AOC, GQ Magazine, and the Progressive’s View of Masculinity

GQ
The cover of the September 2022 issue of GQ Magazine

I don’t really like to get political here, but of the various venues I have access to, this one is the most appropriate. If this isn’t your thing, skip to the next blog post.

Today, I found out that NY Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appeared on the cover of GQ Magazine. I know, baffling, right?

Supposedly, GQ (Gentlemen’s Quarterly) reports on men’s fashion, style, grooming, fitness, and so forth. It was first launched in 1931, so it has a long history. In 1996, it started naming it’s “Men of the Year” which includes notables such as Mel Gibson, George Clooney, Michael Jordan, and Jerry Seinfeld.

This was a space generally by men and for men, but in our increasingly progressive world, men are not particularly supported or deemed worthy of having a “men space.” I mean, look at the Boy Scouts of America which now must admit girls.

The “misogyny” accusations tend to be the reason for these things. In a world where boys and men have become a bad taste in progressive mouths and any masculinity is “toxic masculinity,” small wonder that many homes are fatherless and boys are becoming more and more disenfranchised.

However, that’s only a fraction of what I want to discuss. In following all of this on twitter, folks criticizing “AOC’s” appearance on the cover and the detailed interview inside were (of course) accused of misogyny and racism, but also for “erasing a powerful Latina woman.”

Really? The first person I thought of in that context wasn’t AOC, it was Mayra Flores. AOC has touted her own “tragic backstory” for years, but Flores is a “Mexican immigrant who worked in cotton fields to pay for school supplies.”

FloresShe is also a Christian, pro-God, pro-life, pro-work ethic. The only problem is that she belongs to the “wrong” political party, so she’ll never be on the cover of GQ. You just better not call her a “taco.”

Another name came up during the twitter “conversation,” Rep. Lauren Underwood. She’s a black woman who was first elected in the same year AOC was. I decided to take a look at the political record of these three women. Flores was elected just this year, so she hasn’t had much time to do anything, so I set her record aside.

I went to Govtrack.us and looked them both up. For the record, they’re both Democrats, so I’m not pitting one party against the other so much I’m asking why was AOC was chosen for the cover of GQ and not Underwood.

A high level look at AOC’s record shows she’s a Democrat aligned pretty much to the far-left, not having a lot in common with most other Dems.

She has three Committee memberships, has recently sponsored seven bills, and has missed a significant number of votes (no reason given).

Underwood is also a Democrat but is positioned squarely in the middle ideologically. She has two Committee memberships, has enacted five bills which she has sponsored, has recently introduced seven more bills, and is generally (but not always) present for votes.

Remember, these two women took office at the same time.

So why AOC? Unless you’ve been hiding under a proverbial rock or have been completely absent from social media for the past several years, her name is all over the place. She has a tendency to make outrageous statements and then when there is media pushback, she plays the racist and misogyny cards.

Underwood
Promotional photo of Rep. Lauren Underwood

The article written by Wesley Lowery is quite lengthy but fortunately, I’m a fast reader. If you click the link, you don’t really have to read much. The photos of AOC are spectacular. Really, she’s depicted as somewhere between a fashion model and a mythic goddess. The production credits at the bottom of the page list all of the people responsible for making her look so fantastic.

Still struggling to figure out why AOC? Part of the reason is she wanted to talk about her understanding of “masculinity” (hence a “man’s” magazine, I guess). Here are some quotes from the article:

“For almost every woman that has gotten an abortion, there’s a man who has either been affected or liberated by that abortion too,” she told me. “In this moment it’s really only going to be the vulnerability of men, and men talking to other men, that gives us the greatest hope of shifting things the fastest, soonest.”

Yes, abortions have let a lot of men “off the hook” in terms of taking responsibility for their own sexual behavior and the natural consequence: parenthood. While AOC (and a lot of guys) may see that as a good thing, it also has fostered a culture of casual sex with no consequences. As long as abortion on demand is available, men and women are both “free” to take sex for granted and the “hook up” culture thrives. Is that really desirable though?

Another quote:

But men also keep quiet, Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, because of the burdens and antiquated expectations of masculinity. Feminist writers and thinkers have raised this notion for decades, pointing out how men themselves are victimized by toxic societal constructs. “Men suffer from being under patriarchy,” the congresswoman said. “They don’t go to the doctor. They suffer from much higher rates of completed suicides. Even though they report lower levels of depression, that doesn’t mean that they suffer from it less. Just a couple years ago the American Psychological Association released a very deep paper and a campaign about how these traditional cultural markers of masculinity—stoicism, competition, domination, dominance—are leading to mental health issues for men. There’s a stigma around men being vulnerable.”

The key to combating that stigma, she said, is for men to talk directly with other men. “I think something that’s really powerful for men is to share their stories of growth.”

