empathy deficit entitled babies gender policing homophobia irony alert lgtbq macho macho men masculinity misogyny

In the battle betwen John Wayne and Mr. Rogers it’s the gentler soul who’s winning

By David Futrelle

Mr. Rogers, who passed away in 2003, is having a strange but heartwarming posthumous comeback. A kindly father figure for generations of preschoolers, Rogers was recently the subject of a documentary that made grownups weep. Tom Hanks is playing him in a forthcoming feature film. He was even hailed as something of a bisexual icon after old comments of his acknowledging he was attracted to men as well as women resurfaced.

Some people aren’t so happy about Mr. Rogers’ return to the spotlight — among them Daily Wire video host Andrew Klavan, who recently denounced Rogers as the poster boy for the sort of “metrosexual wimpiness” that Klavan thinks is destroying masculinity. It’s John Wayne, not Fred Rogers, who Klavan thinks is the true epitome of manliness.

Now, Mr. Rogers was no metrosexual; his fashion sense was almost defiantly bland, and he wore a variation on the same outfit every single day, as Klavan is certainly aware. Klavan calls him a “metrosexual” only because he knows that he would be pilloried for saying the word I suspect he really wants to use: a three-letter slur starting with “f” and ending with “g.”

Klavan would rather that the boys and men of America look up to a sort of Rambo-ized version of Jesus Christ himself — whom Klavan describes as

a steely man of integrity who was willing to sacrifice everything to say what needed to be said, and do what needed to be done.

Among regular humans, it was John Wayne who apparently came closest to Klavan’s platonic ideal of the “real man.” The world is a dangerous place, Klavam warns, and we’re in desperate need of “tough” men with guns to protect us all from evil. “If you really want to have a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” Klavan declares, “call John Wayne and tell him to bring his guns.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d feel a lot more comfortable in a neighborhood full of Mr. Rogerses than I would in one patrolled continually by John Wayne wannabes with assault rifles. We don’t need protection by these sorts of guys; we need protection from them.

Indeed, the sort of toxic masculinity that Klavan celebrates is one of the greatest dangers the world faces today. Here in the US, our terrible, illegitimate president is the worst sort of toxic male, a perpetual overcompensator whose own masculinity is so fragile and broken than he pardons literal war criminals to make himself look tough to the troops and retweets photoshopped pictures of himself reimagined as Rocky.

It’s no wonder so many people are holding up Mr. Rogers’ gentle masculinity as a sort of antidote to this gross macho bullshit. Mr. Rogers was the father who didn’t get angry, the one who returned home every day at the same time, replacing his jacket with a cardigan and his dress shoes with sneakers in a ritual designed to be reassuring to small children in its everyday sameness.

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was easy to mock, and I did my share of mocking once I passed out of its core demographic. But when I was a very little kid I was enthralled — reassured by Mr. Rogers, delighted by Henrietta Pussycat and her habit of working “meow meow” into everything she said, entranced by Lady Aberlin. (I think I had a little crush.)

I have no desire to go back and watch the show now; I’d be the fist to admit that, as Klavan sneers, it’s “intolerable” to watch “unless you happen to be a 3-year-old.” It’s too earnest, too wholesome for my cynical middle-aged self.

But when I was a little kid I watched it religiously — and I’d like to think that for all of my cynical crankiness a little of Mr. Rogers’ gentleness rubbed off on me.

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123 replies on “In the battle betwen John Wayne and Mr. Rogers it’s the gentler soul who’s winning”

Our printer died a couple of weeks ago, and my wife has been looking at replacements. Black Friday she found one with great reviews and the features we want, for $250 CAD at Staples. That was great, but for some reason it wasn’t available for in-store pickup. So it is added to the deluge of packages being delivered in December.

I don’t feel bad about ordering a balaclava with a brim: it’s small and light. And I lost my old one on the TTC bus last week. A driver said that if I go to the lost and found at a station the other end of Toronto I would have my pick of hats, scarves, and umbrellas.

@Lainy: I can’t remember, is this the first time you’ve lived with him?

