Thursday, May 26, 2016

New York Magazine’s War on Men

New York Magazine’s digital fashion blog The Cut announced last week that it is addressing “the gender wars” in a new blog, as well as a column, intended to provide its largely female readership with a greater understanding of men and masculinity. This seemed like an intriguing and positive step toward easing tensions in the war between the sexes; but unfortunately, if the content thus far is any indication, don’t expect a truce to be forthcoming.
The name choices are already a bad sign: the blog is called “Beta Male” and the column is titled “Mansplaining,” both of which are derogatory terms that will simply turn off male readers and open-minded women. It’s as if the editors are signaling from the get-go that they’re not so much sincerely interested in understanding manhood as they are in winking at the man-haters among their readers.
Things don’t get any better from there. Mansplaining, the announcement declares, is “a weeklong series in which men will (finally) explain themselves to women, in any way they want.” That could have resulted in some interesting columns, but instead the editors solicited men’s thoughts on such frivolous topics as guitar solos and blow jobs. Not that men aren’t passionate about those topics, but imagine how sexist and demeaning it would seem if a men’s mag invited women to explain themselves by getting their thoughts on Grey’s Anatomy and the G spot.
As for Beta Male, it promised to “talk about manly kinds of things, only maybe not in the usual manly way.” In other words, don’t expect the blog to feature the traditional perspective of men’s men like, say, Discovery Channel host and skilled trades advocate Mike Rowe, whose easygoing but unapologetic masculinity would probably send The Cut staff scrambling for safe spaces. Instead, the blog so far largely features writers and topics that confirm The Cut’s low opinion of men.
“Beta Male’s premise,” The Cut womansplains, “is that the chiseled altar of virility is looking a little dated; overwrought; kitschy.” I can promise you that this is true only to privileged, young, Third Wave feminist, liberal arts graduates who gravitate toward jobs like fashion editors, because in the real world beyond New York, chiseled virility is a quality still very much valued by women. But the editors at The Cut want you to believe that “the newest iteration of manhood is still very much in beta.”
The Cut’s Stella Bugbee and Beta Male’s Aaron Gell kicked off the series with some light banter which revealed both editors to be uncomfortable with and uninspired by the blog’s concept, and clueless as to how to move it forward. “We’re ready to call a time out” in the gender wars, they wrote, “to do what, we’re not sure.” Bugbee demonstrated just where she stands on the topic (“I want men to be more like women. And vice versa.”) and Gell established himself as a self-confessed beta male who halfheartedly jokes, “I am happy to benefit from the extraordinarily low expectations people have of me.”
Keep in mind that The Cut is a site which recently featured a sneering, openly sexist piece titled, “Oh Good, Now Men Are Trying to Ruin Book Clubs,” in which the female author responded to a New York Times profile of various men’s book clubs. The Cut writer unfairly judged the club members to be sexist and the very concept of such a club ridiculous because men are stupid. Their self-deprecating humor which proved her wrong on both counts sailed right over her head. [For my own response to the Times piece and a defense of men’s book clubs, read more here.]
The Cut’s new Beta Male blog is equally close-minded and sexist, featuring posts with titles like “How America Became Infatuated With a Cartoonish Idea of ‘Alpha Males,’” “How Trump Has Revived the Republican Cult of Manliness,” and “Video of Dads Dancing Badly Goes Viral Because No One Expects Anything From Men.” That last title – about a charming viral video of fathers dancing awkwardly with their babies – was not a lament that men aren’t respected; the male author was genuinely, angrily contemptuous of the hands-on fathers he calls “these uncoordinated goons.”
So The Cut is off to a great start condescending toward the men it purportedly wants to understand better. Mansplaining and Beta Male aren’t providing its readers any sympathetic insight into men; instead, they’re trivializing men’s interests and making men look inept, shallow, pathetic, and confused about their own masculinity.
In all fairness, The Cut is a fashion blog and shouldn’t be expected to dive deep into the issue or resolve the gender war singlehanded; but if it truly wanted to do its small part to bridge the yawning chasm between the sexes in these gender-confused, feminism-ravaged times, it would drop the condescension and show men and its own male contributors as much respect as it would women and its female writers. It would encourage male writers who respect themselves and masculinity itself. It would stop doing what women complain that men do: dismissively ignore the opposite sex.
From Acculturated, 5/25/16