Mad Manspreading?James J. O'Meara
“Keep it up, and even if you do get my job you’ll never run this place. You’ll die in that corner office, a midlevel executive with a little bit of hair who women go home with out of pity. Want to know why? Because no one will like you.”
The poohbahs of the manosphere often put me in mind of the Stalinist shop steward played by Peter Sellers in I’m All Right, Jack — the response to any situation is always the same: round up the boys, jump on a barrel and shout “They’re doin’ it to us again, mates!”
The latest kerfluffle involves something called “manspreading,” and the attempts of first London, then New York, to ban same when aboard public transit.
Now, sometimes “conservatives” love banning stuff, at least when the ban inconveniences someone else. Pull up your pants! No skateboarding! No roller skates! Turn off that damn transistor radio! No breastfeeding! Put on a blouse, you skank!
On other occasions, their own ox is gored, or so they feel, and off they go to defend their inalienable rights to inconvenience everyone else.
This time it’s “manspreading,” the subway graffiti “art” of the Right. “Hey, the kid’s an artist, he dindu nuffin anyways!”
And inconvenience is what it’s about. As a longtime subway rider, I can assure you it’s about accommodating increasingly obese Americans on trains, not another feminazi castration ploy; no different than if Jack Donovan, say, chose to light up a Havana on the L train.
Of course, arrest seems a bit over the top, especially in a city where the new tribal Big Man, Papa Doc De Blasio, has called for the scaling back or elimination of enforcement actions against scores of so-called “quality of life” infractions, such as public urination or even jumping a subway turnstile. Still, the reaction also seemed a bit over the top:
These feminist idiots just need to be shot. Or less extreme punched square in the nose twice.
Yes, indeed, let us never be thought too extremist.
The question of dignified Aryan comportment in public called to mind the late series, Mad Men, which often addressed the issue, largely in the first seasons so as to set up the ’60s atmos’, which is the point here.
If, as the NRA likes to say, an armed society is a polite society, so is an Aryan society a polite society. Conversely, if you want to create — or re-create — an Aryan society, you must first create a polite society.
Thus, in the epigraph above, taken from the pilot episode, Don Draper, ’60s WASP alpha-male, instructs privileged but clueless alpha-wannabe Pete Campbell in the limits — admittedly, a bit subtle and not at all to subsequent feminist tastes — to how much you can paw and leer at your secretary (or, in this case, Don’s secretary) and still be thought a nice — promotable — guy. Become a nuisance and you might “run” the place someday, but you’ll never be “in charge,” because you’re . . . a jerk.
In the very next episode, Don, after the usual drinking, whoring, and general alpha-maling, gets in an elevator. Two men — jerks — get in later, and start telling a “blue” story, despite the presence of a lady. Don glares at them, and when he gets their attention, tells them to take their hats off, there are ladies present. At first, they shrug it off, but he keeps quietly looking down at them, and they sheepishly comply.
Hypocrisy? Yes, but then hypocrisy is the compliment vice plays to virtue.
But can we imagine Don Draper, Roger Sterling, or indeed any manly White character of the pre-’80s manspreading? One might, though, imagine one of the younger, “hipper,” more bumptiously Judiac characters, like the hapless Ginsberg, doing so, expressing the new, “let it all hang out” lifestyle promoted by the agents of the Frankfurt School.
More to the point, can one imagine Whittaker Chambers, William F. Buckley, Cardinal Spellman, or even Roy Cohn, manspreading? And yet it was these Evil Right-Wing White Men who ruled the supposed “golden age” today’s lumpenright supposedly idealizes.
In fact, around that very time, as the ’60s of Mad Men deflated into the “let it all hang out” kulcha of the ’70s, Tom Wolfe had noticed the phenomenon, and gave it its classic — though unknown to these man-o-sphere types — analysis:
That was the pimp look, the look of hip and supercool and so fine. The white bureaucrats, and the black ones, too, walked in trying to look as earthy and rugged as they could, in order to be “with the people.” They tried to walk in like football players, like they had a keg of beer between their legs. They rounded their shoulders over so it made their necks look bigger. They thickened up their voices and threw a few “mans” and “likes” and “digs” into their conversations. When they sat down, they gave it that Honcho wide-open spread . . . as if the muscles in their thighs were so big and stud-like that they couldn’t cross their legs all the way if they tried.
