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Oh to possess feminist balls! (7 July 2009)

fire

photo by BrownHead

RE: Whenever a society finds itself in the midst of great change, as we do now, it is important to take stock of the institutions that form its bedrock, giving it the solid foundation that has allowed it to build itself to great heights.

I would like to draw attention to a certain tradition that is at risk of being lost in today's dynamic environment since it is one of those customs that belongs only to men, and thus, its value has diminished over recent decades.

This practice has allowed men to realize their place within the larger society, to preserve the stories of the tribe and to achieve a level of consciousness not able to be attained during their hectic day-to-day lives.

What I am referring to here has gone by many names over the years, including boys' weekend, hunting trip and lately, "The Mancation." But I prefer the simpler and more inclusive moniker "the guys trip."

This institution was borne of the need that men have to recharge their masculinity by getting away from the lady folk for a few days. I am not talking any Robert Bly stuff that involves reciting epic poetry to the thump of frame drums, but an experience more primal that chimes with a louder ring of truth -- namely quaffing copious quantities of beer while chucking wood on the fire and insulting one another. (Nick Smith, “In Praise of Mancation,” The Tyee, July 7 2009)

Re: "This practice has allowed men to realize their place within the larger society, to preserve the stories of the tribe and to achieve a level of consciousness not able to be attained during their hectic day-to-day lives."

Reach a level of consciousness? Ambitious and, if achievable, surely commendable, but how does this claim "chime" with your finish--"Yes, we have come here to laugh at each other, and in doing so, put each man in his place"? Honestly, you make it sound as if a crouched crap was more the summit of your cranial climb.

I'm also not sure how the practice helps you "realize [your] [. . .] place within the larger society." If it amounts to an acknowledgment that you can't feel masculine while amidst "lady folk," and this means spending the bulk of one's life withdrawn/kept away from something primal, something hearteningly satisfying--and thus surely essential, doesn't it reveal that there's something fundamentally lacking in day-to-day feminized reality?, that it requires fightback, not redemption? If this was a feminist's lament, about how her personhood, her essential womanhood had been denied rightful expression in everyday life, would there not be a larger note of societal "j'accuse" in the penned essay? Wouldn't there be less of a note of, "I was and always will be an idiot, so feel free to not take me too seriously--but just let me and my friends have our space, 'kay? We'll be your fools--and glady!, but just let us be--'kay?" If the Mancation is so satisfying, surely you should be advocating more widespread, less delineated and isolated adoption of homosocial rituals, to figure out ways womanizing day-to-day life--to figure out ways WOMEN--might lessen/drain their erosion of primal masculine vitality, of the good stuff. Not Skirting around the real issue/problem your lament so obviously raises, shouldn't be too much to expect out of a Mancation recharge, should it?

re: " Without the trip, I am afraid that, individually, we would become more serious, that much more grown up and sure of ourselves."

Are you sighing here?, applauding?, capitulating? Is this praise, or lament?

What is this?

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re: Hey G West and Patrick,

ultimately it is about sharing the memories. Maybe there could be a little less focus on the drinking or noise creation, but that does not seem to be the issue with you guys.

Besides the celebration of masculinity does not imply the rejection of femininity or family. There is very little reference to these concepts in the article.

There are lots of men who secretly want to out and build a treehouse or fort somewhere... if they want to get together and talk about it, let them have their fun. I think that author recognizes and celebrates the absurdity of it.

It not like they were getting together and watching that boxing or UFC together this weekend. ;) (Moat, Response to post, “In Praise of Mancation” )

A plea to those who would disparage those who would defend Mancations. By Moat.

Moat: My point is that if what they're saying is that Mancations give back lost masculine manna, then Mancations DO amount to IDing culture as feminizing, even if the rest of society is not primarily being focussed on. And if that is what the rest of society amounts to to those who go on Mancations, then you'd think--quite rightly--they ought to man-up and wage holy war on those who've dared drain away their precious masculine' primal goodness, to those who've drained away their very f*cking souls!

