Friday, August 24, 2007

Discussions of manliness

I don't like shooting down conservative commentary too often - too many targets, so little time - but there are times when I feel it might be a public service.

Here, we have the unmanly trying to prove they're manly by being just like other people who are trying to prove they're manly.

There was a book once, "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche". My response? "Real men eat whatever the hell they want, and aren't intimidated by an amusing book title." See, a real man isn't afraid someone's going to look at his plate and smirk, and say "Real men don't eat that kind of stuff." Because real men are, you know, real. The image doesn't matter. What is matters more than some bonehead's opinion.

Similarly, you won't get real men supporting quotes like this:
The problem is that it actually works the other way. People who are in fact masculine (or feminine!) don’t maintain a checklist: Well, I need to demonstrate that I’m masculine, therefore I shall buy a gun/cheer a sports team/ogle nubile teenagers/ride a motorcycle. Instead they do those things and others automatically, without thinking or any specific intent, because they are expressions of the underlying characteristic.


I'm kinda curious as to how, if there's no checklist maintained, those activities are selected as being "masculine"? Sorry, guys, you can't pretend there's no checklist, and then list items from what it contains... uh, would contain... uh, if it existed... which it doesn't.

As soon as you start saying "this is masculine", sorry, pal, you're maintaining a checklist. That's how it goes; if you have a list, and can check items off it as part of your test, it's a checklist. And you're a wimp for thinking it matters.

More importantly, those activities aren't all that masculine. Buying guns? Guns are tools, and the masculine men I know appreciate fine tools that do the job they're supposed to do. But buying them just to buy them? Eh. If you need a wrench, you buy a wrench. Sure, guns can be a hobby as well, but if you think collecting guns because they're really cool is more manly than collecting stamps because they're really cool, you don't quite get the whole manhood thing. Hobbies are hobbies; they're for fun and entertainment, and only a wimp has to mock someone else's idea of what's fun. (I'd say "a boy" instead of "a wimp", but, you know, I've known a lot of mature boys who'd never dream of mocking a person's hobby as being not masculine.)

Cheering sports teams is masculine? Playing slow pitch softball, or bowling in a sub-100 league, or, hell, anything, is more masculine than cheering. Sorry, that's just the way life is. Sports are fun to watch... but there's nothing specifically manly about watching other people do something difficult.

Ogling nubile teens? Eh. Men look at women appreciatively, but specifically teens? Women are beautiful; there ain't nothing special about teens, and if you think there is something really special about teens, I'd have to wonder if you could handle a real, mature woman.

Motorcycles? They're fun, agile, and you see and feel *everything*. They're no more or less manly than any other mode of transportation.

This is the thing that's so crazy about this. You have these people thinking that they know that they're real men, because they don't have to consciously try to measure themselves up to some imaginary standard, but because they do measure up to some imaginary standard.

And I'm sorry. That's the sign of a man not confident of his masculinity. I'm more masculine wearing a tutu that I've consciously chosen to wear, for my own reasons, than some bozo would be wearing military fatigues, "not because I want to look masculine, but because masculine men like the look of military fatigues!"

(I can't imagine any reasons for wearing a tutu. Not even to prove my claim that I'd still be masculine, because if you don't understand the truth of it, me proving it isn't going to improve your understanding. The point still stands.)

There's more circular reasoning there; more "being a man means conforming to one stereotype or another, because of who you are, but not because of the stereotype, yet the stereotype still determines what being manly is." It's ridiculous.

To be a man is to be what you are, powerfully, bravely, and unashamedly, and it's got nothing to do with stereotypes. Masculine stereotypes are for wimps who need to measure themselves.

Comments:
LHW--
"And I'm sorry. That's the sign of a man not confident of his masculinity. I'm more masculine wearing a tutu that I've consciously chosen to wear, for my own reasons, than some bozo would be wearing military fatigues, "not because I want to look masculine, but because masculine men like the look of military fatigues!"
I don't understand your point at all, man. Please explain.
Thanks,
Dan
 
Adherence to a standard doesn't make you a man... an adult male who thinks combat fatigues makes him look manly is fooling himself, no matter how he twists the logic around. Saying "It's not that I wear combat fatigues to be manly; it's because I'm manly that I wear combat fatigues!" is still hewing to a standard.

It's more manly to decide to do something feminine-appearing, because it's right and important - e.g., wearing a tutu - than it is to wear, e.g., combat fatigues, because you think that's what manly men wear.

As soon as you accept a meaningless external standard, as soon as you put appearance ahead of reality, you can't call what you're being "manly" anymore.
 
