And … We’re Done Here.

I recently got a free issue of Men’s Journal. Dwayne Johnson was on the cover. It’s a profile by Allison Glock. I don’t know much about him. He was a football player then a WWE wrestler, he’s biracial, he gives kids of Samoan heritage someone to cheer for, folks say he works hard at being an action star and comedic actor. All good reasons to read the piece.

So the reporter writes that he’s “a modern breed of film star”, “an amalgam of magnetism and marketing savvy.” (So far, so good):

George Clooney minus the smugness. Arnold minus the skeeve. Tom Cruise minus the crazy. Ryan Seacrest, if Seacrest were a man.”

And … we’re done here.

The point isn’t whether a man or woman polices the arbitrary policy that manhood is a privileged status revoked at the slightest infraction. The point is that this conception of manhood is part of the problem, and reaffirming it doesn’t do anybody any good.

Not finishing the article.

The title has an obvious double-meaning. My two-week guest bit is over. See all you folks in comments.


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32 comments for “And … We’re Done Here.

  1. May 9, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    I don’t quite see it–I can’t see a large discrepancy between a line like this and a woman saying, for example, Hillary Clinton looks like a man (disparigingly, which several women I know have.) If you can explain why one is a sign of systematic inequality and one is not, I would be interested in hearing why.

  2. May 9, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    I don’t know much about him.

    I’m shocked! He’s The Rock. He’s famous. His last movie, Disney’s The Game Plan, involved a little curly haired girl, a slobbering dog, and an allergy to cinnamon.

  3. Daomadan
    May 9, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    I don’t quite see it

    I think this needs to be taken one step further and to discuss how “Ryan Seacrest, if Seacrest were a man.” Is a blatant comment on his sexuality and based in homophobia and sexism. Seacrest is perceived as not masculine because the media and others question his claims about his sexuality. Equating Seacrest as “not a man” is just another way of saying “He’s gay!” And gay is often equated with femaleness, because surely the worst thing in the world is being a woman, thereby not masculine.

    I see it. Just because others don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

  4. May 9, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Why do we need to defend saying that Hillary looks like a man? It’s still rampant gender policing. Ryan Seacrest loses his manhood for… What? Being friends with Ellen? I dunno… but anyway, when people start kicking him out of the class of “man”, he starts to lose a huge part of male privilege… continued gender transgression, and he could lose it all. That doesn’t make him a woman (though misogynists may phrase it that way.)

    Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton starts off behind in the game, because she’s a woman. Any gender transgression (“real” or manufactured) doesn’t make her a man, though, it just makes her a nonconforming woman. She doesn’t really have any privilege to lose, but she can still suffer from criticisms based on failure to conform sufficiently… as she in fact does, constantly.

  5. May 9, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    I don’t quite see it–I can’t see a large discrepancy between a line like this and a woman saying, for example, Hillary Clinton looks like a man (disparigingly, which several women I know have.) If you can explain why one is a sign of systematic inequality and one is not, I would be interested in hearing why.

    Who said it’s not problematic to say that Hillary Clinton looks like a man?

    They’re both problematic, and they’re both signs of systematic inequality.

  6. May 9, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    I don’t quite see it–I can’t see a large discrepancy between a line like this and a woman saying, for example, Hillary Clinton looks like a man (disparigingly, which several women I know have.) If you can explain why one is a sign of systematic inequality and one is not, I would be interested in hearing why.

    Actually, both of those seem incredibly bad to me, disparaging public figures for not living up to some kind of ideal of femininity or manliness. They’re slightly different for reasons Daomadan points out; men can be “tainted” by any suggestion that they might be kind of woman-like, whereas women in positions of power like Clinton are in a double bind where they’ll be mocked for being too feminine or mocked for not being feminine enough.

  7. nvs
    May 9, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Notwithstanding everything else that’s been said, this is inaccurate:

    And gay is often equated with femaleness, because surely the worst thing in the world is being a woman, thereby not masculine.

