Yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend about self-confidence. I am a nervous wreck about what people think of me. If I’m at a club, I find it almost impossible to dance. Or in my work, I’ve created a number of videos that even I think are rather good, but I can’t quite bring myself to post them. It is all so pathetic. But I find it very interesting that I have complete self-confidence about myself as a man. People can openly ridicule me about being weak or bookish or whatever. I don’t care. I think I am the very definition of what a man should be. Even more: I find many men to be very insecure in this regard. In fact, it is largely what defines “male culture.”
Part of this whole disconnect for me is that I just don’t get “guy” stuff. In particular, I don’t get guns. I enjoy target shooting. I find guns to be a fascinating technology. And I can definitely get into the skill improvement aspect of it. But guns mean a lot more than this to most guys who are into them. I think they are compensating. Note: I’m not saying that these guys aren’t “real” men. I just think they are confused about what a man is and so they try to make up for it by faking.
I’ve seen a lot of ads from this Bushmaster “man card” campaign. I think these people know very well that there is a hole that needs filling in the soul of the American man. The one above just happens to be for the .223-caliber rifle that was used by Adam Lanza on Friday. I don’t mean to imply any causal connection here. That’s not my point. My point is that guns are sold in this way for a reason.
I am very aware of commercials that question the viewer’s manhood. My manliness does not depend upon the deodorant I wear, the beer I drink, or the car I drive. But such appeals are fairly subtle. They don’t say that I’m not a man because I drink Negra Modelo rather than Dos Equis. They just show that even if I’m as old and ugly as The Most Interesting Man in the World, girls who could be my grandchildren will still want to fuck me.
This Bushmaster ad campaign is so over the top it looks like it’s in orbit: buy this gun and no one will question your manhood again?! Really, they could not be any clearer than if they said, “Is you dick small? Buy this gun and it won’t matter.” I have no doubt that the Bushmaster ads work very well. And that, I think, is a big problem. If I were a gun fanatic, I would give that some deep thought.
H/T Jessica Valenti