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#386: The Male Gospel
Excellent articles on extreme masculinity, the fake six-pack, and body dysmorphia
There’s a group of seven boys at my school who love to congregate in the bathroom. They don’t use the bathroom in a traditional sense. In other words, they’re not relieving themselves, or washing their faces, or looking at themselves in the mirror. Instead, they’re going in there to hoot and holler. They joke and snicker. They push each other around. They run into the urinals and bounce off the walls.
My colleagues and I wonder why they love the bathroom so much and what exactly is going on in there. I have a theory: It’s their safe space. They’re exploring their masculinity. They’ve got their little Fight Club. In their own way, they’re becoming men.
I haven’t asked the boys if they know about Andrew Tate, the self-proclaimed misogynist influencer banned from social media and currently detained in Romania for rape and human trafficking. But after reading this week’s fascinating lead article, “Tate-Pilled,” which uncovers Mr. Tate’s widespread popularity among straight cis boys, I wouldn’t be surprised if our students are striving to attain his definition of manhood: smoking cigars, driving Lamborghinis, getting jacked, and belittling women.
Although it’s not my general tendency to feature articles about gross men, this one I recommend for its exploration of toxic masculinity and its development among teenage boys. If you’re an educator or a parent, it’s very much worth your time.
If blatant misogyny isn’t your cup of tea, scroll on down to the pet photo and two well-written pieces about body image, plastic surgery, and body dysmorphia. The first one is about abdominal etching, and the second one is about battling the bathroom mirror. Please enjoy!
No matter which way I turn, I’m bombarded lately with the same message: The boys are not all right. They’re dropping out of school, using drugs, getting arrested. They’re not seeing a future that includes them. They feel stuck. For many teenage boys, the way out is to follow the gospel of Andrew Tate, who blew up huge on TikTok last year before being banned and getting arrested.
Mr. Tate evangelizes that modern society has emasculated men, stripping them of their natural urge to dominate. Centering the voices of girls and queer kids in schools has isolated boys, dissuading them from speaking about their authentic views on dating, sex, and relationships with girls. The answer, Mr. Tate argues, is to hop off that path and instead get strong, get rich, and “become a G.”
Of course I find Mr. Tate abhorrent, but this well-written article by Lisa Miller got me thinking about all the boys out there who our schools don’t serve. If college isn’t speaking to them, and if they’re not great at sports, or haven’t identified a passion, and they’re lost, who are they going to listen to?
One thing I learned from the lead article is that if you’re serious about becoming a real man, the first step is to get yoked. In addition to massive biceps and powerful pecs, you absolutely need six-pack abs. This means either (a) living in the gym and not eating food, or (b) getting abdominal etching surgery. “That’s what high school boys want,” one plastic surgeon in California said. “That’s what college guys want. That’s what people of all ages want.” The procedure, which costs between $5,000 and $30,000, takes several hours, results in severe pain for more than a week (“it’s like getting punched in your stomach 100 times”), and is irreversible (fat cells don’t come back). Despite the drawbacks, more and more men are flocking to get their abs etched while it’s still (mostly) a secret. After all, the real value comes when women think you’ve achieved your body through hard work and discipline.
We assume that we know our own bodies. We describe them as temples, cages, a wonderland, the sum of our choices. The body is embedded within our language. Knowing something like the back of your hand means that you know it well. But what happens when you can’t access that information? How do you navigate a world that not only expects you to know what you look like, but to also keep changing parts of yourself to fit a socially manufactured mould?
In this thoughtful personal essay, Angelina Mazza discusses her experience with body dysmorphic disorder, the struggle she faces looking at her body in the mirror, and her decision to have a breast reduction. Ms. Mazza writes, “I tell myself not to expect the surgery to ‘fix’ me or somehow align what I see in the mirror with what really exists. I know better than to hope. Still, some secret part of me wants to believe I am the exception.”
➡️ Read the article | Maisonneuve | 14 minutes
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