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It’s hard out here for a man

Joey Falco | Monday, April 10, 2006

“There’s a war on men in this country.”

Or at least that’s what Stephen Colbert announced during a recent interview with conservative Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.” Mansfield, of course, was on the show promoting his new book, “Manliness,” which delves into a topic that he claims society is ignoring in the wake of the gay and feminist equality movements. Unfortunately for the appropriately named Mansfield, though, he forgot a vital fact while writing this tome of testosterone that Colbert was kind enough to point out on the show: “Real men don’t read books.”

How true.

Still, what exactly does it take to be a real man in America? According to Mansfield in his 300-page paean to prostates, real men are “often intolerant,” “irrational,” “prefer times of war, conflict, and risk” and, most importantly, they “disdain women’s work.” In fact, during his interview with Colbert, Mansfield pointed out that in an ideal world, men would earn two thirds of the family income while doing no more than one third of the family housework. After all, as he writes in his book, “Women still rather like housework, changing diapers, [etc.].”

(Sure they do, Harv. When I think femininity, I think Pampers and baby poo, too.)

But what else makes a man a man? A little over a year ago, one female Observer writer pointed out that she was sick and tired of “metrosexual” guys who spend half the day in front of the mirror and the other half attempting to use the lake, the reflecting pool, and toilet bowl water to make sure that their hair is styled correctly. More important than that, she said, real men drink beer. Not girly mixed drinks with feminine names like “Sex on the Beach” and “Flirtini,” but manly lagers, ales, stouts, and draughts that fill out your gut, put hair on your chest, and force you to let out manly burps that could literally knock down the walls of Club 23.

It probably couldn’t hurt to have the occasional bottle-smashing bar fight either, because chicks dig guys with broken shards of Guinness wedged in their cheeks.

Of course, manliness isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, as Mansfield and others would make it seem. There is a tragic dark side that comes along with the weight of lugging around a Y chromosome all day.

In a recent “Washington Post” column, psychologist Leonard Sax, author of the yet-to-be-released book, “Boys Adrift: What’s Really Behind the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys,” explores the recent trend of young males who graduate from college, then spend several years at home with their parents while working menial jobs and playing videogames all day. According to the Census Bureau, Sax points out, one third of men aged 22 to 34 are still living at home with their parents – a 100 percent increase in the past 20 years. He adds, “No such change has occurred with regard to young women.” Interestingly enough, there are even movies about this bizarre connection between manliness and laziness, like the recent Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker comedy, “Failure to Launch” (which, I am happy to say, I was too busy being manly to see).

But what does this all mean? Have men simply grown too content with their manly superiority to even attempt to compete with women in the workplace in this era of “equal opportunity?” Or perhaps, as Mansfield writes, since “women are the weaker sex,” it seems reasonable enough for a manly man to boycott work if it involves, God forbid, working under a female boss.

Yeah, right. Because of these disturbing facts – and the fact that Harvey Mansfield can’t possibly have gotten any from his wife in over a decade – I am taking a stand against this revitalized manliness movement. While my version of manliness will still involve avoiding mirrors, tight jeans and all hair products other than Pert Plus (and drinking Irish beer by the pint will certainly still be an important aspect of being a man), there are going to have to be some changes around here.

Spending ten years with your parents in Muncie, Indiana and playing “Grand Theft Auto” after college while women get high-paying jobs and live “Sex and the City” lifestyles in New York is simply unacceptable. Get off the couch and do something with your lives, men. Also, instead of watching “SportsCenter” on repeat, Food Network should be mandatory daily programming so that manly men can learn to cook something other than Pop Tarts and Easy Mac for their families one day. Finally, since it doesn’t look as if Congress will be reinstating the military draft anytime soon, something will have to be done about this tendency in undisciplined guys to avoid cleaning dishes, floors, bathrooms, their bodies and basically anything but their car exteriors and PlayStation controllers.

Because what is the real goal of my new version of manliness? Becoming a trophy husband, of course.

And since most of us don’t look or throw a football like Brady Quinn, it’s going to help to know how to scrub a toilet and roast a chicken.

Joey Falco is a junior American Studies major. His column appears every other Monday. He can be contacted at jfalco@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.