Is the Coronavirus Emasculating?


James Mattis, modeling combat-inspired leather jackets for “real” men

W.J. Astore

Is the coronavirus emasculating?  It’s a serious question.  Judging by photos, most of the people protesting shutdown and social isolation orders are men, with a few sporting totems of manhood like assault rifles.  Many men (and women too, obviously) have lost their jobs, with some “reduced” to new roles as Mr. Moms.  Are we already seeing a hypermasculine reaction to Covid-19, an emphasis on toughness and grit, a live and let die mentality, or perhaps live free and die?  If so, it will only imperil public health and safety further, while possibly aiding Donald Trump in his reelection efforts.

There’s an article circulating that persuasively argues the countries that have best handled the coronavirus crisis are led by women, like New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern and Germany’s Angela Merkel.  Is it because women are better listeners, a bit more willing to submit to expert advice, and more patient?  Or is it that women just have to be better than your average bloke to get ahead in this man’s world?

Certainly, it’s illustrative of something that Donald Trump claims he’s a “wartime” leader in a “war” against the virus.  Trump almost desperately wants to pose as a wartime leader, much like Winston Churchill, facing down a foe with fierce and manly determination.  But a contagious virus isn’t exactly the Nazis, and a “never mind the odds” mentality of risk-taking is almost guaranteed to lead to further contagion and death.

If nurses, grocery clerks, and the like are America’s new heroes, does that lead more than a few wannabe men of action to question where they stand in the heroes olympiad?

What put me on this line of thought is an advertising campaign for a jacket marketed by a company headed by a combat veteran that features retired Marine Corps General and former Secretary of Defense James Mattis as a model.  The boilerplate for the company says their jacket is designed “for men who refuse to hide what they truly are. It’s mean, streamlined and fast.”  And expensive too at roughly $1330, but it does come with its own tracking device.  Eat your heart out, James Bond.

Hey, it’s just marketing, but even marketing tells us something about society.  Conservatives talk about the feminization of society, often deploring the rise of metrosexuals and mixed gender roles.  “Take charge” men are seemingly the antidote. Trump is aware of this phenomenon.  Indeed, as a friend of mine noted, Trump most resembles the stereotype of loudmouthed fathers of the 1950s and 1960s, the ones who insisted on being obeyed no matter what.  The “do as I say, not as I do” dads, the ones who got their way by bluster and bullying.  (No Ward Cleavers need apply.)

Wartime toughness, “mean — streamlined — fast,” may be just the thing in combat.  But it isn’t what the doctor ordered in the struggle against Covid-19.  The virus, after all, can’t be shot, or punched, or bullied into submission.  It’s oblivious to bluster; indeed, you might say it feeds on it.  What works instead is a community spirit of containment through cooperation.  A quieter form of heroism.  Nothing masculine or feminine about this.

A sensible and patient approach, grounded in sound science and proven medicine, is what’s working.  No hard men in combat-inspired leather jackets are required.

22 thoughts on “Is the Coronavirus Emasculating?