I am safe yes. It’s just last week we were talking on a phone call and we got on somehow about past partners that we’ve had. I had told him my sexual past because it was quite small and I wanted him to know when we were first got serious that there was a lot I wanted to explore. I had a not serious, not intimate sexual fling with a guy my freshman year at college. And by not serious I mean I don’t know what his last name is to get into contact with him if I wanted to. Out of nowhere my husband tells me that that made him angry. Angry that I had that no string attached, just pleasure sexual experience. I pointed out to him that I know for a fact that’s slept with many different women that he had no interested in dating or even seeing again after the sex. And his exact words were to me “it’s different because I’m a man, we want those sexual encounters more then women. We biologically programmed to have sex with as many different women as we can. We have more of a drive for it then women do” I was so shocked by this because it’s like a troll on this blog just came out of my very loving husbands mouth.


We don’t even live with each other. We live we each other about a month of the year. He’s station in Japan and is still active duty marine. His specific orders that he has I can’t follow to come live with him. Plus I’m in school right now.

I’ve never been married, so take this with a grain of salt, but my advice is to try to explain the problem with what he said next time you call him. There are even some articles on WHTM that could help make your point. If you can get him to see the error he has made, he probably won’t say things like that again.

@Dormousing_it, A. Noyd, and Lizzie: Thank you for your insights; they’re very helpful.


For what it’s worth, here’s my advice: that bit about how “men want unemotional sex with all the wimminz” is a very pervasive belief in American culture, and it gets reinforced in lots of way and in lots of situations, and while that doesn’t make it true, that does make it something he’s heard from a lot of people, probably even from some people he trusts and respects.

Also, I’m given to understand (by the members of my wife’s family, almost all of whom have been career in one of the branches of the US military) that there’s often an undercurrent of worry about the fidelity of one’s spouse when one is deployed for long periods. Even if someone doesn’t worry about it personally, they certainly know some folks who are worried about it. The specter — or revelation — of homeside infidelity can have some weird effects on social dynamics among service members, and every one of my in-laws knew multiple people who got burned by it.

All of which is to say that there’s a reasonable likelihood that that concern is rattling around in his brain, and if he loves and trusts you as you think he does, then even acknowledging that concern to himself is going to be emotionally problematic for him, since it implies that on some level he doesn’t trust you. So as an emotional defense, he might latch on to whatever sounds reasonable as a way to justify his fear.

Fortunately, even if my armchair analysis is waaaaaaaay off (which it probably is), the solution is pretty universal: as Wandering Jewterus said, talk to him about your concerns and explore both why he thinks that’s true (if he does) and why you find it problematic. How he responds is really the most important tell, because if he doubles down or tries to turn it around on you, then there’s a high likelihood that this is something he really believes. On the other hand, if he talks it through and acknowledges your concerns, that’s a pretty good indication that you two will be okay.

…just make sure that you have that discussion when you’re both calm, because conflict can cause some people to dig in about stuff even if they don’t actually believe it, just because they refuse to lose.

For what it’s worth, having spent roughly half my life deployed, Gaebolga has the right idea.

And yeah – talk. A lot. (And be grateful you’re not confined to letters!)


There are fears of fidelities issues. He’s over thinker like me and he internalizes so much. He’s constantly surrounded by guys telling him about how their long term girlfriends cheated on them and left them for someone else. And just last week some old marine in his 60’s was telling him that he look ridicules texting his girl because I could just be showing the messages to some side guy and laughing at him. I’ve tried over and over to expunge these fears but I don’t know what else to do.


Out of curiosity, was the franchise craft store in question the one with a rhyming name and Jesus-themed breath mints at the checkout?

(At least craft stores arguably have a certain justification for rushing the season and the likes of Christmas in July sales; a crafter is going to need lead time to plan and execute that quilt, dollhouse, gaudy sweater, or whatever by the time the holiday proper rolls around.)


Well, the problem is that there isn’t much that you can do about it, because this is all his internal state based on the environment he finds himself in. The only possible way you could do anything do anything about it is to literally never leave his side, which you obviously can’t do.

So, if he’s an over-thinker – like you and me both – then present it exactly like that. This is a fear he has, and while fear may suck, it can only actually hurt you by making you do stupid shit.

He is in a position where he has a very simple choice: either he can trust that you love him and respect him enough to not hurt him that way, or he can’t. Since he has no actual evidence of infidelity on your part, this is literally just a choice he has make.

Hopefully that will help.

On the off-chance it may be useful, one of the private vows my wife and I made to each other (not part of the ceremony) was that if either of us ever wanted to cheat, we would have enough respect for each other to let the other person know that and talk about whether to continue the relationship before actually cheating. We’ve never needed to do that, but I think establishing a level of basic mutual respect was very important.

Good luck; I hope this works out well for you two.

