I’ve got a friend who will regularly stop in the middle of something he’s talking about and say, “I know I’ll have to turn in my man card if I say this, but…” or, “Well I guess I have to turn in my man card,” or something to that effect. My response to that is always, “The man card thing is bullshit, what’s on your mind?”
That should always and forever be the response to anything involving the terms “man” and “card” placed next to each other. The idea of “manhood” as espoused in the man card concept is annoying when it’s something that someone else tries to push. It’s insidious when it becomes a form of self regulation. This is something with which I am all too familiar.
For those who haven’t been around these here parts much, I grew up in the Evangelical Christian community. Or whatever you call it. Because I grew up in the Evangelical church I am incredibly familiar with self-regulating behavior modification. If you tell someone enough that “you’re not a good Christian if you do/don’t do X,” then threaten them with punishment for breaking that rule you can eventually convince them to watch their own behavior. This pretty much explains the weird obsession Christianity seems to have with masturbation and using swear words. The penalty for not watching your behavior in Christianity, of course, is that you’ll go to hell. Because Baby Jesus is super interested in how often you jack off and say, “Fuck.” In fact, he’s so interested that he watches you do it. All the time.
Apparently Baby Jesus is a perv.
The penalty for not behaving in a manly manner, of course, is that you won’t get laid. This is why you, as a man who, because you are a man and men want to get laid, must always and forever and consciously be a man. And how does a man know he is being a man? When he’s behaving in a manly manner, of course. Behaving in a manly manner is mostly a matter of always holding tight to one’s man card.
Of course being properly manly isn’t as easy to define as being properly Christian. The Bible says that all you need to do to be a good Christian is to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” and make sure you don’t swear, smoke, masturbate, vote for a Democrat, or approve of anyone who is gay or has abortions. There is no simple manual to tell us in short, declarative statements what it means to be a proper man, unfortunately.
This, of course, means that we must identify a “man” according to what a man should not be. Since the world consists of two and only two types of people, namely “men” and “women,” we simply have to figure out what a woman is in order to figure out what a man should be. Simple, right? Let’s try it.
Women are emotional and like talking about their feelings. That means that if you, as a man, talk about feelings, or even acknowledge that you have feeling, you are being a woman. That is a man card violation.
Women never want sex for pleasure, only for control. That means that if you, as a man, ever don’t want sex or exercise any control over your sexual impulses, you're being a woman. That’s a man card.
Women like poetry and art and the opera and that sort of boring bullshit. That means that if you, as a man, want to go to a museum or really like “The Marriage of Figaro," you are being a woman. Man card.
See how easy that is? All you have to do is ask yourself no matter what you’re doing, “Is this what a woman would do?” If your answer is, “Yes,” then you know that you are, by extension, being a woman. If you’re being a woman then that means you’re not being a man. So you might as well just hand in that man card and slip on skirt over that lacy pair of panties you just put on, bitch.
These posts are, ostensibly, a response to the ideas David Wong put into this piece at Cracked. More specifically, this post is my reaction to “#2: We Feel Like Manhood Was Stolen from Us at Some Point.” He makes half a point, then makes a half-assed refutation of the argument he’s supposedly dealing with and then he just kind of…stops. This is a huge problem.
See, every single male can remember the first time, when he was 5 or 6 years old, he showed his penis to a stranger and everybody started freaking the hell out. He can remember the first time he got in trouble for hitting somebody, for peeing in public, for trying to jump off some high object or set something on fire. All of the core male urges, all the suggestions whispered to us by Darth Penis, all of it gets us in trouble.
And, when we get nostalgic for the past, we always dress it up in some ridiculous fantasy like 300, where everybody is shirtless and screaming and hacking things with swords. We are fed this idea that at one time, this is how the world was -- all of these impulses that have been getting us grounded and sent to detention from kindergarten on used to be not only allowed, but celebrated.
