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September 01, 2009

Comments

It's an interesting post that I had never really considered before, and I suppose that it's true to some extent. It's a very generational feeling - I've never felt regret over my heterosexuality nor put in any great thoughts on why it's ok that I like matching clothes, trendy jeans and a nicely decorated apartment. But I'm 25, and I've just grown up with the expectation that all of this pretty normal amongst my peers.

When put in these terms though, it's striking to hear my suburbanite friends from high school (who, incidentally, are still my best friends) make outwardly homophobic and subtly (and most of the time subsconciously) racial comments while hanging out at a bar while talking about their new, expensive shoes and the new Kanye album.

I've been thinking about this -- anger at the loss of privilege -- for years. I do think that MAD MEN has that appeal for exactly that reason (and I was surprised to see LIFE ON MARS die the death, because I thought it served a similar function!)

At 32, I'm just young enough not to care too much about the loss of privilege -- I prefer a world where women are human too. And as someone who's not 100% white, I guess my perspective is a little mixed, at that.

This is an interesting conversation and I'd love to hear more of it.

I'm too lazy to find a link to it, but I believe Bitch, PhD. has said that the best way to get college freshman to not treat feminism with contempt is to make it clear that the patriarchy hurts men too.

    But most of us have not yet given up on oppressively restrictive, strongly normative conceptions of hetero masculinity.

i have.

i'm a geek. and i don't care who knows it.

I think part of the fascination for many white guys with the show Mad Men is that it is a window into an attractive (to them) world of white male dominance and privilege that has largely disappeared. . . .

Interesting. I've avoided Mad Men to date precisely because the early reviews made it sound like there might be a little too much fascination with--bordering on longing for--the "simpler" gender relations of a time when you could call your secretary your "girl" and tell her to go get you a cup of coffee and then pinch her on the butt as she walked past. It sounded like so much straight guy wish fulfillment, every bit as much as "Entourage"*.

Of course, everything I've been hearing since then suggests that it's way more subtle and complex than that (including the fact that most of the writers are female), so now I feel compelled to check it out.

*Actually, I really enjoy "Entourage," but mostly because Jeremy Piven is Teh Hawtness made flesh.

Like Luis, I'm 32, and maybe that's a tad too young to be longing for the days of yore when men were men and women were women and all that silly stuff. Or maybe it's just the way I was raised. My father retired early and raised me, my mom worked. My father always treated my mother with tons of respect. Neither parent is religious. I'm in New England as opposed to the Deep South.

Whatever the reason(s), my concept of manhood doesn't match up with the 1950s style stuff that I see some folks pining for (especially socons, of course). It's a fine fantasy for about 5 minutes, but once you think it through it becomes less and less attractive (at least it does to me).

My wife is my equal (and that description may be charitable to me at times, hah) and I wouldn't really want it any other way. I want a partner, not a servant.

I watched about half of two episodes of Mad Men. I felt like I was back in junior high school again. And not in a good way.

No wonder everybody drank so much back then.

I'm far enough out of the cultural loop that I have no idea what "conventionally heterosexual" looks like these days. Or conventionally homosexual, for that matter.

Are there still rules about those things?

It's beginning to dawn on me that, perhaps, not giving a damn about stuff like that is the consolation prize you get for aging. Sort of a karmic payback for having to wear readers and get colonoscopies.

I call it a fair trade.

Learning how to ignore the cultural BS and just be yourself can be a tough road. It takes some time and effort. But you can get there, if you want to.

I'm not sure anything was ever lost with the passing of "male privilege" that you don't have to surrender anyway as part of the price of becoming an adult.

When you're a kid, the purpose of the universe is, self-evidently, to give you candy. When you grow up, hopefully somewhere along the line that point of view changes.

When you're a kid, the purpose of the universe is, self-evidently, to give you candy. When you grow up, hopefully somewhere along the line that point of view changes.

This is as good a yardstick for maturity as I think I've ever read.