As others have noted, there’s not much you can do. He needs to get the hell out of that environment ASAP if he wants to stay someone worth being in a relationship with. Or develop a strong enough sense of himself to tell these guys where to stick it, but if he didn’t have that going in he’s not going to get it where he is.


So that comment is certainly a red flag, but I think what will be more telling is his reaction when you talk to him about it. If he can calmly talk to you and listen to your side and consider your feelings, then it’s just one of those pervasive ideas he hasn’t questioned. If he gets cold, quiet, defensive, doesn’t want yo talk about it, doubles down, etc. then it’s a bigger problem. How big? It’s hard to say. I would suggest therapy to talk through it with him, which I know will be difficult to arrange, but from what you’ve described in the past it sounds like it would be worth it to you.

As for your safety, I understand he’s not even home most of the year, but I would still recommend trying to get together a Fuck Off Fund just in case you need to get out of there. Also make sure you know where to go for help–research womens’ shelters, etc in your area. It really can’t hurt to just have an escape route planned out. That goes for anyone, really, not just your situation. Everyone should, if possible,* have a way to get out of a living arrangement with anyone else.

*Yeah, this is nearly impossible for most people, considering most people can’t even afford a few hundred dollar emergency. But if a person is able, I recommend stashing some money away.

Well, if your dude is the over-thinker sort, get him to try thinking about things from your perspective. Tell him what he said made you angry and afraid and you want him to think about why. Promise him your own answers at a later, specified date, but you can ask to hear what he came up with first. He might be more open to what you have to say if he’s tried to work it out on his own.

You can also suggest he play “spot the contradiction” with some of the stuff he believes. (Like, either women are way less interested in hooking up or are infidelity incarnate, but it’s inconsistent to believe both.)

And since I live in Japan, if everything else fails, I could stop by his base over winter vacation and hand-deliver a smack upside the head if you’d like.

If it helps, and granted I’m only taking shots in the dark so I may not really be on point in this stance outside of being a personal anecdotal opinion; pointing out to him that this pervasive notion is not really a universal reality for men since this position he express is likely one enforced by guys who are either highly insecure with themselves, or are by chauvinist’s who are trying to bs and posture around him or at least feed an arbitrary, manufactured reality to “play mind games” with him for the sake of their fragile machismo; the reality is that the majority of men in fact are not a unified aggregate and idea that men “naturally and initially crave sex with women” is nothing than a social fiction fabricated and reinforced.

In reality: their are many man who either are not interested in either sex, or actively seeking it if if they like the pleasure, their are men who are either asexual, LGBT, have lower sex drives or or at least are merely sex neutral and even those have impotency issues. But more importantly; their are many men who don’t see, view or treat women as sexual objects or chattel to covet or whom they feel are “owed sex” and what few their may say to him otherwise are insecure guys who are trying to distort his reality or are chauvinists posturing to reinforce a fabricated social construct because of self interest; and (likely) such guys, much less any guy; would have your interest.

You are his spouse and he’s your spouse and you chose him to share your life with for a reason; otherwise why would you both be married to each other in the first place?

Admittedly I’m not sure if this would be a helpful approach to take or if maybe their could be a better way to word it to get the point across… or if maybe it might help to be calm and respectful be frank in delivery when the atmosphere is at ease for hashing things out. I’m not married myself and my only frame of reference for marriage relationships, wither healthy or unhealthy: are from observing the other people in my life; but at least from my admittedly anecdotal, vicarious experience; it’s the more grounded conclusion on the matter that I could parse out and makes any remotely practical sense.

Wither or not anything I said makes any sense or is in anyway helpful, all the same: I give my well wishes and hope you will be able to get things worked out and ensure your husband manages to understand or grasp where your coming from.

Lainy – Everyone here has given good advice. I’d like to amplify what kupo said about having an emergency fund and plan. Husbeast and I still have separate bank accounts and both of our vehicles are solely in my name. This is by mutual agreement explicitly to give me that extra security. In twenty years, I’ve never felt the need to even think about that much, but I always still have that safety net.

Full Metal Ox – No, I worked for the chain that has a feminine name (or more correctly, two feminine names separated by a hyphen.) We have three large craft store chains represented in our town; the one I worked for, the one you mentioned, and the one with the masculine name taken from one of the archangels.

Thank you guys for all the advise. I’ll be using some of it. Though like it was said, I will probably only be able to save up a few hundred of dollars for any sort of fund.