As usual, the Real Men are fake men, trying to mock up a facsimile of manhood by imitating the negro. And as per usual, the negro is way ahead of them,
But the pimp-style aristocrats had taken the manhood thing through so many numbers that it was beginning to come out through the other side. To them, by now, being hip was striking poses that were so cool, so languid, they were almost feminine. It was like saying, “We’ve got masculinity to spare.” We’ve been through so much shit, we’re so confident of our manhood, we’re so hip and so suave and wise in the ways of the street, that we can afford to be refined and not sit around here trying to look like a bunch of stud brawlers. So they would not only cross their legs, they’d cross them further than a woman would. They would cross them so far, it looked like one leg was wrapped around the other one three or four times. One leg would seem to wrap around the other one and disappear in the back of the knee socket. . . . . They would look like one of those supercool secretary birds that stand around on one long A-1 racer leg with everything else drawn up into a beautiful supercool little bunch of fluffy feathers at the top.
Of course, few would want to follow Wolfe’s analysis that far, and indeed, to do so would be to miss his larger point. The White man never wins by imitating the negro, in pimp or gangsta mode, only by being himself; then the negro has a natural respect for the man of integrity, oneness, wholeness.
“They were so stiff, they swung,” said techno legend [and suburban Detroit negro] Carl Craig, capturing the mysterious paradox of the German duo Kraftwerk. They made self-consciously ‘cold’ songs about railways and autobahns and dressed like your stamp-collecting cousin, yet they’re the founding fathers of all electronic dance music and a huge influence on hip-hop.
Ultimately, it’s not a gender issue, but also not just a racial one; it’s a class issue. There has always been a segment of the White community that, consciously or not, emulated negro culture — they’re called “White trash.” Now, we may take their side on occasion, or support them to some extent, being as they are our fellow Whites, or our fellow men, but we help them best by leading and instructing them.
And speaking of instruction, if we want to revive, not just reminisce about, the good old days of White America, we need to start dressing the part.
As the man-o-sphere has forgotten, or never learned, but the actors on Mad Men knew, culture is, among other things, a matter of clothing and posture (the clothing often inducing the posture, such as the corsets originally devised for elderly generals sitting on horseback).
If you want to create an era, you must dress and take up the physical positions that arise within it, and that subsequently maintain it in being.
“Actors say that once you slip into your character’s clothes, you become the character — and that couldn’t be more true with Mad Men,” Brie tells TVGuide.com. “You wear girdles and tight clothes you can’t really breathe in that make you sit up straight. That alone is kind of oppressive and really makes you feel how these women were feeling at the time.”
So, you take a modern, “liberated” actress, put her in ‘50s-wear, and voila, no more Betty Friedan:
PC: I researched the time period, and both my parents grew up in the era, so I talk to them a lot about it. You also pick people brains on set because it’s the little things. It’s not so much the culture aspect, it’s making sure to sit up straight, or if the line is, “I have to go to the bathroom,” you don’t say “I gotta go to the bathroom.” You’re very aware of how our language has changed 40 years later.
EG: It was so proper compared to what it is today, so much more pronounced.
Q: Does that carry over in your day-to-day life?
PC: I sit up straighter!
Mad Man creator Matthew Weiner, though raised in Beverly Hills, brings a Coen Brothers Minnesota eye to it:
And, you know, [Vincent Kartheiser, “Pete Campbell”] he’s from Minnesota and as it turned out, a lot of the cast was from the Midwest, and I think it was just a matter of manners. Just being raised with a certain kind of manners that fit the story.
Yeah, I think it’s something that hadn’t been socialized out of them yet. [Gee, Matt, I wonder who did that?] They weren’t super casual. They were polite, and it gave it a slightly period feeling. But right away, he was up there to play Pete.
Finally, one can’t help but wonder if the guys alarmed by the demand to close their legs on their enormous packages and batches are, well, protesting too much. Real men like Jon Hamm have no need of manspreading; the era’s clothing and their natural endowment is sufficient for any territorial needs:
Lately, the name Jon Hamm and the word “bulge” have become synonymous.
A quick Google search for the Mad Men star will prove just that, and it seems the cast and crew of Hamm’s hit AMC television series won’t let him forget his past trouser offenses.
According to the New York Daily News’ [email protected], an AMC insider said the “well-endowed” actor was instructed to wear underwear while filming certain scenes of the 1960’s TV show, due to the era’s tight-fitting clothing.
“This season takes place in the 1960s, where the pants are very tight and leave little to the imagination,” said the source. And it gets better: “Jon’s impressive anatomy is so distracting that they politely insisted on underwear.”
“When the promotional pictures came back the first few seasons, we had to work with them. Everyone was concerned about too much Christina Hendricks boob, but it’s Jon that has the most to show. It’s a good problem to have.”
 Mad Men, Season 1, Episode 1, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”
 “No more fun of any kind!” — Dean Wormer, Animal House. I’ve previously identified the snobs vs slobs meme in Mad Men, but sometimes, as conservatives like to say, the stereotypes are true.
