Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Standing Down (The Glorious Failure of John Ozkirbas)

Last week, B. Graham posted her explanation for the female fascination with (not necessarily) flamboyant foot-wear. An immediate reaction (mine included) was to compare this feminine obsession to something, for the most part, considered more masculine - suits. 

Of course! There are immediate parallels between the feelings B. Graham spoke of and the attraction to a well tailored, finely spun, streamlined set of threads. To my dismay, however, this comparison ultimately falls flat on its face when compared to the near religious fervor, dedication, and drug-like dependance encompassing an American woman's relationship with shoes. Apparently, men used to have a similar (although, not completely congruent) partnership with ties. But, the world has pressed on towards the casual, leaving the poor necktie dangling limply in the wind, hurt and abandoned  - like that annoying friend of whom you can only stand in specific, rare contexts. Confused, torn, and obsessed with dualism, I set out on a personal journey to discover man-culture's shoe-equivalent.

I barreled recklessly down a major highway, as my '60-something Chevy Impala roared in frightful dissonance, and lit a cuban cigar the size of the New York City skyline in search of satisfaction. I swung a baseball bat, went to the gym, wore a hat, grilled a steak, carved some poultry, peed in public, downed an entire fifth of whiskey, got a gun and went shooting, wrote a short-story drenched in naturalism, fist-fought with a stranger, climbed an active volcano, rescued a baby from a burning building, shaved my beard off and grew it back, got a tattoo and had it removed, read Jason's entire comic book collection, pulled off a heist at a nearby bank, got a job, climbed to the top of the corporate ladder, and fired everyone, memorized a Hemmingway novel, built an entire car by myself, went to jail and was let out on good behavior, dueled a fellow with swords, got married, then divorced, killed a man and bragged about it, conceived a child and raised it to adulthood, became a pro-quarterback and quit, earned one million dollars and blew it all on leisure suits and Vegas, developed cancer just to beat it with shear will-power, started a conflict with a neighboring country, detonated a WMD just to see what would happen, committed seppuku out of familial shame, and rose again just in time for class on Monday.

Apparently, when I blow up a WMD it flips off the world

...And, all of that is a complete lie (aside from carving up some poultry). But, it demonstrates the power of verbs, which is actually fairly relevant when addressing this issue. Because, whereas women are very much conditioned to look pretty and accessorize, men are, instead, conditioned to do things. And that may well explain why there is no "shoe-equivalent."

It's no secret. Look at advertising - ads are the perfect window for everything society expects you to do/be. Children's ads are the best - they'll lay out everything in clear, concise wording meticulously chosen to ensure that kids and parents alike can understand them. Boy ads involve props, tools, toys that move, and active verbs like "play," "run," "chase," and, "hit." Girl adds involve smiling, jewelry, sitting around, and passive verbs like, "sit," "dream," and "wait." Watch out for Halloween ads for children - they're a treat to behold. Our world is a giant play-zone.

So, we do things and, therefore, you'll find separate "types" of guys (which often blend together) who share at least similar-styled obsessions:

Hat Guy - He'll always be wearing one, possibly owning many
Sports Guy - A rabid "sports fan" who watches Sports Center constantly
Comic Book Guy - He not only loves comic books, but he'll keep them wrapped (and he'll know which ones are worth the wrapping)
Gun Guy - He collects guns. Or, has one he always talks about. 
The Boyfriend - Only does things with his girlfriend. And, when she's not around, she's all he talks about
The Gym Buff - He takes his protein shake to-go and measures and tabs his biceps daily
The Drinker - His pride is in his drinkin', his feats're many, and you've 'eard all o' them 'bout 47 times
Martial Arts Dude - Backflips, Nunchukus, and Tae Kwon Do. Any spare chance he gets. Even at inappropriate times.
Book-Worm Guy - He's always reading. And he's read everything.
The Starving Artist - His 9-5 is not his "job." His real job is living in the moment and watching indie flicks.
The Casanova - He's constantly talking and bragging about his sex-life, even when you know he's on a cold streak. 

