The “Real Men Are Morons” Campaign Continues

From the L.A. *Times*: “Spike Goes to the Mat to Get Guys”.

Since the days of the Reagan administration, conservatives and corporate types have been engaged in an intense and wide-ranging media campaign to convince men that it’s cool to be stupid (nuance is for pussies); cool to possess the attention span of a gerbil; cool to be concerned solely with one’s own immediate gratification, whether that means sacrificing everything for a cold brewski *now* or marching off to a feelgood war chanting “USA! USA!”.

Because they want a nation that can be easily led, America’s rulers — the partisan and corporate interests who are the architects of our consumption-obsessed, escapist culture — want a docile, easily-distracted, intellectually neutered, aggressively apolitical male population.

They’re getting what they want. 200,000 more women than men earned college degrees in 2005. Which raises an interesting question: Are educated women really going to like stupid men? Maybe so, for the same reason the politicians and corporate interests do. Maybe so, for the same reason men supposedly liked the archetypal dumb blonde: the willfully moronic male can be used, dismissed, and discarded without guilt or remorse.

20 Responses to “The “Real Men Are Morons” Campaign Continues”

  1. Darren Says:

    Grrr. Down here in New Zealand something similar is happening – being a guy on TV seems to involve being a hard drinking ex sportsman who makes a joke about everything and thinks farting is the height of wit.

    Not sure it falls into the scope of government plans here though, our female Prime Minister likes the arts and always looks a bit grumpy when she has to go to a sports game.

  2. Stephen Payne Says:

    Mr. Gerber, let me say first say that having finished your recent “Howard the Duck” mini-series for Marvel’s MAX line, I’m fairly impressed with your writing style. Even though you and I clearly don’t see eye to eye politically, I still respect your opinion and find your take on life very, shall we say, entertaining.

    Okay, just so that above brown-nosing isn’t completely off topic, let me transition it here. I have to take issue with your belief that only conservatives want a dumb, non-thinking society. In fact, all of the instant gratification vibes I get seem to be coming from the left (do whatever you want because you’re entitled to it, and don’t worry about tomorrow’s consequences).

    Is there a general dumbing down of society? I think so. Case in point — men on television sitcoms are typically portrayed as juvenile, crude, unintelligent jackasses who thankfully are married to wholesome, proud, independent women. “Married with Children” thankfully parodied this concept several times.

    But I think this serves the interests of every single powerful elite, from the right-wing corporate goons who want legions of mindless consumers to the left-wing government shills who want legions of mindless automatons who live in a sterile, politically correct commune.

    All I know is, I’ve got my college degrees, and I don’t intend to be any woman’s “dumb blond.” And finally, concerning the article, I suggest you don’t worry about it. “Spike TV” is about an accurate reflection of all American men as “Lifetime” is of all American women. In both cases, the networks represent a very real portion of the genders they aim at, but neither are as far-reaching or well-received as they like to think they are.

    Anyway, I’ve probably rambled on way past the point of decency, so let me close by saying I wish you all well in this crazy “Spike TV” world we call the 21st century.

  3. Rachel I. Says:

    I can say, as an intelligent, single, not yet 30 year-old woman… It’s rare to find a guy who will talk to me. And I mean talk. They’re not just under-self-educated, but they’re usually impatient. There is no respect for conversation anymore.

    Men nowadays are either hoity toity or apathetic. It makes it very difficult… And I live in a town with a top ranked university, too!

  4. Charles Bryan Says:

    In younger testosterone-fueled days, I would have loved being some woman’s “dumb blonde” every now and then. Well, if I were blonde.

    But, having gained age, weight, a bald spot, and a pocketful of opinions that I delude myself into thinking are well-thought, my reactions to the article are these:

     1. I don’t know that the U.S. is any dumber now than it ever was; we’ve rarely, if ever, been a nation of fervid intellectuals. (That was a fairly explicit original reason for the Electoral College. There were a whole lot of illiterate, drunk, bareknuckle boxing white male property holders back then.)

    Terms like “bookworm” and “egghead” were once insults in common usage; currently, “nerd” and “geek” have taken their place. (Would “Nerd” be played by Roddy MacDowell and “Geek” by Vincent Price? After making that reference, does that nominate me for both roles?)

