Guest Opinion:

Sensitive Men Need Not Apply

By Marianne M. Jennings
October 4, 2001

Just prior to the new day of infamy, the Wall Street Journal ran a front-page piece on a new trend for men: hairless chests. Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz worried us when he took to the bald chest in 1972 for aerodynamic purposes. Now men covet the smooth, silky look. Male models are told to show up with hairless torsi. Imagine Ulysses Grant, Ike, or Douglas MacArthur booking some tanning bed time and a chest wax.

I miss real men. Marshal Dillon men. Men with hair on their chests and in their ears. Men like Eliot Ness. Sensitive man is king, or head of an autonomous collective, as sensitive man would say.

Sensitive man is warm, politically correct and passive, much like Mr. Rogers. Never a cross word. Gleeful in his patience with childhood tutorials.

But, I don't trust sensitive man. This figment of enlightened imagination seems to be inches away from snapping. When the camera light went off, Fred Rogers probably flung his cardigan, hurled a blue tennis shoe at the crew, and sent a cloud of obscenities over Pittsburgh that consumed the steel plants' black smoke.

But, Mr. Rogers and that King Friday perhaps single-handedly fueled the box office for Stallone and Schwarzenegger movies. Men raised on PBS loons needed the comfort of martial arts and reassurance of weapons.

Real men are relegated to fiction and B movies. Constrained by the looming death penalty for sexual harassment, the prissy demands for diaper changing tables in mensí public restrooms and the condemnation of language patrols, real men wither and eunuch sensitive man emerges.

Over the past few weeks, the linguistics police have been busy suppressing a threatened emergence of real men. President Bush, with evidence of an evolving real man swagger, has taken a beating for saying aloud of Mr. bin Laden, the likely mastermind behind the WTC massacres, "Wanted: Dead or Alive." The chattering class, well, chattered, about this real man faux pas, "What kind of message does this send to the world?" One hopes this: "Mr. Rogers and the chest-waxing thing aside, we mean business."

Mr. Bush also took some chin hits for using "crusade." Sensitive man may have a soul mate, but religion is taboo. God can bless America all he wants, just don't expect organized religion in return. Sensitive man theorists tittered about the morally offensive Crusades and touted their age-old bunk: Religion has cost the world more lives than war. Ignoring the obvious goal differences with the Crusades, such as the United States having no interest in conquering Afghanistan (the welfare alone would break the lock box), one can use "crusade" as a non-proper noun to mean, "a cause pursued with zeal."

Then, Fran Lebowitz, one of those funky NYC literati, appeared with Brian Williams on MSNBC and declared that she likes nothing President Bush has said since the WTC collapse. Her shallow observation, at the root of her sensitive man ire, was that the President called the terrorists "folks." She scolded and clucked that "folks" is a term used when you have people over, not for terrorists. Her literal literary mind missed the charm. Calling bin Laden et al. "folks" has a certain wit. It's real men wit - sort of folksy.

Real men don't self-censor. Their language reflects the swagger. But, we've beaten the swagger out of men so that we have grovelers and blubberers. Dan Rather, sensitive man writ satellite, sobbed his way through an appearance on David Letterman. This picture of the American male ought to send the terrorist folks scurrying.

Afghanistan, with two working tanks and 16 aircraft, two of which are cannibalized for parts for the others, shows no fear in going to war with the United States, for they have seen sensitive man. Over 6,000 innocent lives were taken on our soil and the days since have been spent apologizing to Arab Americans, correcting phraseology and debating whether we should give peace a chance.

The terrorist folks have also witnessed 140 protests at campuses around the country demanding a "nonviolent" resolution. Tom Brokaw can now write: "The Most Sensitive Generation."

Negotiating with those who have already infiltrated your country is sensitive man military strategy. Giving bin Laden a good tongue-lashing is not going to break up worldwide terrorist cells. A sample of sensitive man negotiations: We promise to surrender the stock market if you promise to give us your box cutters and pilot licenses.

The sensitive man at war. Constrained in his language. Restrained in the use of force. Fretting over collateral damage. However, I did see Marines preparing to ship overseas. Their biceps defied the sleeves of their fatigues. Combat boots in lieu of blue tennis shoes. And just beneath white T-shirts at their nearly neckless shoulders, I saw hair peeking out from chests.

They cut a wide swath, these men on a crusade to rid us of some nasty folks, dead or alive. One said, "Bring it on." Well said, real man.

Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Her e-mail address is

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