Monday, October 20, 2003

The Rise of Women's Sports?

Time seemed to stand still in 1999 when Brandi Chastain tore off her shirt, exposing a sportsbra, after her World Cup winning goal. Now, four years later, with the future of women�s soccer in doubt with the demise of the WUSA and FIFA�s money troubles that revolution appears to have stalled. Welcome to America, the hypermasculine.

NASCAR dads, the pollsters tell us, have supplanted soccer moms as the nation�s cultural barometer. Ubermensch and Governor-elect Arnold Shwartzenegger appears to have read the zeigeist well, simultaneously projecting willpower, decision and action. Beer and babe magazine Maxim � 1.5 million subscribers strong � is a rare media success in this lackluster economy. Even Halle Berry, Oscar award winning Best actress, dons a bikini and boxing gloves for the cover of this month�s FHM. Katherine Hepburn is quietly spinning in her grave.

Say what you will about President Bush � he never needed Naomi Wolf to teach him how to be an alpha male. Surrounded by hypermasculine types like Princeton wrestling sensation Donald Rumsfeld, a man who takes the combative stance of the warrior to a whole new level during press briefings, President Bush, like Arnold, is a mirror of his age. The image of hypermasculine George Bush in the orange flight suit on the deck of the Navy carrier is seared onto the popular consciousness. Gone are the days of the velvety voiced George Stephanopoulos� anxiety attack rashes in the West Wing; gone are the days of former ballet dancer Rahm Emmanuel defending the President on television. Welcome to America, the hypermasculine.

Even the Democrats instinctively seem to accept the fact that the paradigm has shifted. Front runners General Wesley Clark, a warrior, and the super-aggressive Howard Dean, are perceived as the party�s best hope at defeating the President. Treason, Ann Coulter�s extended love letter to the masculine qualities of Joe McCarthy, is flying off the shelves. Our excess national testosterone has even seeped over into Hollywood, of all places. Extreme renderings of the Trojan War and the conquests of Alexander are currently in production. We are the most powerful nation in the history of the world, the zeitgeist appears to be saying � let�s act like it!

The American image of the masculine has changed. The slim and patrician Uncle Sam is now buff, drives an SUV, and has 50 Cent blaring on the radio. September 11, in many ways, transformed us into a warrior culture, and the War on terrorism influences all aspects of our society. Firemen, rather than movie stars or athletes, are considered role models, for instance. Working class soldiers returning for shore leave last Memorial Day weekend were greeted in New York like rock stars by leggy Manolo Blahnik-clad urbane Sex and the City types. When was the last time that happened?

Award-winning WWII historian Paul Fussell�s new book, �The Boys� Crusade" sums up things nicely, saying, �there has been a return, especially in popular culture, to military romanticism, which, if not implying that war is really good for you, does suggest that it contains desirable elements.�

There is a significant reason that Senator Clinton opted out of a Presidential run to focus on her constituents and, tellingly, a committee appointment at Armed Services. Female virtues of nurturance, empathy, compassion, self-sacrifice, kindness, are, for the moment, on the wane. Welcome to America, the hypermasculine.

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