    People ambitious for money and/or power have understood this sad characteristic in American culture, and they have exploited it masterfully through the years. Look at most advertising. Look at most political campaigning. Look at the local evening news. We fall for it all time and again.

    Maybe because this is a culture where “book-smart” is a pejorative and considered exclusive of “street-smart” and “people-smart”.

    Has anyone ever heard the question: “If you’re so smart, how come you’re not rich?” I have, and surprisingly, “I’m rich in spirit and imagination” does not seem to be a convincing response.

     2. If you ask most women that are currently involved with men, I think you’ll get a sizable number who already consider themselves brighter than their mate, and have thought so for quite some time, possibly right from the start. Despite that, babies get made. Go figure.

     3. As far as SpikeTV goes, well, there’s an old saying about the success to be had by underestimating the tastes in entertainment of the American public. Accordingly, most of what is now or has ever been popular is crap.

    When the Kennedy Center Honors out-Nielsen American Idol, when Kurt Vonnegut outsells Dan Brown, or when Ken Jennings posters adorn the bedroom walls of teenage girls across the land, I’ll be convinced of significant progress.

    Ultimately, though, people in this country are free to make smarter choices. When we’ll start is anyone’s guess. When we do, those who wish to profit would be wise and materially enriched to supply those smarter choices. But until then, I’ve got limited sympathy for those who insist on being suckers.

    OK, I’ve gone on for far too long. I’m boring myself and everyone else, I’m losing my remaining optimism about humanity, and I want a cold Miller Lite.

    Thanks, Steve, as always, for hosting this forum, and fighting the good fight.

  5. Charles Bryan Says:

    Just a format note: I know I typed “1”, “2”, and “3” where I wanted them as subpoints, but apparently an evil thread formatting algorithm decided otherwise.

    Foiled again.

  6. Micah Says:

    “200,000 more women than men earned college degrees in 2005. ”

    This could mean a lot of things other than that men are getting stupider.

    Could be men are greater represented in skilled trades than women and maybe this has become more pronounced lately.

    Could be that women are getting more degrees but men reach a higher level of educational achievement.

    Also, that statistic may have more to do with enrollment practices than anybodys intelligence level.

    And of course, does a college degree make you smart, or just educated? Is one type of degree better than another? What if most mens degrees are in the sciences and most womens in the arts? Which is better? Were women stupid when they got fewer college degrees?

    In conclusion: Who the fuck really knows?

    PS. I am enjoying Hard Time although I haven’t yet got the last issue (it actually sold out at my comic store before I could get to it). So who’s in the limo?

  7. Spence Says:

    Yes, women are getting more degrees than man, but I think it’s because they’re reading more comics lately…

    The poster who gave the left the accusation of,”do whatever you want because you’re entitled to it, and don’t worry about tomorrow’s consequences” isn’t really backed up by an example. I think that statement applies far more to the right wing than the left. Their attitudes on global warming, pre-emptive war, massive tax cuts for the rich, the deficit, abortion (in regards to overpopulation), etc fit that description more accurately, IMO. I’m not trying to paint a picture of that poster’s personal views, but that of the majority of the right versus the left in regards to his statement.

  8. Stephen Payne Says:

    That would be me, Spence. In response to your post, fair enough. I’ll admit a laissez-faire capitalist approach evident in conserveratives.

    But what I was getting at with the left was the growing numbers of people who snuggle up to the “government will take care of all your needs so don’t worry about personal accountability” crowd. Basically the welfare abusers, the deadbeats, anyone who encourages demonstators to violently protest or at least shout down dissenting views. I live in a city that hosts a large portion of Hurricane Katrina evacuees. It’s been almost a year since the disaster, and many of them are still unemployed. These aren’t people who are being pissed on by society — a lot of them want perpetual government aid, they refuse to go out and find jobs (one on the news claimed he couldn’t find a job here that paid as well as in New Orleans. Yeah, right.) And when the government does try to put its foot down and cut off support, all the cry-baby activists like Michael Moore, Sheila Jackson Lee and others get mad because we’re being too hard on them. So now we have to waste *our* resources supporting a bunch of people who make no contributions in return, which means less access for the local people here who really need assistance.

    If this mentality is allowed to spread, it will create a society where no one will take iniative to do anything and government will be “morally” responsible for making sure you should never ever feel uncomfortable about anything.

