One might not open a newspaper, website, or menu these days without seeing some whinging excuse for a Y-chromosome moaning on in brobdingnagian mixed metaphors about the state of masculinity. “The #MeToo movement has gone too far,” they say. “The 21st century is full to the brim of mincing sissies,” they decry. “How am I meant to have sex with a lady without getting accused of sexual assault?” they posit. “This is the media’s doing,” they wonder aloud to every media outlet in the multiverse every single day since the moment I learned to read.
The Phuket News felt it necessary to run such a “witch hunt” column in its March 14 edition by David Jacklin, the former lifestyle editor (not a longshoreman or lumberjack), called "Salem's Lot" (a book about vampires, not witches). The piece waxed lyrical about warlocks, said masculinity was in decline, blamed “the media”, and then rambled on about the #MeToo movement in connection to the two decades of underage rape allegations against director Bryan Singer. You may not have read it, but I’m sure you’ve read something similar. If not, there will be another coming along any moment. Masculinity defense columns are like buses: They show up regularly and you wish it would just flip over and kill everyone inside.
It’s important to be empathetic. Think of it from such a point of view: The man awakes in a sweat. His wife touches him slowly but knowingly on the shoulder. “Again?” she says as he sloughs off the covers and goes to the window where the patter of rain tickles the window. “Yes,” he says, rubbing his brow. “I dreamed of a world that just isn’t masculine enough. Full-grown adults were having coffee with milk and sugar rather than black. People with beards had margaritas with big pink umbrellas rather than craft beer. Pandemonium.” Lightning breaks in the distance, and as he waits for the shake of thunder, a single tear falls onto his copy of The Daily Mail.
I shan't take umbrage with the siege mentality or the child-like boogeyman of ‘the media’ without a single thought to what that is or even if, in fact, it exists (Note: It doesn’t). I instead shall make a perpendicular, though particular argument: Every single person who complains about the decline of masculinity is a massive, massive wimp. These sorts are, in no uncertain terms, weensy little darlings with pigtails wearing pink, frilly dresses eating fistfuls of Ferrero Rocher while snuggled up to their chins in a unicorn-embroidered duvet.
It has been intimated by the publication’s editorial section that there is an unstoppable conspiracy from a “media” cabal to sissify the world. The columnist said plainly that a “coven of global newsrooms” had “usurped man of his libido and crushed underfoot any remaining morsel of charm.” My accusation is not so grandiose. I posit humbly that it is indeed those selfsame accusers that are cotton candy namby pamby sissy boots.
For my part, I can think of nothing less macho than the modern Piers Morgans of this planet trying to convince everyone that they are oh-so-tough by once a day saying something disparaging about modern masculinity or political correctness, trying to forget that in the great pantheon of “manliness” they do little more than collect farts in the polyester of an office chair.
This is a particular problem for the archetype of the Thailand expat. Some pot-bellied immigrant drops from the sky in a metal bird with the right skin color to pick up a middle class job as a teacher and tan their butt crack on Patong beach – walking by, through, and over all manner of rampant sex crime, oftentimes involving children – and then strolling into the pub to whine about how masculinity these days is an outlawed taboo akin to incest. It is my considered theory that if you think that the degradation of traditional masculinity is even in the top hundred thousand problems facing the planet today, you are, as I said earlier, a fearful, cowering little fawn in a meadow of budding daisies.
Every time a Thailand expat says, “You can’t say anything these days without being called a racist” an angel gets varicose veins. And to what point is all this imagined bravado? Due to my relative youth and good health, I believe I can best most in the masculine arts. Self-destructive violence? Come, as they say, at me, bro. Survival skills? I am a West Virginian of many generations and have ample food stores. Drinking? My liver is practically a fishnet stocking. Emotional scarring that prevents personal growth? I don’t mean to brag, but I once saw a man on a country road have sex with a dog. I assure you, my gentle blue birds, that the #MeToo movement and my support of it has not in any way hindered my masculinity or anyone else’s, and that you are, indeed, living gingham skirts and underslips of the finest gossamer fabric.
What #MeToo did do was further elucidate the sexual assault, rape, and harassment that has been suffered by my friends and family. For one complicated moment – before these "innocent until proven guilty" Bizzaro vigilantes got their claws in – victims could tell their story without having to actually tell it. But to some – again, flower-patterned milksops breastfed to their teens who can throw neither a ball nor a punch – they watch the instantaneous, nebulous state of current events reporting and, as they stencil hearts and kittens onto their Trapper Keepers, take against what they see as a media-sponsored mob. It’s the same old court of public opinion, but they’re now the brave public defenders because there are consequences where there weren’t before.
The underage rape accusations against Bryan Singer are complex to say the least, most recently elucidated in a 9,000-word, 12-month investigation in The Atlantic (Alex French and Maximillian Potter) – presumably part of this malignant, anti-man media cadre that definitely is real and exists and is totally, totally real and not made up. The “innocent until proven guilty” American trope is not one used very often outside a courtroom – where it is very useful, nor are the concepts of “beyond a reasonable doubt” or mens rea, because that would be a world gone mad. You don’t need to wait for a man in a black robe to tell you that one of your friends is a sex pest, and you sure as hell shouldn't wait to stop them. These warriors for criminal justice would have allowed Bill Cosby to mix their drinks well into last year, I’m sure.
Here’s the thing – fluffy, gentle bunny rabbits with long floppily doppily ears – accusations of sexual assault are more important than a film award. No one is being governed by intimidation. There’s no puritanism from a liberal Babadook. No public hangings. Only a fraction’s fraction of perpetrators ever suffer real-world consequences in court, fewer still in the court of public opinion. No one is actually living in fear but you, because you are, as previously stated, a soft flower petal wincing at its own delicate shadow.
There is nothing unmanly or unmasculine about being vulnerable – or wearing a pink, frilly dress or eating Ferrero Rocher or being afraid or peaceful or having a blue margarita or any of the other proto-insults leveled above. The “manliest” thing one can do is decide for oneself the type of person one wishes to be regardless of traditional heteronormative standards of gender and class; or, alternatively, crank Motorhead’s Ace of Spades and roundhouse kick a sperm whale dead in the face. Both are pretty top tier.
Those who think there’s some besieged codex for manliness live a terrified life. So the next time you hear some drunk, shirtless marketing manager screaming about how maleness is under siege, spare a thought for the poor dear. It’s more afraid of you than you are of it.
Tyler Roney is a Bangkok-based writer and editor. Currently the editor-in-chief of the travel magazine Travelogues from intrepid and luxury tour designer Remote Lands, Tyler has been writing and editing in Asia for more than a decade, previously found as the managing editor at The World of Chinese magazine in Beijing and as a politics and current affairs columnist with The Diplomat, also having worked with China Radio International and the Global Times. He may be reached on Twitter at @TylerRoney.