Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Too Butch For His Own Good?

Coming on the heels of my last post, this seemed too apropos to pass up:

Over on the Washington Post, Ruth Marcus has a column up today entitled "Man Overboard," which postulates that the big problem with the Bush administration is an overabundance of "manliness," as defined by conservative professor Harvey C. Mansfield. She goes on to say that the administration could use some more femininity - and presumably, she doesn't mean Secretary Rice's latest wardrobe.

Does she have a point? Is Bush too manly?

Hmm. I don't think so.

But that's because I don't want the president's flaws to be seen as endemic to men or masculine behavior in general.

Now personally, I find the Bush administration to be arrogant, overzealous, narrow-minded, reckless, manipulative, deceptive - and perhaps worst of all, incompetent. They prize ideological loyalty over experience in their political appointments; and turn a tin ear to all dissent or criticism of their policies. They have a fixed notion in their minds as to How Things Should Be Done, deliberately ignore or reject any viewpoint which contradicts their own, select people with their same narrow viewpoint to run things - and then act surprised when problems crop up which other people predicted. The fact I disagree with their policies is nothing compared to the monumental inability to govern effectively they repeatedly display.

Pretty much everything which has gone wrong in the last five years - from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to the insurgency in Iraq to the expensive conundrum of the Medicare bill to the attacks of 9/11 - has, to some extent, been predicted by others, often within the government itself: predictions which the Bush administration - in its blind devotion to its own absolute certainty - silenced, rejected, or ignored. And while it would be grossly unfair to have expected the administration to be able to prevent all of those problems, a clear pattern of behavior has consistently emerged: the president and his administration don't listen to dissenting voices, often to the country's detriment.

It is highly ironic, to say the least, that the president and his administration have turned their attention towards encouraging democratic reforms in other countries, even as they repeatedly squelch all attempts at honest public debate in this one; that they are critical of the actions of despots and tyrants overseas even as they openly flout the rule of law at home; and they proudly proclaim themselves the defenders of freedom and liberty in the world while seeking to erode the very freedoms and liberties their predecessors - of both political parties - worked so very hard to achieve.

They have even betrayed their own conservative roots: paying them only lip service on hot-button topics like gay marriage, stem-cell research, and abortion; while bankrupting the country with the largest budget deficits in American history and embarking on an ill-fated, quixotic quest to remake the world to their liking. "Big-government conservative" is a paradoxical term, but I suppose it plays better in the red states than "hypocritical compulsive spender."

A century ago, they would've been consummate snake-oil salespeople: they have done a remarkably good job of peddling their wares on an all-too-gullible public; unfortunately, those goods have turned out, by and large, to be utterly worthless.

IMHO, of course.

So what's all this have to do with Marcus's assertion about the administration being too manly?

Simple: because I'm a guy, too.

And personally, I resent having the administration's traits identified as inherently "masculine" - at least in the sense of somehow being genetically encoded - because I sure as hell don't want people to think I am predisposed to sharing those qualities with Bush and Cheney simply because we share the same mismatched pair of chromosomes.

I don't want anyone to think "fat-headed idiocy" is inherent in my genes. That sure as hell isn't part of my personal definition of masculinity.

Personally, I don't like "gendering" behavior too much. But if we need a definition of "true" manliness, let's try this one on for size:

Real men know the difference between tenacity and stubbornness, between loyalty and blind obedience, between idealism and zealotry, between self-confidence and arrogance, between courage and belligerence. Real men know there's a time for planning and a time for action, but there's never a time when you stop thinking. Real men know when to take charge in a crisis and when to pause to listen to others - not because they're weak or indecisive or cowardly, but because they know they need to make informed decisions. Real men know that they're human, which means they're flawed, which means they aren't always right, which makes them humble. Real men know what they don't know, which means they know they need to learn from others. Real men make the public good their primary concern and never let their own pride and ego get in the way of doing what's right.

And real men don't start fights - they end them. Because real men know there's nothing inherently brave about sending other men to fight and die on their behalf; only that sometimes - sometimes - it's necessary.

Bush is too manly?

Not from where I'm sitting.


At 3/22/2006 12:33 AM, Blogger J. said...

Well, I start getting hives whenever anyone tries to imply that a virtue - inasmuch as "confidence in the face of risk" is a virtue and not a situational response - is primarily within the domain of a single gender. To my mind, the only thing that's unquestionably "manly" is the urge to put one's penis somewhere interesting; everything else is pretty much open to the masses.

. . .

Okay, leaving the toilet seat up. I concede that one, too.

That said, I haven't read the book. I've read Ms. Marcus's column, and that suggests pretty strongly that I don't want to read the book, but none of that really entitles me to use the author's terminology as freely as Ms. Marcus does herself. Still, since it's clear that she's associating Team Bush with Professor Mansfield's definition of manliness, I don't think she personally has much of a problem with everything my genitalia represents.

In fact, I think her real thesis is a lot like yours - and mine, for that matter: that the proper response to some crank who invents a new law of gender theory and uses it to justify and enable plainly dysfunctional policy is exasperation.

And maybe a suggestion that he go put his penis somewhere really interesting.


At 3/22/2006 1:49 PM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said...

I realize Marcus wasn't dumping on the whole of the male half of the species - that was mostly me being bombastic for the hell of it. I think she was talking about the Dark Side of Masculinity, as defined by Mansfield, and why it isn't so awesome, especially as evinced by the Bush administration. To be honest, it was a weak argument to begin with, IMHO, but I tried to run with it anyway.

Like I said: don't much care for "gendering" behavior; don't appreciate it when people presume we're predisposed towards one set of behavior or another based on a coin toss that happened at conception. But since a lot of other people do - and since I'm not in denial about the nature of gender roles in society at large - I offered up my own positive definition of manliness -

Y'know, one noticably deficient in pig-headed idiocy.

- to which those who care can aspire.

Insofar as anyone besides you or me reads what I write, of course.

At 3/22/2006 1:57 PM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said...

Or put another way: Bush's problem is not an overabundance of "manliness," based on anyone's arbitrary definition of that concept; Bush's problem is he sucks at his job - and sucking is a pretty universally human trait.

At 3/22/2006 5:55 PM, Blogger J. said...

`Nuff said!

. . .

Apart from maybe a "Heh."


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