Monday, 10 October 2016

The Masculine Mystique: The True Nature Of Aaron Smith’s Transgression

The Masculinist Nightmare: In Homer's Odyssey the amorous enchantress, Circe, transforms Odysseus's lustful crew into swine. Mastery being the essence of masculinity, men are expected to demonstrate at all times that they are in control of both themselves and their lives. Aaron Smith's sin was his failure to control of his desires. As an All Black, the epitome of Kiwi masculinity, such a display of weakness was a kind of betrayal. He let the side down.
 
MASCULINITY – can’t live with it, can’t live without it. Well, that’s half true. A world in which masculinity no longer dominated human affairs would probably be much improved. What went on in airport toilets between consenting adults would count for much less. And the ideas espoused by female candidates for high political office – rather than what they were wearing and how often they smiled – would count for much more.
 
New Zealand’s problems with masculinity are deeply embedded in its social and cultural history. New Zealand men are notorious for being overly repressed and emotionally unavailable: tightly-wound machines with an aversion to mechanics. Trained from birth to value self-reliance above all other virtues, their responses to vulnerability and complexity range from dismissive impatience to outright hostility. Their most prized quality is mastery. Mastery of what? Well, just about anything: the world’s highest mountain; the British Lions; women.
 
It’s why so many Kiwi males are furious with Aaron Smith. Not because he had sex in an airport toilet with someone who wasn’t his partner, but because he was willing to risk everything to do it. As an All Black, he was expected to master his lustful urges. Succumbing to temptation in the way he did marked him down as a man not in control of himself. Weak.
 
As something constructed and in need of constant maintenance, masculinity is forever being scrutinised and assessed by those who feel in need of its protection. For most Kiwi men, achieving All Black status represents something pretty close to perfection in the masculinity stakes. That Aaron Smith was willing to risk it all for a quick shag wasn’t just reckless and stupid, it devalued the currency of masculinity itself.
 
That the woman involved in the incident is accorded no real agency or consequence shows just how peripheral living, breathing, autonomous human females are to the construction of masculine identity. For so many men a woman is just one more thing to master, and all-too-often her presence at a man’s side is valued only for the indisputable proof it offers of his competitiveness in the masculinity stakes.
 
It’s why so many men turn nasty when “their” woman decides she no longer wishes to remain in the relationship. By walking away she is stripping him of one of the key proofs of his status as a “real” man – the ability to attract and “keep” a woman. Very little is more threatening to masculinity than a woman who refuses to devote her life to shoring-up her man’s identity. By forcing him to acknowledge her as something more than a mere adjunct to his ego, she is challenging him to move beyond the self-imposed limitations of masculinity and become fully human.
 
Many men accept their partner’s challenge to break out of the character armour in which they have encased themselves – and are better people for it. But, many men do not. The price of their failure is revealed in New Zealand’s shocking levels of domestic violence.
 
What happens in the domestic environment finds its reflection in the public domain – most particularly in men’s reaction to women who seek and attain political office. The ideology of masculinity is fundamentally hostile to the very notion of women exercising power over men. Such women are perceived as having abandoned their “natural” social role in much the same way as the woman who deserts her husband. Instantly, she becomes a “bitch” – someone who, by asserting her humanity has forfeited her right to be treated with the “courtesy” and “respect” reserved for women who accept the masculine code.
 
This masculinist viciousness was fully on display in the latter years of Helen Clark’s prime-ministership. No epithet was too vile to hurl at this woman who had crushed three National Party leaders in a row. Even more telling was the way in which Clark’s opponents sought to paint her as being both criminal and sinful – as if, by stepping away from her assigned role in the masculine universe, she had broken not only the laws of men, but of God.
 
Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House has elicited an equally overheated response from the white, working-class defenders of American masculinity. Writing in the October issue of The Atlantic, Peter Beinart, records of his astonishment at the unrestrained misogyny he encountered at the Republican National Convention in Ohio:
 
“Inside the hall, delegates repeatedly broke into chants of ‘Lock her up.’ Outside the hall, vendors sold campaign paraphernalia. As I walked around, I recorded the merchandise on display. Here’s a sampling: Black pin reading DON’T BE A PUSSY. VOTE FOR TRUMP IN 2016. Black-and-red pin reading TRUMP 2016: FINALLY SOMEONE WITH BALLS. White T-shirt reading TRUMP THAT BITCH. White T-shirt reading HILLARY SUCKS BUT NOT LIKE MONICA. Red pin reading LIFE’S A BITCH: DON’T VOTE FOR ONE … White pin advertising KFC HILLARY SPECIAL. 2 FAT THIGHS. 2 SMALL BREASTS … LEFT WING.”
 