Tim gunn made "victorian gentelman" cool again, go figure!
--------------------------

"Tim Gunn isn't popular because he represents something new, innovative or avant-garde," says Karen Tongson, a professor of English and gender studies at the University of Southern California. "Rather, his popularity rests in the fact that he is a comforting throwback to Victorian versions of the gentleman scholar."

From: Tim gunn; Superman of Style

from this i think we can conclude that will wilkinson can't spell "metrosexual".

I think this post* either does too poor a job of defining, or assumes a very simplistic view of, "old-school machismo".

From what I've seen of the multiple patriarchal movements, and of the arts of more patriarchal ages (mostly old movies), there are really two ways "oldschool" masculinity can be asserted in the modern age:

1) Domination: Manliness is the assertion of being. When the father makes decisions, he asserts his authority; when a soldier kills the enemy, he asserts his country; when a man sleeps around, he asserts his DNA into the world. And whatever the phallic symbol asserts onto is feminized in the process; thus, the manliest man is he who dominates others without being dominated himself. (Hence God.)

2. Grace Under Pressure: Manliness is not being compromised by circumstance. Only when he can keep a steady job, and get his life in order, can somebody call himself a man; likewise when a nation can be bombed daily from across the channel, and go about their business unflinching, that nation can be called manly.** In relationships, a man can certainly be warm to his partner's emotional needs, but it does not bode well if he asks her to be too open in return; manliness still implies a level of difference. Above all, manhood requires a clear devotion to one's duty, whether it is to one's family, to one's country, or to his God.

(More may follow -- not certain)

*or the section quoted at least -- I've still to read Wilkonson's original in full

**On the other hand, a nation that gets attacked, then freaks out, gives up its civil liberties, and goes to war against a nation not even involved out of sheer terror... well, not so much.

Not to go off on a quasi-digressive rant, but I've always loathed the term "metrosexual". Perhaps it's just the cultural background I hail from, but when I've encountered the term in non-mass-media use (and occasionally even then) it's been used as a coded pejorative to distinguish between real true heterosexual Men, and those confusing homosexual men who for whatever reason only have sex with women (so far, hur hur). I can't say that I've ever seen a use (let alone need) for that wretched neologism.

(Also, I, like Catsy, liked Russel's last paragraph.)

Nate, everyone had a bad day. This 'male privilege' stuff, as presented by Wilkinson, indicates that W has too much time on his hands. Male privilege, as Wilkinson imagines it, is something men under 30 can only imagine. Watch a couple of old episodes of "I Love Lucy" to see just how crappy women had it in the 50's, 60's and well into the 70's and 80's. Even today, depending on demographics, you'll find throw-backs.
But there is another side too. My law partner is a woman as are three out of four of my associates. Many of my clients within the companies I represent are women. Many of my peers and colleagues are women. They like shoes, I like golf clubs. Generally, we both like travel, having a drink or two and going out to eat. I do some traditionally macho stuff, like hunt and fish, but so do my sister and my daughter. Educated, urban women still face male boorishness and worse, but neither boorishness nor harassment are privileges. They are the remnants of a past we are well done with.

it's not my favorite term either, nom vid.
and i agree that it is too often used to enforce a code according to which any deviation from marlborough-man standards of masculinity is taken as proof of gayness. (kind of like the 'one drop' rule, applied to sexual orientation).

of course, people like commenter steve above show us that you can make the same brainless inference without the use of that word, too.

but the word is also sometimes used to describe ordinary straight guys who are comfortable with some of the aesthetic and life-style choices more often associated with gay men. which is what a good chunk of w.w.'s post was about.

which makes the absence of the term from his post all the more curious. this whole topic--straight guys who are moving beyond marlborough--really has been talked about a fair bit already. i don't blame wilkinson for addressing it again--as long as crap like hymowitz's essay gets published, it will still need saying. but it's strange that he raises it as though there has been no previous discussion of it.

I don't miss male privilege. I miss 18-century men's fashions. We male privilege holders took a seriously wrong turn when we gave up colors and ruffles. Now that we let gurls into the clubhouse, can we reclaim silk?

