Monday, May 17, 2010

Susan Faludi Figured Out Why American Dudes Don’t Feel Like Real Men

Considering I’m in school, I’m sure you all are shocked at the lack of paper translations this semester. Well, due to a number of circumstances, I didn’t have a paper returned to me until a few days ago. But here we go.

Original Title: Seeking Masculinity

New Title: Susan Faludi Figured Out Why American Dudes Don’t Feel Like Real Men.

As you know, the dudebro (aka, the “real” man according to a bunch of academics), is a dude who only feels manly when he is in complete control over money, emotions, and society AND when dudebro is dominating women and not doing anything that would get him called ladylike. Susan Faludi wrote a book called “Stiffed” which looks at how that definition hella backfired on the dudebro in post WWII society, leading to a sense that no one actually knows what it means to be a real man.

BREAK IN PAPER TRANSLATION. I realize that I need to do some summary for y’all before I can continue with my paper translation. We’ll continue in a moment.

According to Faludi, when soldiers came back from WWII, they were given these tokenized jobs making lots of money with no real purpose. (Holler at Corporate America). Rather than learning a skill or a trade, their jobs were to watch other people do their jobs, and no one could tell you what they did. Empty jobs to make money, basically. As a result of this, dudes basically became ladies.

Wait what’d you just say?

During the years following WWII, ladies were taken out of the factories and put back into the home, and told that their sense of happiness lie in raising kids and spending all this money that their men were making. It was what was supposed to define ladies as ladies.

Guess what happened? It was meaningless. Buying things didn’t make ladies happy. Ladies weren’t happy about being shoved back into the home. So guess what happened next?

Feminism happened, friends. And from then until present, women have been working to get much more meaningful roles within society.

However, dudes never had feminism. So, when their wives said “F This, I’m out” all they had left were their paychecks. Whereas before, ladies were defined by how much green their dudes brought home, and dudes were defined by providing for a family. Now, dudes were simply defined by the size of their paycheck and their ability to buy things.

Sound familiar? Dudes are now defined exactly the way ladies used to be defined before feminism happened.


Because of this whole fathers having meaningless, tokenized jobs, there was a lot of talk of fathers not really being present for the sons of post WWII America. Dads just weren’t around either literally because they were working so much, or figuratively because they realized that they didn’t have any wisdom to pass to their sons. For the dudebro whose dads weren’t around, they had no one to ask ‘what makes for a real man?’ These are the dudes who engaged full tilt in consumer culture or celebrity seeking, only to find that they still didn’t feel like real men and still didn’t know what it meant to be a real man, despite their stuff or their fame.

For the dudebro who had a father figure, it was all about utility. These dudes who worked in this shipyard in long beach had great ‘father-son’ relationships. The older shipyard workers would pass knowledge down the younger ones, and while in the shipyard, people felt like real men. However, the shipyard eventually closed, and when it did many of the younger workers transitioned to not knowing what it felt like to be a real man outside of the shipyard.

So, basically, looking to a father figure in post WWII to figure out how to be a real man … wasn’t’ really working.

So what about looking to each other?

Still didn’t really work, unfortunately. The first reason was institutionalized homophobia (like in the government during the Lavender Scare where they made laws to fire gay people). The second reason was the rising resentment over ladies being in the workplace. The third was trying to define masculinity as anything that wasn’t feminine. These three things together made it so that dudes couldn’t be intimate with other dudes for fear of being seen as gay or ladylike. Even in groups that were supposed to be about growth and support (like this group called the Promise Keepers), the group still only found friendship around buying Promise Keepers gear and spending hella money on Promise Keeper conferences.

Even dudes who were trying to break out and find support were trapped by the dudebro style of masculinity.

So, wtf? What’s a dude to do in a world where looking to their father figures or looking to each other always leads down a path to a definition of manliness that is totally empty and meaningless?

Faludi thinks that’s it’s gonna take letting the dudebro definition of masculinity go. Instead of defining one’s masculinity as opposite of femininity, it’s time to create a new definition. One where the definition of being a real man revolves around embracing some of those girly things like being intimate with same sex peers, and caring for more than just the self, and wanting more than just lots of money to spend on empty things.


For those of you who have time to sit through a 600+ page book, Stiffed was actually a really engaging read with much more nuance than I was able to provide in a translation of a 2 page paper.

Keep Thinking!



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