If this is what American men were saying about Hillary before she so comprehensively trounced their masculinist avatar, Donald Trump, in the first debate, one can only imagine what they’re saying now. And God alone knows how they’ll cope if (or should that be ‘when’) she wins!
 
What a world of torment men consign themselves to in this hopeless quest to attain perfect masculinity. Their desire for women is matched only by their fear of becoming its slave. They are allowed to be tempted, but must never surrender to temptation on anything other than their own terms. And those terms must never include anything which undermines their standing in the eyes of other men. That was Aaron Smith’s true sin: not only to have allowed his desire for a woman to master him, but to have made the whole world privy to his weakness. He let the side down. Not just the All Black side, but the side to which every worshipper of masculinity belongs – and can only leave in disgrace.
 
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Sunday, 9 October 2016.

15 comments:

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It's just as well we didn't lose to the Springboks. Because apparently people were saying it was going to be her fault. Not sure whether to laugh or cry – all I can say is for Christ's sake New Zealand, grow up.

Kat said...

How about a different perspective Chris. Comparing the Smith media frenzy fiasco with Trump and his male supporters is blatantly out of whack. Most men and women I have spoken with consider Smith rather hard done by.

What actually was the Smith incident really about. If two consenting adults want to meet privately and thump rhythmically behind a locked door who has the right to interfere with that. Even if it was a public toilet. I would suggest we should be discussing prying, spying and meddling by a member of the public on another fellow member to be more the issue. As one report concluded who needs the GCSB when we have the general public.

Next time I use the toilet at the airport I must remember not to tap my feet. Just in case.

alwyn said...

There is one thing that appears to span the whole gamut of US politics.
You quote the Trump supporters at the RNC shouting "Lock her up" about Clinton.
At the DNC Sanders' supporters appear to have wanted exactly the same thing.
From
https://fellowshipoftheminds.com/2016/07/25/democrats-also-say-lock-her-up/
"At the Philly convention today, Bernie supporters have been shouting “shame” at outgoing DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, as well as “lock her up!” every time Hillary’s name is mentioned in speeches."
Amazing what the extremes of the political parties seem to agree on, isn't it?

greywarbler said...

Gosh Chris you've been saving it up. This excerpt -

Their desire for women is matched only by their fear of becoming its slave. They are allowed to be tempted, but must never surrender to temptation on anything other than their own terms - would describe the attitude of Taliban and other strict religious to women. No wonder women cover themselves completely with burkha to avoid arousing the slightest interest, and therefore condemnation, in the men's eyes.

Something else about the condemnation of the sportsman. It shows how dominant rugby is as an avenue for masculinity. Women are secondary, and rugby is the way for male supporters to demonstrate their masculinity without exposing themselves to a test of their ability; the players become a surrogate to which the spectator feels closely attached.

And further is the male performance of the trickster and flatterer. It
is part of some men's pride in their prowess to succeed in winning the opportunity to have sex, when they want. The saying 'to pull the birds' and talk women around against wiser cautionary feelings, to convince her she is so attractive that she is dominating his emotions and desires. From that view the sportsman had his priorities wrong and couldn't be
much of a man as he should attend to business first and leave her hanging waiting expectantly at his pleasure.


Robert said...

