The great paradox of “masculinity”, as defined by our sexist culture, is that it’s supposed to be about being all tough and confidence and unbreakable, yet at the very same time, masculinity itself is treated like a fragile, delicate thing that can be ripped away with a slight breeze, leaving previously manly men all weak and emasculated. Women, in particular, are seen in sexist eyes as having this all-encompassing, downright manly power to emasculate with little more than a side-eye of disapproval. Masculinity perishes upon having a video game criticized (or, similarly, having a video game developer you don’t know have a sexual encounter that wasn’t your business to begin with.) Or upon having someone suggest that domestic violence in football is an actual, for real problem that needs fixing. And apparently now if cartoon characters don’t smoke.
Last week, leaked photos from the studios of animator Genndy Tartakovsky showedwhat the updated CGI-animated Popeye would look like.
“Without the iconic anchor tattoo and the smoking pipe!” Fox News host Clayton Morris announced on Sunday. “Are they wussifying Popeye?”
“Of course, they’re wussifying,” co-host Tucker Carlson agreed. “Nothing is scarier to a modern liberal than tobacco. If Popeye were driving around giving the morning after [birth control] pill to fourth graders, that would be totally fine.”
Yeah, the pill! Because wussifying. (I love how Fox News says “wussy” when they mean “pussy”, a substitution that sort of argues against their own self-appointed status as the protectors of Manly Man Manhood against the world’s more delicate sensibilities.)
“But smoking a pipe, a symbol of freedom and masculinity in America itself, the reason this country exists, tobacco, that’s like, ‘Oh, that’s outrageous. That’s a major sin.’”
So advertising tobacco to 4th graders is good and advertising the pill to them is bad. Is it because the pill is bad for you and tobacco is good for you? Well, no. I mean, tobacco causes cancer, normally understood as a negative thing, whereas the pill prevents unintended pregnancy, which is normally understood as a positive thing (except in the eyes of misogynists, a not insignificant number of Americans, sadly). Not, it’s strictly because the pill is considered a “girl” thing, making automatically evil in Carlson’s eyes, whereas tobacco, he believes, is a symbol of “masculinity” and therefore is untouchable and sacred. Certainly can’t be criticized, since masculinity is so delicate that merely criticizing it will destroy it. Or, in this case, masculinity is assumed so delicate that it will perish unless the guy drawing Popeye takes a properly worshipful approach to tobacco-smoking. Man, masculinity sure is fussy! It needs so much care and feeding that, if it were a flower, even the most ardent gardeners would reject growing it because it’s too much of a hassle.
Now, it’s also worth pointing out that no one—no one—is actually suggesting that cartoons aimed at kids should have contraception featured in it, because that is dumb. But while Carlson no doubt would declare his comment a “joke”, this sort of false equivalence is actually a sleazy rhetorical trick to imply there’s some kind of tradeoff—masculinity abandoned, icky girliness embraced!—that’s not actually going on. Popeye can, in fact, give up his pipe without having to replace it with something else, whether it’s something Carlson would consider irredeemable feminine or not.
One of the hosts pointed out, you know, that maybe it’s actually a responsible thing to not glamorize smoking tobacco for little kids. You know, because cancer. ““No child has ever smoked a pipe because of Popeye,” Carlson replied.
So, let’s follow here: Somehow Carlson believes that images of contraception (which no one, I repeat no one, is actually putting in a Popeye cartoon) onscreen could poison children’s minds, but somehow images of tobacco wouldn’t work that way. Because manly man man man don’t ask questions it’s all about the manly man he-man man stuff.
The contradictions continued:
Morris was angry that Wonder Woman was wearing a “pantsuit” instead of “short-shorts.”
“Some people would say that this is an important thing that we’re not sexualizing these women so much,” Kooiman noted. “It’s the same for men. I mean, we make sure they have perfect figures, actually larger-than-life better.”
“That’s a good Islamic point,” Carlson snarked. “We should cover them. We should cover the women because, otherwise, it just incites the men. It’s immodest as we say in the Sharia.”
“I want to see Wonder Woman in the original short-shorts, and the halter top,” Morris whined.
Okay, so let’s follow here. Contraception is bad, because it might give kids the idea that sex is okay. However, putting pants on Wonder Woman is bad because we need to be teaching kids that sex is okay.
Just kidding, it’s not a contradiction. It makes perfect sense if you employ the double standard. Contraception is bad because it makes women believe that sex is okay, and women should always feel ashamed and dirty about wanting to have sex. But Wonder Woman is obliged to always be wearing short shorts because men need to be told, every second of every day, that their sexual desires are gallant, important, and so critical that they can never be ignored or set aside for even a second. Sure, this bizarre double standard seems like it’s bound to create endless and needless tension between men and women, as men are told they’re entitled to have the world cater to their sexual desires but women are told that having sex with men makes them dirty and should be risky and potentially life-destroying. But hey, anything and everything—including common sense and the ability of the sexes to get along—should be sacrificed for this strange cult of masculinity. Because otherwise bad things would happen. Like fewer cases of lung cancer.