men, masculinities and gender politics

Authors

Dealing with a Crisis

( As always this can be seen in the original context, and with he original comment threads of critical masculinities blog here )

As I've said earlier, a common refrain in contemporary discussions on masculinity is that in some form of crisis, that men have lost their way, and become in various ways, or depending who you listen to, emasculated, feminised or in some other way, less "manly". - For those interested in a readable book dealing with this mid twentieth century phenomenon - Susan Faludi's Stiffed  is an interesting and informative read on the topic.

Two websites that also address the issue are the Art Of Manliness which I have been reading on and off for a year or so. The other one only came to my attention yesterday (Thanks Kate) and is called The Spearhead. (WARNING: Before clicking The Spearhead link - be advised that the content is potentially triggering and generally hateful - especially the comments)

Here is an excerpt from the AoM website -  their rationale

"My idea for the Art of Manliness came about as I was reading Men’s Health magazine. It seemed to me that the magazine’s contents were continually going downhill, with more and more articles about sex and how to get six pack abs. Was this all there was to being a man?
And as I looked around at the men my age, it seemed to me that many were shirking responsibility and refusing to grow up. They had lost the confidence, focus, skills, and virtues that men of the past had embodied and were a little lost. The feminism movement did some great things, but it also made men confused about their role and no longer proud of the virtues of manliness. This, coupled with the fact that many men were raised without the influence of a good father, has left a generation adrift as to what it means to be an honorable, well-rounded man."
And the equivalent section from The Spearhead website
"Over the last few years, it has become increasingly obvious that American men — particularly those of the post-boomer generations — have fallen into a cultural gap. Our voice is barely a whisper in the traditional media, we are consistently portrayed as worthless buffoons and advertisers ignore us....What sets our movement apart is that many men, because of the real injustices so many of us have faced first-hand, have come to a common awareness that there are serious political, legal and cultural problems that plague men in our society....Rather than engaging in status displays of conspicuous righteousness, we are raising our voices in defense of ourselves, our families and our fellow men."
 
So. These sites are quite different; AoM has a lot of lifestyle content, and talks a fair bit about dress and grooming etc. but still within the context of  'becoming a better man' - their idea of a better man is a very traditional, early twentieth century idea, and like all things nostalgic, I can see the appeal. AoM does not explicitly validate all the patriarchal, sexist etc.  aspects of masculinity that we associate with that time - and it has a strong focus on empowerment, through skill building and building meaningful relationships. This article is a nice example.
 
Compared to this The Spearhead is, in my opinion, thinly veiled hate speech and misogyny of the worst, pseudo-objective, kind. While they deny that they are an activist website (here) I have rarely read such disgusting, inflammatory and vitriolic words on the internet or elsewhere. And while they are more explicit and overt in their hate, I think this attitude, and their rationale is increasingly common among men.
 
Both these sites deal with a perceived crisis (As I've already stated on this blog I tend to disagree with that concept), and there is a lot of subtextual anxiety, fear & anger on these sites. And while I disagree with the underlying ideology and thesis of both sites, it is with The Spearhead that I object to massively.
 
AoM, as a site, has an active community and a strong emphasis on self empowerment and behavior change. If you're going to use the internet to create and amend masculine identity AoM is a pretty good way of doing it, a broad range of content, from the lighthearted and superficial, to content relating to improving attitudes and relationships. it's not a type of masculinity I love, but I can see where it's coming from socially and it's appeal, and I think it's coming from a perspective of respect and equality.
 
The Spearhead on the other hand, does not attempt to rectify the perceived 'problems' through meaningful self change, preferring to espouse an easier message of opposition to all who have done them wrong, with feminists and women uppermost on that list. I am finding it difficult to come up with any more cogent analysis of that site, because it is making me so angry. So I will stop.