David Brooks’ masculinity crisis
It’s always been obvious David Brooks has always had a problem with women who succeed, but even I was surprised that his vendetta against famous, successful women became so hysterical this morning that he insinuated that Sandra Bullock should have been at home making a sandwich instead of winning an Oscar, and that would have saved her marriage. Even someone as dedicated to making sure that no woman who works makes more than minimum wage as Brooks usually makes an exception for Hollywood actresses, understanding that it would be disconcerting for modern audiences to adopt the Elizabethean practice of having young boys play female characters in the movies, and it would bring to a crashing halt the practice of having nude sex scenes in films. Unless of course you only made movies for the Catholic priest population, but I just don’t see that bringing in the big bucks that Hollywood has grown accustomed to.
Oh sure, Brooks employs some plausible deniability. After using Bullock as an example, he proceeds to make a gender-neutral argument about how money doesn’t bring you the kind of happiness that love can. Which is great and all, but his implication throughout is that the two are mutually exclusive, and this is a standard-issue misogynist argument designed to encourage women to give up their careers and also believe that they are inferior to men, who are assumed to be able to have it all with time left to golf or play video games. Brooks may have convinced himself he was encouraging men to look after the emotional health of their marriages as well as women, but this is clearly a lie. How do I know? Because it wasn’t Sandra Bullock getting an Oscar that blew up her marriage; it was Jesse James sleeping with a tattoo artist with a penchant for posing in neo-Nazi gear. Unless Bullock grabbed his cock and directed it into this model, I think we can all safely say that James was the choice maker in this situation.
Can you imagine a rewrite that positioned the actual choice-maker at the center of Brooks’ diatribe?
On the one hand, being a world-renowned chopper manufacturer and television star is nothing to sneeze at. James has earned the admiration of his peers in a way very few experience. He’ll make more money for years to come. He may even live longer. Research by Donald A. Redelmeier and Sheldon M. Singh has found that, on average, people with two successful careers live nearly four years longer than those with just one.
Nonetheless, if you had to take more than three seconds to think about this question, you are absolutely crazy. Marital happiness is far more important than anything else in determining personal well-being. If you have a successful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many professional setbacks you endure, you will be reasonably happy. If you have an unsuccessful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many career triumphs you record, you will remain significantly unfulfilled.
Maybe, but a reasonable person would point out that it wasn’t the motorcycles or the TV shows that were the problem, it was the rampant cheating. But of course, that’s the wife’s fault. If she had stayed home and made him a sandwich, he wouldn’t have cheated. Men never cheat on bored housewives! Ask Betty Draper.
What, pray tell, is the source of Brooks’ latest freakout that has led him down the dangerous path of wishing that there weren’t any successful Hollywood actresses? Why is he in such a crisis of anxious masculinity that the unique, self-contained Hollywood world is bothering him? I’m afraid that we have to assume he’s upset because Nancy Pelosi took his balls. When forced to consider the subject of Nancy Pelosi’s massive success as Speaker of the House—success many people like Brooks would not think a woman capable of—he said this, after Mark Shields suggested Pelosi is the most powerful female political figure in our history:
JIM LEHRER: Do you buy that, David?
DAVID BROOKS: I’m trying to think of alternatives.
Some people say Edith Wilson was very powerful when Woodrow Wilson had a stroke.
Already we’re deep into wanker territory. But it gets worse! Because Brooks simply cannot accept that a woman might acquire power the way a man can, by working hard and winning elections and getting good at her job.
DAVID BROOKS: But, certainly, this is a great accomplishment. And sort of it’s an interesting picture of what it takes to succeed in a job like this.
She is not a great speaker — I mean a spokesperson, a communicator. I personally don’t think she’s great on policy. But she has the skills to know how to control this body, which is a fractious body, even when you have a majority. And, so, those skills are maybe in her blood from her father and her brother, but also skills that she really possesses. And there’s no denying she is a very effective legislator.
If you’re going to force him to admit that she’s good at her job—which he does under great pain, no doubt—he’s going to give credit to her male relatives. And then he’s going to run off and tell Sandra Bullock it’s her fault her husband cheated, because she insisted on winning that Oscar.
Yes, it’s 2010, people, and that’s in the op-ed pages of the NY Times.