Popular Feminist On Masculinity

we-can-do-it-man-posterA 70’s Big reader named Darren posted an article, Camille Paglia: A Feminist Defense of Masculine Virtues, that I found very interesting. I had never heard of Camille Paglia before; she’s feminist that I agree with. Weird.

You might be wondering why the hell I’m posting about this considering this is a website dedicated to strength training. If you have followed this site for a while (or read through the extensive archive) you know that improving body image is a point of emphasis. From a male’s perspective I put an emphasis on being manly, muscular, capable, and brawny (see Be A God Damn Man). The emphasis on thin, hipster, goober-faced celebrities influences (stupid) young males into imitating them because (stupid) young females consider that style and body image to be attractive. I even started “revolutions” about short shorts, flannel, and tank tops for muscular readers to make a concerted effort into exhibiting manliness against the societal norm (women can have a similar revolutionary effect just by lifting weights).

From a female’s perspective, I want females to spit on the idea of emaciation and starvation and understand that a strong woman is attractive, appealing, and ideal (see What is sexy?). For over a year I posted a female topic every Monday to a) get women into strength training and b) facilitate their transition into a healthier body image (Peculiarities of Female Training is one of many examples).

The point is that 70’s Big has always been concerned with gender roles in society and in relation to each other. I feel that these are related to the direction that society and America have headed; there’s a resonating theme of pussification. I don’t mean that in a “I’m a crusty old man and think everyone is a pussy,” kind of way. I mean that people are unwilling to accept any personal responsibility and want to be coddled. Hard work and busting one’s ass is an after thought, especially since somebody else will end up taking care of you anyway.

Technology is amazing and I love it, but people allow themselves to be enslaved by it. Nobody really does anything and they are content with this fact; it’s easier to provide acute entertainment with some kind of pixelated screen. I’m not against watching TV, playing videogames, or surfing the internet, but I am against complacency. I believe that no person should ever plateau and that they should continuously work to be better. They should improve their intelligence, their emotional capability, their physical prowess, their health, and so on. I try to exhibit the thirst for knowledge and success through the content on this site. There’s an agenda here, and it’s focused on your individual improvement to help the general improvement (though the latter is a lofty and possibly naive goal).

Whether you realize it or not, your training and lifting means something. Are you experiencing an eternal struggle of personal growth and introspection? How will you respond in a moment in which all of the odds favor failure? Can you summon the courage and intensity to finish that pull or to stick the jerk? Or is your training a reminder that success comes with not only a price, but a slow, grinding process that leaves your sweat and blood behind you as you step towards your goal. Or is the end product what matters; that you stand at the top of the mountain and revile in the days, the hours, the minutes that it took for you to squat 405, or 500, or 600 and so on. Or is it a tool that improves your self confidence, letting you be more bold at work or with the opposite sex? Or is it something that effects your gender role and exhibits masculinity or a powerful woman? 

It could be all of these things at once, and that’s why we train.

When I saw the originally linked interview with Camille Paglia talking about how masculinity is being stripped from American society as early as grade school, it makes me think of our place in the system. She says a lot of thought provoking things that defy conventional wisdom and “societal norms”, and I applaud her for it. I agree with her take on “‘equal-opportunity feminism’ that demands a level playing field without demanding special quotas or protections for women”. I agree with her assessment that a lack of masculinity has a massive trickle down effect that even influences corporate or governmental decisions.

A key part of the remedy, she believes, is a “revalorization” of traditional male trades—the ones that allow women’s studies professors to drive to work (roads), take the elevator to their office (construction), read in the library (electricity), and go to gender-neutral restrooms (plumbing).


The above is one of Paglia’s solution to dwindling masculinity. It’s a good idea, but one that, like most good ideas, will either not happen or will fall short. It’s an interesting thought in an interesting topic. Paglia is all over the place — the WSJ editor pointed out, “Talking to her is like a mental CrossFit workout” — but I was impressed with Paglia. Yet, after my nodding in agreement or standing ovations, I think back to wondering what we can actually do to help the problem or issue.

My only solution is to keep lifting weights; it solves most problems, right?

8 thoughts on “Popular Feminist On Masculinity

  1. Isn’t it awesome to read something that strongly reinforces your previously held belief system in a field which you think is extremely important but don’t quite specialize in yet–especially when it does it in an awesome way that makes you cry out “Boom! Exactly!” at the end of each paragraph?

    Yep, that’s why this is one of the only websites I regularly read.

    Reposting what I posted on the previous page:


    The Washington Post has a lead story today on youth powerlifting, profiling a strong young man from Maryland. It repeats false old wives tales about the “dangers” of youth powerlifting hurting growing bodies, etc., but of course never cites any actual data or information, probably since there is none to that effect–and the only “expert” cited actually conflates powerlifting and weight lifting as being the same sport.

    Justin–since 70sBig is all about spreading the “good news” about lifting and encouraging people to train, and this silly story will be widely read, maybe you should write a letter to the editor dispelling the false inuendo in the story and explaining the benefits of weight training.

  2. Your solution to keep lifting is a good one and I agree with all of your points. Modern society does not have many areas to exhibit or develop masculinity, but aspects of masculinity (strength, courage, honor, etc.) can be developed through sport.

    Camille Paglia mentions education quite a bit in the article which has a bunch of influence of development but I think pop culture also harms masculinity. TV is full of lazy, whiny, irresponsible Homer Simpsons and Ray Romanos. There aren’t good male role models in media.

  3. Yeah, agree with most of that apart from the bit about lifting being the only solution you know. I mean, you could encourage other people to lift, and disseminate articles which encourage other people to examine their behaviour. On a blog. Like this one…

    Your comment about “needs to be done but probably won’t” reminded me of a critique on TED talks, which discussed pretty much the same sentiment. Here – http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/30/we-need-to-talk-about-ted

  4. There should be a “wear your singlet to the gym” revolution. Or not. Whatevs.

    I feel as though you can’t influence limp wristed hipsters. Being fragile and having disorders is in, more so than ever. You can have all the revolutions you want but a puff will just keep posting pictures of food on pinstagram while the already strong willed and hardy folk will relish the tank tops and the spoils of productive labor. Maybe one day they’ll come around.

    • You’ve got more pre-lift moves than a Dominican baseball player in the batter’s box! For others: lifting starts at 2:40.

      I’m not the highest authority on deadlifting, but I can lift a little bit more than you and it looks to me that you’re not fully tightening up before you initiate the lift. Look at 2:45. See how you get in position and then just before you actually pull you come out of position? Your back loosens up and your hips rise a little too quickly. You’ve got a similar issue with losing tightness at the top. Try thinking about keeping it tight like a tiger the whole way through. When you go to start the lift, get in a real solid position and tighten up everything, then keep it totally tight and aligned as you begin to lift the bar from the floor. You’re going to lose some tightness going for a heavy weight, so be sure to practice this with all of your warm ups as well. I hope this helps!

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