 For some unexplained reason, there are no women among conservatives.
 The history of the Right’s infatuation with smoking, for example, from Ayn Rand’s “sign of the dollar” cigarettes to Wendell Berry’s down-home tobacky farming, to now Tito Purdue, whose Reuben manages to combine both — his Lee farms the sot-weed, while the titular Reuben exemplifies his Übermensch status by chain smoking, especially when it gives him a chance to challenge someone inconvenienced by it, a very negro trait, as we will see. This history needs to be written, and I will, for a suitable fee.
 I once attended a gathering of, I think, the Tradition, Family, Property groupuscle, where one of their elder statesmen held court — sort of an Allen Bloom crossed with Ernest Borgnine — surrounded by his acolytes, in a lawn chair, out on the lawn. “I smoke cigars to keep da fags away” he observed, to indulgent chuckles from the acolytes — certainly no fags, they — although neither seemed to notice it was the rest of the organization that was keeping them far away.
 Another example of America’s absurd public Puritanism is the dearth of public lavatories or urinals, as Sigmund Freud observed when over here to accept an honorary degree, and finding himself and Jung dashing into a department store for a call of nature.
 That an armed negro society is manifestly not polite, is another example of the ever present racial elephant in the room of conservative rhetoric. Speaking of “quality of life,” few “mainstream” conservatives outside New York understand how Mayor Bloomberg’s “liberal” anti-gun stance was compatible with his “conservative” stop and frisk policies, but some of us did.
 “She doesn’t understand, I’m a jerk, sir.” MST3k, Episode 406 — “Attack of the Giant Leeches.”
 As John Slattery put it at the TCA Awards, “the show’s message [is] drinking and smoking and whoring.”
 Season 1, Episode 2, “Ladies Room.” I can’t recall any subway scenes, but has any show done more with elevators? Not likely. See “Mad Men’s Best Elevator Scenes,” here.
 Not that there’s that much competition.
 Remember, ’tis 1970. These guys are trying not to look like they’re “acting White,” or, as the saying then was, being “Uncle Toms.” Today, government offices are filled with AA lottery winners who have no need to establish their ’cred.
 “Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers” in Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1970). “Both essays were later reprinted in Wolfe’s collection The Purple Decades, indicating that he considered them among his best work” (Wikipedia).
 One notes in passing that the super-cool negro described here is also a thing of the past. Today’s negro does not taunt by his elegance but by his revolting, sub-human appearance — “What you looking at?” The elegant appearance of the Fruit of Islam is a vestige of going the ofay one better, like Malcolm’s earlier raspberry zoot suits.
 “Most influential acts ever: 3. Kraftwerk,” here.
 “Mad Men Star Reveals the Power of ‘Oppressive’ Wardrobe” by Gina DiNunno, August 7, 2009, online here.
 As Vince Vega would say; like the chips with mayonnaise.
 “Interviews with Mad Men’s HBIC + those two beatniks idk” October 22nd, 2009, online here. Cf. my blogpost “Everyone on Mad Men is Polite, Not Just the Fags,” here.
 Shown here not manspreading at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
 “Mad Men’s Matthew Weiner Goes Deep on Vincent Kartheiser and Pete Campbell” by Jada Yuan, here.
 “Weekend Discussion Thread: The Un-Sexiest Moment in a MSTed Movie”: “Coleman Francis’ enormous package all splayed in Red Zone Cuba.”
 “I have the MST3K version of Boggy Creek II and it’s one of my favorites. It wasn’t that bad except for the extremely tight jeans the main character wore (Crow’s comment of his batch gets me every time).” Friday Video: Boggy Creek II MST3000 Style, here.
 Perhaps, having adopted the homophobic negro’s baggy pants, the Game Male now feels the need to spread out and reclaim his masculinity. Too bad. Now go home and get your fucking shinebox, and leave the rest of us alone.
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I’ve seen traditional men from Europe crossing their legs in the “feminine” way – nothing feminine about it when they do it. They just seem to have a bit more flexibility in their hips so it’s comfortable for them.
And, LOL, poohbah. Thanks for reminding me of the origins (I suppose the cartoon ripoff of the Honeymooners’ Water Buffalos). I think the word has become common (Word has it in autocorrect). I think the drug dealer in Pulp Fiction calls the comatose Uma Thurman a ‘poohbah’ which tickles my funnybone.
Kraftwerk are a band–not a duo.
As someone with a keen interest in classic clothing and style, I agree with the author’s point.
However, we musn’t instruct our men to act like effete sissies, but rather to walk, sit, and behave with boldness and manly confidence.
Game Man > Beta Male
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