From a follow-up post:

"That aside, what is clear is that the author of this piece, David from Austin, hasn’t bothered to read my post. Because nowhere in the post do I set about to “prove” my manliness. In fact, I find it ridiculous that one would even need to — though the point of my post was that I find it doubly ridiculous that Neiwert would write a post decrying how “conservatives” obsess upon these things, even as it is he who seems to be doing the obsessing (hence the disquisition, which tracks nicely with a similar piece by another leftist, Ric Caric), while conservatives seem rather amused by his tortured attempts to prove his manliness to himself.

As I noted in a comment somewhere, the only reason Neiwert would even write such a post to begin with is that he has completely bought into conventional notions of masculinity and femininity and so must now set about changing them to account for his own behaviors, which he fears don’t match those conventions. He demands that social perceptions bend to his will.

"Me, I post about doing yoga and wearing bike shorts. And about how I’m hung like a particularly virile bull elk. Because the truth is, I couldn’t care less whether Neiwert or Marcotte or David in Austin or Tbogg find me “masculine” or not — and in fact, I tend to poke fun at the fact that they seem to think “conservatives” like me actually care about such things."

I think it would help if you understood the argument being made before you went about criticizing it.

Or else people might think that you really DO just feel like going after conservatives, even if they happen to agree with you.

The "checklist" bit was used as an example. The checklist items were picked in response to Neiwert's (remember, he's the LIBERAL here) suggestions that there are certain categories called "masculine" and "feminine."

For my part, I believe in male/female distinctions that are intrinsic or, at least, generalized enough throughout the sexes that they can fairly said to be more identifiable with one of the sexes than the other.

So not only do you miss completely the argument in my post, but you do so in a way that reveals your OWN conceptions of manliness, which you claim in your post to dismiss.

Lest how could you conclude that the writer of the post (yours truly) is "Unmanly" and "trying to prove [he's] manly be being just like other people who are trying to prove they're manly"? Without having a pre-conception of what "manliness" is, you wouldn't be able to argue that someone is UN-manly.

It is, by the way, patently untrue (and lazy or specious, your choice) to argue that, "you can't pretend there's no checklist, and then list items from what it contains... uh, would contain... uh, if it existed... which it doesn't."

Because acknowledging that there are conventional pointers toward masculinity or femininity that you didn't come up with (but which society has long used) does not make you a supporter of those lists.

Although you seem to hold the belief that "the maintaining of checklists" is a sign of wimpishness -- meaning, I'm presuming, that you have a checklist yourself. Making yourself, by your own logic, a wimp.

Add to that the fact that your argument is simply silly -- and that it misunderstands the points being made by people who have thought through things a bit more than you have -- and you are not just a self-proclaimed "wimp," but a fairly intellectually ordinary one, at that.
 
"It's more manly to decide to do something feminine-appearing, because it's right and important - e.g., wearing a tutu . . ."

Wha?
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Dan:

Sorry, one explanation to a customer. If you didn't get it the first time, you probably won't the second, especially not from asking such context-free questions.
 
Ah, Jeff, where to start? Where to end?

Let me start by saying that you are talking to a man, one who is quite secure in who he is. So, you see, your ridiculous attempts to insult me can't have an effect on me until you've earned my respect. Until then, they're some stranger's empty words.

Let's get on to the other issues, then.

As I noted in a comment somewhere, the only reason Neiwert would even write such a post to begin with is that he has completely bought into conventional notions of masculinity and femininity and so must now set about changing them to account for his own behaviors, which he fears don’t match those conventions. He demands that social perceptions bend to his will.

This is the ad hominem fallacy; insult Dave Neiwart, and then insist this counters his argument. It's also an unsupported assertion, and, in fact, unsupportable. You can't read Neiwart's mind, so can't know his motivations.

If I saw people insisting that there is only one order of infinity, I do not need to fear my own math skills to point out that they are wrong... in fact, in my case, it is comfort with my math skills that allows me to show them that they are wrong. Similarly, a man who is comfortable in his masculinity can easily point out errors that float around about what it is to be a man.

So, you see, you really do have to support your claims about Neiwart before having them accepted, even provisionally. As I said, a man is concerned with what's real, not with image.


I think it would help if you understood the argument being made before you went about criticizing it.

Or else people might think that you really DO just feel like going after conservatives, even if they happen to agree with you.


I attacked an argument and those who supported it. The political leanings of those people were irrelevant (save for a teasing first line that wasn't relevant to the argument itself).

It's not a good idea to say that I misunderstood an argument until you point to a substantive misunderstanding.

As for agreement, do you want to say "you're wrong, I don't accept that argument"? Well, go ahead! But you might want to admit that you were unclear when you praised the argument as prideworthy... manly men aren't afraid of admitting they contributed their part to a misunderstanding.

So not only do you miss completely the argument in my post, but you do so in a way that reveals your OWN conceptions of manliness, which you claim in your post to dismiss.