How can we miss male privilege when it won't leave?

Seriously, I have to wonder about these men longing for the good old days when men could be men and everyone recognized their superiority. It seems a bit like Southern landlords with hundreds of sharecroppers resenting the new equality and harking back to the good old days of slavery.

Hellooo, women still get paid 80% of what men do for the same work. Or to put it another way, resentful white dudes: you get a 25% annual bonus just for having a penis. The good times are still rolling!

I work in a particularly sexist field, software, and it is very apparent that gender (and race) are widely used as proxies for credibility. And in fact the situation is getting worse in computer science, not better, with fewer women pursuing it.

My wife & I both watch Mad Men. We don't watch it for the masculinity, we watch it for the characters... who fully embrace their loathsome status but can't quite see the writing on the wall. The 60's are coming.

The writers know this, and point it out infinitely. This world is backwards. This world is wrong. And to think these days were "Golden Years" is too only pay attention to the flash and to miss the warning signs brimming everywhere.

The female characters are some of the best in the show. You can see the change occurring in them, but they don't know what it is yet. All they know is that they're not content with the status quo... and that resentment keeps building, and building ....

"who fully embrace their loathsome status but can't quite see the writing on the wall"

The characters cover quite a spectrum: Cosgrove,
Harry and Paul don't know it's a stupid game; Pete
knows it's a stupid game but is driven to win anyway
to prove something to himself and his rotten stuck-up
family; Don knows it's a stupid game but is so very
good at it (both lechery and advertising) that he
plays it anyway, unsatisfying as it is. Peggy is
trying to change the game, and may just succeed:
she's got the office and the responsibility, and
knows she can kick the men's asses. Joan has tried
to go conventional, but may be figuring out how to
manage an incompetent husband as well as an office.

Most interesting this season to see the characters
growing and taking new directions: the uptight
Peggy going out and getting laid; the philandering
Don making a real and painful commitment to Bets
by inviting her father to stay.

Something must have been lost in translation here. I know that much of popular culture presumes the death of white male dominance and the law has been marginally reconstituted to bring about its demise but I think it is massively naive to contend that it has gone away.

In large part the backlash against the presumed death of white male dominance is manufactured, I believe the term du jour is "astroturf". Individuals, institutions, and social movements with a dog in this fight (i.e. those fighting for the continuation of white male dominance and those fighting against) have created the impression of a massive cultural shift where power has devolved from white men to the rest of society and particularly women in order to advance their agenda but I don't believe the claims they make (as with most of the claims made by astroturf organizations) hold up when compared to the reality many non-white males in this society continue to experience.

The position of women has improved in many ways but the fact remains that many, many women in the United States remain locked in social dynamics as bad and often worse than those depicted in Mad Men. Further, there are strong movements afoot (throwbacks to the anti-empowerment movements founded by sad and unfortunate women around the country in the 18th, 19th, and early twentieth centuries) to recapture the submissiveness and delicacy of the pre-feminist American woman. Similarly, the hysteria evidenced by many whites at the continuation of affirmative action programs is not evidence of their loss of position it is in fact a tactic deployed to preserve a position of privilege which remains largely unchanged. Take a look at the racial and gender composition of the congress and tell me it is not still in thrall to white men.

White male dominance is not dead, white men have just had to become a little more savvy in the way they exercise their power.

ahem?

I removed that particularly offensive last one. They've been coming fast and furious today -- so plz let me know if you see others.

By the way, today pretty much vindicates the decision to block him permanently.

Was that supposed to be clever?

White male dominance is not dead, white men have just had to become a little more savvy in the way they exercise their power.

In keeping with my current pet theory that we're currently reliving the early 90s, right down to the health insurance debacle, I predict a massive resurgence of the Angry White Male just in time for the 2010 midterms. Sure, it'll be more astroturf than groundswell, but that won't stop Chris Matthews from yammering about it nightly for months. And the beauty part is, they won't have to go searching for a new Newt, because the old one is still around.