Two unrelated issues here. Many NZ Rugby supporters and players and a minority of Trump supporters are as residual remnants from the stone age, or rather the heavy industrial and feudal age as the ISIS and Taliban supporters. My theory is that most of these people are relatively sexually unsuccessful and really haven't got a clue. A recent TV programme on a UK brothel of a fairly working class nature said the average male patron lasted about 4 minutes in sex. Given this , female rejection of men has become fairly widespread.
The other issue is that Clinton and Clark are also devoid of a clue. Possibly men and women are different, ie they have different genes and biochemistry and a different biological function, so the idea of true equality is not very possible. Similarly different races have different biochemistry resulting in difference in resilience, strength and concentration How similar people are can probably be measured by how easily different races reproduce with each other.
It is generally assumed by the fashionable PC that the age of war and militarists are over and that New Zealand as a couple of isolated islands is far from trouble. By 1944 the Atlantic could be effectively covered by air surveillance and a/s aircraft. This has never been the case in the Pacific. In the case of the recent loss of the Malaysian airliner, no radar really seemed to track it, and it seems to not have been effectively tracked, its beacons turned off. Initially some detected it might have been hit by some missile offcourse or practiced fired. Modern Asian and East European naval missles fly at Mach 6 cover, a mile a second A hundred kilometres a minute and only the most advanced US or Russian missiles could track them. The Australian Jindalee would not track targets over Mach 3 and like most regional radars will have been turned off to save power. This is not a conspiracy theory, just saying that in the Pacific trouble can come with almost no warning. After all in the Pacific war the USN lost ll cruisers all taken by 60 knot long lance torpedoes with a speed of 60 knots and 20 mile range.All those US cruisers were lost in the Solomons around Guadalcanal were the Tokyo express of Japanese destroyers etc came thru as JFK and his mates tried to defend us. ( NZs Clark- Wilson school of History concentrates on Trump and Nazi demons not the real forces running at us]. In the Pacific War Midway and Coral Sea could easily have gone the other way and NZ been invaded.
Even in 1944 the Japanese Navy still was running three battle fleets, at Leyete Gulf trying to trap Halsey into another Long Lance trap. Halsey made the right decision to pull out rather that to take the Iowas into his dreamed off 2nd Jutland. The Yammato emerged out of nowhere 2000 miles to the South. Halsey was defended in the following investigation by General Douglas MacArthur obviously the wars greatest militarists whose essential insights saved Australia. Trump sees MaCArthur was the key military figure, that Russia and Iran remain unspeakably dangerious, that free trade Nafta and the EEC have wrecked the middle class that uncontrolled migration of third world is destroying the west and an immigration wall is entirely inforcable given Russian and German type ferocity.

jh said...

New Zealand men are notorious for being overly repressed and emotionally unavailable: tightly-wound machines with an aversion to mechanics. Trained from birth to value self-reliance above all other virtues, their responses to vulnerability and complexity range from dismissive impatience to outright hostility. Their most prized quality is mastery.
...
References?

A O said...

The Kiwi stereotype is alive ans well, but that is all this is about. Smith's crime is that he greatly tarnished one of the proxy figureheads of this 'type' - the All Blacks. A small section of men identify with this stereotype and a far larger section of men dip their feet in it on occasion, while firmly grounded in a myriad of other more universally adopted behaviours. Masculinity, what the frig is that in this day and age, something that both men and women may identify with, no doubts when it suits, but yeah, it ain't a lifestyle for most people. As for the woman involved, her social standing among her peers will be through the roof now because, well, she bagged herself a high status male. She may be inconsequential in this saga but that has more to do with her status relative to his than her gender.

And as for Clinton, well, that's just politics of identity rather than of substance - the real crime here is in not concentrating on the latter.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Similarly different races have different biochemistry resulting in difference in resilience, strength and concentration How similar people are can probably be measured by how easily different races reproduce with each other."

Citation please? This is racist nonsense.

"The other issue is that Clinton and Clark are also devoid of a clue. Possibly men and women are different, ie they have different genes and biochemistry and a different biological function, so the idea of true equality is not very possible. "

Citation please? This is sexist nonsense.

"It is generally assumed by the fashionable PC that the age of war and militarists are over and that New Zealand as a couple of isolated islands is far from trouble."

Citation please? This is just plain nonsense. Is Stephen Pinker a fashionable PC? And by that I presume you don't mean police constable. Although this is being debated, I don't see it as a debate between the PC and the non-PC. Besides, if you use the words PC – you've already lost the Internet.

" USN lost ll cruisers all taken by 60 knot long lance torpedoes with a speed of 60 knots and 20 mile range."

Just plain wrong. If you are going to try to blind us with science try to get the facts straight. The long lance could never do 60 kn. Maybe 60 kmph.

The rest of the stuff about the Pacific I can't comment on, because it actually has no bearing on anything we are discussing.

Chris Trotter said...

To: jh

References? Sixty years on planet earth, jh. Where have you been living?

peter petterson said...

Could you imagine the outcry if Aaron Smith had been in that toilet with a man?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Could you imagine the outcry if Aaron Smith had been in that toilet with a man?"

