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Jewish World Review March 18, 2002 / 5 Nisan, 5762

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald
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Suddenly, it's cool again to be a man | Thanks to Sept. 11, it's OK to be a guy again.

Not a guy who cries and hugs too much and is ashamed to be made of muscle and testosterone. Guys who are strong, tough and courageous. Guys like firemen and soldiers, who are trained to save people or kill them - and are willing to die trying.

You can find some of these manly men featured in April's Popular Mechanics. No, not the guy in the back pages showing you how to use a vibrating plate compactor to build a natural stone patio for your back yard.

The camouflaged guys on the cover are members of the elite Air Force Special Ops strike force who've been riding around Afghanistan at night on motorcycles and using laser markers to guide smart bombs to their targets.

But it's not just Popular Mechanics and Soldier of Fortune lionizing these kinds of men today.

Real men and manhood are back in fashion everywhere, says Charlotte Allen in The Women's Quarterly, a small, influential, cheerfully pro-male magazine put out by a gang of smart, cheeky, anti-feminist conservative women in Washington, D.C.

Men were pronounced evolutionarily dead in the 1990s, Allen says in "Return of the Guy." Since the 1960s, the makers and shapers of politically correct thought in Hollywood and academia have ridiculed or tried to re-engineer men. Feminists like Gloria Steinem even declared the male gender socially and economically useless.

But since 9/11, Allen says, even hard-core feminist attacks on men have evaporated. We also hear no more cracks about "angry white males" these days or "the supposedly alienated military."

Men - civilizationally challenged though they always will be as a species - are our new superheroes. We're talking firemen, cops and commandos, Allen says.

"Their sex is male, and they do the kind of work that calls on specifically male attributes and virtues: physical strength, tough fatherly leadership (think of Rudolph Giuliani), brotherly bonding into fighting units, courage, and blunt compassion."

Allen takes several swipes at feminists and criticizes affirmative action programs that insist on putting unqualified women in places they ought not to be in - e.g., New York City fire houses.

She also says what has been politically unfashionable yet always true: Some jobs, only a guy can do. It took "an act of monstrous criminality to show this," she says, "but we now know that the crisis of masculinity is over and some of the worst excesses of affirmative action may be over."

It's likely that Allen's love for real men even extends to Charles Barkley, the former NBA star who stands unchained on the cover of the March 11 Sports Illustrated.

Jack McCallum's account of "Citizen Barkley," the fun-loving, 300-pound multimillionaire, is excellent and loaded with locker-room laughs.

As McCallum nicely shows, Barkley is "a trash-talking, leg-pulling, high-rolling, golf-playing" giant who says whatever is on his mind. But he also has a serious, surprisingly conservative side, too.

Barkley worries about black kids' over-emphasis on sports and counts Clarence Thomas among his political heroes. Plus, he still feels he has the duty to run for governor of Alabama some day - which will make him both the country's biggest and most entertaining Republican.

JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.

03/12/02: 10 minutes with Ken Adelman
03/08/02: TIME asks the nation a scary question
03/05/02: 10 minutes with ... Rich Lowry
02/26/02: 10 minutes with ... Tony Snow
02/12/02: Has Soldier of Fortune gone soft?

© 2002, Bill Steigerwald