Meet the New Macho, Same as the Old Macho
According to every statistical measurement the magazine could find (to support its premise) the future prospects for men these days is bleak, and so too is our mood. Male-dominated industries such as manufacturing have taken a beating, wages are declining, and males now represent less than 50% of the labour force in North America. “Women have matched or overtaken men as a percentage of students in college and graduate school, while men have retained their lead in alcoholism, suicide, homelessness, violence, and criminality”. Ouch.
The reporters at Newsweek take time to zero out those guys who, when confronted with their morphing gender role, retreat to what they call “musty” notions of manhood. Instead of sensibly dealing with their decline, they’re hiding in man-caves, idealizing Don Draper (I would NEVER..oh, wait, he was the subject of my last post…forget it), drinking more Canadian Club, and wearing way more plaid than necessary. Those men are chasing a mirage, the magazine suggests, and what they really need to do is stop retreating to old-school notions and “reimagine masculinity”. According to Newsweek, the “New Macho,” means more paternity leave, spending more time with their kids, doing more housework, and pursuing traditionally female-dominated professions like nursing and teaching. My question for Newsweek is this: What’s unmanly about any of that?
Call me crazy, but even before Gaylord Focker it never occurred to me that it was somehow un-masculine to be a “male” nurse, or a caring father (mind you, neither nursing nor teaching struck me as feminine either, but I might be what Newsweek calls a ‘statistical anomaly’). Nothing that Newsweek suggests is bad, but I also think it may require a reader to accept that heretofore it’s been unmanly for a man to be a good parent and to do whatever he can to support his kids, even if it means taking on “girly jobs” (their words). Old-school manliness, as it seems to be defined by the magazine, is characterized mostly by selfishness, misogyny, obstinance, arrogance, and lack of accountability. Sure, I just described a lot of guys you know, but to me that’s not what old school manliness is. When I reach for a manly role model, Jimmy Stewart is the OG, or Atticus Finch. I suppose I could go with Georges St. Pierre, except I’m not sure he can read.
When I think of what it means to be “a man”, the iron-pumping, whiskey-swilling, drag-your-woman-back-to-the-cave-by-the-hair aspects aren’t what first come to mind. Sure, a lot of males can have those things in them, but those traits are decidedly one-note. I think of manliness as something broader, more balanced and nuanced. High on my list of old-school manly qualities are capability, personal responsibility, and self-sacrifice, virtues I would like to think Newsweek would endorse, and that I think I need if I’m to be a Better Man. To me, a man who kicks it old-school isn’t going to see child-rearing or teaching as “woman’s work” that is somehow beneath him, and perhaps realizes that being a man is about something slightly larger than whether or not it’s his turn his turn to scrub the toilet. By suggesting otherwise, the reporters at Newsweek are perhaps making the same mistake they accuse guys of making – confusing “frontin’” with the real thing. Perhaps that’s why I only ever read Newsweek at newsstands during airport layovers.
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