    Even in its most offensive light (personally, I think it’s a poor attempt at tongue-in-cheek, B-level magazine fare), the quote doesn’t demean Seacrest for being womanly because womanliness (whatever that is) is bad. It attempts to demean him for being womanly because he is, biologically, a man. I think a lot of people miss this point. Again, this is all assuming we take random lines like this seriously. I don’t.

  8. Yuri K.
    May 9, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    She doesn’t really have any privilege to lose

    She doesn’t have as much privilege to lose, but there’s certainly a privilege in having a standard gender presentation. You can lose that, and it doesn’t help you much.

  9. Matthew Cole
    May 9, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    It attempts to demean him for being womanly because he is, biologically, a man. I think a lot of people miss this point. Again, this is all assuming we take random lines like this seriously. I don’t.

    No, I think we’re all on the same page on this. He is being demeaned because he is a man who acts “womanly”, and I think most of the readership of this blog takes issue with that because we believe that people should be able to act and express their identities freely and publicly without being ridiculed for transgressing society’s arbitrary gender hang-ups.

    “Random lines” like this do matter, because socially circulating ridicule for people who don’t conform to rigid gender stereotypes signals to everybody that their self-expression will cost them as well. It limits all of our chances to be who we want to be.

  10. SoE
    May 9, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    I second Matthew Cole who phrased it so much better than I was about to.

  11. nvs
    May 9, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    @Matthew Cole: actually, “random lines” like this don’t matter–for the sole reason that they waste time and energy on . . . “random lines.” The excerpt quoted above is the end of a poorly structured, and rather unenlightening crescendo that shoots for wit and vigor and falls flat. Not because it reifies gender stereotypes and prevents people from being who they want to be. But because it’s lame. It’s not funny. It’s not witty. It doesn’t even do a decent job of referencing pop culture. The author isn’t ignorant because she’s underhandedly throwing a barb at people like Seacrest; she’s ignorant because her writing sucks.

  12. Thomas
    May 9, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    Random lines is how this stuff is done. The thugs of discourse don’t lay their points out for examination; they toss them off like everyone shares the assumption. If it goes unrefuted, then they might as well be right.

  13. May 9, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    I’ve noticed an increase in a rather disturbing trend among gay male celebrity bloggers (cough Perez cough) who like to make homophobic remarks about straight guys, taunting them for their hairstyles, mannerisms, and clothes, making disgusting homophobic comments, suggesting that if a man does not adhere to “heteronormative” standards, then he is probably GAY.

    The same goes for female celebrities (Pink or Michelle Rodriguez, anybody?) who are often mocked by gay male bloggers, throwing out claims that any woman who does not wear make-up or dress up, is automatically a lesbian. WTF, people? I would have thought that gay male bloggers wouldn’t stoop down to this garbage, but I’ve seen happened too many times on gossip blogs. Yeah, I’m aware, gossip blogs=trash, but still.

  14. Bitter Scribe
    May 9, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Thomas: THANK YOU!! I am so goddamned tired of reading about how this or that is “what it takes to be a man.” As far as I’m concerned, if you’re 18 or over and you have a Y chromosome and the requisite plumbing, you are a man, period, end of story.

  15. Thomas
    May 9, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    if you’re 18 or over and you have a Y chromosome and the requisite plumbing, you are a man,

    Not a requirement I support, BTW. There are transmen who neither have a Y chromosome nor a penis.

  16. May 9, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Yeah and vice versa!

  17. CBrachyrhynchos
    May 9, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Meanwhile, McInerney’s defense attorney argues school administrators created a disturbing environment for McInerney by letting Lawrence King wear “feminine” clothing. So of course McInerney had no options but to shoot King in the back of the head at close range.

  18. Bruce from Missouri
    May 9, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    The whole Seacrest insult was kind of wierd, since Dwayne Johnson is actually the only male action star that I know of that has ever played a gay part in a movie (Be Cool).

  19. Thomas
    May 9, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    I don’t know exactly what gender presentation looks like in not-patriarchy, but a system where we’re tied to certain mandatory presentations because of our biology… who is this better for?

