This post is going to be a little more controversial than I think anything that I have posted so far, but this topic has been on my mind, and my essays, as I will explain, are somehow bound outside of my natural voice.
Please comment, as always, but try and focus on the writing and explaining, as well as the content of the post.
Sheridan A. Smith
P.S. This picture is, by no means, a judgement of Flea or anyone associated with Back to the Future…Except Biff Tannen…he was a jerk!
I’m not sure I understand machismo…machoness…machocity.
When you see someone who is macho, they don’t seem to be relaxed. Ever. They go about their day with a face screwed up in some form of scowl or other, and their arms always seem to be ready to wring the neck of all those who cause the scowl to deepen.
After all, a scowl is enough to pain a face to the point of falling off. A further petrifying of the facial muscles can cause an irreversible case of the takemyselftooseriously’s; a condition I’m not immune to, and, believe me, is unpleasant.
What is, though, the attraction of being macho, manly, masculine, aggressive, cocky, virile, potent? (Blog post on my love of Thesauruses soon to come…)
Now, in all these things, there are some culturally neutral ideas. Manly and masculine are kind of ambiguous, but virile and potent are obviously tied to sexual ability. We are portrayed as sexually charged beings, we men. If we stray from that, say we’re homosexual or just frankly not that sexual, it seems to become a threat to those who cannot abide attacks on manliness.
Macho persons tend to get angry around something viewed as emasculating, especially when it is confidently so. Men view it as a sign of virility to attack expressions of the “feminine” in men. That is how we get such unpleasant people as “bros” who seem to make sport of attacking people who express themselves creatively without buying into culturally dictated forms of masculine ridiculousness.
Recently, this was expressed towards me in the form of football.
Now, I consider this sport boorish, boring, and, above all, terribly annoying in its culture. Expressing these views, admittedly in a rather florid and impertinent way, I was told that I shouldn’t be allowed to be a man.
…because I get horribly bored at watching grown men concuss themselves for little to no point accompanied by the cheering of people who care more about pre-season trades than they do about miners killed in Africa on strike…
Sure. Go ahead then. Revoke my “dude” card. A lot of good it’s done me.
I was raised by a feminist mother, and an artistic and unconcerned-with-cultural-dictates father. There was a lot of freedom, and I am grateful for that because I had no pressure to be anything in particular, but I was given the freedom to look around and question what was happening in front of me.
The dead end of machismo was terribly apparent. While that didn’t really work out to well for me in high school, college proved a little bit of a drastic overhaul in my reception!
Different wasn’t a problem. Different was the only thing with which I retained my freedom, my liberty.
I do, however, tend to be a reactionary against the macho. Against what is considered manly and pertaining to the rougher sex.
This isn’t random, however. There is a very good reason.
The virulent virileness of men, the perceived potency of their very lives, has an effect on culture. A deep effect, which spreads to all those that do not conform. To those considered aberrations.
This is expressed in recent conversations in the political right wing.
Now, I try and keep this blog from being political as I have a radio show for that. Further I wish not to alienate family and friends who may disagree with me. Sometimes, however, I feel that I can’t write essays because my wish to stay inoffensive constrains the voice I naturally have. The combative lefty voice given to me by years of earnest, tortured search and reflection. The voice of someone who felt no real direction for a long while, and so questioned everything. The voice of someone who has come through the crucible of constrained life in a country obsessed with a hidden orthodoxy it denies, and come out with views made villain by those who cannot sanction an inconvenient change from the status quo that will, inevitably, wrest power and money from their omnipresent hands.
(Well, that rant probably should have been edited, but I may leave it as it will elicit some comments, at least.)
When men internalize their gender role, this implicit set of guidelines for viewing the world, it creates some unfortunate consequences.
Women are viewed as passive participants in the world of men. They are spoken of as conquests, possessions, or trophies; in other words, something men can use as a measure of their position on the macho-bargraph.
Further, this conditions the view that men are the ones who get things done, and they are the ones that matter in this “aggressive” world. Even the world is imbued with qualities culturally designated male. The effective implications are that women should understand the world through men, and only through their agency should they participate.
This is encoded in a culturally conservative understanding.
Take the recent conversation of Todd Akin. He spoke about rape, one of the most horrific expressions of masculine power over women imaginable, as it relates to abortion. He said that, “from what he understands from doctors”, women can’t get pregnant from “legitimate” rape.
Two things here.
First, there is no such thing as legitimate rape. Period. We shouldn’t have to point this out!
When someone has sex with another person without consent, no matter what, it is rape. They could have been married 25 years, and the first time consent is removed, sex becomes rape, a devastating and heinous crime. Women always have a right to dictate what happens to their bodies. No one has sovereignty over them.
Second, about the baby. Stating that somehow women don’t get pregnant from rape is nonsense. It is an attempt to take away the virile/potent component of masculinity and somehow make these people “others”. They are not really men, and their potency doesn’t count, in extreme cases implying that if it did, it would validate their actions.
The conversation goes on to say that, however, if a pregnancy occurs, then maybe an abortion can be justified, but really probably not.
The conversation around things like this has been dominated by men, and I realize the irony of saying this because I am a man commenting on this. Also, while discussing this, it seems that the woman is left out!
They are the ones experiencing everything. They had the attack, and their bodies are changed in the process. They have cells dividing and implanting in their uterine wall, long before differentiation occurs creating anything resembling an organism endowed with sentient life.
They get the post-traumatic stress disorder, and they get the sad and enraging questioning of their honesty when accusing an attacker (being that most are known to the victim and many can occur on dates or in marriage.) They get the fear of being seen as “bespoiled” when trying to have other relationships. They get the scars, both physical and emotional, that can color relationships for the rest of their lives creating a distance that takes its toll on everyone involved.
Why cannot the talk include them? For that matter, why cannot they talk about themselves in this context without being considered less than rational?
Machismo considers itself the mover in the world. It aggressively gets things done, and it doesn’t take any help from anyone. It is, above all, a self-deceiver. What is spoken of is only the action of the man and the outcomes of that action. Somehow lost are the women who are the ones to deal with the consequences.
It is subtle, but it shows a self obsession that is written into a macho attitude. The attitude that men exist in virility, and it is somehow a right to express that, especially in certain situations. The attitude that men are aggressive and can be forgiven for these displays of power within certain acceptable parameters. The attitude that, when it comes down to it, anyone or anything that can be seen as emasculating is either a joke, or something aberrant that should be shunted to the back of society without the right of being taken as anything but a “special interest” (as women’s issues and LGBTQ rights are often denigrated as).
Since I was small I struggled, my ideals against the general expression of what being a man was as shot into my consciousness through the addictive images the television shows I watched broadcast. Somewhere it was obvious that I didn’t need to “mansplain” and there was something wrong in the old stories of a helpless woman needing a man to save/complete her.
It may seem insignificant, and, for my part, I know it is, but I try to decondition myself and act towards all people as if they are inherently worth respect and complete autonomy.
I don’t want to look back ashamed at the things I have done in my life, nor at the things I have not done. Seeing where the macho line leads, it isn’t a path I’m willing to take.
And, as often as I can, I will amplify the voices of the oppressed, the silenced, who are much more capable than I am to speak for themselves.
Though it is clichéd, I still recite to myself lines of a well worn poem by the very often quoted Robert Frost whenever I know I need an adjustment:
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
The Road Not Taken (1920)