    I suppose this is all up to personal point of view. A liberal person will naturally see the evils committed by conservatives, while a conservative will see the evils committed by liberals. I’ll admit my political views temper my outlook on the situation, but they are based on real observations, not just nut-job paranoia.

    As far as more women getting degrees then men, that sounds fine on paper, but remember that not every degree handed out is a master’s or a doctorate, and not every graduate is going to go into some “important” field. There were a lot of people in my graduating class getting degrees in philosophy, art, or general studies. All fine and good, I suppose, but really all they’re good for making you qualified to teach philosophy, art, etc. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. Again, I’m not knocking education, I’m just saying that just because a lot of women are getting degrees, it doesn’t mean they’re in fields that will allow them to make major contributions to society.

  9. Bob Kennedy Says:

    Interesting that the Spike channel was mentioned. I’m sure it was originally intended as an extended showcase for “The Man Show,” but every time I click on it, it shows some iteration of “Star Trek,” hardly a celebration of lunkiness.

  10. Charles Bryan Says:

    Stephen, I think that last paragraph supports part of what Steve Gerber initially posted. There is something to be said for studying these areas, even if they don’t lead down a specific career path.

    While I don’t know many people who make a living as freelance existentialists, I do know people who make livings in the arts — painters, sculptors, photographers, designers, architects, etc. Some in the world even make money drawing comic books and developing CGI. It takes determination and perserverance and self-discipline, but that’s true for many other areas commonly thought of as more lucrative.

    Also, there are many who earn degrees in those surefire career paths who go on to make the exact opposite of contributions to society — I don’t know Ken Lay’s or Jeff Skilling’s alma mater, but I predict neither will be featured in future alumni newsletters.

    Keeping in mind those two gentlemen, it might be good to remember that there are always going to be people who abuse whatever system is in place in order to cushion their own behinds. With some people the solution might be to cut them off, fine them, or throw them in jail, but what do we do with people who are geniunely seeking work and can’t find it? Or those who do work and yet still have trouble covering their expenses?

    I do agree, though, about the significance of the 200,000 number. Without knowing more, it’s hard to conclude anything with certainty. For example, how many of these women are returning to complete degrees later than the traditional college age?

  11. haven o'terrorism Says:

    Well, allow me to echo that, but I’ll put it more strongly if I may: merely to study philosophy and art and things in general is itself to make a contribution to society, one that is far more important and enduring than what the average computer programmer working in the average large company can ever be expected to equal just on the strength of his workload and paycheque. Unless we’re just talking about that person’s ability to pay taxes, or to better the company’s bottom line. But then anyone can pay taxes; it doesn’t take an education.

    And I might also point out, meaning no disrespect to anyone, that fans of laissez-faire capitalism are not usually well-versed in its origins or history: much of the political debate of our times is debate that has already been very finely gone over in past times by, yes, philosophers – Adam Smith not excepted – not to mention the artists who have helped and are helping to bring a more enriched debate to the forefront of public attention…even if it’s only in the form of the lowly comic book, n’est-ce pas? So if an informed electorate and an informed vote is important (and I’m not even saying that it is, but if it is), then a broad and “impractical” education is of tremendous social value, and claiming the opposite is a kind of whistling in the dark.

    As for people who think the government will take care of all their needs, I would like to meet some of these poor, poor, deluded people, except I don’t think I believe they really exist. Has anyone ever met one? I mean, post-1970 or so? Or even post-1917?

  12. Steve Gerber Says:

    The response to this one has been…fascinating.

    One more cherry bomb to toss into the bonfire: I believe I read somewhere that a significant percentage of the college degrees awarded to women in 2005 were in business, law, and medicine, not “soft” areas like liberal arts. Computer science and engineering also ranked near the top of the list. I wish I had time right now to go searching for the source. (Feel free to believe me or not until I can back up this assertion.

    For a change of pace, my next post will have little or nothing to do with politics. It’s time to discuss the new work, the intellectual and emotional leap it took to embrace one phase of it.

    More later. I;m up late,not early…

  13. Micah Says:

    I found this:

    These are some stats for 2003. If they are accurate and even close to 2005 they don’t jibe with your source. For one thing the total number of graduates from this source is only 40, 000 in the United States. From your source there must be at least one million total graduates. 40, 000 seems very low to me.

