Why is manhood invariably discussed by the least masculine people possible? For instance, New York Times columnist David Brooks, who weighed in on President Obama’s manhood despite looking like he can bench maybe 40 pounds. Or Fox News host Brian Kilmeade, who took time out of his usual schedule of jamming his foot in his mouth (then meekly apologizing) to raise the same issue with John Yoo. Or countless sportswriters, who scream about jocks needing to man up but who’d wet themselves and sob for mercy if the elevator broke and they had to handle three flights of stairs on their own.
No political leader in the last 30 years had his manliness mocked more that George Bush (Original Version), who might as well have gone around in shirts monogrammed with the word “WIMP.”
The attacks on manhood are particularly vicious in politics, where being seen as too weak pretty much guarantees you lose the election and being too tough ensures that a whole lot of people will find you awesome and give you money. The result is that it doesn’t take a whole lot of guts for a leader to decide to let his dick swing: it’s the popular thing to do—at least initially, before enough time has passed it becomes clear if we’ve entered a Vietnam, not a World War II—and, of course, the leader is in no way putting himself at physical risk, any more than TV face jocks are when they talk tough.
Attacks on manhood are not limited by political affiliation or logic. Obama suffers them now, just as Republicans took fire back when they controlled the White House. No political leader in the last 30 years had his manliness mocked more that George Bush (Original Version), who might as well have gone around in shirts monogrammed with the word “WIMP.”
Naturally, he is the only President in that era to have experienced combat. And an outright war hero, having enlisted on his 18th birthday, become the youngest naval pilot before he turned 19, fought in a number of key battles in the Pacific during WWII, survived bailing out of his burning aircraft and won the Distinguished Flying Cross.
What a pussy.
Yes, this actually happened.
Almost as annoying as the way “manhood” in public life seems to have no connection to actual courage is the fact that “manhood” and “leadership” are rarely directly linked at all. Ted Williams is one of the most testosterone-intensive men ever to live: he served in two wars and was an outspoken opponent of racism in baseball, as well as possibly the greatest hitter ever (and, less excitingly, a celebrated fisherman). He was also deeply stubborn, which was badass when he insisted on playing and risking his .400 average in 1941… and less awesome when he refused to work on his fielding or even alter his batting approach against the famed “Ted Williams Shift” because that just wasn’t how he rolled, dammit!
This refusal to compromise or do anything he didn’t feel like doing may have played some role in the Splendid Splinter never winning a World Series as a player and having a managerial record of 273-364.
This isn’t to say manhood is always an impediment to being a boss: Teddy Roosevelt loved boxing, hunting, living off the land, combat and just generally being the alpha male, yet was a Rushmore-worthy president who somehow even won a Nobel Peace Prize.
But it isn’t necessarily an asset, much as we like to think it is.
And we too rarely recognize it even when it’s right in front of us.
(Gandhi, M.L.K. and others like them are hardly classic “manly” men—they took far more beatings than they dished out—but it didn’t stop them from changing the world.)
In short, when it comes to manhood, there’s only one thing on which people of every gender, race, faith and political party can agree: New York Times columnist David Brooks has a small penis.