A Tale of Two Men (As Told by A Woman)
Updated: May 12
Let me start with a confession. I have been in a bit of trouble lately. Yep, as a woman, apparently I am not supposed to have opinions on the odd phenomenon of masculinity in contemporary societies. I violated this rule over the past few months by writing a number of blogs on this topic, concluding that:
Mythical Masculinity is unachievable in the real world
Masculinity is strictly enforced, and yet unachievable, and therefore traumatic.
Misogynistic Masculinity as is not just performative, it is also enacted violence against women and feminized others.
Male privilege is an opportunity for men to be heroic--if they have the courage to do so.
Listen to the blog post here:
Most of the feedback to these blog posts have been positive. Really positive. In particular, my discussion of traumatic masculinity has been well received. Yet, I have also received some critiques of these blog posts I have been told:
I need masculine men to keep me safe (presumably from masculine men?)
That I need to grow up
That I need to have sex more
That I am stupid
That I need to shut my mouth
That I must be a feminist (eye raised here at the obvious)
That men are sick of hearing about toxic masculinity.
That it is femininity that is toxic
That we should talk about femininity because that is where all the bad stuff really happens.
Let's just say that some folks got a little defensive, hmm? Of note, I also talk about how there are lots of kinds of men, and that masculinity needs to be more flexible to allow for these differences. In fact, most of my readers think I have been pretty nuanced in my discussions, but I will let you decide that for yourselves.
Here is what I believe about men and about masculinity. There are more good, admirable men than there are toxic, misogynistic men. It also seems to me that boys and young men are often attracted to misogynistic men as role models (see Sarah Banet-Weiser's excellent book exploring popular misogyny), even when there are other men who model a constructive masculinity.
I have been following the stories of two men who have been in the news quite a bit recently. Both have appeared in my blogs. Both are well known. Both are revered. Both answer the question "what does it mean to be a man" in radically different ways. Let's chat about Andrew Tate and Jimmy Carter.
Andrew Tate, King of Misogyny.
Type of masculinity.
He played Chess. He was a four time kick boxing champion. He is a self-proclaimed financial guru. In his spare time he appears to enjoy hurting women and feminized others. He was recently arrested in Romania for organized crime, human trafficking, and rape.
According to a BBC news report: In an interview with another YouTuber, he said he was "absolutely a misogynist", and added: "I'm a realist and when you're a realist, you're sexist. There's no way you can be rooted in reality and not be sexist." In that same video, he described women as "intrinsically lazy" and said there was "no such thing as an independent female".
Numerous social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, have banned him - with the latter saying that "misogyny is a hateful ideology that is not tolerated".
Tate was banned from Twitter for saying women should "bear responsibility" for being sexually assaulted. He has since been reinstated.
Tate has described himself as a "self-made multimillionaire" and said he earned money through "a little webcam business from my apartment.""I had 75 women working for me in four locations and I was doing $600,000 a month from webcam," he said in a podcast interview.
In a now-deleted page on his website he said he brought women into the "adult entertainment industry".
To be more clear, he made his money by having women produce pornography on the internet.
Courage quotient (1-10 scale):
As a woman, I admire men with courage. To be more specific, I admire people with courage. Since men are people, then I prefer men with courage.
I rate Tate as a generous 2 on the courage quotient. Why? He enjoys physically dominating those physically weaker than he is. Not much courage in that.
It seems that, beyond kicking people, Tate's primary skills involve posting provocative YouTube/TikTok videos (he has over a billion clicks). He also seems highly skilled in making men think that he has "the answers." Given the amount of money he has made from producing porn, he also seems highly skilled at pimping women for porn sites.
Probably pretty high, but not as high as he likes to claim. He is the ultimate fisherman’s storyteller (It was thiiiis big, but I released it back into the lake; Tate’s version: I am thiiis smart. Look at this picture of me with this red car). Tucker Carlson seems to think Tate is smart, for whatever that is worth.
Andrew Tate has millions of followers, people who cheer him on and amplify his message. It reminds me a bit of a scene in the movie Forest Gump. Forest is running back and forth across the country because he is sad. A man comes running up to him and says, I am going to follow you. You seem like you have the answers. Forest says something like "I'm just running." Andrew Tate's fans seem to think he has the answers, so they blindly follow. This analysis by Lisa Sugiura is excellent. Read this if you want to understand how Tate captivates his fans.
Tate is known and recognized by young children (my middle school child heard about him from a friend who watched TikTok videos). What makes Andrew Tate particularly disturbing is that lots of people follow him because they agree with him. Women are to be “given to the man and belong to the man.”
Although he is very good at providing pithy quotes that young men seem to find meaningful, his primary function is to get wealthy by doing harm to women and feminized others. The damage is so extensive that police warn that we need to educate our children to avoid predators like Andrew Tate. Beyond the social and psychological damage he creates, all of the other entrepreneurial work appears to be an optical illusion to create views on TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter.
Jimmy Carter, Past President of the USA.
Type of Masculinity:
Jimmy Carter was a decorated Naval officer, farmer, Habitat for Humanity volunteer, founder of the Carter Center--an organization that has almost eliminated the Guinea Worm. Carter is known for creating peace and advocating for equity around the world. In his 2015 TED talk, Carter clearly states that the mistreatment of women is the number one human rights abuse. In case you can’t tell, I really admire this man.
9. How else do you rate a man who trained on nuclear submarines, defied his racist southern neighbors, supported women, and set out to solve one of the most horrendous and hidden health issues of the developing world?
Building houses for the poor through Habitat for humanity. Curing major diseases by working with others in a community centered approach. Knows his privilege and puts it on the line for other people. Public speaking.
Probably very high, higher than he likely claims. To the best of my knowledge, Carter does not walk around telling people how smart or how strong he is. He does not have to because he has not built his identity around these two markers of masculinity.
Apparently, Carter has lots of fans. His fans cross generations, gender, social class, and race. I like this article’s description of his deeply engaged fan base. His fans include republicans and democrats, with one politician call him an American Treasure.
In his TED talk, Carter makes women responsible for “fixing men.” I know people are used to leaning on women to solve these problems, but really, men should fix men. Women have enough on their collective plates. Similarly, he has not always stood up to his convictions regarding race.
“A consciousness of caring”
There are lots of good men. We need to make sure that our children learn about these men, without idealizing them (they are human after all).
From an organizational behavior standpoint, perhaps it is time to engage in a consciousness of caring. This type of masculinity is also generally available to people, so pretty much most of us can get behind it when enacting a positive organizational culture.
As a woman, I wish men would stop thinking so much about being a man and instead, just do good work and be good people. How could this in any way be radical? Is it really too much to ask?
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