29.7.11

monologue on man-boy misconceptions

So after reading this this week and not really having a whole lot to write about I thought it about time to correct some issues with the stereotype this particular article is attempting to portray and by doing so shed some light on a few wrongs in the plight of the modern male.
Mr Flett is obviously quite successful, a published author of a self-help book and self confessed ‘Alpha male’ and it would be very easy of me, after only a few cursory clicks through his website, to pick a stereotype which I believe Mr Flett to fall under but I’m not here for eye-for-an-eye retribution, the real issue here is the concept of what constitutes a man in the modern world.


Just as the fights for feminism have now disregarded the idea of a standard model for women i.e. there can be no set of rules to define what a woman should be (outside the obvious anthropological specifications) there seems to be a lot less backing in the castigation of the standard model of a man. Being a white, middle class male I have little grounding to harp on about any form of persecution but there are still some inadequacies which trouble me in my free to roam every-manhood.
This concept of the modern ‘alpha male’ is one which troubles me greatly; the human race has, in the course of its seven million years on the planet (sorry creationists, my blog, my rules) evolved quite spectacularly to be the dominant species on the planet.
We have succeeded this far because of the application of language and intelligence which has given us skills first in communication, then community and civilization. These elements are the chosen evolutionary traits of our species and although the concept of intelligence in not really a useful survival tool evolutionarily, we have forgone things like teeth, claws and armor in favor of intellectualism.
By this logic it seems archaic to the level of Neanderthal that we still use phrases such as ‘alpha male’. We are not pack animals; we are civilized creatures who have built cities and culture through collaboration rather than competition. When I am amongst my piers I don’t expect to have to assume a place in the pecking order or to be subservient to one of my male friends, this sort of mentality goes against the grain of better-through-intelligence which has brought us to our high status on the global order. 
Even if, I am willing to concede at some subconscious primal level, this hierarchy still exists, Mr Flett is missing the point that these places are not up for the taking but rather agreed on at a subconscious, unspoken level. To be the ‘alpha’ you need the approval and willing of several ‘betas’ otherwise you are simply in a pack of your own, you can only be top dog by the support of those around you willing to hold you up. I’m not calling for a “why can’t we all get along” attitude to every daily encounter but beginning each relationship with an aggressive power struggle doesn’t seem like a worthwhile use of my time to be honest.

The concept of the modern man is now sold to the population almost as much as the conceptual woman, but is less demonized partially due to acceptances in equality (if women have to suffer a constant barrage of ‘you should be like this’ then why shouldn’t men) but also in a large proportion because the stereotype of a real man is one of resilience and thick skin and thus impervious to such draws for his attention and slights on his self esteem.
According to the modern media a ‘real man’ (read standard model of a man) can be defined in every criteria from automobile ownership, grooming habits and all the way down to the woman he is told that he is supposed to be attracted to. This is one feature of modern advertising that really strikes me as offensive, of all the things I am sold in my life the one thing I am sure I can decide on my own is who and what I find attractive. But then I do not fit the standard model of a man, my taste in women is not exclusively confined to the exclamation overload pages of men’s magazines, I’m not much good at DIY but am happy to help when asked. I dislike football in fact most ball sports for that matter, I care about art, culture, philosophy and equality and I can cook rather well if the truth is told.

So with my distaste for the necessity for the ‘alpha male’ concept given a thorough once over we have to look at the particular reasoning, in this instance at least, that a divide was highlighted between alpha and beta, dominant and subordinate.
Aside from the work ethic of the colleague in question which I no ground to comment on it would seem that the act of giving a damn about a computer game is the sole reason he is not deemed fit to wear the man-crown. Comments below the article from both genders back up the idea that an interest in gaming and technology diminishes your ability to perform the criteria which makes one a man. I’m sure that if Mr. Flett’s co-worker had stayed up until 4am to catch a late showing pay-per-view boxing match there would be much less ammunition by which to question his masculinity, but as his chosen hobby is not to watch grown men attempt to beat each other into various vegetative states but to engage with individuals on a global scale in collaboration AND competition across a platform still struggling as an emerging art form he is given the derisory title man-boy. Is call of duty not crammed with enough gun totting machismo for you?

Let’s put the modern mature gamer into perspective shall we?

Twenty five years ago the now ubiquitous fame of one overweight Italian plumber began, that’s one quarter of a century since - for all intense and purposes – the modern state of household gaming began. Consoles we relatively cheap and accessible to the public and the price and speed of home PC’s was falling in line with demand, in essence gaming has been in most first world homes for over twenty five years. If you grew up with sports as a kid then it’s perfectly acceptable to spend your weekends in front of a ridiculously large TV with some beers enjoying the activity/performance with friends. On the other hand if you grew up with NES and Atari why is it sad and anti social to spend your weekend in front of a TV of similar proportion interactively enjoying a gaming activity with friends online? There is this idea that friends made online, especially through gaming are not real per se, or that you’re not being truly social unless there is a physical presence.

Try comparing gaming-social to network-social. The plethora of facebook friends you added in an effort to bolster your numbers upon joining are, statistically at least, made up of school friends you haven’t seen (and don’t care to see again) for years, passing acquaintances which anything more than three minutes in their presence would become more awkward than a prison visit, the pseudo-friendships made up of the fallout of previous no defunct relationships and family members with whom you would rather not discuss your personal life. I have friends of both genders who actively meet up and have boozy weekends away with friends they have met through online gaming, that’s right real people who play video games spending time with real people who play video games, getting drunk and being sociable.

The man-boy jibe and concept stems from the transference of ‘toys’ into adult life; if you still enjoy gadgetry and toys and ‘playing’ video ‘games’ as an adult then the consensus is that you will never grow up to achieve any of the set levels of mandom it is so important we believe in. This is where the majority rule ideals on what is acceptable levels of technology and what is clearly for sunlight deprived, Dorito dieted, nerd masters comes into play. As far as I see it, coveting a high powered gaming computer which aside from being almost able to run crysis 2 is also a super-fast office powerhouse is very firmly within the realm of high geekery. A land where supposedly the men believe they are goblins and the women are suspiciously (yet predictably) absent.  Conversely, standing outside the apple store with £800 clenched in your needy hands, desperately hoping to catch the slightest glimpse of a black roll-neck in order to thrown money to the wind and bow down before the Kubrickian monolith of a new ipad will, in fact, make you king of the fortune 500 boardroom. I’m sorry but wanting a new computer is wanting a new computer whichever way you shine it.

So before we take a long sweep with a gargantuan tar brush and decide that all so called man-boys should be cast into the Spartan pit of runts and rejects there should, as always, (and as the evolved, intellectual species we are demands) spare some reason by comparison. Just a slight thought that maybe, just maybe, what you do isn’t necessarily right for everyone but that it takes whole lot of collaboration to keep the world turning. And remember there could come a time when the tables turn and the man-boys of the future, with their highly evolved controller thumbs and lightning fast hand eye coordination decide that, in fact, you are the outmoded beta. 

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