Why are we shocked by the high levels of male violence in society, when the celebration of male aggression is woven throughout our culture and modeled at the very highest level?
I suspect I possess emasculating levels of personal ambition and drive, but I must confess that I have never wanted anything badly enough to thrust another man’s face into a muddy paddock to get it.
I’m not entirely claiming the moral high ground here. On the day that H&M opened their first Australian store, I had a momentary lapse in composure that saw me reach across the face of a competing shopper, to secure the last available Cotton Stretch tee in the V-neck of my preferred colour. So I am perfectly attuned to the emotional turmoil that might give rise to an act of such naked aggression.
For those unfamiliar with the classic ‘spear tackle’ maneuver, it is an attempt, within the context of a jolly football match, to gain a competitive advantage by driving another man’s head into the ground at spine-snapping velocity. It’s all in good fun of course and the offending spear-tackler need fear no greater forfeit than a small fine and a two-match ban.
Now, as much as I abhor acts of physical brutality, I have developed a necessary threshold of tolerance for the insistence of two grown men to beat the living shit out of each other, with the following provisos:
- It is fully consensual
- I don’t have to watch
- No third parties are physically or psychologically harmed in the process
Ah, but there it is! If you’re as sharp as me, it won’t have escaped your observation that the average football stadium seats between forty and sixty thousand people at capacity. If a quarter of them is under fifteen, that’s ten thousand kiddies witnessing the spear-tackling shenanigans of their cherished idols.
One thing I know with certainty is that little boys study bigger boys with the concentration of a portrait painter scrutinising his subject for every last crease and contour. They learn that a mastery of prescribed male behaviour is a goal of unrivalled importance and the wages of transgression may be relegation to a social world populated by girls, geeks and homos.
If only I’d learnt earlier in my school career that a life surrounded by girls, geeks and homos would have been infinitely more uplifting than years of trying to squeeze an irregular-shaped me into the square hole of socially-prescribed boy culture.
But I’m veering off track. The point is that boys desperately seek male role models to guide them in their existential quest and no role model is more deified in our popular culture than that paragon of manhood, the bronzed, mythic figure of the footie hero.
Why are we shocked by the high levels of male violence in society, when the celebration of male aggression is woven throughout our culture and modeled at the very highest level? Why do we expect the undeveloped male brain to understand that actions lauded in one context are outlawed in another? On what basis do we trust a young man, schooled on the turf and the terraces, to possess the emotional intelligence to safely regulate difficult feelings when at home?
Ok, you’re right. I’m in no position to lecture. Somewhere in Melbourne there is a casual shopper still traumatised by flashbacks of that day in H&M, when a thrusting forearm momentarily obscured his vision and thwarted his attempt to secure the last available Cotton Stretch tee in the V-neck of his preferred colour.