The Male Body And The Masculinity Police

leonardo-davinci (Small)

The most culturally acceptable locus of violence is the male body. The policing of masculinity assures this fact. Call this policing and violence whatever you want. Call these things The Patriarchy™ if you want, but neither of these things are male privilege and neither of these things are male domination. I prefer to call these things the lived-experiences of men.

I generally dislike “The Good Men Project” because most of their articles are milquetoast and because they try to understand the lived-experiences of men through the lens of feminism(s). This is problematic because ALL feminism(s) assume The Patriarchy™ (so far as I can tell) and proceed from that problematic assumption to make what are often wrong-headed assumptions about masculinity and men. However, I will give credit where it is due. Beth Leyba wrote this article the other day, “I Hate the Broncos: Daring to Question Whether Football is Worth It.”

In her “daring” article, Leyba gets a few things right. She writes. “Football is a brutal sport that sometimes ends up destroying the lives of those who play it.” She says that she was never a fan of football, but that her apathy about this sort of violence against men “morphed into moral opposition” because of the costliness of the sport.

She notes the physical damage done to men via multiple concussions and relates this to her own experiences with an injury that she suffered on a swing-set. She writes about football being a sport that “literally chews people up and spits them out.” I agree with her, but swing-sets, unlike football, don’t generally chew people up and spit them out. Note how it takes a remotely similar and personal experience of injury before she is willing to toss out her apathy regarding this sort of violence against men. I really want to give her the benefit of the doubt and be kind here because we have similar conclusions about violence against men; though we arrive at these conclusions through very different routes. From her feminist lens, a swing-set accident “has helped to crystallize” her feelings about the grotesque amounts of violence against men that exist in our culture.

I’m not sure that she understands the depths of this violence that permeates our culture, considering how it took the traumatic swing-set accident to cause her to shed her apathy, but she can see that our culture celebrates this violence against men. She notes that “football brings people together” for tailgate parties, for thanksgiving tradition, and etc. Hell, if not for this culturally accepted violence against men, most sports bars would probably not exist.

I just finished watching “Super Bowl XLVIII,” where millions of people all across our country and throughout sports bars tuned in to cheer about this violence against men. I’m not going to link to the tweets, but there were assholes celebrating the fact that Richard Sherman (a player for the Seahawks) suffered an ankle injury during the game.

There is also human cock-fighting, better known as the “UFC.” Yeah, sycophants can dress it up as strategy and as a violent form of chess, but it’s still primarily violence against men. It was only a few weeks ago where millions of people tuned in to watch Anderson Silva kick another man so hard that Silva horrifically broke his own leg.

Anderson Silva Leg Break (Medium)

Anderson Silva Leg Break 2

Anderson Silva Leg Break 3

Look at the suffering of this man. Anybody can see that these sports are a form of violence against men. This fact is so obvious…just look at him.

It shouldn’t take a traumatic swing-set injury for a woman (especially a feminist who is supposed to be knowledgeable about gender issues) to acknowledge this fact and sweep aside her “apathy” about this violence. It shouldn’t take one’s own personal experience with a loosely related concussive injury to bring about the empathy needed to understand such blatant suffering of men.

If you can’t see this suffering, or if you’ve only now begun to see it, perhaps you have been blinded to it because your theories about The Patriarchy™ have blinded you to it. Perhaps you have been so busy in-fighting with other feminists and jockeying for status on various feminist hierarchies of oppression that you have simply failed to see the obvious. These men are not dominating. These men are submitting to a culture that glorifies violence against them. These men are submitting to a culture that demands their suffering through the policing of masculinity.

We live in a culture where violence against men is not only culturally permissible, it is celebrated as heroic. Our president and congress perpetuates this norm. President Obama delivered one of the biggest standing ovations at the SOTU address. (You can watch the ovation here.) The ovation was for Cory Remsburg. It was an ovation to celebrate his heroics—being deployed 10 times by our military, having his body mutilated and sacrificed, paralyzed, blinded. The standing ovation was a policing of masculinity such that men-as-cannon-fodder are praised. Our entire congress cheered about the dehumanization of this man. They cheered that he was put through a meat grinder and spit out as a hero “who never quit.”

