Monday, January 14, 2019

Style Making

Last night I watched the new series, American Style, on CNN. While not ground breaking in any sense of the word if one did not realize the concept of how fashion, style, politics and economics are all part of the American economy then this is the series for you.   I personally loved the look back on how the American fashion industry grew and how it influenced all factors of the economy literally changing how Women were viewed as an industry in and of itself as a result. 

Now with all that comes good and bad and in turn the appearances, the popular culture, advertising and the economic growth in post war America led to what has become the bell weather for defining the belief that this was what made America great.  The reality is that it also clearly established the dividing lines between the sexes and races and of course later between those of sexuality and religion.  Yes it was America at its greatest, clearly!

If you watched the series Mad Men I think that it did a great job capturing that essential period over time and in turn how times change and people not so much unless they choose to.  And choice is how advertising, marketing, and competition began. That enabled new businesses to grow to fuel said competition and in turn consumption.  Today's business acumen seems to center around buying one's competitors and making giant conglomerates that do little to help the consumer.  As for technology it too contributed to our version of style that took us to new heights that to this day seems to be the only industry that matters and to which we aspire.  Aspiration was and is still the key to measure one's success and in turn failure of attaining the "American Dream."

Ah dreaming, isn't that just that, a dream?  Much like the concept of meritocracy it is like a dream, illusive and yet so real but isn't.  The venerable unicorn of life.

I read the article below about the concept of masculinity and there are some truths about this belief and last night on the CNN show the same issues came to light on the concept of how men were to act, to dress, to behave. The same expectations were for women and all of this of course was a reflection on the larger society and to provide appropriate role models for the expected 2.5 children one would of course have in their suburban home surrounded by people just like them.  From said conformity came the fear of communism as anyone different poses a threat to the very existence we fought a war for.   Again funny how history repeats itself.   And the very close friend of the current President was just that, a commie hunter who hid his own secret, his sexuality, as he eviscerated the creative class of many of his own.  America, let's make it great again!

Men bore me.  Women bore me even more.  It is as if I have to pick the lesser of two evils.   For the record the great hero worship of Planned Parenthood may be misguided as they internally organized to crush women by offering little support to women who want to be mothers and thrive in a working environment that ironically enables women to chose that very option.   So good to know they are no different than any other large corporation in America and that little has changed since the 50s. Everything old is the same again, not new just the same. Sort of like the tech industry that gives us three same brands of scooters but they are different colors. Sure great how inventive.  You electrified a kids scooter that was a fad about 5 years ago and remember the hover board?  God almighty this is from the minds of men, boys and their toys.

What defines masculinity? What defines femininity?  What is so gay?  What is so butch? And on and on and on.   All of it toxic and all of it about conformity to a set of rules that are written by who and why?   Start there.

How ‘traditional masculinity’ hurts the men who believe in it most

New American Psychological Association guidelines suggest that certain masculine behaviors can harm everyone — including men.

By Monica Hesse
The Washington Post
January 13 at 6:00 AM

My grandfather is traditionally masculine in most senses of the word: He was a soldier, then a bait-shop owner, then a garbage collector; he rose before dawn most days of his life and I never heard him complain about it. He raised six good kids, he tells funny one-liners, he’s an expert fisherman. He once refused over-the-counter pain meds even while at death’s door.

I’ve been thinking about him lately, for reasons I’ll get to in a bit.

More than a decade ago, the American Psychological Association released a set of guidelines for treating women and girls: a document that addressed sexual violence and pay inequality, discussed how women disproportionately suffer from eating disorders and anxiety, and advised clinicians with female clients on how to be more sensitive and more effective. The APA has also, over the years, released guidelines for treating older folks, and racial and ethnic minorities, and members of the LGBT community.

What the largest psychological organization in the United States had never done was release guidelines for treating men.

Men were already perceived as the default, unneeding of individuated study. “Unless you’re in a men’s group, you’re probably not regularly reflecting on what it means to be male,” says Matt Englar-Carlson, who directs the Center for Boys and Men at California State University at Fullerton. “You’re probably just enacting it.”

Psychologists want to change that, though, and last week marked the release of the APA’s inaugural Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Boys and Men — developed over 13 years and using four decades of research. Men are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than women, for example. They have more academic challenges and receive harsher punishments in school settings. They’re the victims of 77 percent of homicides (and they commit 90 percent of them).

