Sexist Beatdown: Retrosexual Menaissance Edition
Exhibit A: This Man stopped wearing Hot Topic at an appropriate age.
Recently, Sady Doyle discerned the social issue that would define our generation:
The chicks today, they get to do so many things! Why, they can vote, and attend colleges, and even drink and smoke in public! These chicks: An alarming number of them have jobs! And, like, financial autonomy, from the jobs, and hence a socially assured position of power from which to negotiate the terms of their relationships and lives, thereby making them not entirely dependent on the funding and/or goodwill of men for their continued survival and status, and so they’re all able to make decisions and expect fair treatment and … dude, it’s a mess, I tell you. Because it turns out, after like fifty-some years of this business, none of these chicks is impressed enough by your penis!
URGENT MEETING OF THE BACK IN THE GOOD-OLD-DAYS CLUB. In order to combat the disturbing trend of the traditionally masculine heterosexual man not always being the default human in every circumstance anymore, this suddenly marginalized group must band together to . . . create poorly-designed websites and write hack trend pieces on the Internet! Interested? Here's how to fight the good fight. For manliness!
* First order of business: Study the "Retrosexual Code," a hyper-mascline gender identity largely defined by Some Dude's oddly personal hang-ups! (Seriously! Read the code! It is oddly personal!)
* Next up: Stage a "Menaissance," wherein men who are "tired of bending over backward and getting kicked in the balls by a spiked heel" by the "equal rights" movement (Seriously! They put "equal rights" in scare-quotes!) stand up for their rights to turn back the clock to a time when Men were Men . . . back to a Superbowl beer commercial aired just last February, apparently!
* Finally: Sit back, relax, and go out there and play some basketball with the guys! Yeah! Wait, what the fuck? This is what dudes today are fighting for? Be our guest, dudes! You can have pick-up basketball! In the meantime, in this edition of Sexist Beatdown, Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown and I talk about how to learn to solve our problems by DEALING WITH IT like real men do—unless of course the "IT" in question is feminism, in which case DEALING WITH IT involves a whole lot of self-conscious posturing. Join us!
Exhibit B: These Men don't watch TV shows with "Queer" in the title.
SADY: HELLO Let us travel back in time! Retrosexually!
AMANDA: Oh lets! I am excited to kill animals (and also possibly humans! I guess!) in the service of Retrosexualism. But not overly excited, for feelings are for women.
SADY: The Retrosexuals, they don't have feelings! I will tell you what they have, however: A very detailed and complicated system for figuring out who should give up their seat to whom on a public bus. Also, some gender-based insecurities! Lots of those! And a fuzzy and somewhat inaccurate understanding of how awesome things were For The Dudes, back in some unspecified but distinctively non-feminist time period!
AMANDA: Indeed! It seems that in the olden days, even horrific natural disasters couldn't stop the manliest citizens. They just DEALT WITH IT. Not like all those present-day sissies in like, New Orleans? And Haiti? Being a thoroughly modern . . . sexual, I am understandably a bit confused on the finer points of this theory.
SADY: Yeah. I mean, the whole "Retrosexual" thing is just... These are young dudes, I'm thinking. At least, younger than Don Draper would currently be, which is like nine hundred and seventeen years old, or maybe seventy, I am bad at math.
AMANDA: I like the game of predicting the Dude behind the Retrosexual Code!
SADY: They haven't actually experienced the time periods they're romanticizing, is what I'm saying. They don't know what it's like to be told that you need to get married and have kids before you're thirty or everyone will think that you're emotionally disturbed or gay. They don't know what it's like to live in a world where a two-income household isn't really a feasible possibility.
AMANDA: Yeah. And that's why being a Retrosexual takes aim at topics as diverse as the inherent emasculation of marriage and ... Hot Topic. HOT TOPIC! It has been feminizing our nation's men for too long!
SADY: The Retrosexual Code is, like... I agree with you. I want to know WHO THIS DUDE IS, because some of this stuff is just bizarre. Like, there's some predictable shitty homophobia: "A Retrosexual watches no TV show with 'Queer' in the title." I expected that. But also: "A Retrosexual will have at least one outfit in his wardrobe designed to conceal himself from prey." Did Dwight Schrute write this list? I think Dwight Schrute wrote it. "A Retrosexual knows that owning a gun is not a sign that your are riddled with fear." "A Retrosexual should have at least one good wound he can brag about getting." A Retrosexual owns a beet farm. A Retrosexual knows karate. A Retrosexual wishes he could menstruate, because he wouldn't need a calendar. It all follows.
AMANDA: I am frankly confused by anyone interested in recruiting other people into conforming to whatever gender presentation they have chosen for themselves.
SADY: Yeah. I mean, that's how gender policing works: It's not enough for you to be the Butchest Butch Dude Who Has Ever Butched A Butch, you have to make sure that everyone ELSE does it, because otherwise people will pick up that butchness, like everything else, is performative.
AMANDA: But that's the strangest part of the Retrosexual movement—and the "Menaissance" in general (ugh). They appear to be fighting against the women who have forced them to "conform" to an emasculating version of manhood by ... setting up codes for being a proper Retrosexual? Offering step-by-step guides for learning to become a real man, again?
SADY: Yeah. I mean, if you have to buy a book subtitled "How To Be A Real Man," doesn't that point to... not-realness? Of your manlihood?
Exhibit C: These Men know how to tie a Windsor knot—and only a Windsor knot.
