Dean Clough

April 22, 2022

Portico Darwin: On Masculinity, Toxic and Otherwise

Where they cook up this shit, I don't know, but I've been giggling incessantly - like a little girl - ever since some leading Republican voices have decided that a MAJOR problem in America is that well, men just can't be men any longer.  Masculinity is under attack!  And you were worried about Ukraine?

There was Josh Hawley's absolutely mad rant late last year.  Ted Cruz has naturally weighed in, and really, what's a conservative existential crisis without his brilliance being added to the conversation?  From exactly the usual suspects, a new sign you're in the MAGA/crazy-town Republican club is that you worry a whole bunch about the decline of the white American male. 

And now, we've reached peak sperm count with Tuckems and his testicular tanning as a path to getting those testosterone levels right where they should be.   Which, as any real man knows, is the key to it all.  Because, you know, of sex and growing beards and stuff.

tuck in.jpg

Given all of this, I thought it was about time for a blog on masculinity.  And who better to do so than an old white man of some privilege, such as myself?

As with most things, this perceived attack on masculinity - specifically white masculinity - has tiny, small shards of truth mixed up in the gross distortions.  The truth lies in these statements, versions of which those around me for any time will hear before too long:

  • White men, especially those of means, have been in charge of essentially everything, forever, and mostly continue to be.
  • Look how great everything is!

So IMHO, being a white man is nothing to really brag about.  There has literally never been a class of people as fortunate in all of history as those born white, male and middle class or better.  Yet it's not clear we have done a particularly great job.  In fact, I think it's clear to a whole bunch of folks we've done a pretty shitty job.

Think about things like equal pay for equal work.  Redlining.  Denying cigarettes cause cancer.  Big pharma.  Denying burning fossil fuels will bring about irreversible climate change.  Military Industrial Complex.  Prison Industrial Complex.  Venture capital, hedge funds, and private equity.  I think you get it.

Thus, the "attack" on masculinity comes from reality.  White men have royally fucked things up, and I don't know how it wouldn't have been better with some color and estrogen in the mix.  So society has correctly put us under a microscope, and has started expecting better.  Which I feel is reasonable.

But there is a large group of men (and women!) that don't feel it's reasonable, and don't agree at all.  Let's call these guys "the hunters and gatherers" and leave it at that?  These gentlemen point at Edison, The Wright Brothers, The Greatest Generation, landing on the Moon, family farms, Cadillac Escalades, Chipotle Grills, and a McMansion on every corner and say:  "Hey, we've done great!"

So as I see it, these guys want it both ways:  complete absolution for the severe problems that are mostly on our hands, yet total adoration for the things we've gotten right.  But they're not getting that; in fact, women, people of color, and the non cisgender are now all demanding equal treatment and their rightful seat at the table.  And no one is holding back on their criticism of the world we've made, nor where the blame lies.   

That's resulted in a certain type of man who now feels it necessary not just to be a man.  Not just to be masculine.  But IN YOUR FUCKING FACE masculine, or taking what used to be "just being a guy" to such an obscene extent that it becomes toxic.   A bully.  Disrespectful.  Impolite.  Stiffs paying vendors.  Threatens violence.  Willfully ignorant.  A cheat - a liar, even.  If only there were a man that could serve as the poster child for all of that?


Me?  I am a proud metrosexual male, of the coastal elite variety.  I eat sushi - often.  I cry - almost as often.  I drive a Mini Cooper S convertible.  I don't like guns or war.  I believe in manners, and I like to put on nice clothes.  I enjoy cooking, but I can't clean a fish or dress a deer I shot (which I would never do in the first place).  I read books and seek knowledge.  And I welcome anyone that isn't an asshole, whatever their color, sexuality, or gender.

But I bet essentially everyone reading this - man or woman - agree with those sentiments.

The problem are those living in Wokistan that decry all white men as toxic, or at least partially so.  In some cases, men in fact are under attack - Al Franken being exhibit A.  I may even have a story or two myself on the subject.  Having lived it, I can tell you that wrongly being deemed toxic can be as destructive as toxic masculinity itself.  As always, the answer is balance and also this. 


Oh, what the heck:  here's a real man.  My father, Bill Clough.  Salesman, Bell System (New York Telephone Company), late 1950s.  Nothing toxic to see here. 


But wow, was his world different than ours as a white man then and we can never go back.  You gotta problem wit dat?

Have a great weekend.   

My two monographs, On Entrepreneurship and On Managing Teams, brought an astonishing amount of feedback, in that there was none.  No matter:  I love writing.   Maybe I'll ask the two professor emeriti out there to grade them?

Or instead:  I'll write a monograph about writing monographs and blogs!

Thank you to any one that is reading this newsletter.

It would typically be too soon to play this again on KLUF - this album was featured on 2/14/22.  But no matter.  Because:

  • I'm The Man
  • Look Sharp!
  • Real Men
  • Slow Song
  • It's Different For Girls

Still Diamond Certified.  Still amongst the best live albums of them all.  And the antithesis of toxic masculinity.  Here is Joe Jackson and "Live 1980 - 1986".


About Dean Clough

Plans To Enjoy Life.