So apparently we’re in the midst of another epidemic of gender anxiety, particularly among men. Milwaukee’s Best Light (which for years wasn’t sold in Milwaukee – its name would have been too blatantly false) has upped the ante of its “Brewed for a Man’s Taste” campaign (i.e., “if you want to drink light beer but are too insecure to do so in front of other men…”) with a new set of ads adding the slogan “men should act like men, and light beer should taste like beer.” Well first, the lack of parallelism bugs me (like, “stupid men should act like men, and light beer should taste like beer – but in fact neither is true”), but the whole premise of the ad deputizes a certain kind of man into the Guy Police, ruthlessly penalizing even the most inane and trivial violation of the codes of masculinity by summoning a gigantic beer can from above to crush all such violators – who, by their very unpunished existence, it seems, aid and abet those who’d doubt the utter guyness of any other man in the room. If you’re not with us, you’re with the gender terrorists. Some of the offenses? Being affectionate to one’s lover, or daubing oil from a slice of pizza. Apparently it’s unmanly to not shovel as much greasy food down one’s gullet as possible. If you’re a real man, you won’t wimpily give in to that bastard heart disease. Only pussies get clogged arteries – and it’s their own damned fault, for not driving enormous pickup trucks or wanting to shoot things.
Along similar lines, I just read a review of the book Man Camp by Adrienne Brodeur, whose setup is that (to quote from a review by Caroline Goyette) “New York City men…have become too darn…unmanly”: they “can’t chop wood, start a fire, or jump their car when the battery dies.” Apparently, the book would imply, women should act like women. God forbid that if a woman thinks it’s important to know how to chop wood, start a fire, or jumpstart a car, she learn to do so herself, thereby robbing any manly man in the vicinity of the opportunity to whip out his engorged sense of chauvinism. The book then introduces a “strapping and infinitely manly dairy farmer from West Virginia” – dairy farmer? wouldn’t cattle rancher or tobacco farmer have been more manly? – who, in an enormously surprising denouement, ultimately proves to be less than he seems as well. (All this is from the review – I haven’t read the book – so blame Goyette if I’m wrong, since she actually did read the book, one assumes.)
At any rate, I don’t understand people’s continued fascination with wanting it to be 1953 again.
(image from January 2006 Architectural Record, by Philippe Rualt, of Barcelona’s Agbar Tower by architect Jean Nouvel)