THE BLOG

No Country for Guys' Guys

01/22/2014 09:47 am ET | Updated Mar 24, 2014

The ever-so-manly Brit Hume, defending Chris Christie's bullying style, has recently implied that politically-correct feminists are to blame for the American male's testicular shrinkage. "Men today have learned the lesson the hard way that if you act like an old fashioned guy's guy," Hume opined, "you're in constant danger of slipping out and saying something that's gonna get you in trouble and makin' you look like a sexist, or make you seem thuggish, or whatever."

The incandescently brilliant social-scientific minds on Fox News (the same ones who brought us "The War on Christmas," "Ground Zero Mosque" and other invented crises) now inform us that the most serious problems in America now have to do with the fact that men are being "feminized." If by "feminized" they mean "emasculated," I think they're correct. "Guys' guys" are feeling emasculated; but as usual, Fox would rather spread blame and inflame the anger of its guy's guy audience than take a fair and balanced look at the actual source of the problem.

To hear one Fox guest tell it, the extinction of manliness is a threat to national security (read: American exceptionalism, carefully maintained through America's big-guy weaponry). When American men are no longer allowed to be manly, argued Australian author Nick Adams (who no doubt wrestles alligators in his spare time) then the nation can't act like a guy's guy either. "Wimps and wussies deliver mediocrity, and men win," Adams told the lovely Elizabeth Hasselbeck. "And what America's always been about is winning" (except for meaningless efforts to prove that "ours are bigger than theirs are" -type engagements in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan....oh, never mind.)

I'm not sure how manliness is supposed to be equivalent to winning, nor am I certain what an old-fashioned guy's guy is, but I imagine him to be a patriotic, protective and competitive white man with a liking for beer, beef, boots, and boobs -- the bigger the better. He likes hard physical work and building stuff; he treasures strength, power and fearlessness. Above all, he takes pride in providing for his family and bringing home the bacon.

In my experience, guys' guys who feel that they can't live up to social expectations of manliness have pretty fragile egos and tend to act out. My proud, right-wing, 50's era father, who had done some pretty heroic things in the Second World War, felt "wussified" and complained all the time about his unchallenging job (which he subsequently and permanently lost following a health debacle). "I was supposed to wield a sword, not a pencil," he would gripe. With a few Scotches under his belt, he would take out his frustrations on his wife and kids with his fists.

The country is full of men like my father who secretly feel terrible about themselves, and no wonder: they have lost the fundamental self-esteem that comes with a decent-paying job, as the author Susan Faludi described in detail in her 1999 book, Stiffed, The Betrayal of the American Man. Thanks to corporate greed that keeps them from earning a respectable living; the downsizing, outsourcing, union-busting, and the increasing replacement of people by technology that took their jobs away; the abusive political machinations of plutocrats, and more, it's no wonder that the that guys' guys feel insecure. They have every right to feel that way.

As Robert Reich recently pointed out, economic insecurity compels people, particularly in "red" states, to accept such abuse at the hands of corporations. In the absence of union protection, guys' guys are forced to take whatever crumbs they get: "Many workers... are clinging so desperately to their jobs that they're afraid of change and too cowed to make a ruckus."

But the powers that be like it this way, and they know there's big money to be found in catering to the wounded feelings of screwed-over guys' guys. Fox & Friends are only too happy to fulfill this need by manufacturing easy targets for their anger (liberals, Obama, immigrants, "takers," environmentalists, The Government, feminazis, yada yada). From an angry guy's guy perspective, Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or Nick Adams or Brit Hume or Hasselbeck at least appear to honor his feelings of belittlement and betrayal. Behind the scenes, of course, Fox laughs all the way to the bank, filling its anger-factory coffers with $1 billion in profits. Roger Ailes and his minions make sure guys' guys never, ever think to cast blame on the real culprits - Fox's advertisers who, as Reich says, "want to keep unemployment high and workers insecure because a pliant working class helps their bottom lines."

So what if a guy's guy wakes up one morning and decides that he doesn't necessarily want to be a pawn of this cynical blame game any more? He might start by turning off Fox News and standing up for working people's interests. He and his friends and family might apply some kick-ass pressure on Congress to shift money from the Pentagon toward a big jobs program, so that guys' guys could get to work on repairing America's disintegrating infrastructure and, yes, bring some bacon home to their families and communities. Meanwhile, a guy's guy could go out there and use his talents to help build something - a community garden, a children's center, a recreation hall for veterans or old folks, you name it.

If a real, old-fashioned, kick-ass jobs program happened, I'd bet a lot of guys' guys would be very happy to put on their work boots, walk out the door and leave Fox & Friends to blather on to a much-diminished audience.