I will admit that my reaction to this is mostly anecdote and only my anecdote. I’ll further admit that if my experience is as reasonably universal as I think it is, the plural of anecdote is still not data. But I have a really hard time with this entire line of argument.
The primary problem is that I have never in my life showed my penis to a stranger. Hell, I’ve managed to avoid showing my penis to close confidants. So there’s that. And no one wants to see me running around shirtless and pretending to be King Leonidas, not even me. Also, I got sent to detention exactly once that I can recall. So perhaps I was simply better behaved than your average boy.
I don’t think that’s the case, though. I had a lot of friends who never did their best Calvin or Dennis the Menace impressions, at least not in my presence. I can’t see any of my male friends trying to imitate the dudes on Jackass for any reason. For that matter, I’m pretty sure that most of my friends think the guys on Jackass are complete and total idiots.
More than that, while I have hit someone and gotten in trouble for it, I didn’t take the “getting in trouble” part as a lesson that my manhood had been taken from me. I took it as a lesson that actions have consequences. Does that mean that I, as a fourth grader, was smarter and more mature than your average adult male? Apparently yes, if the internet is to be believed.
I don’t think I was, though. I think that we’re supposed to believe that all boys are trouble makers. I think we’re supposed to believe that all men are simply boys who have grown hair in strange and fascinating places. I think we’re supposed to believe, in short, that “boys will be boys” and, by extension, “men will be boys.” If boys are boys and men are boys, then, who is the adult in the room?
Right, the woman. Hence the next bit:
And then at some point, women took it all away.
A once-great world of heroes and strength and warriors and cigars and crude jokes has been replaced by this world of grumpy female supervisors looming over our cubicle to hand us a memo about sending off-color jokes via email. Yes, that entire narrative is a grossly skewed and self-serving version of how society actually evolved. It doesn't matter.
The result is a combination of frustration and humiliation and powerlessness that makes us want to get it back in the only way we know how: with petty, immature acts of meanness.
I’m insulted by this whole thing. Sure, he makes the lame refutation that “that entire narrative is a grossly skewed and self-serving version of how society actually evolved,” but at no point does he explain how it’s skewed or why. He just leaves it there. “We blame women for making us be adults. We shouldn’t, but we do, so we act like assholes.” Well okay, then. Let’s just wander away and see what’s going on over there, then.
Or, y’know, let’s not. There’s something I don’t remember ever having or being involved in. That something is “a once-great world of heroes and strength and warriors and cigars and crude jokes.” Where is that world? Who lives in that world? And why, pray tell, is it so great in the first place? And when and why and how did “grumpy female supervisors” take it away? And what does sending off-color jokes via email have to do with any of this? And is it possible for me to write more sentences that start with “And” and end with a question mark?
Apparently we don’t need to get rid of man cards as a concept. We need to sit down with the male gender and have a long talk about the importance of personal responsibility. It’s pretty self-evident, at least to me, that it’s a bad idea to take your penis out in public, to hit people, and to send off-color jokes via company email. There’s probably a policy about that in the HR manual somewhere. This realization that actions have consequences shouldn’t ever be a matter of saying, “Man, so-and-so is such a buzzkill.” It should be a part of growing up.
This is the important lesson I’ve learned: women don’t kill fun. Life kills fun. Actions have consequences and it does absolutely no good to say to women, “Waaaa, you’re trying to ruin my fun.”
The upshot here is that I am about to be 31 years old. I’m also about to be buying a house. I drive a 2010 Mazda 6. I have a bunch of really fun toys. My estimated monthly budget is a few hundred dollars lower than my monthly income and I’ve managed to do all of that partially by being fortunate, but also by not buying $3000 TVs just because I’ve got that kind of money lying around in my bank account.
I’ve managed to make these things happen because I do not give a flying shit about being a man. I am far more concerned with being an adult. My self-image as a man is a secondary concern.
