Clown Masculinity Reeks
Another of the dichotomies thrown at men these days is the strange relationship that exists between men and manhood. In all phases of life things that interest men are being derided or eroded away. Masculine interests are turned into goofy obsessions and portrayed as being somehow substandard. You can see this most readily in the world of sports where the sports fan is portrayed as a fat oaf living his life through his team. The term toxic masculinity is another example of the derision men face and it is followed shortly with hastags decrying the fragility of manhood. By all accounts, all things male and manly are bad. But any time a man steps out of line or does something the hivemind doesn’t approve of he is told to be a man. Man up! Be a man! You probably are doing this because your dick is small.
Is it any wonder we’re a confused lot?
Clown masculinity is everywhere, but most commonly in the portrayal of men interested in sports and the portrayal of husbands and boyfriends in the standard sitcom. The man is an oafish, undesirable character that is obsessed with the big game and being lazy and then getting some sex — and we are informed that the enjoyment of sex is a one way street in that household. For all the talk about women’s sexuality being critiqued by men and the right, a hell of a lot of it is also coming from the liberal establishment in Hollywood. Women don’t enjoy sex — with their husbands, anyway. But it’s not just limited to the brute: intelligent men are often cast as repugnant dweebs who just don’t understand women, either. Well maybe that’s because there is no winning combination here. Either we’re sporty and oafish, or smart and dweeby. We are either toxic, or overcompensating.
Men and things male are turned into something to mock and laugh at. Commercials portray husbands as unable to do much of anything, even choose their own cereal. Any manly historical figure is going to be lashed over the prominent views and social norms of the day. They want to take Andrew Jackson off our money because he behaved as many men did during his time on this rock. But Andrew Jackson was a man’s man. He fought duels for his honor, which now is looked at as insecure and savage. But it was the custom of the time and it certainly led to a more polite society (if only because Jackson killed a lot of rude assholes). He stuck to his word and he stood up for what he believed in. The Founding Fathers are going through some similar turmoil on college campuses. And, hell, they are all misogynistic.
Fatherhood is a big goof, too. Open up the website Post Secret on Father’s Day, and Mother’s Day. Note the stark difference in how people will treat fathers anonymously. Fathers aren’t as competent as mothers, we are told. Fathers can’t do things around the house, they break everything they try to fix and have to call some other man to repair the damage. Fathers can’t deal with little children or babies, they can’t change diapers without getting shit everywhere. They’re just big dumb gross meanies. Unless they buy into being a stay at home father, then they’re treated with a new flavor of derision.
We can’t have sports, we can’t have historical figures, we can’t be smart, and we can’t be fathers. What’s left?
Male sexuality? Oh man is that a can of worms. Men who are horny are creepy and weird, it’s gross. Male masturbation is a joke — but we put female masturbation up as something desirable. Admittedly some of this is the natural male enjoyment of seeing that process, but still. If you want sex, you are a joke, a loser. If you don’t want sex they’ll call you a fag or imply your dick doesn’t work. If you get sex you’re also somehow a villain — and in some states you near have to fill out a form describing what the sex will entail beforehand and submit to a breathalyzer. It’s coming, just wait. No matter which way you call it, male sexuality is the butt of jokes. They’re laughing at the boner, not with it.
This is inevitably where a woman or male feminist will pipe up with examples of how awful the world is to women. I’ll grant that our relationship with female sexuality is still in a state of flux. There has been a societal upheaval surrounding it and the dust hasn’t settled. But sometimes we’re going to talk about things that aren’t about you.
But as a whole, clown masculinity isn’t making fun of it — it’s the process that comes after that. Men live up to the standard of the joke and become a fool dancing for the world, tagging as many of the stereotypes as they can. People embrace it as though that is what it is to be a man. He’ll fuck up and say, “Well, I’m a guy. I don’t know how to do that! I’m duuuumb!” We become a caricature of ourselves. I know this because I did this. Now I have clown masculinity antibodies and it allows me to recognize it in others. At various stages in my life I’ve goofed on myself, not realizing I was being laughed at and not with. There is a marked difference between being a comedian and being the joke.
The call to be a man, however, should not be ignored. Be a man. Embrace your real masculinity, not some clown version of it, not some over the top “toxic” version either. Be the best you can at everything you do, improve yourself, learn. Never lay down, never give up. It’s been said that a man isn’t defeated — he quits, or he dies.
I’m not going to define masculinity, except to say that it is not the opposite of femininity. The two are complements, equal parts of a whole. Masculinity is the difference between a boy and a man, not a man and a woman. Too often we have turned men into large boys, immature and unable to handle life. They regress into bad habits, lose themselves in worlds that are familiar and comfortable — pornography, video games, sports fanaticism. They live for those moments of reprieve from the harsh real world.
If you look at the late nineties there were many films that derided having a decent job in an office. Both Fight Club and Office Space are prime examples of this. They treat having these office jobs as a terrible affliction for men, but they are looking at this the wrong way. The man craves more than his office job — maybe not a full on fight club, but something to fulfill him. It isn’t the job’s fault, but perhaps if you aren’t interested in it you should look elsewhere. In the latter he also has an emasculating girlfriend, a cheating shrew who wants to address his issues through the prism of her own life: she has issues and takes him to her therapist for his, instead of actually trying to fix him. Admittedly, Office Space is a comedy, so it isn’t some great philosophical work. But through our fiction we can get a glimpse of ourselves and there is definitely something to the affliction of an unfulfilled man.
Embracing the temporary reprieve isn’t enough. Being miserable five days a week in eight hour blocks is no way to live. We need to become men again, to find ourselves, and to stop being clownish caricatures of our own masculinity. You get one go at life and you want to make the most of it.