... the list goes on and they're not exclusive to one sex. But, then again, neither are shoes and suits. These "types" are pervasive, demonstrating completely that the world is our figurative playground. But, it forces me to concede defeat - that there isn't just one male equivalent to shoes. And I stand down my search, bow my head in shame, and admit:

It might be sex with us. That might be the one thing most guys will obsess over and pursue relentlessly.

I once heard a guy from somewhere say:

"Anything great anyone has ever done was for sex" - Anon.

That's very stereotypical, freudian, and simplistic. Boiling down all human behavior to ungratified, sexual impulses is something I generally contest. Why can by demonstrated by something said by one of my favorite teachers:

"Here's why Freud always 'wins.' Anything deeper than it is wide will always be phallic. And anything wider than it is deep will always be vaginal" - Verlyn Flieger

It's just too simple and easy. I, also, don't want to corner the market around sex as male only. It's a given - men are conditioned to want and have sex, where women are "supposed" to not want sex, but have it anyway (you should shift a little on the inside). But, that's breaking down, too. Slowly.

So here's my concession. In all of it's glory and splendor. I lose. Faceless abstract concept, you win again. Last time it was about holograms and the universe. This time, it's about shoes.


AZ Winer said...

For my own interest, I have taken Oz's list of things males do and picked out the ones I've actually done:

- I swung a baseball bat
- wore a hat
- grilled a steak
- carved some poultry
- peed in public

I feel a little unsatisfied.

ali d said...

It's about damn time Verlyn Flieger got a mention on this blog.

Jason Heat said...

My man list:

- barreled recklessly down a major highway
- I swung a baseball bat
- went to the gym
- wore a hat
- grilled a steak
- carved some poultry
- peed in public (though i HATE doing so)
- shaved my beard off and grew it back
- read Jason's entire comic book collection

I REALLY want to count fencing as the sword duel, but it prob doesn't...

AZ Winer said...

nah ah jason...

it says, "I barreled recklessly down a major highway, as my '60-something Chevy Impala roared in frightful dissonance,"

I doubt your driving of a 1960's something chevy impala (why chevy impala??)

and i doubt even YOU have read YOUR entire comic collection... haha ~

also - oz - are you saying woman like shoes out of some sexual desire/fulfillment??

B.Graham said...

I would not contest the sexual desire/fulfillment we may or may not get out of shoes. And the Chevy Impala is what Neil Cassady and Jack Kerouac drove across the country, I'm almost positive.

Here's my man list:
swung a baseball bat
went to the gym
grilled a steak
peed in public
got a gun and went shooting
got a job

ali d said...

Well, sometimes buying a really great new pair of shoes is better than sex....

My man list:

Swung a bat
Hat (sometimes at a SPORTING EVENT, no less)
Grilled steak
Carved poultry
Peed in public
Gun shooting
Got a job
Dueled with swords
And I punched one of the CS carpenters in the face once - does that count?

I have to say, I think your conclusion is a stretch. Boys are expected to DO things, and thus do not have a common defining accessory because they all like doing different things? And doing these things is supposed to make them manly, while all a girl has to do is buy shoes, sit around, and dream to be girly? I see little correlation between your man categories and your original quest for a man-empowering accessory.

And while I understand the link you find between man/sex and women/shoes, I know a lot of girls who want sex more often than their partner is willing to give them.

So basically I call bullshit - you're right, you failed in your search. Sorry.

ali d said...

That came out more harshly than I meant it - apologies.

B.Graham said...

Ali makes a point. Shoes warrant togetherness and companionship, not bragging rights. I just meant we feel sexy in shoes. I think suits is the closest comparison you're going to get here.

Jason Heat said...

You know, I should have commented back then and didn't, but I read your thing and still don't understand the shoes deal at all. Everything you wrote is totally valid but still doesn't explain the uniform fascination and obsession with shoes or the fervor in which they are pursued by nearly 50% of our population and often cross culturally. There simply is no male equivalent - suits can't possibly considered as such given that as vehement some people may be about them, already half of our guy gents said not a big deal.