That’s really what the whole man card thing is, too. It’s an issue of crafting an image. The crazy thing about it is that the enforcers of that image aren’t even women, either. Watch one of those Miller Lite man card commercials. Watch that episode of Scrubs where the man cards are a plot point. Notice who issues or revokes the man cards. I’ll give you a hint: it’s not the women.
It’s actually a neat trick when you think about it. Men get to enforce orthodoxy and create a hierarchy, with the person who dictates who loses a man card placing himself as the alpha male. And then they get to blame the whole thing on those mean, meddling women.
Meanwhile, I’ve never heard a woman demand a guy’s man card. But I think I’ll have to deal with that in a different post.
True story: I went to see Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers at the fantastic Gruene Hall outside of New Braunfels, TX during June of 2010. I had just gotten my iPhone and was using the standard notepad app to take notes. The standard notepad app had a terrible habit I had discovered that very weekend of randomly erasing notes. It was awesome. I was trying to keep track of the setlist during the show and sometime around song 12 I popped the note app open and discovered that it had erased everything but the opening song.
This pissed me off, so I did what everyone does in this situation and complained on Facebook. My status incorporated a couple of four-letter words. Because, y’know, I was pissed. And somewhat soused. And I’ve been using four-letter words since the fifth grade.
The next morning I had a response from one of my former youth group leaders that started off with, “Nice swear words.” He then followed up with the ever-so-useful advice to get a completely different phone on the Sprint network. Because, shit, who doesn’t want to break their just-signed AT&T contract and trade in their month old iPhone 3GS for some random phone some dude suggested based on a problem with a single app? So, basically, the entire response was massively useless. I believe my response was a swift de-friending. Also an eventual installation of Evernote, which works beautifully.
Incidentally, when I traded in my 3GS for my Motorola Atrix 2 last month I got the Android Evernote app, signed in, and all of my notes were right there. But that’s neither here nor there.
But you don't want to hear about my app usage habits. The point is that someone felt the need to police my speech based on his standards of what counts as correct language. This is something Christians do a lot, especially in debate with non-Christians. They think that it proves some sort of point and that they are more moral because they don’t say “shit.”
Which is not to be confused with a penis. This is not a veiled penis reference.
The Modern American Christian translation of the Bible, of course. This is the Bible that’s always cited by a Christian prefacing a statement with, “The Bible says…”
I have taken to referring to my “tragically un-misspent youth.”
I was at Fry’s two weeks ago looking for a TV as part of my “create a home office” thing. When I lived in Texas my desk was in the back corner of my living room, which meant that if I wanted to watch TV while on my computer I just turned on my TV. It suddenly occurred to me a few weeks ago that I wouldn’t be able to do that anymore, so I either needed to get a third TV or not have a TV in the bedroom. Either idea was equally valid, but since the whole house buying process has dragged on forever and ever I had some extra cash so I decided to see what was available, especially since it’s the time of year with TV makers sell off last year’s models to make way for the new shit. I was just looking for a 26” or 32” TV. Nothing big. But I found myself standing in front of a 70” Sharp Aquos thinking, “That’s awesome. I could get it as my main TV, then move my 37” to the bedroom and my 32” to my office and BOOM. The TV was, like, $3,000, which isn’t that big of a deal in comparison to my current available resources. So, yes, I easily could have purchased a 70” TV that day. But then I wouldn’t have had as much money for things I need, like new carpet or paint or if it turns out the furnace in the house is on its last legs or to simply have spare cash lying around in case I need it for something next year. Hell, I know I’ll be buying a new stove sooner or later, probably sooner. Is a 70” TV more fun than a stove? Yes. Is a working stove more necessary than a 70” TV? Hell, yes.
And for those who care about such things: I ended up spending $380 for a 32” Samsung LED TV at HH Gregg. That’s, like, $50 less than the really good deal I got on my 32” Samsung LCD TV in spring of 2010. TVs is cheap these days.