  1. Sir, the potential silver lining in the COVID era is a shift in the emphasis from the superficial patriotism of pre-game flyovers and robotic-response “thank you for your service” banalities to a public mental adjustment to the better idea that “nurses, grocery clerks, and the like are America’s new heroes.” You were in the military, I was, many people were and are. But the vast majority do not need to be. The vast majority need to do other things and I thank them for it. We all should. Enough of the glorification of militarism packaged in “salutes” to the troops, the phony pedestal of “service,” not to mention – of course – the World Police operating principle.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Being in healthcare, it is frankly quite embarrassing to hear someone thanking me for my service just because of the career I’ve chosen. I’m fortunate to have a job in these crazy times.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the ad in question should have incorporated an honest explanation from ol’ ‘Mad Dog’ as to why he is NO LONGER Secretary of War (oops, Defense)! Somehow he displeased his boss of bosses, the ultimate poseur among Tough Guys. Remember, Trump miraculously “grew” bone spurs to keep him out of the military during the Vietnam madness, and stated years ago he’s liable to faint when confronted with real human blood (as opposed to seeing it on a movie or TV screen). With Donald, it’s all for show, it’s Show Business around the clock. Unfortunately for the world, the harm to the environment and human beings he enthusiastically promotes is all too real-life. Trump-loving idiots behaving like idiots is always predictable. We now have a (temporary at least) new icon for the times: the photo of the woman in her USA sweatshirt leaning out of her SUV window to scream obscenities at a nurse standing in the road to block her way. Her placard reads “Land of the Free.” Yes, we should all embrace the freedom to spread a deadly virus to our fellow citizens, right? It’s actually a small bright spot for our country that some local officials have cracked down on the religious yahoos who (indirectly) claim a God-given right to also menace the public health. I can easily see a SCOTUS case showing up in the months ahead over these crackdowns.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. $1330.00? Couldn’t he find one that fits? It doesn’t look like he could comfortably zip that thing up. My Mom wouldn’t have approved. But it’s “the look” that counts, I guess. But “mean – streamlined – fast”? Please. At least he doesn’t have designer stubble.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it’s cringingly embarrassing when old people try to look ‘sexy’, ‘macho’ , ‘hot’, or any of those other looks that really are meant for people under 30 or 40, NOT 60 or 70 year old geezers in my age group. It almost always ends-up looking pathetic, be it male or female. Even The Rolling Stones look like desiccated old fossils. We should all attempt to grow old at least semi-gracefully.


  4. Here’s a good article on the “war” we’re supposedly fighting against the coronavirus. Like most of America’s shooting wars in the recent past, it’s not going well:

    “And that is where we stand today. Despite Trump’s wartime rhetoric, America is sending its troops into battle without proper protection and forcing them to haggle with each other over resources. Its government has no clear long-term plan for vanquishing the virus. And to truly fight off the enemy, America will need weapons it doesn’t yet have. And even the small victories that have happened seem to be the result of local action and luck rather than coordinated effort from the center.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cuba, which openly aspires to Socialism, and China, which has retained some state controls over their very eager capitalists, were able to mobilize their healthcare workers effectively. (I can’t testify about the allegations of early Chinese attempted cover-up because I don’t have impartial access to info. And neither do you, dear reader.) Vietnam, likewise, seems to be coping well. But, you know, this here is the USA (let’s all chant “We’re #1! We’re #1!” until we’re hoarse!), and we don’t buy that stinkin’ Socialism stuff!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well said. Before I got to the last paragraph I was going to suggest these macho men with all the guns on the street looking for targets must be frustrated they can’t shoot the shit out of this problem and feel impotent that all their weapons are useless.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I assumed they are waving around those assault rifles because that’s all they have to wave around.
      Maybe they can get itty-bitty bullets to shoot itty-bitty viruses.
      (sorry, couldn’t help myself, it’s all that chest beating stuff.)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. May I ask a question? When an incumbent president repeatedly shows irrefutable signs of insanity, is there no procedure by which he can be removed for his own and/or the public good and safety?

    Possibly because some of us out here in the rest of the world also have our own nutjob lunatics elevated to authority, there may not be open dishonour in the ranks of these thieves, but the vast majority of us (and I’m sure, of U.S. citizens too) are rational and often logical people, appalled at the stupidity, ignorance and dangerous lunacy of Trump, Johnson, Bolsonaro, Modi, Orban, and the unblieveably gauche Guido.

    Can somebody please explain?

    We have our own blinkered backward conservative administration in Ireland too, but they are not complete idiots, and although their failed economic system is in melt-down just like everywhere else, at least they’ve tried to behave responsibly regarding the Novel Covid-19 catastrophe – itself the direct result of the same rigged “free”market capitalist trade process which caused the 2008 debacle and which now returns to haunt humanity.

    I just don’t understand it. The majority of American people I meet seem bright and intelligent, informed and logical in their cognitive activity. Help!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is a Constitutional procedure to remove a president for incapacity, but not for stupidity, narcissism, selfishness, boorishness, poor leadership, and so on. The best way to remove that person is to vote him out of office.

