3.17 Modern Man

"The metrosexual black Abe Lincoln has emerged as a hyper-partisan, hyper-liberal, elitist politician." This is how Barack Obama, the President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, was described in a leaked proposal from a Republican super PAC. The document outlined various approaches on how to portray Obama in order to defeat him in the upcoming election. Let's put aside most of the descriptors in this sentence, for example 'elitist', which could also mean 'intelligent' or 'articulate'. Oh, yes, we should fear intelligent and articulate politicians, although, they are becoming extinct in our increasingly surreal political landscape. I digress. I'm interested in the metrosexual part. I assume this attribute is meant to portray the President as feminine, or perhaps sensitive, maybe even vulnerable. And actually, if I may, what is wrong with that?

Collectively, there is something we need to get over. In my own experience, and I want to make it clear that it is only what I have observed, there still seems to be a pervasive necessity for lines to be clearly drawn, that men and women are supposed to behave in specific ways. I am a man, so I can only really speak to roughly half the population, however, when you take into consideration the number of people in the world, it turns into a fair amount.

When a man displays sensitivity or vulnerability, he is considered weak. Let's flip this around: when a man suppresses his emotions, cuts off any feeling and does not attempt to understand anger, hurt, sadness, depression, etc., this is considered strong? Tough. Manly. By letting his guard down and showing vulnerability, accepting responsibility for his actions, or apologizing for an inconsistency, this is wrong. Weak.

Time for us to evolve.

Another common occurrence I have observed in men at places I've previously worked was the desire to acquire power over others in order to showcase just how much of a man they were. Also in my observations, this has almost universally failed. The insecure person lurking below the 'tough' exterior is usually nothing but an individual scared of revealing their vulnerable self, and therefore afraid of being referred to as weak. Again, this comes from no empirical scientific studies, just me out in the real world.

Two years ago I attended the summer workshop at the Humber School for Writers. I have well-documented my time there with Wayson Choy and other wonderful writers and people. I considered myself a sensitive person, but was amazed to find this vulnerability not considered weak within the walls of that workshop, but an asset, one to be honed and cultivated for my writing. And maybe, I thought afterwards, this whole sensitivity-thing was something useful in other aspects of my life. Instead of being embarrassed or beat myself up about my sensitive-nature, I should embrace it, shock people with my level of vulnerability, throw those power-hungry people for a loop.

I have two phrases to offer, which I have used often to varying degrees of success, depending on what you want to achieve. First, the words, "I don't know," shows you actually don't know everything. Hard to believe. As a man, hard to admit. Second, "I'm sorry, I was wrong," when you actually mean it, goes a long way. And hey, isn't it sooooo weak to not only admit when you're wrong, but to also take responsibility for your actions?

And so, if re-electing a 'metrosexual black Abe Lincoln' means we will have a man leading the most powerful country in the world who is able to compromise, make measured decisions based not on numbers but on emotional connections to others and speak from a vulnerable position, well hell, let's do it. Maybe this could be a new trend in politics, imagine the esteemed mayor of our fair city of Toronto, Rob Ford saying, "I'm sorry, I was wrong, I don't know how to get out of this mess." That would throw us all for a loop.