Thursday, October 04, 2007

Oh, yes... *this* is a healthy model of manhood.

For the past two years, I've watched what might be called a minimal amount of television. I probably average less than an hour of tv watching a week most of the time. Until my recent move, I never purchased cable, or bothered to hook up the rabbit ears. I'm just not much of a television watcher.

Instead, I turn to DVDs to meet my show-watching needs. Problem solved.

I have two weak spots, though. Despite the criticisms that they get (much of which is deserved, I'll concede), I'm a sucker for crime dramas. I love Law and Order and CSI. I also love cartoons. Which, you know, also get a lot of deserved criticism, sometimes.

Anyway, I moved recently, and I've been watching more television than I'm used to, and it's making me sort of hyper-aware of the absolute shit that's on. It's everywhere. It's the shows, and the commercials, and the previews. There's so much horribly sexist, blatantly offensive crap on... it's a strong reminder of how awful a lot of television really is, and why I have no interest in purchasing cable for myself.

Lately, my personal nemesis has been Dr. Steve-O.

Over and over I'm subjected to the commercials telling me that he can "dewussify wimps, nerds and couch potatoes" and make real men out of them. I watch as he staples a papers to a guy's arm. I flinch as someone walks across broken and crushed glass. I scowl at the obvious use of his "nurse" as "look! Half-naked woman! Hot!" advertising.

I shouldn't be surprised, really. What do I expect from a show on USA that follows Monday Night Raw. It's not like USA is a channel known for progressive and intelligent programming.

But why is he supposed to represent manliness. He's not manly, he's insane. He's a self mutilating maniac. This is a guy who essentially gave himself a beer enema. His idea of a good time is pissing on the red carpet or sticking his penis in the concrete at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. For gods' sakes, he stapled his scrotum to his inner thighs...

At least three times.

That's not manly... it's just stupid.

Honestly, that an idiot like him is given a show to make men more manly says way more about the social perception of manhood and what it means to be a man than I ever could.

If he is the model of modern manhood, count me out.


Anonymous said...

Thomas says:

there's an inherent problem in defining the oppressor class in an oppressive system: it is difficult or impossible to define the group that has the privilege without defining it by the privilege, i.e. not the oppressed. What, for example, does "white" mean except "the folks in a racist system who have the advantage of being white"?

Can there be a positive definition of manhood in patriarchy? What qualities would we ascribe to men that we thing women can't or shouldn't have? ... I got nothin'.

About whiteness, I just accept that there's no definition that isn't about the privilege. I don't think anything positive about being white. White is the unearned privilege I have. All the good cultural stuff I take from my background is more specific to an ethnicity: Scottish diaspora stuff, not general to white folks.

About manhood, frankly it's tougher to just walk away form the term; but better answers are in short supply. What is it to "be a man" that doesn't participate in ratifying the oppressive system?

Jaclyn said...

Wow, that's some heavy mind-fu, Thomas. As usual with your writing, I've never heard it articulated quite that clearly before. I find myself largely agreeing with it except:

Isn't this problem inherent whenever we talk about any class within an oppressive system? Isn't it equally troubling/impossible to talk with any certainty about what it "means" to be a woman without referencing patriarchy?

Anonymous said...

Thomas says:

Yes and no. Yes, I agree that the definitions of classes in oppressive systems are just definitions for the convenience of the oppressive system, that either entirely lack or significantly depart from any underlying structure; so that race is a social construct and gender is a social construct and sexual orientation is a social construct that cannot be defined without reference to its class counterpart. That far I'm with you.

Here's the difference. I don't cringe when someone says, "here's what it means to me to be [black/a woman/gay/a transman]", or even "here's what it mean to be []" I may not agree that their definition is exclusive or universal, but it's useful to them. I recognize the utility of the statement.

With the oppressor class, I don't just question the possibility of any universality or correctness of the statement; I question the very utility of making the statement. "I am a man" is necessarily either "Im in the oppressor class and recognize some of my privilege" or "I'm in the oppressor class and Ha! Sucks to be you!"

assembling words to armory, she waits... said...

how interesting you chose to mention this today, roy. my friends and i were just discussing yesterday how ridiculous it is that this guy is famous. i mean, this new show will be his THIRD (that i can recall ~ i don't watch tv much either) television series. not cameo, not episode, not show, but SERIES. i mean, i can see the sick twisted, you-wanna-turn-away-but-can't appeal upon seeing him do something universally stupid and self destructive once, maybe even twice, but COME ON. he's one of the few human beings individually responsible for the systematic dumbing down of america. i mean, the guy PIERCED HIS ASS CHEEKS TOGETHER. and that's not even getting into the political sexist bs he propogates. or the weird homoerotic bend to so many of his 'stunts.' but maybe that's a truer definition of being manly? i mean, what's 'manlier' than the extreme objectification and exclusion of women?

Torri~ said...

Ok now I really really want to get into the city on the weekend with a friend and a video camera and interview random guys and see how many will admit to being offended by shows like that and the fact that all the media thinks it needs to get a guy's attention is to show him some boobs and an explosion or two.

figleaf said...

Interesting. I read Shulamith Firestone a little while ago and something she kept alluding to, but never really stuck a fork in, was this idea that what we tend to imagine as "manliness" was basically made up, created, invented by Lost Generation writers and wannabes.

If that's so (and it sounds very plausible to me) then stapling your testicles together (or whatever) seems like trying more of something that either isn't ever going to work or else doesn't need to be done in the first place.

Either way it... sounds like something Thomas is saying -- if you posit this class of humanity called "men" then you're going to start looking for ways to characterize "manliness." Since it's made up there's not a lot of satisfaction in whatever you cook up, and therefore you have to keep going till the chasing the tautology drives you to testicle stapling and saying "now *that's* what it means to be manly!"

I dunno. I'm new to a lot of this examination of the masculine side of feminism but I'm very, very curious about manliness as a construct. (The possibility is kind of invisible from a position of privilege where everyone *else* is supposed to be "other" and men are just supposed to be the "control" group... both metaphorically *and* literally.)