      Impeachment exists for high crimes and misdemeanors, etc., but we know how that went.

      Great to hear so many of the Americans you meet “seem bright and intelligent, informed and logical.” We must be sending you some of our better examples! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Before I even read the other replies to “realdemocracy…” I want to emphasize: 1.) the provisions of the 25th Amendment to US Constitution were put in place when Reagan was winged by a nutjob’s bullet and Gen. Alexander Haig raced to the White House to declare “I’m in charge!” Unfortunately, it requires a majority (or some fixed number?) of the president’s Cabinet officials to agree that the Chief needs to step aside. This cannot possibly happen when the Cabinet is filled with arse-kissing sycophants. Which is normally the case, of course, since Cabinet officials are not chosen primarily on merit and expertise in the “best” (?) administrations anyway, but especially not gonna happen on Trump’s watch; 2.) it requires an above-average American to see the wisdom of visiting dear old Erin (I’ve done so twice myself, and would renounce my US Citizenship to move there permanently in a heartbeat if I had any money to purchase a property over there!). I can assure our Irish correspondent that the percentage of our fellow citizens here on this side of the big pond who sign on to the nonsense of Trump/Fox “News”–the two have merged into a single entity for all intents and purposes!–would stand his/her hair on end!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Just so. With tRump’s approval rating currently standing at over 43%, despite his horrific performance and evident insanity, our citizens as a whole cannot be characterized as logical and intelligent.


  7. The Trumpet is the King of Chaos. There is an old children’s rhyme:
    Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
    To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
    Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
    And she shall have music wherever she goes

    In the case of The Trumpet,, “He shall have Chaos wherever he goes”.

    The latest is: Coronavirus: medical experts denounce Trump’s theory of ‘disinfectant injection’

    Just a snippet from the article:
    William Bryan, the acting homeland security undersecretary for science and technology, said at the briefing: “Our most striking observation to date is the powerful effect that solar light appears to have on killing the virus, both surfaces and in the air. We’ve seen a similar effect with both temperature and humidity as well, where increasing the temperature and humidity or both is generally less favorable to the virus.”
    Let me think it sounds like the best way to cure Corona is to construct a “Greenhouse” for the solar light, and then a steambath (high temperature and high humidity). A Green House-Steambath, wow. Who needs PPE, and a vaccine when you can be “cured” in the Green House-Steambath.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh I should have added to my post: Top it off with Lysol on the rocks – Shaken not stirred.

    What will see now?? The Trumpets lining up with their camouflage – gear and Ar-15’s to buy Lysol.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Desultory Aftermath
    (in the style of John Allan Wyeth’s This Man’s Army: A War in Fifty-Odd Sonnets)

    He studied foreign languages in school:
    Italian, Greek and Latin, German, French.
    or so his records indicated when
    The Great War called and Woodrow Wilson sent
    John Allan Wyeth, young and willing tool,
    to ravaged Europe nauseous with the stench
    of grim and gruesome, pointless carnage. Then,
    in later years, he cast in verse thoughts meant
    to recollect his service time: a spool
    of memory, unwound through mud and trench
    and ad-hoc duties towards a rendezvous
    with anti-climax where two stricken men
    chance to converse, both of them tired and spent:
    one wounded, and the other sick with flu.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2020


  10. Military Idolatry
    (in the style of John Allan Wyeth’s This Man’s Army: A War in Fifty-Odd Sonnets)

    The old man wears a leather jacket — black —
    to celebrate Fallujah, the assaults
    he led in order to avenge insult:
    The deaths of four Blackwater dogs of war.
    These mercenaries helped make up the pack
    of thieves despoiling Baghdad. Their mad waltz
    provoked the inescapable result:
    Their corpses hanging from a bridge. Therefore,
    Bush sends in the Marines to teach Iraq
    That protesting their emptied storage vaults
    — or “some kid with a vase,” Rumsfeld would say —
    brings on the bloody Mad Dog Mattis cult,
    a “manly” mob of murderers galore
    to trash a city. Such a price to pay.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2020

    Liked by 2 people

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