It's an intriguing question, and a troubling one as well. You should read the entire article because Michael makes a lot of interesting points, but I'll pull out this particular section. After mentioning how in many other cultures the very "artistic" qualities we talk about are seen as masculine, Michael makes this comment:
Where does this aversion to aesthetics come from, historically speaking? My hunch is that it has less to do with Puritanism than it does with our history as a place where people who want to get away from traditional cultures come to. The real American man is felt to be the adventurer and the frontiersman -- the man who escapes the shelter, nay, the claustrophobia of female-dominated "civilization." By these lights, we're all little Huck Finns, forever investing our masculinity in our quest to light out for the territories ahead of the rest. Where a guy from another kind of culture might express his straight-guy masculinity within the parameters of his culture, we straight-guy Americans are masculine because we reject civilizin'.
I think this is particularly evident in the crudity we see so often in young males - the need to be a man is in such conflict with today's PC-enforced sensibilities that their rejection of civilizin' is expressed in a defiance of the most basic types of civilized behavior. Put another way, men don't seem to have much of an opportunity to be men anymore. We've stripped young males of so many opportunities to be masculine that a return to caveman-like behavior is one of the few avenues left. (As an aside, it will be interesting to see, as young women increasingly follow the crude behavior of their male counterparts, if there's some kind of shift of behavior from the men, searching for another way to be unique.)
You see and hear about the same phenomenon in the Church, for example: the preponderance of women in the pews, and increasing numbers of them in leadership positions within parishes. More and more often men speak of the "feminized" (not necessarily "feminist") church, as if there's something vaguely unmanly about religion. It's true that there was nothing unmanly about the early Church, so I"m not quite sure why things are the way they are, other than to say that they are. Perhaps it's the submissiveness required by a true disciple, possibly it has to do with the loss of ownership required when one opens the heart completely to Christ.
While we're at it, we might also wonder why so many of theses artistic endeavors are seen as the province of the liberal establishment, the arts and croissants crowd? Interestingly enough, it's an assumption shared by conservatives as well as liberals - that red Americans turn to NASCAR and country music while blue Americans own opera and literature. It's also one of the main aspects that makes the "crunchy con" movement so intriguing. Is there anything to the linkage between liberal politics and homosexual politics, that they share the same interests? Probably a subject that demands more time and study.
At any rate, what all these things share is a need for diversification among its membership. For years conservatives have decried the liberality of institutions such as the media, academia, and the entertainment industry. The answer has always been the same: if more conservatives were willing to go into those fields (setting aside, for the moment, the obstacles many of them face when they try), diversity would follow. What are you left with? Michael supplies the answer:
The fact that straight American guys consider aesthetic matters to be self-evidently gay becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; it means that the aesthetic fields in America in fact become ever-more gay.
And that's not a good thing. In fact, it can become a propaganda tool. The young boy who shows an interest in classical music or interior decoration must be a closet homosexual - why not come out of the closet, show your inner feelings, be the "man" you're supposed to be. If you're told this often enough, might you not come to believe it? I am told, therefore I am.
Not only that, such lockstep thinking denies a difference of opinion, a contrary outlook, a unique perspective. Without that, you wind up with a uniformity of opinion that is neither honest nor intellectually compelling.
Michael's conclusion: "Wouldn't we all be a bit better off if the aesthetic fields had a few more straight guys in them?" To that I heartily agree. It is time to reclaim that which belongs to us, which belongs to everyone. Diversity, the mantra of the very patrons of these fields, would seem to demand no less.
Originally published February 16, 2007