Sean, you seem to be confusing astroturf with falsehood. The test of whether a movement is real is its numbers and organization, not whether its grievance has any basis in reality. Large numbers of people can and often do spontaneously coalesce around a bs issue. Some would say that is the norm for popular movements. Sure, the Republicans get a lot of mileage out of fanning the flames of Angry (White) Malehood, but all successful political movements include party demogoguery at some point. That's kind of what parties are for.

Astroturf means a group that pretends to be a grassroots movement but is actually funded and run by an interest group, usually corporate, for its own purposes.

Kvetch, are you talking about astroturf or just the overreportage of actual individual malcontents?

Fair point, TCT. "Astroturf" isn't really the right word here. But I stand by my theory!

"This 'male privilege' stuff, as presented by Wilkinson, indicates that W has too much time on his hands."

That is my reaction too. Honestly, who in the lower or middle class has enough free time on their hands to worry about this stuff or even think very much about it, unless you have good reason to do so (aka you are somebody who is actively being harmed by it which very evidently W.W. isn't). If you have enough free time to ponder the nature of male privilege and gender stereotypes from the happy perch of already enjoying the benefits of said privilege (however reduced since the 'good ole days', so called) then IMHO there are probably some class and occupational privileges also coming along for the ride as well.

In which case what a tangled mess this is and methinks the would-be doctor needs to look more carefully at the putative patient before attempting a diagnosis.

Totally off point, but this just in from Politico:

Question to Sen. Reid:

Q: How will U.S. Sen. (Edward) Kennedy's death affect things?

A: I think it's going to help us. He hasn't been around for some time. We're going to have a new chairman of that committee, it'll be, I don't know for sure, but I think Sen. (Chris) Dodd, (D-Conn.). He has a right to take it. Either him or (U.S. Sen. Tom) Harkin, (D-Iowa), whichever one wants it can have it. I think he (Kennedy) will be a help. He's an inspiration for us. That was the issue of his life and he didn't get it done.

I neither could nor would make this up. Is he like some kind of leftish Dan Quayle?

to the various whines about those damn men:

http://www.psy.fsu.edu/~baumeistertice/goodaboutmen.htm

a few interesting things to think about.

“I predict a massive resurgence of the Angry White Male just in time for the 2010 midterms.”

What? No Angry Black Males or Angry Asian Males or Angry Hispanic Males will be among them? Only White Males are angry about the Health Care debacle? Only Angry White Guys are responsible for O’Blah Blahs plummeting approval ratings? Today in David Brooks NY Times column he quoted the statistic that “fifty nine percent of Americans now think the country is headed in the wrong direction.”

Looks like the Angry White Guys have even more influence than you thought, tipping the numbers that drastically.

Crafty,

No, I don't think I misunderstand "astroturf", in fact your definition:

"Astroturf means a group that pretends to be a grassroots movement but is actually funded and run by an interest group, usually corporate, for its own purposes. "

works well for me and is what I intended to describe, though my execution was poor.

The angry white male phenomenon pretends to be a coalition of the ill informed coagulating organically around a bs issue only on the basis of the thick headedness of its members (see comment by Jay Jerome for an example) but, in fact, is coordinated by corporate and ideological forces that are well aware of the fact that there is no loss of privilege to protest...astroturf.

In this case the issue is bs AND the movement is actually created and organized by cynical and manipulative organizations for political and economic gain AND the "movement's" participants don't seem to be aware of the artificiality of their own arguments. It's the astroturfer's astroturf, so very post-modern.

“The angry white male phenomenon pretends…”

Aha! An observed circumstance with acting ability…. A new category at the Academy Awards?

As Alchemist said upthread, the allure of Mad Men is its characters and the fact that Peggy, Joan and, I'd argue, Betty, regularly make the men look dumb. Also, it's lead character, Don Draper, may be macho on the outside, but he is full of self-doubt on the inside and is quite accomplished at running away from his responsibilities.

