Guys’ Guise

Timothy Egan wrote an op-ed in today’s New York Times (January, 17, 2014) offering a thoughtful response to Brit Hume’s recent comment that Chris Christie is merely a “Guy’s Guy”–an apparently endangered species.

You may have heard Brit Hume, that is, Senior Political Analyst Brit Hume of Fox News, refer to Governor Christie’s problem. It’s not that he’s arrogant, paranoid, testy, bullying or too blunt for the P.C. culture. It’s just that he’s an “old fashioned guy’s guy” in a “feminized” world — an endangered species adrift on a floe of mush….

…He said, “By which I mean that men today have learned the lesson the hard way that if you act like a kind of an old-fashioned guy’s guy, you’re in constant danger of slipping out and saying something that’s going to get you in trouble and make you look like a sexist or make you look like you seem thuggish or whatever.”

I appreciate Egan’s clarification and answer to a particular concept of masculinity (which  Brit Hume, et al. equate with strength):

If you say something that genuinely offends women, it’s not because you’re a brawny dude, speaking freely, or even standing up to the culture patrol. It’s because you’re insensitive to people in general — the daughters, wives and mothers of many a manly man. Or, at the least, it’s because you’re outdated, like showing up for work at a tech company with a cellphone the size of a shoebox.

What has been missing from the discussion, however, is the subtext that being “feminine” or our supposedly “feminized” culture is an insult. “Masculinity”, whether defined by Brit Hume, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, or articulated through Chris Christie, Phil Robertson (of Duck Dynasty fame), Sarah Palin, or many others who seem to defy the laconic male icon of yesteryear, seems to refer to a particular paradigm that they conflate not merely with gender, but with strength and superiority. Calling someone “a fag” or a behavior “gay” is meant to be insulting in this crowd. Small mindedness, is somehow rebranded as assuredness and strength. In this crowd, it’s bully for the bullies! Shooting from the hip is preferable to being hip–which, to the “Guys”, is just a feminized subculture of spineless socialists. In that universe, there is not a ying-yang balance of energies that we call masculine and feminine, each with attributes valuable to the health of humanity. It’s right and wrong (wrong = left, feminized); strong and weak; makers and takers. These are the masculine and feminine types of that world. In that world of “Guys and Dolls”, guys play with dolls.

The guys’ guise is feigning strength and security through righteous impasse. They not only feel threatened, and reject even their own possible evolution, much less the evolution of culture, (not to mention nature), but suggest that that which they describe as feminine is what undermines them. The ideals of strength and honor are not gender specific. Moreover, gender is beyond biology. It is a cultural construct, and like it or not, cultures evolve.

Our job as parents and educators and citizens is to build a better society and a healthier culture that elevates and broadens. Under the guys’ guise, being a loudmouth or intimidating is just being a guy, and guys are now victims of this henpecked culture. The guys’ guise is not really political (although it could easily be construed as such). It’s cultural. There are small minded people everywhere, and thugs and trolls left and right. Strength is not a guy issue. It is not the same as intransigence. Flexibility is not a gender issue. The habits of mind (and culture) that include thought, reason, consideration, reflection, flexibility, appreciation and expansion build strength. That’s not a guy thing, despite the guys’ guise.

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