I suppose this technically could have gone in the Feminist or Genderqueer threads, but the issues I'm addressing aren't really centered around women's or genderqueer experiences, and I don't want to suck the air out of those threads by bringing up masculine and cishet stuff. Anyway, I recently read this article by Phil Christman in the adorably-named "Hedgehog Review:" What Is It Like to Be a Man? Christman's answer is essentially, "intellectually problematic and emotionally confusing." "Masculinity," he says, "is an abstract rage to protect." But to protect against what, exactly? He writes further: "If you want to defend traditional masculinity as a kind of slaying-dragons-for-its-own-sake, but you can’t offer a rational analysis of why this behavior is necessary, or why it is good, or why you need a penis to do it, the archetype theory offers you a pretentious and grandiose way of saying “It is what it is.” It dignifies tautology." Christman uses a quote by Harvey Mansfield to explain why "the rage to protect" is problematic: " “Honor is an asserted claim to protect someone . . . and the claim to protect is a claim to rule. How can I protect you properly if I can’t tell you what to do?” Christman backs away from this troubling premise, but finds nothing to put in the rage to protect's place. Ruefully, he concludes that a man stripped of his macho delusions is sort of a self-important nonentity, or as he puts it, "a joke." He's not the only person who feels that way. My father, who is 71 and has seen some things, sometimes talks about how the discrediting of traditional masculinity has left young men with no sure path out of boyhood. As a result, these big, superannuated boys sort of drift, until their anger over having somehow been robbed boils over and they shoot up their workplace, or commit some other destructive act. The premise of "Fight Club" is pretty much the same. I'm curious as to what people see as the way forward for masculinity, traditional or otherwise. Do men really have to choose between being sexist brutes and being "a joke?" My initial response is that the only way out of this squirrel cage for men is for them to do what women have been doing--slowly, painfully crafting a new cultural aesthetic from the ground up. However, there doesn't appear to be widespread interest in doing this. For every young person who puts in the work to create their own gendered (or non-gendered) meanings, there's at least one troubled kid who figures it's better to be a monster than a joke, and beats up his girlfriend, or smashes a gay kid's face into the cement, or shoots up a school. I don't think there's any way back to "the good old days" for men, since as Harvey alludes, women have to consent to be governed if men are to be their governors. Even the far right now have their career women poster girls in Ann Coulter and Tomi Lahren. So whither masculinity? What is to be done if the old ways are untenable, and so many people are unwilling to accept anything new? I'm not really looking for pat, "gender roles are stupid and we shouldn't have them" answers. War and money and blind self-interest are also stupid and we shouldn't have them, but here we are.