August 26, 2005


If you've mastered yesterday's lesson and learned that you actually do need to wear pants, then let's move on to M-ness. (Via A&L Daily.) Do you have it? Do you want it?
“What needs to happen is that the genders need to move closer together, not necessarily to be like each other but to respect each other . . . not be threatened by each other and achieve proper mutuality.”

M-ness (also known as my-ness) is defined thus: a masculinity that defines the best of traditional manliness (strength, honour, character) with positive traits traditionally associated with females (nurturance, communicativeness, co-operation). A lifestyle that emphasises higher-quality emotional and physical pleasures, male pleasures, that come from knowing oneself and one’s potential.

Confused? Well, according to [author Marian] Salzman, a classic example of M-ness man is Guy Ritchie. He is the alpha male tough guy who married an even tougher woman. But have his masculinity and identity been diminished by Madonna, arguably one of the biggest female icons in the world? No, says Salzman.

If anything they have been enhanced because Ritchie is so comfortable in his own skin. Here lies the essence of M-ness.

Ditto Bill Clinton, believe it or not, who scored M-ness points for apologising publicy for his infidelity (admitting you were wrong is a very feminine trait) and has not been threatened by taking a back seat to Hillary. See also the Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, who, in marrying Maria Shriver, a famous Democrat, showed simultaneous respect for her beliefs and absolute confidence in his own. You could argue that Sir Paul McCartney demonstrates M-ness in his support for the career of his wife, Heather Mills. And might there not have been a touch of M-ness at the heart of Sir Denis Thatcher, whose sense of self was never compromised despite being married to the most macho female in living memory?
Side notes:

"Arguably one of the biggest female icons in the world"? I think you need to cut either "arguably" or "one of" (and drop the "s" on "icons").

"Comfortable in his own skin" — I'm tired of that expression and not just because I hear it so often. It's that I feel compelled to picture someone who somehow feels that his skin is too tight and binding, like an ill-fitting suit of clothes. It's distracting! Really, everyone — other than a serious burn victim — feels comfortable in his own skin. Can we come up with a more accurate cliché?


Kathy Herrmann said...

When I first read the article, my thought was alpha males are attracted to alpha females and vice versa. Not anything new, just the way of the world.

knoxgirl said...

The examples they came up with are kind of disappointing... bonus points for not minding your wife has a successful career? For apologizing when you cheat? For being married to Madonna...?

bill said...

Ann O’Reilly, is the American trendspotter who coined the term “meterosexual… Not exactly, maybe redefined because she wasn’t smart enough to coin her own term.

We’re not talking men in dresses and false eyelashes. We’re talking about men being able to have open and loving platonic friendships with their male buddies.. Seriously, why? Of what benefit is this too anyone? As long as we’re not trading punches, it’s best we leave well enough alone.

Ultimately men will learn that their future is not about control as it has been in the past, it is about co-operation Said by the British women trying to define the future man. Except that if we don’t cooperate, then we still get to keep the control! Ha, my larger than normal brain as discovered the hole in your evil…mmm, donuts…

So, I’m thinking all my meals will be picnics outside while wearing shorts. Who’s with me, or would this only work in Madison?

This comment brought to you by the proprietors of Althouse clothing.

Freeman Hunt said...

I agree with knoxgirl. Given the examples, I am ambivalent.

I also agree with roaring tiger. It's just alpha pairings.

Paul said...

What is all this about?
I am me, define me if you wish. I follow the golden rule toward all people and that's pretty much it .
Is this a 'fun' game to play or an attempt to decide how to instruct our children in school?
The 70's drive me crazy. Prior to, none of this, after? What kind of man is married to Madonna? Ah, who cares? My opinion is a freakin' idiot, probably wrong but opinion.
Can someone explain the necessity of creating these terms?

Joan said...

I think all this is just another media-concocted "trend" that gives them something to write about. Some powerful people enjoy being mates with equally powerful people. Some don't. I think trying to generalize preferences and personalities across the entire population, and declare that a particular combination of lifestyle and personality is The Way to Happiness, is ridiculous.

That said, I must disagree with your comment: Really, everyone — other than a serious burn victim — feels comfortable in his own skin. The term "comfort" is so fungible that there are many ways to interpret this statement, but even if you want to refer only to physical comfort, it's still not true. People with hormonal imbalances (like thyroid issues, but not limited to them) are seldom physically comfortable in their own skins. I think the expression works because so many people understand it. If you've never felt uncomfortable in your own skin, you're lucky, but I think also unusual.

Ann Althouse said...

Joan: The thing with me is that I picture the concrete imagery of a metaphor and think about the way it would work in that concrete form. I agree that people understand what it means.

George: I think the creation of these terms mostly has to do with people trying to sell a book. This author's idea without a catchy new word wouldn't get publicity. The word isn't really that catchy though.

Jeff said...

The "M" in "M-ness" refers to Matriarchy, as in: a man who is comfortable sumitting to a matriarchal relationship!

Seriously, whatever happend to viva l'difference?

