I was watching some videos online this week, and the commercials I had to watch beforehand were a weird mix of offensive and ridiculous. They followed the attempts of some rumpled man-children to cure various men’s “spice loss” (which here, apparently, means “horrifying and embarrassing decrease in manliness”) by giving them Slim Jims in varying levels of spiciness directly proportionate to the sins committed. According to the commercials I saw, the things that can lower your “spice” levels include: riding behind a woman on a scooter, ironing, driving a minivan, and wanting to get together with an ex. The best way to combat these horrifying developments? Processed meat-sticks dipped in pepper powder. I guess all those preservatives serve to preserve your masculinity as well?
When I see this sort of hand-wringing* concern, it just makes the concept of masculinity look fragile and artificial. If Real Men are so strong and rugged, why is it so easy to unravel them by introducing frumpy cars or herbal tea into their lives? This just reads to me like Protecting and Maintaining Your Heterosexual House of Cards. I’m sure this ad campaign is supposed to be humorous (but that was also the case with the “pre-menstrual women are irrational bitches” campaign the CA Milk Processor Board launched earlier this summer, so I don’t think that excuses much), but there are actually people who think like this. What is life like for them? Do they walk around daydreaming about salads and Vespas and having emotional intimacy with their girlfriends, knowing they can never indulge in these things because shadowy figures might materialize and revoke their Man Status? Or are these options not even something they ever consider at all?
It’s one thing for identities to change over time – I’m a big fan of scrutinizing descriptors and labels and changing/discarding/adapting the ones you use as needed – but when you walk around worrying about a list of minor infractions that might strip you of your Man Card, it’s pretty ridiculous. I don’t know whether I should feel irritated or just sorry for people who limit their options so much.
There’s a great discussion/dissection of these commercials here; it will save y’all the torment of actually having to watch them, which I don’t recommend.
*I suppose the act of hand-wringing isn’t appropriately masculine. Bear-punching? I’m going to go with bear-punching.