Lumbersexuality, Cultural Appropriation, and Crazy Talk
I have been busy, and so have not written in a while. But this half-coherent mess of an article has brought me lumbering back. Yeah, my puns are that bad. Deal with it.
- For those who don’t know, I have a full beard at the moment. It’s pretty fluffy. I dig it, and my lady doesn’t hate it, so it lives on.
- I have no tattoos. I think they’re cool when they mean something, or are artistically exceptional. Unfortunately the most common things expressed by tattoos in yuppie, gentrified America is bad taste and a thirst for attention.
- Yuppie, gentrified America is my favorite kind of America. I am not ashamed.
- I have avoided flannel since a traumatic experience in 1998. Don’t ask me about it.
A parody of masculinity, or the real thing? Up until now, the LGBT community and people interested in gender theory discussed the “performance” of gender, or how we deliberately appropriate cultural cues of gender, from hairstyle to clothing, to portray a desired gender type. The lumbersexual, however, represents something of a turning point. Now even straight men are thinking critically and openly about how their masculinity is constructed.
So, here is the stellar logic of Marcie Bianco (who we can assume hates beards and loves psychoanalyzing strangers): a few decades ago, gay men worked hard to “peform” masculinity, so they picked some heavily masculine hairstyles and wardrobes to do so. Now, suddenly, straight men are growing beards and flannel is back in style, so they must be copying the gay men! Let’s back this up with some sources, shall we?
Gay appropriation: One is that heterosexual men have gone out of their way to appropriate gay cultural signifiers of masculinity, as Tim Teeman asserts in his Daily Beast piece, “How [the] Straight World Stole ‘Gay.’” “The lumbersexual is just straight culture’s latest belated attempt to theatricalize masculinity, decades after gays got there first,” Teeman writes. Mark Simpson, in a piece published today at Out, goes so far as to imply that, with the increased popularity of all things gay, straight men “crave gay adulation.” Mimicry is, as the adage goes, the sincerest form of flattery. This might also explain the moniker. Otherwise a combination of lumberjack and hipster, “lumbster,” seems like it would have been a more fitting term.
So the straight guy with a beard and a flannel shirt not only stole the idea from gays, but is “crav[ing] gay adulation.” Okay.
Searching for meaning: Willa Brown’s captivating essay at the Atlantic contends that the lumbersexual, with its origins in the “romantic” and “authentic” American folk hero Paul Bunyan, does indeed indicate that masculinity is in crisis in the U.S. With money tight and gender parity increasing in the home, “the ‘traditional’ role of the man as the primary provider is now firmly out of reach for most Americans,” Brown writes. “[That] is why it seems particularly apt that (mostly) white, young, urban, middle-class men have once again picked up a symbol invented in the early 20th century by men very much like themselves, a symbol that has long been gathering dust.”
Wait…I thought they stole it from the gays. What do you mean they took it from “men very much like themselves”? Ooohhhh, right, in that Daily Beast article, Teeman admits that “gays co-opted the look once from lumberjacks and rural workmen.” Not that that matters to him.
So which is it? Stolen from gay culture which stole it from rural straight culture, or “picked up” from early 20th century yuppie culture?
Doesn’t matter, as long as Marcie can get a few shots in.
And the biggest of those shots is this: these men aren’t actually masculine. They’re just performing it because it’s hard to demonstrate masculinity with all this technology around. Which I guess is true…when’s the last time you had to fight off a bear or a mountain lion with a stick to protect your woman? Or build a house from wood you chopped yourself? Once, I moved a really heavy box. You’re welcome, babe. My giant man-arms are at your disposal.
The Real Answer
But here’s the thing: DUH. Yes, the beard is a performance of masculinity. What’s your point?
I see in your .Mic profile picture you have long hair and are wearing a purple top with a decidedly “ladylike” cut. You even seem to be wearing makeup. Are you about to try to convince me how that doesn’t constitute a “performance of femininity?” Didn’t think so.
Most of us perform our genders most of the time. But if we’re going to focus on grooming and fashion trends as evidence of a “crisis” because of the elaborate nature of said performance, then femininity is in way worse shape. 95% of the adult women I know wear makeup, clothing designed to accentuate their feminine features, and heels. The performance put on by women is a hell of a lot more widespread and culturally ingrained than that put on by lumbersexuals, hipsters, frat bros, and male athletes combined. But I’m not about to hate on them for it. Why?
Because I love the performance. It’s great. We, the straight men (and I think I can safely include gay women) of the world, thank you for putting in the work. Let it continue forevermore.
And the only reason lumbersexuals exist is because straight women dig it. If straight women stop liking beards en masse, Gillette will out earn Apple in the next fiscal year. I promise you.
In short (ha, like I could write something short), this article is useless, historically illiterate garbage. .Mic has now joined the category of Thought Catalog and Elite Daily. Please stop posting it to my Facebook feed.
It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: there is nothing wrong with straight men taking fashion and grooming cues from gay men, just as there’s nothing wrong with the inverse. Dr. Bianco is trying a ‘gotcha’, but ends up implying that straight men should be embarrassed by something perfectly innocuous. Weird.