In Sunday’s Salon, there’s an interesting article by Kirk Swearingen on the “crisis of manhood” so heavily advertised by conservatives. “Problems” with boys and men have been identified by women authors since the 1990’s with Susan Faludi’s Stiffed and The War Against Boys by anti-feminist Christina Hoff Sommers as the most prominent examples coming to my attention. While teaching at Morehead State in Kentucky, I starting noticing in the late 1990’s that achievement stopped being “cool” among the male poli sci majors and gen ed students I was teaching, and that the prototypical “big man on campus” types who combined academic excellence, athletic ability, and leadership ambitions had gone extinct. No matter who was the top student, seven out of the top ten poli sci majors were women and so were the overwhelming majority of honors students.
Here’s where Swearingen gets out most of his views on the nature of the manliness crisis:
This bizarre-tent party of religious grifters, pussy grabbers, gun polishers, closeted men, angry incels, alleged rapists and take-girls-across-the-state-line Lotharios is evangelically intolerant of the personal business of others and determined to dictate whom you can love or marry, how you should come to terms with your gender identity and how much of your reproductive future you should control . . .Meanwhile, as Republicans rant about fantasy pedophiles and LGBTQ “groomers” and call others (and often each other) “cucks,” school children and ordinary citizens are being cut down by young men with legally purchased assault-style weapons. Survivors get “thoughts and prayers”; families are left to figure out how to carry on after the lights of their lives have forever been extinguished. Gun fetishes, closeted sexuality, talk of “pussy” and rape, sadistic name-calling and general hate-mongering, worship of power and that telling focus on “manliness” — anyone else feel like we’re back in a really bad high school locker room?
Swearingen lists so many sexual and political items that he doesn’t bring them all under common headings. Of course, the “crisis” is not so much about “manliness” in general but “cis/het white, conservative masculinity” in particular. Lib/left white men, black men, Hispanic men, poor men, disabled men, and gay men aren’t interviewed for manliness articles, not referenced in manliness writing, and seem to be completely outside the crisis. As a lib/left white male of 68, you would think I’d have something to say about manliness. So would the whole broad world of other non-conservatives.
But evidently not.
It’s worth noting that the crisis of white heterosexual conservative men has two sides in relation to sexuality. White conservative men are outraged by transsexual men and women, see LGBT folks and most elementary school teachers as “groomers,” and are obsessed with fantasies about (lib/left) pedophiles. In other words, cis/het white conservative men are deeply disturbed by the reality of men and women having sexual yearnings different from their own. Swearingen also sees White conservative men as deeply uncomfortable with heterosexuality with many conservatives being incels, rapists, and various kids of pedophiles including “take girls across the state line Lotharios” which I assume is an oblique reference to Matt Gaetz.
Failing to feel at home in heterosexuality while being consumed with rage against any sexual life that isn’t heterosexual, white conservative men just seem to be out of sorts with existence in general.
At least existence outside the conservative movement.