AMANDA: It's the same old thing with gender-policing conservatives, which Amanda Marcotte in particular has pointed out many times before: On the one hand, they want you to think that a certain version of "manhood" is natural, and on the other, they emphasize that it takes a lot of work to learn to be a “natural” man. I will admit that it keeps the AskMen creative juices flowing.
SADY: Ha, yes. I mean, on the one hand, I imagine that dudes seek this stuff out for the same reason that ladies read "He's Just Not That Into You," or whatever: It's confusing to be a person, and frequently painful, and everyone wants to believe there's some secret set of rules that they can follow to make sure things turn out well, or at least to make sure that they know what's going on. And they don't notice that "He's Just Not That Into You" is pages upon pages of basically emotional abuse, telling you that it was your fault for loving some dude and thinking your relationship could work out and it's your fault it didn't. And they don't notice that all of these "STOP BEING SUCH A MOTHERFUCKING PUSSY AND OWN A GUN" dude manuals are the same kind of emotional abuse, just basically berating you for not being male enough. They think it's helping.
AMANDA: I just feel sorry for whoever AskMen is speaking to. If you can identify with the Regular Guy writing these columns—if you see your girlfriend as a whining, gold-digging harpy who wants to bleed you emotionally and financially, and think the world is out to get you because you don't apologize for enjoying drinking beer and "shooting hoops"— you have some problems that even AskMen cannot solve. I imagine the entire point of that website is to convince men that they're being persecuted for enjoying extremely normal and in fact boring activities? Like "watching the game" and "throwing back a few beers." Which everyone does and no one particularly minds. It's the weird "everyday hero" thing that I guess keeps selling a certain beer brand over another.
SADY: Yeah. That's the thing. I mean, the not-so-secret ace in the hole for continuing to be sexist has long been, "I can't help it! I'm made this way!" Like, the "dudes are inherently vulgar and stupid and hump everything and just basically are like dogs who can talk, be glad they're not chewing on the furniture and pissing on the carpet" card, which I don't understand why men keep playing. Men say TERRIBLE SHIT about themselves all the time, frequently on ladysites where they are The One Dude Who Tells Everyone What All Dudes Are Like, but they don't seem to recognize how much they downplay their own abilities. Or they do, but it's an excuse. Like, embracing a shitty version of manhood is a way to defend yourself when someone points out that you, specifically, are being a shitty person.
AMANDA: Yeah. And then also: When it is suggested that men maybe don’t have to conform to the idea of lowest common denominator masculinity quite so much, the response is: "women are trying to change us from our real-manliness!” But interestingly, also: “IT'S WORKING! so we must fight this by desperately teaching other men how to do that lowest common denominator masculinity shit again!"
SADY: The idea is that feminism is working, and women have power now, and there's all of this built-up resentment at the idea that the women of the world are dictating at least some of the terms of social engagement. So you just sit there and go, "I AM A MAN! I HAVE AN ENTIRE WEBSITE ABOUT IT! I WON'T BUDGE FROM THE PRINCIPLES OUTLINED ON THE CRAPPILY DESIGNED WEBSITE WHERE YOU CAN FIND OUT ABOUT MY MANHOOD!"
Exhibit D: This Man practiced hammering nails in secret so that he not be rightfully ridiculed as a "wuss"
AMANDA: It just seems a little desperate, I guess. I just don't know who is furthering the Important Feminist Cause of making sure men don't have camouflage outfits in their closets, or forcing dudes to watch gay television shows. The problem instead appears to be that some men choose not to wear camo and some like gay TV. Like some gay men for example. And those men are not real and that’s bad. Who hates men now, men?
SADY: I don't know. I mean, I guess in a way I am strangely encouraged by the "Menaissance?" Because people don't get defensive unless they think they are actually losing something. Like, if this whole "feminism" thing were actually completely ineffectual, men would still have unmitigated privilege, and they wouldn't basically be having aneurysms and throwing tantrums about all these powerful women and the ability they have to influence societal expectations of gender.
AMANDA: Right, and it is also funny, kind of? Because a conservative screed published on a website that looks like it's from 1993 is always ripe for mockery. Particularly when the New Masculinity goes by the name "Retrosexual." Come on, dude.
SADY: SERIOUSLY. I mean, what's amazing is that it's also showing up in real, non-idiot-focused publications. Never underestimate the power of totally wackadoo male heterosexual insecurity to change the course of events! In fact, it is the only thing that ever has! Except for feminism, which is winning. So, in conclusion, maybe these dudes should just... DEAL WITH IT?????? I hear it is what A Real Man does, after all!
AMANDA: Haha. I mean, I'm the last person to begrudge some guys from dressing up and playing Mad Men, not that that activity sounds particularly masculine to my ears. The only part of the Menaissance I quibble with are the parts where men are forced to wear dumb fedoras and/or camo pants, depending on your flavor of Retrosexuality, and also the part where everything is the fault of women and GOD MOM they are the worst. But! I've heard that a very Retrosexual way of DEALING WITH MY PROBLEMS is to go online and make a website about it, and that's essentially what we're doing here, so perhaps we are all not so different!
SADY: Right. I mean, if dudes are into wearing handsome suits and knowing about scotch, more power to them! I enjoy both a good scotch AND suity dudes! I just wish dudes could recognize that a decent palate and good fashion sense are... pretty girly? As is running a website entirely about your gender and how persecuted it is?
SADY: I think they just all want to be feminist bloggers basically. They want to be us. And who wouldn't?
Exhibit E: This Man knows how to sharpen his own kitchen utensils.