Being A Man: A Rough Life, Or Not Rough Enough?

Today in manliness news, a blogger shows his support for University of Chicago men's group Men in Power, and Frank Miniter explains that men must reclaim their masculinity through such feats as fighting off mountain lions.

In response to criticisms that the group "feeds an already strong sense of entitlement among men," 25-year-old male blogger Chris tells NPR's Backtalk,

I have never felt this entitlement these critics speak of [...] Why can't I be a stay-at-home dad? Not many men talk about these issues because, well, we're men. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't.

First of all, perpetuating the idea that men don't talk about their problems because, well, they're men, might not be the best way to start a dialogue about men's role in society (although it's a step that Chris thinks they should speak out). Second, it's not so odd that a 25-year-old man has never actually perceived his own sense of entitlement. Privilege is often invisible to the privileged, especially when the privileged are pretty young. As for why Chris can't be a stay-at-home dad, it's absolutely true that some people in society still look down on men without careers outside the home. This sucks. But solving this problem also means looking at why women are expected to be the caregivers — it's hardly an exclusively male issue.

Chris, though, is a mere Little Man in Power compared to Frank Miniter, author of The Ultimate Man's Survival Guide. His interview with the National Review actually starts out pretty palatable. He says,

[I]t's revealing to note that every culture successful enough to support an upper class produced sissies. For example French kings, such as King Louis XIV, once wore high-heeled shoes, silk stockings, and long, curly wigs made from women's hair. In Victorian England, men in the upper class (those away from the farm and toil) wore frock coats with fitted waists and matching vests, silk top hats and stockings, and cravats, and practiced strutting with walking sticks with polished brass knobs. Yet those were both two of the most patriarchal societies this world has ever seen.

Is he making an interesting point about malleable gender roles and the fact that embracing certain "feminine" characteristics doesn't mean a society is good for women? Actually, no. What he's really saying is this:

So then, what dandified those men? Just like urban America today, a complete lack of connection with their roots in the natural world is what is shrank their gonads. Just travel to any Third World country where men still have to till the earth with their hands and hunt to fill the pot, and look around to see if you can find a "girly-man" wishing he had a fuller-bodied shampoo.

Here Miniter manages to both fetishize poverty and promote a limiting and reductive definition of masculinity. Because men are obviously either hands-on hunter-gatherers or preening losers with small dicks.

"Yes," Miniter continues, "men can survive without this book, but they need all this knowledge regardless, and getting it in a lively, pithy way in this book is better than having to learn it all the hard way." Isn't getting knowledge from a book rather than the sweat of your balls kind of, well, sissy? Not to Miniter. He thinks men need his guide to help them with important manliness tasks like fending off mountain lions — I know I've rejected many a man because he choked when a puma tried to maul me — and rescuing other, lesser men from the wilderness. He tells a particularly charming anecdote about saving a man and his son who had become lost in an upstate New York forest. After he "led them out," he says,

The father's tone went from fear to regret as he realized he'd put his son's life in danger. The son's eyes told me he'd lost respect for his father.

Clearly one of the best things about being a man is proving you're better than other men — in front of their own kids. But it's not all fun and games. Guys have moral responsibilities as well. Miniter says,

Men need to stand up to today's moral relativism and belch.

Apparently this how real men respond to abstract concepts. Should they also stand up to today's lack of personal responsibility and fart? Miniter's interview contains a lot more gems, including his use of the word "feminazis" with no irony, but the real piece de resistance is his opinion of the kind of man women want. According to his interviews with that other, less mountain-lion-defying sex, he says,

Women quite rightly realize they're better off with Crocodile Dundee than with Ryan Seacrest.

These are my choices? Fuck.

Male, Female Listeners Defend 'Men's Empowerment' Group [NPR]
Oh, Man [National Review]

Earlier: "Men In Power": A Student Group Combats "Reverse Sexism"