparage masculinity. When I see some of these oil field workers with arms the size of logs, I am happy to know there are men who are big and strong enough to do hard physical labor. When I watch my yard guys work, I think of myself wilting under the sun hacking away at weeds and branches all day. No thanks.
In fact, I think it is weak guys who resort to this faux violence to shore up their masculinity. There are things to be done in raising boys to tamp down their natural aggressiveness. That aggressiveness is natural and should not be turned off or squelched, but moderating it should be built into their personal arsenal of control mechanisms, like we ask them to moderate their sexual aggressiveness.
What really drives a lot of this, I believe, is the images that have been portrayed to young men and women every since the introduction of the cowboy movie, the Western. And the epitome of this image is John Wayne, followed not far behind by Clint Eastwood. My wife has been combating the influx of Trump news by watching cowboy movies, something she could not do as a kid. And I have noted as I walk past the TV that everyone packs a gun and is usually using it on someone as I walk by. When you define your masculinity as inflicting violence on other people with a gun, we may have to think if that is really what we want to impress on our youngsters.
Now, censorship is not the answer, as Tipper Gore found out when she slapped labels on rap records. How did that work to reduce rap as an influence when just tonight I heard David Corn, mild-mannered reporter, cite a rap lyric? On Ari Melber he and Jason reacted on TV yesterday to David Corn’s using a Naz the rapper reference. If you don’t know who Ari and Jason are, rap aficionados, and David, not anyone you would think ever listened to rap, you lose some of the hilarious effect. We still find people who sniff and make disapproving little sounds when rap is mentioned. I wish they would just put on their Grecian robe and go to the amphitheater for some Sophocles and let the rest of us get on with it.
It is hard to be a hypermasculine liberal. But I’m trying.