Lest how could you conclude that the writer of the post (yours truly) is "Unmanly" and "trying to prove [he's] manly be being just like other people who are trying to prove they're manly"? Without having a pre-conception of what "manliness" is, you wouldn't be able to argue that someone is UN-manly.


Oh, please, Jeff... first off, you were not the author of most of that post. Most of it came from Ric Locke. But you did give it a place of pride, and claimed that it showed the absurdity of arguments like Neiwarts'. Or did I misunderstand? Feel free to explain; I'm not so unmanly as to be afraid of making a mistake, or ashamed of admitting to it. But you do have to explain, rather than attack.

And just because manliness is not a result of external stereotypes does not mean that it is indefinable. I am criticizing the argument that the stereotypes are meaningful, and, yes, claiming that it is less manly to believe in meaningless images than in what is real.



Although you seem to hold the belief that "the maintaining of checklists" is a sign of wimpishness -- meaning, I'm presuming, that you have a checklist yourself. Making yourself, by your own logic, a wimp.


No, there's no checklist. I can't check off "doing what's right" and "being true to myself". I can only do them, to the best of my ability. If I did those things yesterday, well, that's good for me, but it's not nearly as important as doing them *now*. They're not things that you check off like items on a shopping list, because they don't end, they're not self-contained.

Just because there's a definition and a set of ideals doesn't mean there's a checklist. If that point is too subtle for you, if it still seems like a checklist, well, I'm sorry... I can't think of a way to make it more clear.
 
Just because there's a definition and a set of ideals doesn't mean there's a checklist.

Once one internalizes a set of ideals, it becomes a list even if they "don't end" or are "self-contained".

The Ten Commandments are not a checklist?? Certainly they are ... because one's every day behavior can support or negate the values inherent in The 10 C.

Let's be even more basic. Having good health is a positive value. One's behaviors can either support or negate that value. Brushing teeth daily, some exercise, eatting nutrious food ... That is a "checklist" of behaviors that "don't end" and are "self-contained."

IMO you actually missed Ric Locke's point entirely...indeed, you are 180 degrees off ... just as Neiwart was in his hissyfit as he projected his own insecurities when he totally misinterpreted Dr. Helen. Thus we get from him:

I don’t fish or camp or kayak now because they’re manly, but because they’re what I do.

Yet the whole of his article is to deny the non-leftists the same activities because THEY only do it because they "obsess about masulinity in a juvenile way."

And that strips naked the Leftist mindset ... non-leftists cannot be sincere in their actions or good faith in their arguments. Non-leftists aren't "mistaken", they are "bad" or/and have "bad/evil motives."
 
Darleen:

Once one internalizes a set of ideals, it becomes a list even if they "don't end" or are "self-contained".


A list is not a "checklist". That something can't be defined by stereotype, by meaningless images, doesn't mean it can't be defined at all.


The Ten Commandments are not a checklist?? Certainly they are ... because one's every day behavior can support or negate the values inherent in The 10 C.


The Ten Commandments are a very small part of Jewish law (and non-binding on Gentiles, though there is overlap between them and the Noachide laws) and Jews who study the matter are quite aware that Jewish Law is their best attempt to conform to a higher ideal. So, in fact, Jewish scholars do recognize the difference between the law and the checklist, and recognize that the checklist is vastly inferior to the law.

Let's be even more basic. Having good health is a positive value. One's behaviors can either support or negate that value. Brushing teeth daily, some exercise, eatting nutrious food ... That is a "checklist" of behaviors that "don't end" and are "self-contained."

And good health, while not independent of those behaviors, is not defined by them. Good health can also require variance from those activities (depending on circumstances). Further, you can't say "I eat well, exercise regularly, etc., therefore I'm healthy".

The pursuit of good health can't be defined by a checklist; it requires pursuit of an ideal.

Similarly, one can't be manly by following a checklist, or even because one happens to meet the requirements without bothering to be concerned by them.

Being manly means pursuing ideals.


IMO you actually missed Ric Locke's point entirely...indeed, you are 180 degrees off ... just as Neiwart was in his hissyfit as he projected his own insecurities when he totally misinterpreted Dr. Helen.

Ah, I feared the attack was coming, and here it is.

I'm sorry, but Ric did link stereotypes about masculinity to being masculine, and Jeff did point to it as deserving a prideful place.

And I've already explained the fallacy of claiming to know Dave Neiwart's motivations. He is making similar points to mine: that it is not a set of behavior or outward appearances that make a man manly, and that many people have a distorted view of what it is that makes a man manly.

As for his article denying activities to nonleftists, please... if a guy refuses to engage in activities Dave described because of fear that people would think he was obsessing about his masculinity, he's already on the wrong track. That's the point. Real men aren't all that concerned about images; they care about reality.
 
