[The following is an excerpt from the book Embracing Masculinity from Gregg Akkerman]
Humphrey Bogart Was an Asshole!
Sinatra too. John Wayne, Elvis, Clark Gable—all of ‘em. Assholes.
That’s what we have to accept if we retroactively apply the current standards of social behavior on the past.
Bogart as “Rick” in Casablanca takes advantage of Ingrid Bergman’s “Kid” and beds her (off camera) knowing she needs travel documents he possesses—sexual assault, asshole!
The Duke swings an Irish lass into his arms and kisses her hard, breaking down her initial resistance before throwing her on the bed—yeah, that was sexual assault too.
Clark Gable lifts “Scarlet” off the ground against her will, drags her upstairs and knocks her up—committing a violent rape against his wife. Way to go, asshole.
And every time old Blue Eyes and the King of Rock & Roll called a broad a dame or a dame a broad—they were total assholes.
Embracing Masculinity Used to Seem Easier
But, but…how can any of those acts be considered inappropriate when the women went along with them? Heck, sometimes they seemed to enjoy the moment, or at least bask in the afterglow (especially that little vixen Scarlet).
Okay, thing #1—we’re talking about fictional characters here.
Thing #2—even if we play along for the moment, these characters did what women have been doing for years untold which is to accept with teeth-clenched tolerance the asshole behavior of the men around them who have all the power.
Given the choice, some women might indeed choose to willfully engage in these behaviors instigated by men, and all would be well. But the point is, women do not feel they have been given the choice!
Let that sink in Dudes. It’s got nothing to do with what a woman might have actually preferred to do in a given situation, it’s that she wants the right to decide for herself without fear of retribution. Big difference. Got it?
Because men are traditionally the ones controlling the hiring, firing, promoting, and paying of the women around them, females had little to say in the matter. They had to find a way to maneuver within the system they were born into.
The choice was binary—laugh at lewd statements, giggle at being groped, blush when being leered at, accept sexual advances, or get dumped to the curb as a trouble maker.
Women had been hiding their true feelings about all this pretty well, Dudes. That’s why a lot of us never saw it coming when the dam broke.
Within a matter of months, it seemed that every Hollywood power broker, movie producer, film star, corporate figurehead, and politician had their man-parts on the chopping block for a highly public reckoning.
To quote a fake news journalist, “That escalated quickly.”
And rightly so. Many of those assholes really messed up. I loved the laid-back attitude of Senator Al Franken, but that photo of him humiliating a journalist exhausted from doing a hard job overseas was a punk move. Jerk.
Harvey Weinstein stunting the career of female actors who wouldn’t play ball (or play with his balls) is just the worst kind of cliché.
The list of men taken down by the #MeToo movement is stunning in its length and breadth. Men from all walks of life received their comeuppance. Here’s just a sampling of names:
- R. Kelly, music producer/songwriter/artist
- Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood agent
- Al Franken, politician/comedian
- Bill Cosby, actor/comedian
- Matt Lauer, TV news personality/journalist
- Kevin Spacey, actor
- Louis C.K., comedian/writer
- Charlie Rose, TV news personality/journalist
- Garrison Keillor, radio host/writer
- James Toback, movie director
The Video That Made Us Choose Sides
You may have seen a YouTube video that went viral in the pre-#MeToo days. A young, attractive lady was filmed by hidden camera as she walked the streets of New York City. She wore a form-fitting pants/blouse combo with no cleavage and simply walked by herself keeping a neutral expression on her face at all times.
The 2-minute video was edited from 10 hours of footage to demonstrate what a typical woman puts up with just walking city streets. Dozens of men were captured commenting on her appearance and personality. Some men even doggedly walked alongside insisting that she should talk with them or at least give a smile.
To one extreme, we saw in the video that men are basically pains in the asses. The thought of our sisters, mothers, wives, and daughters having to put up with this endless barrage of personal-space invasion from men is abhorrent. Suddenly, men were made aware that the simple act of just being a woman in public requires diligence.
On the other hand, many of the men in the video were simply saying a polite, “hello,” or making the seemingly benign comment that she looked “nice today.” Are they equally guilty of assault on her right to walk unmolested?
Women all over the world watched and collectively shouted, “See! This is the harassment we go through every day, assholes!”
While simultaneously, men shrugged in response, “We can’t even say hello to a pretty girl anymore.”
I Picked My Side–What About You?
Sides were taken. This video was a firebrand for conversation. It seemed like everyone had an opinion about it. And yet, there wasn’t much resolution.
Personally, I think we’re forgetting that the video was a contrived project and the woman in question was ACTING. Had it been a “real” woman walking on the street, I suspect she would have known the difference between the jerks and the non-jerks.
A “real” woman would be completely within her rights to ignore the cat-calls and “hey baby” buttheads too lazy to think of anything clever to say.
But this same woman should be held accountable for completely ignoring norms of politeness. It would absolutely be her right to remain stoic, but then we should have the right to consider her rude, or at the very least, impolite. Furthermore, we should be able to express those feelings without being labeled Gollum-esque bottom-feeders (be warned: Lord of the Rings references are sort of my thing).
Is Embracing Masculinity Still Possible Today for Men Wanting to Meet Women?
Good question. The answer is, “Absolutely!” Dudes, do not allow anyone to diminish your masculinity for simply wanting to interact with women you find attractive. But we do have to make some adjustments.
Like it or not, we had better start changing the way we think and act. And if doing the former takes some time, at least we can do the latter right away while we wait for our thinking to evolve.
The questions about dating in the age of viral memes and social media backlash feel a mile high:
- How do we, as men, apologize for the crappy behavior of our predecessors and peers, while not abandoning all forms of masculinity?
- Can we look at bikini-clad girls on the beach anymore?
- Can we tell an attractive coworker her low-cut top is quite flattering to her figure?
- If all the movie scenes of men smacking a girl’s butt when she walks by are false narratives, is it ever okay to touch a woman?
- If touching is questionable, how about making comments like “Hey baby,” “Looking good today,” or “Give us a little smile sweetheart?” Despite that viral YouTube video, girls love that stuff, right?
Just what is it women are looking for in men now that decades of classic manly archetypes have been blown to hell? By the time you finish this book, you’ll have the answers. Hang in there.