While cleaning up the library, I saw a banner on the top of the Wall Street Journal advertising an article called “Are American Wusses or Just Fond of Trash Talk?” and it obviously got me excited. The banner depicted what we would normally consider the geekier end of the spectrum of masculinity. Right there, I knew this was going to be an amazing article. By showing these stereotypical depiction of what many would consider loser males (who are the main heroes in many films/books), the article is calling into question the very nature of masculinity that is depicted in American culture.
It’s interesting to see that in the article, the author finds many instances that seem to show that America is a county built on idealized masculinity. We had a pioneering spirit. We venerated men like Daniel Boone, frontiersmen who went out and explored a continent. Gov. Rendell of Pennsylvania is quoted as saying that “our country was founded by incredible risk-takers…We seem to have lost our boldness.”
The traditional view of masculinity is something to be admired – however, can’t we argue that it was a product of the times? Men had to act a certain way, and perform certain functions, because society and culture asked them to. We have transitioned into a new society in which these actions that were once necessary are no longer important or even purposeful.
The author of the article also mentions a book called “Sissy Nation” by John Strausbaugh. Strausbaugh brings up World War II as a turning point for American masculinity – having witnessed the horrors of war, men return home and seek civility and normalcy. A very interesting argument and to me, it makes sense. The population reacts to what they see going on around them – if they see something horrible, they will react in a different way to make sure they do not have to experience something so horrific again. However, as I mentioned before, why does this reaction have to be colored in a negative light? It seems easy to say that certain actions are ruining masculinity, but we have to be conscious of the context and the history of the change.
One final note: the origin of the word “wuss”, as well as emasculating terms.
There are different origins for the word “wuss”. As mentioned in the article, it became popularized by the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, in which they explain the derivation as “part wimp and part p____”. (I won’t put in the word, but I’m sure you can figure it out)
It seems ridiculous that using a female body part as a derogatory term for a man can be so disrespectful. I guess that it makes some sense. By identifying the male as somehow female (or less of a male), they are being emasculated – their virility, strength, masculinity is called into question. This can be seen in the way men react to being called a “fag” or “queer” – their manhood is being questioned, so they react negatively.
There’s something to be said about men’s reactions – why is this such an emasculating act for them? Why do they take such offense at being questioned? I can’t really answer that question myself. Perhaps in a later post we can discuss this. Personally, I take offense at people who take offense.