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Ten Guys on Fox News Commented on Alleged "Wussification" in America in 2013

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) December 28, 2013: Over the years I have grown accustomed to hearing conservative Chicken Littles sound off about how the sky seems to them to be falling. Conservative Chicken Littles tend toward catastrophizing -- to use Albert Ellis's terminology.

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Even so, I was not entirely amused by the report over at Media Matters about certain commentators at Fox News, the conservative television network. In an end-of-the-year list, Michelle Leung and Ellie Sandmeyer have rank-ordered ten instances of different commentators at Fox News discussing alleged examples of "wussification" in America in 2013. Leung and Sandmeyer's piece is titled "Top Ten Things Fox Decided Will Lead to the "Wussification of America' in 2013" and is dated December 23, 2013. Some of the examples of alleged "wussification" are humorous, but not all of them are humorous.

As the ten examples of alleged "wussification" in America show, we Americans today are collectively living through a crisis in masculine identity.

I know, I know, the women's movement over the last half century has helped to precipitate our contemporary crisis in masculine identity. I understand that the women's movement has played a role in precipitating this crisis in masculine identity.

MAURICE B. MCNAMEE'S TESTIMONY

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In his compendious book Honor and the Epic Hero: A Study of the Shifting Concept of Magnanimity in Philosophy and Epic Poetry (1960), Maurice B. McNamee, S.J. (1909-2007), does not happen to refer explicitly to masculine identity. Nevertheless, his study in effect shows the shifting concept of masculine identity in the portrayals of epic heroes.

But if the portrayals of masculine identity in epic heroes shifted over the centuries, then we should not be surprised that our contemporary crisis in masculine identity signals something deeper and more profound than the ten alleged examples of "wussification" in America that different commentators on Fox News discussed in 2013.

I am not concerned here with adjudicating whether or not, or possibly to what degree, any of the ten alleged examples of "wussification" are accurate and fair.

Instead, I want to call attention to use commentators' use of the term "wussification" to characterize what they see as a problem. Clearly, they are not using this term as an expression of praise. Rather, they are using this term as a way to call attention to something that they perceive as violating their traditional view of manly behavior and manliness. In this way, they are invoking their traditional view of masculine identity. Through their use of this characterization, they are in effect indicating that their traditional view of masculine identity is being violated.

But we should also note that their way of characterizing the alleged violation of their traditional view of masculine identity -- as "wussification" -- involves a put-down of the feminine and by extension of alleged feminine identity.

WALTER J. ONG'S TESTIMONY

In his perceptive book Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness (1981), the published version of his 1979 Messenger Lectures at Cornell University, Walter J. Ong, S.J. (1912-2003), argues that boys and men need to develop a distinctively masculine identity.

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I know, I know, you could argue that girls and women need to develop a distinctively feminine identity. Fair enough.

But Ong focuses his main line of argument on human males. At times, it seems to me that he is trying to explain what he sees as male agonistic tendencies for the benefit of women, especially feminists.

In the subtitle of his book Ong mentions contest. The ancient Greek word "agon" means contest, struggle. In his earlier book The Presence of the Word: Some Prolegomena for Cultural and Religious History (1967, pages 192-286), the expanded published version of his 1964 Terry Lectures at Yale University, Ong uses the term polemic (from the Greek word "polemos" meaning war, struggle). However, he subsequently came to prefer to use the term agonistic instead.

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www.d.umn.edu/~tfarrell
Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)
 

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