“Ahhh…but these are adult men who are well-paid to take these risks and subject their bodies to violence,” say fans and apologists of violent sports and the military. I say rubbish. These men were all conditioned via culture to “be a man.” One of the first questions I was asked when I spoke with military recruiters was whether or not I played high-school football. I don’t think this was any sort of unusual question asked by military recruiters. It makes sense that the military would want boys and young men who have a history of having had their personhood mutilated through violent “sport.” Hell, one of the first things done to young men, when entering the military, is the shaving of their heads—to try and strip young men of individual personhood differences—making new recruits a gaggle of “maggots.”

This conditioning (abusing) starts at a young age. Take, for example, the horrific show, “Friday Night Tykes.” It’s all about the policing of masculinity in boys, making them into violent monsters who are willing to harm other boys, robbing boys of their emotional well-being, robbing boys of their personhood, distorting masculinity into this grotesquery of socio-culturally acceptable violent behavior.

This kind of policing of masculinity ensures that the male body becomes the most socio-culturally acceptable locus of violence. This is not male privilege. This is not male domination. This is male submission. These are the lived-experiences of men.

So, when Ms. Leyba and other feminists write about shedding their apathy toward this violence against men, it’s hard for me to take seriously their often made claims about feminism working on men’s issues–how feminism cares about men, and how The Patriarchy™ hurts men too. If Ms. Leyba had actually cared about men, she would never have had apathy about them in the first place.

Ms. Leyba, take off your feminist goggles for a moment and try to understand the lived-experiences of men. You don’t need to be bonked on the head in one of your swing-set accidents to do this. Simply look around. You will see the policing of masculinity. You will see a culture of male submission. You will see the male body as the locus of culturally acceptable violence. That is not male privilege. That is not male domination. Such things are the lived-experiences of men.

[Edit: Part two is published.]


9 thoughts on “The Male Body And The Masculinity Police

  1. Hi Jason, thanks for your reply! I’m honestly a little bit taken aback only because from what I read here, we essentially agree on most points. I absolutely think that masculinity is policed just as femininity is, and totally agree with your points about football and the military. (And for the record, it wasn’t a swing set accident. I was swinging my daughter upside down and we crashed heads.)

    As you say your comment was edited, my piece was also, and I actually didn’t write the “crystallized my feelings” bit. It wasn’t just my brain injury that led to my feelings about football. A piece of writing focused on one topic can’t even begin to go into my personal journey to feminism, and where that has led me in my views on masculinity.

    One thought that comes up for me is that I recently was posting (amongst friends) about the other atrocious thing in football; that the cheerleaders are pretty much volunteers. They are barely paid and clearly not valued as anything other than sex objects. I was astounded that people started offering the same excuse that they offer in regards to the players. “They know what they’re getting into, they do it for the fame, it’s a stepping stone to greater things, they know the risks, and there will always be women who will do it.” In reading your piece here, I can’t help but think, “Then why do men do it?” What is this greater force, if not the patriarchy, that causes men and women both to engage in these cultural “traditions” for lack of a better word?

    I don’t think it’s fair to say that I don’t care about men or their lived experiences because my opposition to football was originally (and I’m talking young teenager here) apathy. I care very much about men and how the patriarchy affects them. I feel very strongly that the version of masculinity we’ve all been sold is completely wrong. A huge part of the One Billion Rising event I’m planning is bringing men to the table and hearing their voices. Feminism cannot attain it’s goal in ending violence against women without partnering with men to find solutions, and as you’ve pointed out here, this violence is perpetuated against men too. What are some of your solutions?

    • @creativebeth

      “I was astounded that people started offering the same excuse that they offer in regards to the players.” –creativebeth

      Yes, folks generally have an impoverished notion of human freedom. I think one of the comments left on your GMP article was about personal “liberty,” completely failing to understand how the choices made by people are influenced (restricted for the poor) by socio-economic conditions. Folks really do believe, here in the US, that a poor Appalachian kid has the same “freedoms” as some wealthy douchebag from Connecticut.