Look, if women went off into the wilderness to replenish themselves, to shake loose and disgard broader influences that had withered away at their attempts to understand themselves as fully enfranchised, fully worthy, fully women, and then on the way back home slunk back into being largely uninterested in holding the rest of society to account, wouldn't they amount to a movement somewhat unworthy of respectful attendance by others'? Even if you did so in a less self-congradulatory way than G West and I tend to evidence when we heep scorn, wouldn't you be tempted to ridicule them, at least a little bit?

Men, when you write up your "odes" to masculinity, please try, try, try, to write more ballsy stuff! Channel Margaret Atwood; get inside what she would do if she were a man and in your soul-drained situation. Do you really think she would ever finish her ostensible man/manna restoring expedition, by CONCLUDING--as this fellow did--how wonderful it is to find yourself properly LOWERED back into place? Egads!--If that's what you discover when you've uncovered Real Masculinity, then maybe it ought to be asked if men are all that necessary, anyway?

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re: In my circle it's called a Road Trip.

I enjoyed the article until I came to the comments. Boy, SOME of you folks sure can read a lot into nothing. Ball polishing? Real Masculinity?

I think you faux psychologists SHOULD get out in the woods a little bit and "get your minds right" as my buds and I call it. No drama. No navel gazing. Just the lads kicking back and yes, playing hard.
We pay for it the next morning but thats our choice. No harm done.

I'll have a beer with you anytime Nick! (I know we'd get along as you don't make a point of being called "Nicholas")

Ever done the south end of Birkenhead Lake.....? (happy, Response to post, “In Praise of Mancation”)

So happy, we're supposed to be like Nick and not make too much of it. That is, we're supposed to be like the good sporting mate who offered us this:

"Whenever a society finds itself in the midst of great change, as we do now, it is important to take stock of the institutions that form its bedrock, giving it the solid foundation that has allowed it to build itself to great heights.

I would like to draw attention to a certain tradition that is at risk of being lost in today's dynamic environment since it is one of those customs that belongs only to men, and thus, its value has diminished over recent decades.

This practice has allowed men to realize their place within the larger society, to preserve the stories of the tribe and to achieve a level of consciousness not able to be attained during their hectic day-to-day lives."

No thunder, no manic portent, in this "brew"? Really? I suppose it could have all been a joke, like some beer commercial that starts off all mock-epic, before slipping more assurely into domestic--small scale--comedy, but it seemed genuine to me.

- - - -

And a very well written one. I had a smile on my face through the whole article, when I wasn't laughing outright.

Why? Because its true! Every word. I've even done the "supply boat" thing. Note to Author: Don't ever tow an aluminum cartopper behind a power boat at speed. If they get outside the wake they can roll - real fast. That sucks. Beer doesn't float.

Boys will be boys, and so will a lot of (ahem) older men.

Or so I've beem told... (happy, Response to post)

It's hard to read how one is supposed to take it, 'cause, yeah, it looks to be mock-epic switching to domestic-comedy--a la a, don't take this seriously, beer commercial. But it can't resist closing on a pretty angry note ("And that is a place from which no one can chuck us out"), making the whole piece feel like it was almost purposely moving from broad expanse to tiny, closed space, as means to show up what society has made of men--but without wanting to be exposed as having any such "high ambition," such serious social critique, in mind, without being in a position where it isn't well defended against those fools who would read into the piece. This is why, I think, it felt cowardly to me; why it felt sad, not funny. Why it made me implore that either those who think this way find way to be more forthright and ballsy in their complaint, or allow someone to test to see if they might just all be made to fit into even tighter confines, just so we could be as much rid of such depressing silliness, as possible.

I wonder, How many ridiculous, near worthless Mancationers could you fit in a coffin, if you took out some of that draft beer . . . If amidst campfire tale-telling, I said I packed in twenty, I think my friends would look to me with considerable horror and awe. This is no doubt sick, but mightn't it be in some way preferable, to pathetic, mutual, low self-regard?

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re: Ok Patrick, I know that we are probably not going to reach a consensus here, but my point is that you, G West, and Vivian Lea are reading far too much into this article and getting hung up on the word “mancation”.

