A new episode of The New York Times’ “Matter of Opinion” podcast featuring Ross Douthat, heaven help us all, has just dropped. It asks the truly most pressing question of our times: "What is the point of men in the 21st century?" Yeah, the Times is "exploring the crisis of masculinity in America," and asking how men might "stay relevant," which is something normal people think about all the time, or at least some of the time.
If any of that makes you want to actually listen to the show or even read the transcript, there is probably something wrong with you; listening to the voices behind The New York Times opinion pages debate what makes men manly is, on the scale of ear-bleedingly terrible things, roughly akin to asking the Kardashians to weigh in on mine safety regulations or listening to Augusto Pinochet talk for an hour about knitted tea cozies.
I will spare you the details from the transcript, other than the Times crew pondering to themselves why women don't like accused rapist and performative misogynist Andrew Tate and do like men who are the complete f–king opposite of that, and what's going to happen to all the little boys who want to grow up and have muscles and girlfriends and sports cars.
If you were to make it through the first third of the segment, though, you would reach the part where Douthat gets to weigh in with a bit of amateur anthropology, grousing that with the decline of heavy manufacturing and rise of the service economy, men are "in a crisis" because "[t]heir skill sets, the benefits of their greater upper-body strength, and so on are no longer as economically useful."
And, later: "Men essentially have a kind of physical condition that makes them poorly suited for the sort of service-based economy, office jobs, all of these kinds of things, to say nothing of changes in social life."
Oh dear God, now conservatives want us to start handing out handicapped parking spaces to men with the "physical condition" of being unable to fully use their upper body strength. What the hell is the point of being a man if you can't lift things?
That was the point where I bowed out. If you think you have a stronger stomach than me when it comes to conservatives making up new existential crises to whine about, then you can listen to however much more of it you want to, just so long as we stipulate here that I warned you, I really damn well did, and any further exposure to Douthat is your own damn fault.
Still, though, I think it is important to answer the question the Times manufactured for itself, in between labored and evidence-averse stories suggesting that the real problems of the day are that trans children are getting too much medical care and other conservative-premised gibberish.
There is no "crisis of masculinity" in America. It does not exist. It is made up, just as it has been made up at every other point in history including 1.) when women were allowed to vote, 2.) when women began to enter the "workforce" in slightly larger numbers than in the decade before that, or 3.) when women were able to open bank accounts without their husbands' permissions. There are wonderful old-timey comics featuring sad-sack men in dresses crying about their fate when those other historical trends poked at their fragile emotions.
The problem in America is not that the menfolk are adrift due to cultural changes that do not allow them to fully use their upper body strength. The problem is not that the womenfolk are looking at the astonishingly scuzzy Andrew Tate with disgust while turning their gazes instead to men who know how to clean themselves and/or own slacks.
The problem is that conservative men are big gigantic whining babies about everything, whimpering to themselves whenever any event happens in the world that does not revolve around them and their own personal desires.
The "crisis" is that liberal men have taken all the masculinity for themselves while conservative men work themselves up into crying, flag-waving tantrums whenever cartoon candy mascots show up with less sexy footwear than they had been hoping for. The Andrew Tates of the world are the least manly men there are, and the "crisis" is a modern conservative fetishization of so-called "masculinity" that considers any cultural reference other than low burping sounds to be an affront against their "way of life."
Conservative men are the biggest snowflakes on the planet right now. They're infantile in their presumptions of what "manhood" is supposed to be. Being a "man," to the American right, means being able to shoot people who knock on your front door. It means lying about elections when elections don't go your way. It means "protecting" your family by making sure any LGBTQ+ children in your child's school are punished good and hard if they so much as remind anyone else of their existence.
Conservative manhood is shooting a case of beer because of some momentary corporate acknowledgement of someone who Is Not Them. It's sucking up to the most transparent grifting political crook of the last century because he makes up insulting nicknames for the other candidates and, to a manly man, that's just about the most manly behavior anyone on the right can think of.
The "crisis of masculinity" in America is because an entire segment of the "manly" conservative population can't handle setbacks like "wear a mask in public to keep other people from dying during a national crisis" or "how about you let gay men exist without wetting your goddamn pants every time someone references one in conversation.” It's an entire movement of cowering snowflakes who do shit like this and think it's being masculine, instead of being over-the-top “South Park” satire about what your bullshit "movement" thinks it is.
Look, I'm very sorry if liberal men have taken all the masculinity for themselves, but it's not like conservative men couldn't claim some of it back if they wanted to. It's not a finite resource. You could buck up and put on your big boy pants and be men again anytime you want to, but no. You want to put on your weird little shows, and look at product literature for "testicle tanning," and tie your whole identity to a seditionist crapsack and to the same enemies list of "educators, scientists, immigrants, nonwhites, non-Christians, sexual 'deviants'" that the German Nazi Party came up with almost a century ago.
Do you define manhood as being able to protect your family and neighborhood? Then stop singling out children for retaliation for asking questions about their own sexuality, you cowardly dirtbags. Do you define it as patriotism? Might want to rein in the constant stream of stupidity-based hoaxes whenever an election doesn't go your way; feel free to stop waving that flag around long enough to burp out an "attempting to overthrow the United States is bad" take or two.
Are you frustrated that American boys might be doing worse in school than American girls? Then what have you done to help them succeed, in between all the times you bully them for knowing things about atoms and biology that you never learned?
Do you think manhood means being able to guide yourself and your family through times of stress? Buddy, you don't think your kids can handle a book about Ruby Bridges going to school. You're raising a whole generation of conservatives who will die in wilting terror the first time they're exposed to the History Channel. You feel “threatened” by candy. You swoop in to support the most grifting of causes in an attempt to prove that you're not "woke," and you'll never be "woke," and how dare universities these days teach classes that can't be aced by having superior upper body strength.
If you're starting with a spectrum of masculinity that has a performative misogynist who brags about rape as a pivot point around the rest of it, there's your whole problem. Andrew Tate is a sociopathic nothing; if your kids look up to him then you are the failure in this scenario. You are the crisis in American masculinity. You, and I cannot stress this enough, suck.
When a liberal man learns that his wife has gotten a raise and now makes more money than he does, he's happy about her success and the extra money. He doesn't go off and whine in a corner about well, the real problem nowadays is that nobody hires based on upper body strength.
When a liberal man learns that his kid learned about Ruby Bridges in school he doesn't send in bands of paramilitary thugs to make threats to school board members about how dare they expose his sheltered little mini-me to America's Actual Fucking History. He listens to his kid and if his kid didn't know about the nation's long history of brutal systemic racism until that moment then he's there to answer questions and acknowledge that yeah, if you feel bad when you learn even a tenth of it, then that makes you a normal human being.
When a liberal man reaches for a beer he doesn't start firing live rounds into it and the surrounding countryside after learning that the company supported one (1) trans influencer one time. Save your damn drama for the monster truck rallies or whatever it is you do to feel better about life; leave the rest of us out of it. It literally affects you in not the slightest possible way; you would never even have heard about it if conservatism didn’t have entire offices full of quivering professional cowards searching through society for new things to be terrified of.
If your idea of "masculinity" is diving onto your man cave's best fainting couch for an extended episode of sobbing and letter-writing every time some small sliver of world culture brushes up against your eyes, then yeah: Something is certainly in crisis. But it isn’t masculinity, and don't drag all of America's non-conservative men, all of us who recognized Andrew Tate to be a sack of shit even without the bragging-about-rape parts, into your little existential social crisis. The rest of us are doing just fine.
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