Clarence Page: A crisis of masculinity? More like politics as usual
Perhaps it’s only coincidental but this, the summer of “Barbie,” also is the summer of our discontent in politics — over manhood.
Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, helped to get the ball rolling with a new book, “Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs.”
I thought it was rather amusing since my vivid memories of Hawley on Jan. 6 included two newsmaking images: One was a photo of him raising a defiant fist of support toward the crowd of Donald Trump loyalists who were about to storm the Capitol. The other was a video clip of him running swiftly through the Capitol to escape the same crowd after it turned riotous.
That’s politics. Conditions can change on you. It doesn’t take away from Hawley’s manly manliness for him to know when it’s time to get away from a riot.
Hawley also knows when it is the right time to sell a book about manhood, a topic that has produced a long line of books in recent years, such as Jordan Peterson’s 2018 bestselling “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos,” which my son recommended to me, although I am not sure whether he actually read it.
Peterson, I soon learned, is a Canadian psychologist and YouTube star who broke through in 2016 with a series of videos criticizing a Canadian law to introduce “gender identity and expression” as prohibited grounds for discrimination. Peterson argued, not unreasonably, that the bill would make the use of certain gender pronouns “compelled speech.”
He quickly became the darling of conservative critics of political correctness and identity politics. Although he often described himself as a classic British liberal and traditionalist, he became a star of the conservative lecture circuit, thanks to a content distribution deal with the conservative media company The Daily Wire. His podcasts have gathered millions of views.
That’s how I heard about him, thanks to my son, who is better wired into content that has youth appeal these days than I am.
As little as these men would appear to share in common, they each have been cited numerous times in various media stories and broadcast discussions of today’s reputed “masculinity crisis” and the various reactions to it.
This is hardly a new topic. I recall historians in the late 1960s declaring a “crisis of masculinity” to describe the anxieties of middle-class men in the Vietnam War era and the resurgence of the largest women’s liberation movement since American women won the vote.
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