For a serious takedown of this concept, see:

No intercourse, please -- we're enlightened

an excerpt:

Younger people have bought into the idea that your lover or spouse is a friend of the opposite sex -- although one who will exhibit bad manners you wouldn't expect from your friends' pets, much less your friends. The bad manners and androgyny go hand in hand; along with the erotic aura, tenderness and respect have disappeared. These young guys feel free to admit to physical fears, grooming preoccupations and social anxieties their fathers had the good sense to conceal, if they had them. They dress like overgrown toddlers, in oversize T-shirts and baggy pants, clothing that begs you not to take them seriously as grown-ups. They're pussy-whipped and tamed by 30, but just below the surface they seethe with hostility and resentment at women, because they're quite aware that their girlfriends or wives treat sex as a commodity to be doled out in return for something better. Neither the young men nor the young women enjoy it as much as they were told they would. Maybe the situation is worse for the women because, after all, it's the men who are more like women, not the women who are more like men. Thus the legacy of two decades of feminism in academia.

bill said...

androgyny! Thanks Jeff! I’ll let Paul Westerberg and The Replacements take over.

Here come Dick, he's wearing a skirt
Here comes Jane, y'know she's sporting a chain
Same hair, revolution
Same build, evolution
Tomorrow who's gonna fuss

And they love each other so
Closer than you know, love each other so

Don't get him wrong and don't get him mad
He might be a father, but he sure ain't a dad
And she don't need advice that'll center her
She's happy with the way she looks
She's happy with her gender


Mirror image, see no damage
See no evil at all
Kewpie dolls and urine stalls
Will be laughed at
The way you're laughed at now

Now, something meets Boy, and something meets Girl
They both look the same
They're overjoyed in this world
Same hair, revolution
Unisex, evolution
Tomorrow who's gonna fuss
And tomorrow Dick is wearing pants
And tomorrow Janie's wearing a dress
Future outcasts and they don't last
And today, the people dress the way that they please
The way they tried to do in the last centuries


bill said...

Ann asked a question, I'll try and answer it.

If anything [his masculinity and identity] have been enhanced because Ritchie is so *comfortable in his own skin*

*at peace with himself*
*rich and famous and having sex with a woman whose visibility can only increase his ability to increase both factors*

Freeman Hunt said...

Jeff, thanks for linking the article. Great stuff.

XWL said...

Guy Ritchie would seem to be about the worst example to cite if you want a positive association for this kind of trend.

Two interesting, and hyper-masculine, movies in three years before Madonna, and a single horrid film in the five years after (with a second completed, but met with indifference on the festival circuit, and not picked up for U.S. distribution).

Is she to blame for him being bereft of inspiration? Has his association with her emasculated him to the point of creative impotence?

And why do feminist give President Clinton a pass? Wouldn't any other man be considered the vilest of predators given identical behavior patterns?

The skin cliche is a difficult one to deconstruct or replace given that there is a constellation of meanings that are associated with the phrase from cocky/arrogant on one extreme, to subdued/beatific on the other (Both George Clooney, and the Dali Lama could be considered 'comfortable in their skin' and for very different reasons).

And to make this political isn't one of the problems that Senator Kerry had when compared with President Bush was the M-ness factor (Kerry would fit in with this list of men regarding his relationship with his wife). I don't think M-ness sells well with the majority of Americans, men or women, at least when choosing leaders, afterall if you were to play the 'Quien es mas macho?' game with every pair of presidential opponents I think the man perceived as being 'mas macho' has won almost everytime (go ahead try it, it's fun) and this M-ness meme seems to be about divorcing masculinity from any hint of machismo, but the simple folk we Americans are we like more than a hint of swagger in our leaders (lucky for Secretary Rice and Senator Clinton, despite their genetalia, they both have swagger and a touch of machismo).

Steven said...

"admitting you were wrong is a very feminine trait"


Freeman Hunt said...

"admitting you were wrong is a very feminine trait"


I must have glossed over that sentence when I read the article. That is hilarious. (And I type this as a woman.)

Finn Kristiansen said...

Ms. Salzman from the article is an executive VP at ad agency J.Walter Thompson and all she could come up with is "M-ness"? Doesn't quite roll off the tongue like metrosexual, which can also be conveniently shortened to an equally annoying "metro".

And Guy "Lock, Stock and where the hell did my talent go" Ritchie?

Oh please. He is a prime example of nothing, a British Bobby Brown who had the talent orgasmed out of him once he married.

Ann Althouse said...

Little known Althouse fact: I worked at J. Walter Thompson for one year.

Elizabeth said...

I'm still not over the "no shorts" thread--perhaps as a lesbian I don't get the objection. I think showing leg looks attractively masculine in the right context; men in kilts, especially the informal, medieval styles, look great.

But I've noticed a new thing on campus, formfitting pants that end just below the knee. The first time I saw them I was chatting with a very gay male colleague and we both stopped and went "Noooooo. That's no good." The men who wear them apparently call them "pirate pants" but wake up, they're capris, they're pedal pushers. And they look baaad.

amba said...

M-ness (Mmmm-ness??) sounds to me like just a hip term for what's described here. "Nuance with cojones."

Freeman Hunt said...

men in kilts

Ack! No, no, no, no, no, no.

Totally agree on the "pirate pants" though. Awful!

Elizabeth said...

Oh come on! Sturdy, hairy legs in coarse tartan skirts? What's not to love? Especially in the Celtic games--those skirts blow up when they're heaving telephone-pole sized logs end over end. I'm not a fan of the pleated, pressed modern kilts worn with shirt and tie; I like the Robert Bruce era stuff; the more barbaric the better.

Freeman Hunt said...

Okay, if the kilt-wearer is competing in a strongest man competition throwing trees and barrels around, I can go with that.

But if it's some dude just hanging around in a kilt, AHHHH! That's the sort of guy who'll be asking to play a round of Magic the Gathering after he finishes hitting on fat girls at the Renaissance Fair.