I'd argue from regularly reading this popular Mad Men blog, authored by two sisters and with the not-so-macho-sounding name Basket of Kissesthat the show has a bigger female audience than male.

So I think Will Wilkinson gets it wrong when he suggests fans of the show long for the days of yesteryear when men were men and we all had heart attacks by age 55.

The Sopranos -- now that was a show long on macho.

Same thing with just about any John Wayne movie, and I love John Wayne. But I don't consider myself particularly macho. My wife's favorite show, HBO's Hung, is the antithesis of Man Men -- the women are in charge, and they are making a damn mess of things, just like the guys on Mad Men do.

So, to Will Wilkinson, I'd say we're all human, and even more so if we can laugh, enjoy and ponder, wearing our readers and walking with this damn annoying cane as we age, about things macho and gay.

Now Some Like It Hot and Tootsie, two of Hollywood's all-time great comedies, turned a man's world upside down and showed us the art of being macho ain't all it's cracked up to be long before Man Men.

And finally, I always got the feeling listening to the mighty and macho James Brown that just singing "It's a Man's World" was going to kill him long before he died.

"Hellooo, women still get paid 80% of what men do for the same work. Or to put it another way, resentful white dudes: you get a 25% annual bonus just for having a penis."

Do you have any actual evidence to back this up? You'd need to control for all relevant variables to support the claim that women get paid 80% of what men do for "the same work."

I mispoke when I said "same work". The statistic is actually across occupations based on median income for full-time work.

http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpswom2008.pdf

Controlling for "all relevant variables" depends on a certain amount of agreement as to what the relevant variables are, and is the kind of thing where you can cherry-pick to support whatever thesis you want to support, so if you want to do that, have fun. I'm happy to believe that in aggregate the capabilities of men and women are the same, and the social value of work tends to average out, so there really is a 25% penis bonus.

In fact there's considerably more than that because of unpaid child-rearing and housekeeping work but I'm just sticking to the headline number here.

The angry white male phenomenon pretends to be a coalition of the ill informed coagulating organically around a bs issue only on the basis of the thick headedness of its members (see comment by Jay Jerome for an example) but, in fact, is coordinated by corporate and ideological forces that are well aware of the fact that there is no loss of privilege to protest...astroturf.

This is at best gonna be borderline semantic quibbling, but... I can't agree with the characterization of this as astroturfing. The protest of (supposed) loss of male is not a movement created from whole cloth by corporate or political organizations but dressed up as a spontaneous grass-root movement. That's what astroturfing is, and this isn't it. It genuinely is a spontaneously emerging ideology, and while it may be supported and adhered to by members of political and corporate hierarchies, it does not have its origins in such organizations actively fomenting the creation of a movement where none existed (while masking the movement's true origins from the public eye). That's astroturfing. This isn't.

To draw a (very) close parallel, the anti-affirmative-action movement has ideological, political, and corporate support, but that doesn't make it astroturfing, even if we assume (as I personally am wont) that its protests of grievous anti-white discrimination are without any non-negligible basis. The defining characteristic of astroturfing is not the legitimacy of the claim, or the sincerity with which it is held. It's the provenance of the movement and how that movement is portrayed to the public at large.

In fact there's considerably more than that because of unpaid child-rearing and housekeeping work

Depends on what you mean by "unpaid". My wife does our finances; I think she sees about the same pay, after expenses, that I do. Plus, after retirement she gets the same pay that I do.

The norm is probably men who keep their wives as unpaid housekeeper/baby machines, though.

...and all of the lawnmowing, painting, floor refinishing, miscellaneous carpentry, saving our house from the hurricanes, cleaning up after the hurricanes, getting up on the roof practically during the hurricanes to patch the roof and keep us dry...I never got my bonus check for those things.

Not to mention the tilling, mulch-hauling, planting, weeding, harvesting and cleaning-up after, as well as cutting wood for heating and other such stuff. No bonus for those, either.

I'm really stunned by the notion that people (presumably mostly male) watch Mad Men out of nostalgia.

