Here is a picture taken a few years ago of Bill Gates and other Microsoft executives. I chose it because it seemed to typify the dress of men today, the schleppy, non-descript, I-wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly look. The wealthiest man in the world exhibits not the slightest hint of male authority or masculine bravado. Now here is a picture of a Roman general.
The cloak, the scepter, the feathered helmet – all suggest stature, boldness, courage and refinement. Imagine this man smiling directly into the camera, the way Bill Gates always does. It’s unthinkable. He is preoccupied and looks to the side, burdened and sober.
It is sometimes said that feminism is the result of the female lust for power and envy of men. But it’s more complicated than that. I agree with Elizabeth Bisland, who argued that men shed the beautiful trappings and the substance of male authority in the nineteenth century, leaving women bereft of heroes. So women decided to become heroes themselves. No wonder it was rare for women to choose lesbianism as a way of life. The masculine mystique once fed the imagination of every woman, whether she married a general or not.
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As they say in the culinary realm, you let the knife do the cutting with your portrait of Bill Gates & Co. and their “the schleppy, non-descript, I-wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly look.” The message of their careful pose here seems to be “I am the white male, still dominant in this society, but so casual and trusting as to be completely harmless. No, really!” Not patriarchal, however, and resultantly disinclined to defend anything or anyone. I’ve known some very smart and capable people with this defect and they are best avoided.
Many men may not feel they are especially capable in the area of physical or psychological defense but they are not averse to the idea. Their survival instincts are intact. The guys in the photo look to be ready to cower and simper at the very contemplation of the word “defense.” To be fair, maybe they never had the opportunity to rough-house as kids or to fend off neighborhood bullies (for real). Are they the products of a sheltered life or an exceedingly litigious school environment and clueless parents? Or victims of success?
If you stood those guys up straight, took the soft smiles off their faces and gave them all black slacks the portrait would be very different. But it would not be the one they want to project.
Trolling on the Internet for a depiction of what might be viewed as a group of serious-minded businessmen was interesting. Mostly it was page after page of white males “partnering” with Muslims or blacks or women, all of them looking like junior players. A group of serious, intent-looking men of any race or creed would have been a welcome relief; I could not help but notice the effort to mix and “harmonize” everyone. In the end I had to resort to something ancient. They look a little disheveled but at least they have the appearance of a sober purpose. Oddly enough, the page mentions the Gates Foundation.
Interesting contrast. In the front row, from left to right, is Charles Eliot, president of Harvard University; Andrew Carnegie and Booker T. Washington. There’s not much teddy bear cuddliness here, with all the patriarchal whiskers and vests and starched collars. I can’t imagine these men jogging around a corporate campus in shorts or participating in one of these retreats where executives play children’s games to get to know each other better. Booker Washington strikes a more contemporary pose, with his bold gaze into the camera. The phrase “pillars of the community” seems an apt description for these men.
I’m sorry to have to call you on this, but I do believe you’ve wrongly identified one of the men in the photo that Hannon unearthed. I’m quite sure that Andrew Carnegie is not the second man from the left, but instead is the man second from the right, on the step just behind Booker T. Washington.
You may be right. Here is a list of the men in the photo. Perhaps it has the positions wrong.