I do agree with you that women went “women went off into the wilderness to replenish themselves, to shake loose and dis[re]gard broader influences that had withered away at their attempts to understand themselves as fully enfranchised, fully worthy, fully women” that I would “ridicule” them a little bit. In fact, I would ridicule men if they did this “I-am-animal-hear-me-roar” thing! But I don’t think the author is even remotely suggesting that the “mancation” is a result of frustration or disenfranchisement. I don’t think you are being mean spirited, but I think you are being unfair to the author and addressing themes out of the scope of the article.

It is also perplexing as to why you and VivianLea and you also get so stuck on the line “…Without the trip, I am afraid that, individually, we would become more serious, that much more grown up and sure of ourselves.” VivianLea, are you saying that being “grown up” and “sure of ourselves” is a good quality that we cannot examine or question? Maybe I am reading too much into your statements…. like I think you are with this author.

“Real life” activities such mowing the backyard or washing the car on the weekend are far more ridiculous (and robotic) than the “mancation”. I don’t think there is a sense of resignation here at all, just connecting with long term friends.

Moat: Good to hear from you. (But the correction I needed was "shake loose and disCARD," not "shake loose and disREGARD.") To me it felt like the author was well aware that if he wasn't careful about how he wrote the piece, he would very quickly be accused of Robert Bly ridiculousness (something we are all so sensitive to, that he was anyway), of being so unmanly, uncomposed, immoderate enough, to "take the whole thing way too seriously." But it's cover. You could feel real lament, pain, even--or at least I could. But he's hemmed in; can't say what he seems like he wants to say, without feeling even smaller than he now (admittedly) does. That's the situation guys are in, these days, I guess. And it's pretty sad. Genuinely. I feel for these guys. They deserve way better.

I guess somewhere here I could have made it clear that what I like about Robert Bly, is that he took the need to be a man very straighforwardly, very seriously. He wasn't concerned that his sober if not reverential references to myth, would make him look ridiculous, embarrassing to many of his own generation, and evidently to subsequent ones. He was, I guess, the Tom Cruise of a different generation'.

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Re: Some good points from you Patrick… but I don’t get your comment, “They deserve way better”. How so? Only those with freedom and privilege can take the time to travel somewhere consuming valued resources at their leisure. While they are on there trip, I think many of them are thinking “I don’t want to be anywhere else right now”. It does not mean that they want the “mancation” to go on. At no point does the author imply that the mancation is a substitute for family or real life working relationships. There are far more obvious themes here that can be discussed. (Moat, response to post)

The end does suggest something about what lies elsewhere. Two things: 1) without Mancations you become more serious and less fun; 2) and you'd never feel like you'd established at least some place where people couldn't feel so free to toss you about so readily/facily, so disregardedly about the place (terminus: "And that is a place from which no one can chuck us out"). So while it doesn't itself argue that a Mancation is a substitute, a possible replacement, it certainly lends one to conclude that, you know, maybe it really ought to be.

There is my mind a sense that it is styled so that the writer can point to the piece to defend himself against those (including, even himself) who would accuse him of taking the whole thing too seriously, which would of course make him seem ridiculously unmanly, in some circles. But to me at least, this is a piece written from someone who finds everyday life quite belittling. We have managed in society to make the man who suffers through job and wife, but gets together with his mates for some well earned respite, every once in a while, a way of showing that you are amongst the true blue, true-grit, regular joe, real men. So I think the article itself, not just the Mancations, is part of reassuring yourself you're a man. But shit, guys who feel this way, deserve better than to occupy their time compensating for an everyday life which doesn't satisfy in not-so-modest way.

Leisure: He's got leisure, but does that really say much. Some might call it an outlet, or liken it to bread-and-circuses, that is, to the kind of things a particularly nasty, denying society offers those it treats with insufficient well attendance and respect, just to make sure they aren't reduced to the point that they'd risk cat-calling about, for More.

I'm a bit tired right now. But right now this is my best response to you, Moat. Thanks for the encouragement to really think it through, and for your own intelligent, sensitive reaction to the piece.

Also, I think it would serve us well to talk/think about the Mancation article, in reference to all the campfire stuff in Bruno. (A thought provoked by having just seen the film, and by fred-gherkin's comment.) Might also want to see how this article shapes up with other Mancation-equivalent stuff, here at the Tyee. A Tyee' tribute to the famous snow boarder who recently died, comes to mind.)