One cause for this consortium of maladies, the guidelines suggested? “Traditional masculinity” itself — the term refers to a Western concept of manliness that relies — and sometimes over-relies — on stoicism, dominance, aggression and competitiveness.

“Everybody has beliefs about how men should behave,” says Ronald Levant, who was the APA president when the guidelines were initially conceived, and who has worked on them ever since. “We found incredible evidence that the extent to which men strongly endorse those beliefs, it’s strongly associated with negative outcomes.” The more men cling to rigid views of masculinity, the more likely they are to be depressed, or disdainful, or lonely.

The guidelines are saying some men are sick, in other words. But are they saying some men are sick, like, we need to gently care for them with aspirin and a thermometer? Or are they saying some men are sick, like, we need to put them in Hannibal Lecter masks and keep them away from everyone else?

Levant was shocked this past week by how many people responded as if the guidelines were suggesting the latter — people who read the 30-page document as an indictment not of rigid, traditional masculinity but of all masculinity, and of men themselves.

Fox News host Laura Ingraham accused the APA of conflating masculinity with “Harvey Weinstein”-like behaviors.

In the conservative National Review magazine, writer David French also critiqued the study: “It is interesting that in a world that otherwise teaches boys and girls to ‘be yourself,’ that rule often applies to everyone but the ‘traditional’ male who has traditional male impulses and characteristics. Then, they’re a problem. Then, they’re often deemed toxic.”

I covered a men’s rights activist conference a few years ago: Several dozen men — white men, mostly — had flown to a Detroit suburb to talk about how they felt men were under attack. Worse, they said, nobody was paying attention to their suffering.

Some of the men were, as we’d say, “toxic,” (one kept telling me to make him a sandwich, then saying he was joking, then telling me again — ham and cheese on wheat, b----). But a lot of them were just sad. They talked about male suicide rates, male depression, male isolation. They talked, in other words, about a lot of the information included in the new APA guidelines. They were desperate, begging, for someone to pay attention and find a solution.

Most of them, however, were sure the correct solution would have something to do with fixing women. As soon as women would stop taking their jobs, they wouldn’t be depressed anymore. As soon as women would stop categorizing sexual attention as harassment, they wouldn’t be lonely anymore.

These able-bodied straight white men were, as a group, the most privileged class in America — the Founding Fathers demographic — but they were convinced they were oppressed.

While reading the APA guidelines this week, I thought a lot about those men in Detroit. I thought about how it’s possible to be crushed by something you built, how it’s possible to invent a game that exhausts you to play.

What’s difficult about the APA’s guidelines is that they ask us to wrestle with a complicated idea: that in a society in which gender roles have historically been rigid — and that rigidity has placed the lion’s share of power in the hands of one of the genders — it’s possible for the rulers to be harmed right along with the ruled. But that’s what bad systems do. They mess up everyone.

I thought about how hard it would be to accept that healing yourself might mean letting go of the very things you believed defined who you were.

Englar-Carlson, the California professor, worked on the APA guidelines for several years. When I talked to him, he kept repeating this point: He didn’t believe that men were bad, or even that many forms of masculinity were.

“A lot of men have the expectation that they need to be stoic, and independent, and take care of things on their own — and those can all be quite helpful tools,” Englar-Carlson says.

The trouble comes, though, when those are the only tools men believe they have: when they need help and are afraid to ask for it, when they’re experiencing emotions they can’t even name, much less express. And when they blame themselves for being unable to make those insufficient tools work, and the result is to lash out — or lash in — in violence.

“The guidelines are about, how do we help men live healthier lives?” he says. “How do we help men live lives that aren’t trapped in straitjackets of gender expectations?”

All week long, he said, he’d been getting emails accusing him of “not liking” traditional men. He told me he wanted to write back, “I do like them! That’s why I don’t want them to suffer!”

I told him about my grandfather. How much I loved and respected him. How most everyone who met him respected him. How our family stories centered on him being a good provider and a good man. But also — how I couldn’t remember anyone asking my grandfather how he felt about that. Whether he would have preferred a different life. Whether he had ever felt trapped in the one he had.

I told Englar-Carlson that I wanted everyone in the world to be like my grandfather. But I also wanted everyone to know they have the option not to be.

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