I reckon as long as he scored a couple of tries, and we beat the boks it would have been okay. :)

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Now that I'm back from the salt mines, let's unpick this stuff about women and the Pacific a little bit more. So Helen Clark and Hillary Clinton don't have a clue? Because they're women? Can't speak too much to Helen Clark, but I might agree about Hillary. She is a noted hawk, and has supported pretty much every war the US has started over the last 20 years or so. But if this means she doesn't have a clue, it means she's in good company with all the men who voted for these wars as well. The whole thing is a sort of insult to every woman whose actually run a country in fact, are you married Robert? What is your wife think about all this? :)
By implication, you suggest that Donald Trump does have a clue. Which makes you a genius, because to be honest I've found it very difficult to figure out what Donald's policies actually are. But I did find one quite blunt statement "I'm certainly not a fan of us being against Russia." Which seems to suggest that he doesn't regard Russia as "unspeakably dangerous". He's made other similar statements about Russia too. But I myself am on dangerous ground here because the man changes mind about as often as he changes his bloody trousers.
And what do you think of Trump's obvious misogyny? Just askin'.

greywarbler said...

peter petterson - Beyond imagination!
and
Kat's point is more directly to the point than anything else written on the post.
What actually was the Smith incident really about. If two consenting adults want to meet privately and thump rhythmically behind a locked door who has the right to interfere with that. Even if it was a public toilet.

I would suggest we should be discussing prying, spying and meddling by a member of the public on another fellow member to be more the issue. As one report concluded who needs the GCSB when we have the general public.


There is one thing NZs are good at and that is being puritanical hypocrites, and criticising others from the sidelines. We in the sixties or so were second in the world for having 'premature' babies to newlyweds, and first was well-behaved USA who wouldn't even show married people together in a double bed in their films, and are highly religious.

No wonder 'Make love and not war' had such resonance then. It's a pity that they weren't able to break through their Iron Curtain of dislike for man (and woman) kind. It would be far better if every time the thought of bombing someone good with IEDs, or DUs cropped up in mind, they rushed off and had a good fondle in a safe, private place.

Google
US fired depleted uranium at civilian areas in 2003 Iraq war, report finds
www.theguardian.com › World › Iraq
Jun 19, 2014 - US forces fired depleted uranium (DU) weapons at civilian areas and troops ... jets and tanks fired nearly 10,000 DU rounds in Iraq during the war in 2003 ..... The worst is in Fallujah - armour...buildings, cars, leave the casings to leak ..... at amrmor
penetration that don't create radioactive dust in their wake .

What arouses the most disgust? Sex in toilets or the above!!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Funny, whenever you put specific questions about specific weaknesses that Trump has that might disqualify him from the presidency, or specific things that he's done that normal people wouldn't approve of, you never get a reply. I posted my list of Trump weaknesses now over a dozen times on any number of sites asking people to engage with the specific reasons why one wouldn't vote for Trump, and explain why they would. I have a vague memory of one reply – someone saying it doesn't matter because he is going to "change things". But I'm not sure if that was a reply to my list of Trump idiocies or some other question. It's obvious that Trump supporters can hold more than one contradictory idea in their mind at the same time. But they don't like to actually be presented with his missteps – or as I prefer to call them his "evils". :) Interesting times, but I'm glad I don't live in the US.
Oh, and I guess I'm not getting a reply from Robert either.

Charles E said...

Age old stuff indeed Chris from another sixty year old male. Same as it ever was. Women attach themselves to men similarly but oppositely, and so it does really take two. Do we know who invited who into that cubicle? And if they ran the world (don't they already through men?) they would send men off to fight too. Men do not have a monopoly on fighting, they are just cruder perhaps.

However you have a point about real power, yet curiously forgot to mention the horrendous hatred Thatcher received for being one of the first women to have real power, and win a war (apart from Golda Meir arguably). Even when she died the vicious scum spat their bile. Weak small dick men indeed.

I think a woman's place is at work, and the higher the position the better. I have always laughed out loud when I hear men say they prefer their wife not to work or at least if she does, to earn less than he does. Idiots! Dinosaurs! Don't they realise if she earns plenty they can spend their income entertaining her plus extra on a big flash car to make up for their shrunken anatomy? My partner loves work and hates housework. She's happy & I'm very happy at home. I recommend it to all men.