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re: And thank you too for the thoughtful responses, Patrick… After rereading your posts, I definitely see a change in tone, but not in opinion from your first post. I now believe that you are questioning the motivation for the “mancation”, and that you are not necessarily opposed to the activity of a mancation. You are right in saying that the mancation should not be a “substitute” for something lacking from day to day living. Now pinning down what day to day experiences may be deficient is a more difficult task. So this article is not a question of authenticity as, but maybe a question of the feelings of a quality of life experience.

The themes I think that we sort of danced around a bit here is the ritualized connection through the use of substances. These guys here first connected in a smoke pit, and much of the article is a discussion of beer. We should not judge these fellows for their love of beer, but there is a question to be asked here. Would these guys participate in this trip if it were an alcohol free event? Why or why not?

The second issue here is the need to “laugh at each other, and in doing so, put each man in his place”. The whole cross-cultural tendency of men find pleasure in making other men insecure has been discussed at length other forums, but the pleasure derived from the giving and receiving of the abuse appears to be an integral part of the mancation, or whenever large groups of males are together. In a related line of thought, however, I do think fred-gherkin’s comment is unfair at best and makes too big of an assumption. Where does the author even imply someone would be excluded from the mancation based on sexual orientation?

From reading the Globe and Mail this morning, it is obvious that many males are going to gather together tonight and watch an MMA fight over a couple of beers. A few mini-mancations tonight? Should we label this activity as “barbaric” and lacking authenticity? Or can we look further into the function of such activities without being judgmentally dismissive. Future discussion will indeed be interesting in the context of other writing. (Moat, response to post, “In Praise of Mancation”)

Moat. fred-gherkin may or may not be thinking of the author, of this article--he may be thinking just of guys heading out for casual camping trips, mancations. Any case, he's right in his intuition: the kind of guys who go for mancations, are the kinds of guys who, if they aren't wont to do so already, WILL PROVE TO BE the guys who end up turning against homosexuals, in the near future (it's already beginning to happen--just beginning, though). I know it from knowing these guys, from knowing what it is that makes them seek homosocial isolation, what it is that makes them feel driven to tear each other down to size. Guys like these grew up in the kinds of families where the father wasn't so involved in the rearing, the mother was way more present, immediate than the father ever proved to be, and where the mother was sort of left alone, depressed, genuinely needy, and couldn't but use her boys as stimulants, as playthings--maybe even as sexual partners, as implossible and gross at this may well sound (ever read Ginsberg's The Howl?). These are mother-used boys. They are the victims of maternal use/abuse. The last thing they can tolerate is being made to feel as if they are feminine; and gay men always represent to them who they were, what they felt like, when they were boys--unmanned, "girly"-boys--the last "place" they ever want to revisit, the part of themselves they most want to deny, to eradicate.

There are societal "situations" where it becomes mandatory, and legitimate, to go after, to discriminate against, those who represent that part of yourself you most want to reject/deny. In these situations, gays are preyed upon, like no other. By guys like these; by these guys. Before then, they'll all profess AND BELIEVE they're not ones to discriminate based on gender. They all know a friend who's gay, who is just one of the guys. They well may have a gay bud who joins them. But eventually, though they know it not, they will experience an irresistable drive to help "nurture" a social climate, where it suddenly seems allowable to start preying upon the urban(e), "femmy" guys, the feminine-seeming, gays. Early warning signal: watch for articles that start talking about how our current problems arose from things like, too much shopping. Excessive neediness. Luxury. Inconstancy. Flirtiveness (i think that's a word, if not, well, now is). Selfishness/self-centredness.

Haven't gotten at why they tear each other down, but it a lot to do with the fact that guys who grow up with mothers like these, whose existence seemed all about pleasing mother, and whose greatest fear was displeasing her, always feel their OWN NEEDS, their own presumptions to lead enabled, self-satisfying lives, are the stuff that could lead to abandonment--are sinful. That is probably not sufficient, but I'll go with that for now. If you ever want a link or two. I could send them to you.

Link: In Praise of the Mancation (The Tyee)

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