    This source has men and women fairly even with more men pursuing higher level degrees, but in fairly small total numbers.

    Anyone else find any better sources?

  14. Stephen Payne Says:

    Well, slap me around and call me Susan. Very well, I concede. I apologize for introducing my right-wing gibberish here.

  15. Steve Gerber Says:

    Here’s the source for the original 200,000 figure:

    Looking back over this discussion, its most interesting aspect, to me, is that nobody responded to Rachel.

  16. Scott Says:

    Well, I’d love an intelligent woman liek Rachel to talk to me, assumign she is as intelligent as she claims. Mostly they’re too busy struggling to make ends meet as they make a company richer.

    I’m a guy who gets attacked for being on welfare because I have health restrictions and I’m struggling just to get interviews, both before and after I got a master’s degree. I’m finally in training for a work from home job, thanks to Steve and some readers of this blog, though.

    It’s depressing as I see my creative work ignroed in favor of formulaic pap. Or maybe I’m just mad because I spent about eight hours getting through a really trite and seemingly hastily written novel before finshing reading Hard Time (a relief from bad writing).

  17. Steve Gerber Says:

    Scott: “Well, I’d love an intelligent woman like Rachel to talk to me, assuming she is as intelligent as she claims. Mostly they’re too busy struggling to make ends meet as they make a company richer.”


    I hope that’s not your best pickup line.

    (Then again, mine could probably use some work, too: “Hiya, toots! I’m Steve! I’m on oxygen!”)

  18. Stuart Moore Says:

    I haven’t listened to the NPR story, but I’d be interested in how the college-degree situation breaks down along racial lines. I suspect a discrepancy between black men and women, especially, might be skewing the numbers. Immigrant women often assimilate faster, too.

    To Stephen Payne: You’re a rarity among conservative commentators — you seem very reasonable and willing to listen to the other side. You’ll never make it in the Republican party. (That’s a joke!) But I think you’ve bought into the hate-rhetoric being spewed by the right, which is easy to do because it’s everywhere.

    No one expects the government to take care of them all the time; what they do expect is that a federal government should be able to provide emergency services in times of emergency, and a social safety net to the elderly and ill. These are not hard things to do, but it’s in the agenda of the Republicans to dismantle them, because they divert money that can more easily be handed to rich Republicans. That’s the story of this administration; wave your hands, scare people with talk about terrorism, and “privatize” government functions — which means giving money to Halliburton and its cronies.

    And phase two of the plan is to convince ordinary people that other ordinary people — the infirm, people in other states — are the ones taking their money. That way, you can maintain your own power. But if you really follow that money, you can easily see where it’s really going.

    Thanks again for a civil discussion, and to Steve for hosting it. Hope the oxygen’s holding up.


  19. Charles Bryan Says:

    And this for Stephen Payne: Stephen — or, if you wish, Susan (hey, you said it) — I think you handled yourself pretty well, too. You stated your point of view without insulting other posters — something that I wish was more common on the Good Ol’ Internet.

    And to Rachel: I thought any response I might offer would have been either maledom-serving or easily interpreted as a cheap approach.

    There’s all kinds of advice, most of it meaningless. The best that I can say is this: I hear that joining specific organizations or groups centered around an interest area is a way of finding people you’ll like. I know; pretty banal recommendation there.

    Of course, that comes from someone who’s made so many mistakes in the romance department that a sabbatical is being maintained. And, dammit, it’s refreshing, like finding out what it’s like to wear shoes that aren’t filled with thumbtacks.

    Good luck!

  20. Stephen Payne Says:

    Well Stuart and Charles, I appreciate your kind words. As I’ve said before, I base my opinions on my observations. I’ve seen people in my hometown who behave exactly as I stated. If I overstated their numbers, well, that’s my fault.

    I do appreciate that my views were received so well. I’ve been to plenty of blogs whose residents are, shall we say, not very welcoming to the dissenting view (Portal of Evil, Daily Kos…).

    I don’t mean to belittle liberals. One of my best friends online is a lib. I’m just glad that people can discuss their views freely without butchering each other.

    Okay, as far as Rachel’s post, I’m a person who likes to discuss things, and I don’t think with my, well, you know. I hope the woman I find likes me for my brain (she’d have to… my body is no prize). lol