I guess my stereotype of the sort of guy who feels nostalgic for the sexism of the past would watch Faux News or old 007 movies.

My husband and I watch it for the cultural anthropology. And, boy, after an evening of Mad Men I feel profoundly liberated to not be living back in the day!

As a 32-year old male, I do not watch Mad Men as some kind of nostalgia-fest. God no. The show is amazing, but the mere thought of having to live in that age -- as a man, let alone a woman! -- makes me cringe in places I didn't know could cringe.

The show is amazing, but the mere thought of having to live in that age -- as a man, let alone a woman! -- makes me cringe in places I didn't know could cringe.

Well that's the unseen effect of white male privilege for you. If you hadn't been raised with that, you'd know all the places you can cringe and some extra ones.

Isn't the Angry White Male effect basically the same as the effect that has those touting the US medical system as the best in the world? Just as this is often put forward by people who can't imagine that they won't be able to access that system, a lot of the people lamenting the days of being king of the house can't imagine the number of ways they would be shat upon by society, and certainly couldn't imagine having to touch their forelock everytime one of their betters passed. It's easy to be nostalgic when you think you are going to be king of the hill.

Hhmm...

I was just now reading a Daily Kos post which used the phrase "man up." The poster added that we all needed to "woman up",too.

SO my mind jumped back to this discussion.

Back in the day sexual dimorphism in role behavior was pretty clear: men were the boss, women the helpers. men had direct power, women had indirct or manipulative power, manhood was defined by the successful acquisition of power, womenhood was defined by the successful deployment of subservience.

How much has this changed? Well, speaking as a boomer female, I'd say the change has been pretty damn dramatic. However the tendency to equate manhood with machismo remains with us as the use of "man up" implies. And Hillary's candidacy stirred up all kinds of unease with a woman who "womans up."

Kisinger said that power is an aphrodisiac. The lack of it is,still, for a man, an anaphrodisiac. The angry white male phenomenon is( I think) about the feelings of being powerless or neutered that lurk not too far down in the psyches of some guys.

Around here it's all mixed up with big pick up trucks, pit bulls, and jingoism. I feel sorry for the pit bulls that get coaught upin human folly, but the misuse of animals as symbols is a whole other rant.

The angry white male phenomenon is( I think) about the feelings of being powerless or neutered that lurk not too far down in the psyches of some guys.

I suggest Prozac.

The angry white male phenomenon is( I think) about the feelings of being powerless or neutered that lurk not too far down in the psyches of some guys.

One of the reasons that this phenomenon can get seen as astroturfing is that there are two different issues conflated which affect slightly different male demographics. One is that men face more economic competition for jobs (because there are more women in the workforce and less discrimination against them than previously). The men this really hurts are predominantly those at the bottom of the economic heap, regardless of their colour. It's the unskilled and semi-skilled men who lose out most to women in this way, particularly if they're stuck in declining industries.

Then there's the separate issue of changes in marriage and relationships. Women are now more willing and able to leave an unsatisfactory relationship, or not enter it in the first place. This impacts heterosexual men at all social levels who happen to be poor relationship material.

The peculiar result of all of this is that you end up with the real (but hard to solve) problem of the economic plight of some lower-class men getting championed by far more prosperous men whose actual problem is that they are so obnoxious that few women can stand to stay with them.

"I feel sorry for the pit bulls that get coaught upin human folly, but the misuse of animals as symbols is a whole other rant."

Wonkie: Bored the other day at work with nothing productive to do -- Cash for Clunkers KILLED the used-car business, and it has not come back (buyers were taken out of the market and, worse, inventory is very scarce from the lack of trades, turning off the buyers out there) -- I clicked on Petfinder, entered my zip code and selected no breed in particular.

At the local shelters, it was pitbull after pitbull after pitbull.

Knowing a good many of these dogs will be put down, I think society still views these dogs as "throwaways."

I thought the Michael Vick thing educated the public, but I'm not so sure.

Finally, I'm still waiting to see the first PSA in which Vick decries the evils of dogfighting.

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