  20. Thomas
    May 9, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Bruce, Russell Crowe did in one of his early films. He’s not “just” an action star, but after Gladiator and Virtuosity, I think one has to count him.

  21. skirt
    May 9, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Bruce, Wesley Snipes was in To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (so were Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo), in which he plays not only a gay man, but a drag queen.

  22. skirt
    May 9, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    in that same vein, actually, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce were in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (also as drag queens – both films are drag-queens-roadtripping-through-the-middle-of-the-country-and- finding-love-and-self-acceptance-along-the-way stories, it’s just that one is in the U.S. and one in Australia). now, neither of those films are dramas, but I’d say the people I’ve mentioned are on-par-ish with The Rock’s celebrity (or were at the time).

  23. Nicole
    May 9, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    As far as I’m concerned, if you’re 18 or over and you have a Y chromosome and the requisite plumbing, you are a man, period, end of story.

    Yey for extending cisgender privilege to deny people’s identities!

  24. Thomas
    May 9, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Nicole, you might have noticed that that one got gang-tackled behind the line of scrimmage. Of all the blogs where cis-priv will go unexamined, this ain’t the place.

  25. littlem
    May 9, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    I see it. Just because others don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

    Boy, does that sound familiar.

    One hopes that the more -isms one becomes familiar with, the easier it is to pick it up when it’s happening to another person/group.

    For me, that sentence spoke for itself, if you will. Tom didn’t even have to finish his analysis for me to see/get it.

    I have no idea what that says, though.

  26. Mandolin
    May 9, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    To the extent anyone’s taking votes (i.e. not at all), I vote that you get invited as a regular.

  27. Thomas
    May 10, 2008 at 8:42 am

    Mandolin, that’s very kind. I could not take on that time commitment at this point, even if the regulars wanted me permanently, which is not something that has ever come up.

  28. Bruce from Missouri
    May 10, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Thomas, and Skirt, in replies 20-22, I see where you are coming from. I was using a much narrower definition of “action star”, which basically only included your musclehead types like Arnold, Stallone, and so on. But if you expand it out to actors who have talents beyond blowing crap up, you are certainly right.

  29. May 10, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Feminist PUNK #13:

    ’ve noticed an increase in a rather disturbing trend among gay male celebrity bloggers (cough Perez cough) who like to make homophobic remarks about straight guys, taunting them for their hairstyles, mannerisms, and clothes, making disgusting homophobic comments, suggesting that if a man does not adhere to “heteronormative” standards, then he is probably GAY.

    The same goes for female celebrities (Pink or Michelle Rodriguez, anybody?) who are often mocked by gay male bloggers, throwing out claims that any woman who does not wear make-up or dress up, is automatically a lesbian. WTF, people?

    As a queer man, I think the reason goes to the fact that a LOT of gay men I’ve dealt with in life don’t really ‘get’ it. They really don’t see that gender identiy and sexism and homophobia and everything is completely tied together. Some of the nastiest, most sexist comments I have ever heard have been in gay male spaces.

    What these gay men want is to get the full male privelige that they think they deserve, not a reexamination of the notion of privelege. It’s also why the HRC goes full steam ahead on the marriage issue while casually exempting the trans community from the nondiscrimination bill.

  30. May 10, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    The same goes for female celebrities (Pink or Michelle Rodriguez, anybody?) who are often mocked by gay male bloggers, throwing out claims that any woman who does not wear make-up or dress up, is automatically a lesbian.

    Actually, I’m pretty sure that Michelle Rodriguez is a lesbian since one of her arrests was for domestic violence against her girlfriend. Why gay male bloggers think it’s perfectly fine to taunt lesbians for being gay is a whole different question and a whole other level of hypocrisy.

  31. Evan
    May 11, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Thanks for a great two weeks, Thomas. I can’t find it in the archives, but do you have a blog where you’re regularly posting?

  32. Thomas
    May 12, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Evan, I do not.

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