That's, first, a big IF. Second,

"if a guy refuses to engage in activities Dave described because of fear that people would think he was obsessing about his masculinity, he's already on the wrong track. That's the point. Real men aren't all that concerned about images; they care about reality"

Which places Ric where?
 
The Ten Commandments are a very small part of Jewish law (and non-binding on Gentiles, though ...

Please, can you be any more pedantic?

And good health, while not independent of those behaviors, is not defined by them.

Did I say they were?

Ah, I feared the attack was coming, and here it is

Not an attack. Did you read Dr. Helen's post? Do you think DN honestly relayed her meaning?

if a guy refuses to engage in activities Dave described because of fear that people would think he was obsessing about his masculinity

Who is refusing? What Dave has done is to say HE can do them without thinking if it makes him manly ... something that Ric states quite clearly: "Instead they do those things and others automatically, without thinking or any specific intent,"

Simpler:

Dave (leftist) does "manly things" without thinking of them as "manly" = GOOD

Ric (non-leftist) says even conservatives do "manly things" without think of them as "manly" = BAD [posuer/juvenile/obssessive]

This whole episode of high dudgeon from leftists about those terrible, insincere, unmanly rightwingers is hilariously reminiscent of the hysteria on leftwing feminist blogs on whether or not someone can be an "authentic" feminist and still wear lip gloss.

the personal is the political is, and always has been, a crock o'bovine excrement.
 
Darleen:

Re: the Ten Commandments, you're right, I was showing off a bit. But my main thrust there was to point out that Jewish law mirrors manhood... with Jewish law, it's not the following of the specific laws, it's the being in accordance with the will of God. Similarly, being a man isn't about what specific things you do or don't do, but about why and how you do them.

As for the rest, maybe I can shorten this by pointing to another bit of Ric's message:

We all learn, at an early age, the socially constructed expressions of masculinity appropriate for our society, and as we mature we pick and choose from that menu to form our own personas.

Ric is saying, quite clearly, that manly men follow a checklist, a socially constructed set of expressions of masculinity appropriate for our society.

Did he mis-speak? Hey, it happens to the best of us; I'm willing to believe that didn't reflect his true beliefs, that he'd like to re-state what he said if he may. But what he said was clear: that being a man is linked to specific behaviors. And it's simply not true.

A man who works hard as an accountant to feed his family is more manly than a man in the military (let's say in special forces, just to keep playing to the stereotype) who hunts and smokes cigars and collects guns and ogles all the nubile teens you can imagine, if he is not as responsible about caring for his family.

What makes the accountant manly is a sense of responsibility.

Do you want to argue that you could put that on a checklist? Fine; I disagree. You can put it on a list; you can make it part of the definition. But you can't check it off; you can't say "I am responsible!" because you were for the past week, or the past month, or for your entire life up to this point. If you decide to stop being responsible, you're no longer responsible.

So you can't check it off. You have to keep doing it. It's always part of what you have to try to live up to.

As for Dave, I've read his article, and I think you're reading him wrong. He's not saying that if Ric wants to do whatever Ric loves doing, it makes him a poseur. He's saying that there are adult males who cleave to the stereotypes, those who think the image matters more than the reality.

And yes, he thinks a lot of conservatives have fallen into that trap... just as you think he (and I) are wrong.

Nevertheless, what Ric wrote, and what Jeff spoke approvingly of, was speaking about taking a list of masculine behaviors, and saying that manly men pick up those behaviors. And that's just not how it works.
 
Uh, LHW? You are not nearly so smart as you seem to think you are.

Really. You're just going to have to trust me on this.

I began this comment refuting your points, such as they are, one by one. But then I realized that I was refuting arguments made by someone who is clearly quite out of his depth.

Which is why the commenters are starting to go away, and why I will now follow.

But not before saying that your response to my original comment is so incredibly idiotic and off the mark that I can only shake my head and wonder how it is you came to believe yourself capable of arguing at all. Did not one of your teachers ever step in to tell you that simply throwing around buzzwords (incorrectly, too -- please do look up ad hominem, eg., or "assertion," or intention, etc) is not the same as understanding them?

Too bad you weren't one of my rhetoric students. I'd have helped you out considerably, I think.
 
Jeff:
Uh, LHW? You are not nearly so smart as you seem to think you are.

Really. You're just going to have to trust me on this.


Again, you're going to have to have my respect before your judgment is going to wound me.

I began this comment refuting your points, such as they are, one by one. But then I realized that I was refuting arguments made by someone who is clearly quite out of his depth.

Here's a question for you: do you really think that argument is about scoring points and "winning", or about hashing out an issue and trying to make the truth more clear?

I believe the latter. I discuss so that one or more participants or readers can learn something.

When you later speak of rhetoric, it reminds me of Socrates' discussion of it in Gorgias. Have you ever read it? It's a good read, it has some interesting ideas in it.
 
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