Manly men are back

Reason editor-in-chief Nick Gillespie launches a well-deserved, no-holds-barred attack on a Washington Times article that declares, "The rough-and-ready attitude is in, women say, while the manicured 'metrosexual' look is on the way out."

The proof in this smelly pudding: a dubious poll commissioned by Dodge Trucks (which has nary a stake in the results). Among its valuable findings:


A full 61 percent of women surveyed said they would rather see a man's hands rough and working hard than well-manicured, a slap in the face to the extreme-makeover, suave-guy crowd. Ninety-two percent of women said dependability is a desirable characteristic in an ideal mate. Only 16 percent chose "fashionable," and 62 percent chose "strong" as a desirable characteristic.
Gillespie does a great job of demolishing the false opposition between "fashionable" and "dependable," and points out that what women want in a man is every bit as varied as the women themselves. What he doesn't address as such is the broader message of the article. The assertion that manly men are back is merely an excuse to promote two favorite conservative messages.

One, feminism is at odds with the "nature" of women. Carrie Lukas, director of policy with the Independent Women's Forum sums it up: "It just shows that there are some things that you can't change and that, while feminism for a long time has been pushing us towards androgyny with little girls with trucks and guys with dolls, women tend to have feministic traits and guys the opposite." Just in case you didn't get that, the article hammers the point home again toward the end:
F. Carolyn Graglia, author of "Domestic Tranquility," says the survey results point toward a longing for a simpler time. "My idea of a good husband is one who is strong, dependable, is going to accept the burdens which he is going to bear in the workplace," she says. "And he doesn't have to buy his own shampoo, because I do all the shopping. He doesn't have to do anything but go out to work and win the bread."
So you see it's really not about men. The meterosexual is threatening to the Right precisely because his existence suggests that many men are embracing the breakdown of traditional gender roles, and the concomitant freedom to redefine masculinity. All of which can only mean more freedom and equality for women. And we can't have that!

The other political message is the reinforcement of the Red State/Blue State opposition, where primped-up, feminized meterosexuals represent -- what else -- liberals while conservatives are standard-bearers of old-fashioned machismo:
"Peoples' values that are reflected on TV often don't translate into how people view the world," Mrs. Lukas says. "Despite MTV and the New York City culture being hyped in mainstream media, it's not how most American women view life and the opposite sex."
Liberal elites that are out of touch with the desires and needs of "real" Americans. Where have we heard that before? Even the opposing point of view -- as required to maintain some semblance of objectivity -- David Wygant both reinforces this artificial divide, and epitomizes it in his own elitism: "In Washington, D.C., they are looking for a confident, real man. In Oklahoma City, they may or may not be looking for the Dodge man. The redneck women are looking for the redneck men." That Wygant is set up as the supporter of meterosexuals makes his comments all the more incendiary.

And those looking for a Lakoffian Strict Father subtext won't be disappointed either. Here the manly man -- read Republican -- is a "strong" and "dependable" adult who takes care of his family. Not like the liberal meterosexuals who are "narcissistic, so self-centered. They are really afraid of growing up."

What's truly amazing is how one small article about a single poll can become the vehicle for an entire world-view. Ladies and gentlemen, this is what you call an echo chamber.

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