Thursday, July 9, 2009

Prager bait

Michelle Cottle notes the increasing popularity of men shaving parts other than their faces, and includes this quote:
"More than a decade ago, I wrote a piece for The Washignton [sic] Monthly observing--OK, gloating really--that lad mags like Men's Health were on track to make men as neurotic, insecure, and appearance-obsessed as women. But even I am occasionally surprised by how far guys seem to have been lured down the path toward fashion- and beauty-slavery. "

Prager aside, I don't see this as a piece with the "feminization" of American Men--whatever that means--so much as it's another triumph of mass media in selling images of sexuality to young people. Obviously porn has a lot to do with it. I'm not an anti-porn crusader, and I don't necessarily think it's sinful, but it can pretty clearly have negative effects on developing minds, in the sense of teaching people all sorts of bad lessons with respect to sex (the negative effects to people who can put it in context are probably minimal). I don't think that shaving more parts is necessarily something to worry about (my response has always been: over my dead body, ahem) but one wonders about the other consequences of this sort of fixation. For some decades now, sex has joined consumption as one of the presumptive cures to America's spiritual malaise, and, us being Americans, we tend to think that more is better. I guess it makes sense under that prism, and I'm honestly not too exercised over the pervasiveness of sex in mainstream culture (better than violence, I'd say), I guess because I find it so amusing.

But one can only acknowledge Cottle's irony. I guess it's not surprising: vanity isn't a gendered condition, and it's beginning to look like gendered forms of vanity are rapidly converging. Something similar has happened with attitudes about sex, in my experience, though perhaps not so fully in that department.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.