And since I live in Japan, if everything else fails, I could stop by his base over winter vacation and hand-deliver a smack upside the head if you’d like.

I would not recommend that. You could be charged with trying to harm government property. The usmc technically owns him right now and he’s government property so yeah. Although I would like to do it myself sometimes I would never actually want myself or anyone else to strike my partner.


Eeehhh looking back at my last post is full of spelling and grammar errors and accidentally said “would have your interest” when I mean to say “Would NOT have your interest”.

I was up late last night and on the edge of zonking out and that egregious level of poor message making really shows how tired I was writing that.

To Lainy and everyone else reading the grammatical mess I wrote above: I deeply sorry.

Lainy says:

I would not recommend that. You could be charged with trying to harm government property.

Of course I’d never actually hit anyone, but if they tried to charge me over that, I’d go off on them for keeping their “government property” in such a toxic environment that a smack upside the head is the only recourse left for snapping them out of it. It’s especially important to weed out harmful ideologies because folks in the military are not supposed to be in the habit of second-guessing their comrades.

@. A. Noid

Yes, I’m hoping it will get better. I hardly have anytime to talk to him about things like this when we have issues because when he gets off work I’m already in bed asleep and of course just wants to sleep because he’ll have to get up early all over again.

I am upset about something else a little bit though. He’s been talking about thinking of relisting after his term is over. He wants to do this because he wanted to make sergeant before his time was up. Well they changed the requirement to become a sergeant now. You need at least 2 years of experience at being a lance corporal now when it used to be you needed only one. He is a lance corporal but by the time he reaches that two year mark to even to begin to make him eligible for that promotion his term will up. So he’s thinking about relisting for another 4 years. This was not the plan mind you.

The plan used to be he was going to finish up there in about 2 years and 3 months and the come home to the united states where he would start his bachelors degree at the same university I will be working at to get my masters degree. We would move to that city and get an apartment together finally. Helpful because he would then have the gi bill which pays for up to a bachelors degree of education.

Now he’s talking about the reenlisting and getting sent to a new base, possibly in California or somewhere else and wants me to come and be there with him. I want to be with him, that’s not the problem. I just wanted to be with him, minus the marine crop and I’m not so fawned of leaving Kansas. This is my home, all my family is here. All my friends are here. I don’t know if I’m ready to make that big of move. And I don’t have enough time in the day, or the right amount of privacy to talk about these concerns with him. I know he won’t be dismissive of my feelings and this is something we have to do a lot of talking about. But I do worry about what that environment is doing to the man I love so much.

I’ve never been in the military or had immediate family serving, so I’ll defer to those with more experience, but here’s my two cents:
It seems like what he’s proposing is a major change in plans from what you had agreed upon. This will significantly change the course of events in both of your lives, and since you are a couple, is something you will need to both agree on. Explain to him what will happen and how this will affect both of you, and that you don’t want this for your relationship. You said that he will listen and care about your feelings, so I recommend trying to explain how it will make you feel. This should hopefully persuade him to think twice before making such major changes.
As well, did you talk to him yet about what he said earlier? How did that resolve?


I’m not surprised he wants to re-up; that’s part of the military culture, and generally the longer you serve, the more social credibility you get within that culture. There is one aspect of this that I think the both of you should consider when making your decision, though, based on my in-laws’ experiences.

If you husband goes career and puts in a full 20, he will retire with full pension, medical, and additional benefits for the rest of his life (and yours too, as his spouse) at around age 40 (depending on when he first joined up). This affords a substantial amount of financial security as well as a substantial amount of time to start a second career. While that may not be worth it in your situation, it has been a significant advantage for my in-laws.

Obviously, the financial benefits increase with rank; my brother-in-law who retired as a full colonel doesn’t have to work another day in his life if he doesn’t want to (shocker: he wants to).

Just something to think about.


He seems to be a believe in the idea being biologically wired to want to “spread their dna around” but he did see that saying this upset me a lot so I don’t think he’s going to say stuff like that again.

What gets me is the outrage or approval is coming from such superficial styles of presentation. Have the right kind of square chin and pose the right way and you’re tough. Use soft words and you aren’t. Never mind Fred Rogers standing up for his show in court and doing other things that suggest he’s not a pushover.

Someone can act like Mr. Rogers and talk about feelings to cover up being a jerk too. It’s just that on the whole people would be better off looking at people’s lives and actions rather then whether they fit an image.

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