The Irony of Manhood?
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There was a nice guy that I was thinking about meeting. When I found out that he liked to go out in the woods with other gay men, beat drums and search for his inner bear or whatever my mind closed to the possibility of getting to know him better.
What Bly is not—what makes him sound somewhat antiquated today—is an ironist.
The unironic life isn’t worth living.
Iron John was written before Seinfeld, before David Sedaris and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and reading it today reveals how much American culture has changed over the last decade and a half.
David Sedaris? (The other two references are meaningless to me.) Unironic John had me laughing the first time I heard of it. Well before David Sedaris.
The “men’s movement” was briefly the subject of controversy among feminists and derision among conservatives, but what killed it, more than anything, was simply that it was too easy a target for satire.
No kidding. Maybe being a happily gay/bisexual/pansexual man left me automatically unsympathetic. I’m aware of my male and female emotional components. Long ago in a personal ad I described my inner life as “masculine/androgynous.”
Irony, and the fear of ridicule, have, in a way, made any serious discussion of men’s emotional lives impossible.
Oh, please. What special pleading. Are heterosexual men weaklings tht need special coddling? Is it really harder for the little darlings in a way it isn’t for women and gay men?
And the result is that we still lack a basic vocabulary for, say, the experience of a stay-at-home father, or the difference (from a man’s point of view) between flirtation and harassment at work.
We have the famously rich English vocabulary. Men have shared their weaknesses in confessional works for over two hundred years. And the language can readily handle the latest permutations of male life.
If we don’t find a way of emulating Bly’s generosity of spirit and willingness to risk truth-telling, we’re going to remain stuck with recycled arguments and archetypes, lacking a language that applies to our own era.
The only problem is that some men are too attached to traditional notions of manhood. Sometimes I suspect that deep in their hearts they are afraid their penis will stop working.
Earlier: Conservative Cult of Manliness