By Jeff Gough on 20 February 2017
Take your mind back to when it seemed to be just us and them. Well, that’s what Joe Jackson was asking us to do in his 1982 hit “Real Men”, which was really only a hit in Australia. It was a hit because it coincided with a dramatic upheaval in the machismo-balance that swept Australia in the eighties. Rising in the early eighties on the back of the satirical Bruce Feirstein novel ‘Real men don’t eat quiche’, to ultimately plunge into the depths of homophobic hatred that spawned the cowardly and senseless “poofter-bashings” of the late eighties and early nineties.
As a weedy, effeminate kid with anxiety issues, growing up in the seventies was difficult to say the least. It was demonstrated at every opportunity that real men were hairy, gorilla-like troglodytes who drank copious amounts of beer, watched sport, fixed up broken cars, talked incessantly about women’s boobs and baby-cannons. And if you didn’t engage in these pastimes then you were a poofter. Mostly this behaviour was a way to hide from their own feelings and emotions. Because feelings were icky, unsettling, and should only be experienced by women, soft-cocks, and poofters. Showing emotions demonstrated that you didn’t have control of yourself, and how were you ever going to control your woman, if you couldn’t control yourself.
Unfortunately for the hardline manly-men, the change (or the rot, as they would have thought of it) had already begun. Strangely, women had become sick of being repressed, relegated the shadows, and treated like sex toys. Suddenly they were asking for stupid things like ‘rights’ and ‘equality’. Worst of all, the soft girly-men were supporting them. Not only was it a threat to the macho ego of the time that women no longer wanted to be banged on the head and dragged back to the cave, but there was the added insult that a lot of women were preferring the fashionable, feminine, emotionally-in-touch men.
It was as if women had discovered that men who gave a shit were nice, and they liked it. Of course, the primal instinct kicked in and the first, last, and only course of action for the 70’s macho-man, was to fall back on the tried and trusted method of punching the fuck out of it. But it was too late, the revolution had begun in earnest and throwing poofters off cliffs wasn’t enough to stem the uncomfortable tide of feminine overtones creeping into society.
Through the eighties, nineties, and into the noughties, more and more un-manly things became mainstream. Small cars, men cooking and parenting, fashionable clothes with shoulder pads and bright colours, piercings in BOTH ears, as well as wild hairstyles and colours, and even makeup. The definite line of what it meant to be a man was becoming all muddied with woman-stuff. The macho world was changing at a great speed and there was no way for the “real man” to get off the ride. The stoics still held fast to their old ideals though, to the security of the old ways, the safety of knowing where exactly they stood, how they should act, and the false belief that they actually controlled their own world. Because to think anything else was too confronting, too uncomfortable and ultimately, might mean they would have to change.
As the century ebbed away, non-macho men enjoyed some time in the sun and began to flourish. Yuppies (young upwardly-mobile professionals) emerged and were quite universally despised, mainly because they were not only young and fashionable, but also had a high disposable income. A triple-threat to the sanctity or the working-class real men. Yuppies eventually gave way to the next generation of in-touch male. The metrosexual. These androgynous beings ruled through the 90’s. They wiped their arse with the boundaries of manhood and left the line so distorted that it could never be put straight again.
Today we have the ‘hipster’, the current incarnation of the fashionable, emotionally in-touch, soft-man. Who seems to attract more hostility than the Yuppie, because he intrudes on the last bastions of macho-mandom by sporting a beard, tattoos and wearing flannel. He is identified as an imposter, through various reasons known only to real men, and treated like the bastard love-child from a carnal relationship between a Canadian beaver and a lukewarm cup of mocha-soy-latte.
Unfortunately, it’s to the point these days where even the real men are confused about what it means to be a real man… and so are the women. Even the social informer of the current generation, the ‘meme’, is confused about what it means to be a real man. One meme says that real men should be like the man of the 50’s, because they were gentlemen. Well they were gentlemen who didn’t like women voting, having power, or getting anything equal to them, and expected dinner on the table when he got home.
Another meme states categorically “Real men are sadly lacking in this world, for when they are put to the test, then they are worthless.”
Well, I propose that you used the wrong fucking test. Because if you measure a fish’s intelligence by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend it’s entire life thinking it’s stupid (A.Einstein).
You can’t indiscriminately measure anything against an undefined ideal and then hold it up as evidence.
Real men simultaneously don’t exist at all and still exist everywhere. It just depends on which ‘real’ you are searching for.