Into this unhelpful clusterfuck struts one Tom Chiarella, who writes for that bastion of rich-white-dudliness, Esquire, with the latest word on how to be a rich-white-dude (like him, one presumes), under the highly poetic title: What is a Man?
Chiarella tries to define a man by discussing five different “essential characteristics,”* but actually just spills a lot of ink writing a ridiculous amount of short, repetitive declarative sentences (I think he’s going for “manifesto” style, but: FAIL) that have nothing do to with being a male or male-identified at all. For example, by Chiarella’s account, a man, among other things (I’m just picking these randomly; the rest of his suggestions are at this level of helpfulness):
–can cook eggs.
–can speak to dogs.
–knows how to ridicule.
–does not rely on rationalizations or explanations.
–is like a zoo animal: both captive and free.
Mm-hm. I had to sit with that for a little while, and now I’m wondering what the fuck I wasted my time for.
I’m bouncing back and forth between making my own “Man’s List,” or an equally stupid “Women’s List” that includes vague pronouncements that could be interpreted in more than one way, and yet are utterly lacking anything close to real insight (ex: A woman knows when to scratch an itch). I can’t for the life of me figure outwhat this article adds to the discourse about “manhood,” or what sort of desperately insecure Esquire readers are now freaking about mastering breakfast “over-easy.”
But Chiarella’s list is neither the first nor will it be the last generated on this topic. Obviously, this is an issue that some men, somewhere, find Very Important. So I’m gonna ask y’all to weigh in: what is a man? Does one have to have XY chromosomes? Does one have to have a penis? Does one have to have obtained a certain age or act a certain way? And what is it about men that they feel the need to set such arbitrary benchmarks in order to prove themselves all. the. time.?
And, lastly, ’cause I’m here for the women, do we play these “What is a woman?” games? And if we do, how are they different?
*I got an email from Chiarella late Saturday afternoon. He seemed remarkably un-douche-y for a guy who claims to be “like a zoo animal” (Hi, Tom! Can you get me a gig writing for Esquire?), and who noted that Yahoo! apparently did some re-editing of his original piece, and framed/titled it as “Five Characteristics.” In the interest of being fair, I thought I’d pass that info along. The Harpies are now waiting for interesting, good-spirited emails from Phyllis Schlafly and Helen Gurley Brown.