By Rod Van Mechelen
Supposedly, aggression is one area of expression expected and approved of in the male. In reality it turns out to be just another taboo area. -- The Hazards of Being Male: Surviving the Myth of Masculine Privilege, Herb Goldberg
The Heroic Journey
1992 Bellevue, Wash. - Across a dusty plain rides Bruce the Barbarian. Like the Kung Fu star, Bruce Lee, he is a hero of the ages, a masculine icon with many names: Conan, Tarzan, Rambo and Captain Kirk are all cognomina by which we know him. (After wrestling with the Pop-feminist complaints about the language being sexist because it defaults to the masculine gender, I decided what made the most sense was for the person speaking to default to his or her own gender.)
Different names, but the essential man remains the same -- "brave, courageous and bold." An independent and lonely man who is reluctant but willing to fight. Often, popular action-adventures portray him as a common man, and the plot is well known: From the ordinary world a reluctant hero is called by reasons both compelling and fearsome to fight against all odds. A wise mentor befriends and helps him to accept his call to duty. But the rules are unknown and defeat seems certain. Nevertheless, in the darkest hour when all seems lost, he finds strength to carry on the struggle toward his first victory. Then, he triumphs over the ultimate challenge and returns home a transformed man. (Summarized from a treatment of the subject in How to Sell Your Idea to Hollywood by Robert Kosberg. Note: I do NOT recommend this book.)
Regardless of what form the heroic journey takes, however, a kind of innocence characterizes its beginning, an innocence lost, as it often is in real life, when adversity strips away all his happy illusions to unveil the determined underdog within.
The "Heroic Rapist"
In some measure, most of us make this heroic journey. But during the past two decades, as the pop-feminists intensified their assault on men, we have become obsessed with masculinity's most extreme and violent characteristics:
(A)s in Victorian England, when suppression of sex led to an efflorescence of lurid flowers in the secret gardens of society, so the denial of male nature in modern life warps and perverts the natural play of male aggression, leading to ... a society that at once denies the existence of natural male aggressiveness and is utterly preoccupied with it." -- George Gilder, Men and Marriage
The recent rape convictions of two former heavyweight fighters should be no surprise -- in extreme form, they represent the transformation of Bruce the Barbarian into "heroic rapists." The cut-throat take-no-prisoners tycoons, the hyper-sexual amoral abusers of women, the Frankenstein's monsters whom their pop-feminist co-creators seldom understand (You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation
, Ballantine Books Edition, June 1991, Deborah Tannen, Ph.D.), but fearfully condemn: "In the current political situation, terrorism is a built-in consequence, a logical outcome of the 'male' ideology with its focus on hierarchy." (Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress
, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite)
The hierarchies of men, or the sex of women? Heroes are men whose efforts, violent or otherwise, benefit women. The myth machines flash heroic images of male violence onto the big screen of cinema and the little screens of television, urban myths confirmed by the hoards of groupies who reward apparently violent men, such as football stars, boxers and professional wrestlers, with sex.
A powerful inducement to behave aggressively for men starved for sexual attention by women who trade sex for power: "Until recently, we have objectified men more subtly -- by bribing them. We told men that if they killed themselves, we'd call them heroes."(Farrell: Why Men Are the Way They Are, Warren Farrell, Ph.D.) Tortured hyper-masculinity, however, is not the true nature of male aggressivity, nor is aggression its "built-in consequence."
A false association
Commonly, pop-feminists associate aggressivity with violence, and that is how society most frequently characterizes masculinity today. (Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress
, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite) But there's another side to it, the essential characteristic of aggressivity pop-feminists ignore that my dictionary defines as "vigorously energetic, esp. in the use of initiative and forcefulness; boldly assertive." (Random House Webster's College Dictionary
Secreting roughly twenty times the testosterone women do (Brain Sex: The Real Difference Between Men and Women, Anne Moir, Ph.D. & David Jessel), men tend to be boldly assertive and virile. Most men love invigorating challenges. Pop-feminists equate this with violence. Ironically, they gloss over or ignore female violence.
Female Violence Ignored
Though many women may scorn the aggressive acts of some men and denigrate all men for them, are they truly less violent than men? Deborah Tannen suggests women are just as aggressive as men, but express it differently: "If boys and men often use opposition to establish connections, girls and women can use apparent cooperation and affiliation to be competitive and critical." (You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, Ballantine Books Edition, June 1991, Deborah Tannen, Ph.D.) Men may sometimes resort to violence, often to strong language, and everyday to out and out, sometimes loud disagreement, but most women are expert at the smiling cut: "A common way of hurting someone without seeming to intend to is to repeat a critical remark made by someone else, with the for-your-own good introduction 'I think you should know.'" (You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, Ballantine Books Edition, June 1991, Deborah Tannen, Ph.D.)
In the world of men, there is a context woven broad and of rough fabric, as different in texture as it is in scope from the embroidered cloth of women's lives. Women weave their world upon a subjective loom, wherein they define all in terms of self in relation to others. (In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development, Carol Gilligan) Here, there is neither justice nor a hierarchy of rights, but only competing interests. (In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development, Carol Gilligan, p 101)
Portrayed upon this canvas, men frequently seem more violent, but only because they tend to be more overt, objective, and outspoken. Pop-feminists play upon this to systematically gain control of men. By making overt aggressivity a shameful thing, by framing all men as pseudo-aggressors, they have promoted the notion that male passion and men's raised voices are indicators only of an anger that signals violence.
They don't understand (or want us to not-understand) that men often behave thus because it is in our nature to be passionate and sometimes loud without ever being violent. But with all the romance novels, movies, and television dramas about "heroic rapists," and with all the newspaper and magazine articles about the relatively few violent men, it's understandable how women could confuse assertive or aggressive masculinity with "feminine" hostility.
2012 Olympia, Wash. - I wrote the chapter above before Catharine A. MacKinnon wrote Only Words, in which she used the most lurid of examples to equate (male) speech with actual physical violence.
Today, women who have never heard of MacKinnon and have no idea who she is, embrace the idea of equating male words with acts of male violence. They turn even softly spoken words expressing opposition to (all) sexism and (all) double standards with physical violence, escalate it into an accusation of violence, which they use to blame and shame to control men.
All this, while women are cheered as "strong" and "powerful" for speaking far more...violently. This is not theoretical. Millions of men experience it every day. It's real, it's sexist, it's intolerant of genuine masculinity, from a feminist perspective the purpose is to oppress men, and we should call it for what it is: evil.
Rod Van Mechelen
Rod Van Mechelen is the author of What Everyone Should Know about Feminist Issues: The Male-Positive Perspective (the page now includes several articles by other authors), and the publisher of The Backlash! @ Backlash.com. He is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and served for 9-1/2 years on the Cowlitz Indian Tribal Council.