In past decades, I’ve read feminist articles that said feminism is a positive for both women and men for some of the reasons stated above. I don’t think the current incarnation operates that way, and in fact, on twitter, I was criticized for stating that men also benefit from having their own spaces (as “GQ” formerly was).

Along with misogyny, “the patriarchy” is deemed hazardous, toxic, and systemic and the only way to remove that barrier is to remove men, at least in some respects. Having men talk to other men about their issues…well, if we aren’t supposed to have our own spaces, where does that happen?

Yes, men are vulnerable to a host of issues, and yes, the “self-made man,” “tough guy” stereotypes may be part of all that, but I’ve encountered very few men in my life who were stereotypes or “social constructs.” Believe it or not, we’re real human beings. Maybe the answer to those issues is not “demonizing” men, deconstructing our importance in the family and especially as Dads and Grandpas.

As long as men and particularly white men are seen exclusively as “the problem that needs to be removed” as the following articles attest, then AOC’s encouraging words about men ring hollow: What are we talking about when we talk about white men?, Toxic White masculinity, post-truth politics and the COVID-19 infodemic, and A Privilege of Silence: White Men Have Not Done Enough to Call Out the Toxic Perpetrators Who are White Men.

AOC says:

“There are amazing men in this world, and not men as a final product. There are men on incredible journeys, internal journeys, journeys of transcending beyond just anger as the acceptable masculine emotion,” she would tell me in a subsequent conversation. “Men who dive into their compassion, into their sadness, into their insecurity and explore it and work through it.”

She may even believe that statement, but besides this one article, her (and her contemporaries in political life) public commentaries about “white men,” “misogyny,” and “the patriarchy,” don’t reflect this. As long as men are thought of as stereotypes, as a bunch of loaded guns on legs, as long as all of us are blamed for the actions of a few, then what she just said above…I don’t know who she thinks she’s talking about. Probably no one I know. Maybe no one she knows.

AOC was raped in her early twenties which actually explains many of her attitudes and understandably so. She didn’t report the assault which is common for many reasons. However… (emph below is mine):

Ocasio-Cortez never reported her assault, a choice she knows is familiar for many women and one she said she’d make the same way today. “If the vast majority of sexual assaults happen by a familiar person, the last thing you’re going to want to do is throw someone in jail,” she said. “There is an intersection with the work of abolition and healing and contending with the fact that we as people are capable of doing harm, but we are also capable of healing from harm.”

Part of that healing, though, is the acknowledgment and accountability that she was denied. “Whatever the given circumstances of a situation, if a person is hurt or harmed it’s important to hold space for it, and it’s very, very, very difficult to hold space for a hurt person when you are the one they are saying hurt them,” she replied when I asked how she’d advise a man in her life to respond were he confronted with an allegation of assault. “A lot of these people are not having these conversations with a pitchfork. These are people that very often are trying to heal, and they’re saying, ‘Did what happened, happen?’ It’s not How do we punish? but How do we process, and how do we heal, and how do we change?

In Christianity, we are taught to forgive those who have sinned against us. Jesus forgave his executioners. However, forgiveness is not reconciliation and it does not mean “no consequences.” By showing this sort of mercy to her attacker, by believing having him arrested, tried, convicted, and incarcerated was “punishment” and not “healing,” she is leaving out the part where he goes on to rape other women.

How do we heal and how do we change doesn’t work if a violent attacker is allowed to continue to victimize women with no consequences and certainly no motivation to “heal and change.”

gq
From the September 2022 issue of GQ Magazine.

Why AOC?

While she isn’t necessarily an effective lawmaker, she is very public. You probably know her name even if you know the names of few other Representatives. Since she’s well-known and an icon of the far-left, she’s a natural choice to appear on the cover of GQ and to talk about “masculinity.” It’s a masculinity that’s filtered through her own experiences, biases, and particularly through her own issues. It’s a masculinity that many of us wouldn’t recognize. I guess that’s why she’s right about one thing. Men need to talk to other understanding men about their issues, not to her.

Much of the article is AOC marketing, portraying her in the most positive light possible. I guess that was to add credibility to her statements when, for most of her political career, her public persona was anything but credible. That’s why I’m having a hard time swallowing  anything the article’s author wrote about her.

While Underwood is also a Democrat, she does not make headlines and she’s not a leftist lightning rod. Flores is a Republican, new to the game, sometimes very visible and vocal, but doesn’t represent the politics current widespread media espouses.

Since AOC is seemingly concerned about the plights of men, and since I normally present religious topics and their related secular issues here, I should probably talk about how to actually overcome the issues men face in 21st century western culture. I’ve written enough for one day, but here’s something to get you started for a future blog post: What Are the Characteristics of a Man of God in the 21st Century?

Oh, will AOC ever become President? Personally, I shudder to think.

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