      Folks also fail to understand how the personal liberties of men are influenced (and restricted) by the policing of masculinity. People actually believe that “freedom” is being human cannon-fodder, or clawing coal out of the dirt and getting black-lung. Folks actually believe that being a “savage” in the ring is “freedom,” completely failing to understand the origins of such “choices,” completely failing to understand what they believe about freedom, failing to understand that it is an impoverished notion of it.

      “I can’t help but think, “Then why do men do it?” What is this greater force, if not the patriarchy, that causes men and women both to engage in these cultural “traditions” for lack of a better word?” –creativebeth

      The Patriarchy™ is a theoretical fetish about how we live in a culture of male domination. I just explained *some* of the ways in which we live in culture of male submission.

      As such, your question is this:
      “If all these men are submitting, why can’t we call it male domination–The Patriarchy™?”

      Do you see the problem here? It’s a very contrary position that you have. On the one hand, you say we are oppressed by male domination. On the other hand, you recognize and say that we have an overwhelming amount of male submission. It’s like you’re saying that men are simultaneously submitting and dominating–gibberish.

      As far as your question about “this greater force,” I can tell you that it simply isn’t The Patriarchy™ for the above reasons and for a whole bunch of other reasons that I laid out in my article called “The Patriarchy™ Fetish and Marble Cake.” There is a link to it in the article. If I had to pick one main reason why we “can’t” justly call it The Patriarchy™, I’d say because it’s an impoverished notion of reality. It simply doesn’t account for the lived-experiences of men–their experiences not of dominating, but of submitting.

      If you wanna talk about domination and solutions, see this:

      85 people own half the world’s wealth. Socio-economic stratification with gobs of economic disparity are the problem, not men, not The Patriarchy™, not male domination. Also see my article called, “Economics, Coherence, & Gold Diggin’ Whores.”

      A booming middle-class is another solution. It would be interesting to trace economic disparities to the rise of violent sport in the US. Baseball was our most popular sport back in the 50’s, when we had a booming middle-class. However, the rise of football and UFC have coincided with the stagnated middle-class wages. There is probably a connection to be made between economic despair and military volunteers and sports. Poor kids don’t really have other options. If they are talented athletically, they can claw a way out by joining the military or by playing football and getting into college.

      So, to answer your questions:
      1. Don’t call it The Patriarchy™ because that’s simply a wrong description that makes men the villains and masculinity a scapegoat. It alienates men from the discussion because we are supposed to be checking privileges of our domination that we don’t have.
      2. Socio-economic destratification that creates a huge middle-class and that has a wealth of understanding in regards to true human freedom–that would do wonders in addressing all the things that we are in agreement about.

  2. I really liked the beginning of this piece but I am going to be honest and say that you really lost me with the denial of domination. I am going to just say this, feminists for a very long time have been downright negligent in regards to the hyper-masculine socialization of men in our society and its harms and responsibility for so much harm towards both men and women. You can simply look at the laws regarding circumcision and see that. Only female children’s autonomy are protected through law. And so many feminists neglect this. In fact I remember in a gender studies class a whole fifth of the class was about FGM without as much as a mention to MGM. I feel that there has been a whole learning moment for a lot of the feminist movement more recently to recognize this as a source of many problems in our society.

    Now saying all of that I have to say that I was completely lost at that point of this post. I was really excited to see you respond to the piece and I was really hoping to read your perspective and honestly gain some male insight in this department. But I have to put this out there.

    Men totally do dominate in our culture. Men dominate the pay-scale, politics, the job-market and so many other things. It wasn’t that long ago that women couldn’t even make her own decisions and vote. As long as there are written records there is a history of men dominating women. There are entire religions with a foundation in it. I think that part of being a good ally is being able to address one’s own privilege and own up to ones roll in said privilege.
    I would have loved a chance to learn something and be presented with a perspective I may not have considered but honestly I was just left with a bad, snarky taste in my mouth.

    • @tantriclemons

      I’m not really sure how you could miss the point. There were four main ones.

      1. The most culturally acceptable locus of violence is the male body.
      2. The policing of masculinity assures this fact.
      3. We live in a culture of male submission, not male domination.
      4. 1-3 are the lived-experiences of men.

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