The mystery of shoes isn't why they are popular, but why to SO MANY PEOPLE. I don't adhere to the idea that almost ANY gender stereotype is actually true, except possibly this one.

As such, it is baffling to me on a sociological level.
Not bad, but inexplicable.

Ozkirbas said...

My (Actual) Man List:
- Swung a baseball bat
- Gym
- Hat
- Grilled a Steak
- Carved Poultry
- Peed in Public
- Got a gun, went shooting
- Climbed a [waterfall]
- Shaved my beard off and grew it back
- Got a job
- Dueled with swords

(Given, the impression I was trying to give is that I, supposedly, did all this in the course of a weekend)

Adam -
a. Older Chevy Impalas are classic muscle cars. They're loud and manly.
b. Heh. Absolutely not. But, other people might disagree.

Ali -
It IS a little bit of a stretch. Otherwise, I don't think it would have been a complete failure. The correlation is harder to see, of course. But, concerning the socialization of men and women, the activity/passivity dynamic is the fundamental difference between how the two sexes are taught to exist. So, you need to change the scope a bit. You can stay with strict accessory if you want, but you'll easily find it to be a dead end. Suits may be the closest - however when positing that question to several others (men and women alike) I met pretty adamant refusal. Given, it might have just been a select group. However, that in itself leads me to focus on select "types" of men - of which, at least I found, to be routed in the devotion to their little obsessions, most of which concern what they actively do. That isn't to say women don't, but only that men definitely do, almost universally.

The list itself was mostly to demonstrate a point -they're very loose, incomplete constructs (not entirely to be taken seriously). It's mostly meant to show the prevalence of activities guys are encouraged to care nearly as much about as women care about shoes - 'cause we're not encouraged to care about much else. It's not perfect, but it's the closest I could get and I could only get here by focusing on "action."

As with sex? I don't contest that. Hell, I totally agree - it shows the disparity between what society expects and the truth in a fatal fact. (Note: I do suggest that the distinction I made has been progressively weakening. However, the message is certainly still out there)

You can't call bullshit (F+), then try and play nice. Not on THESE GENTLEMEN. (kidding.)

- For guys, bragging rights warrant companionship and togetherness. You ensure your place in the masculine social hierarchy by telling stories about what you do (or being involved in what a given group decides to do) so that you're taken more seriously or generally wanted around. Otherwise, no one will care about what happens to you. It's more similar than it appears at its face, don't you think?

Nevie Brooks. said...

god i remember the time i shaved off my beard and grew it back again. it was right after i downed my hungryman, let out a hefty belch, and turned on sportscenter.
...sadly i've done all of those things in succession except the beard.

in all seriousness, i'm not entirely sure why i will spend embarassing amounts of money on shoes because the displays in stores are always so colorful. :-[
i always end up rotating between the same 3 pairs anyway, but boy, do i like bright colors.

B.Graham said...

@Jason: Deep down, all girls want to look pretty, and shoes do that for us. That's all there is to it.

Miasma said...

I don't give a crap about buying prettyshoes. If they're pretty, it has nothing to do with what my feet will feel or look like wearing them. I've seen some aesthetically interesting foot attire which looks like ASS when on the foot. This is confusing. You see, ass is ass. (that shall be my only reference to the post's sexual assertions.)

I love my leather boots that I wear when I'm welding. I like them because they keep my feet from catching on fire. And I don't want to be put in a box because I weld, or have not money to waste on popular shoes, or because I model when I'm not welding.

Chris Evans said...

Shoes are aesthetically pleasing. So the best male equivalent that I can think of is probably cars.

But those are sort of used as a status symbol, so maybe it's not completely analogous.

Then again, much of male socialization is about out macho-ing each other, so even when it's about something looking "pretty" I suppose there's no way to get around the competition and bragging rights.

I think though, that shoes (and shopping in general) can be a form of comfort, and shoes are an easy target. I'm reminded of a line from Toni Collette's character in "In Her Shoes"

"When I feel bad I like to treat myself. Clothes never look any good... food just makes me fatter... shoes always fit."

So in that sense, it's a bit different because guys can't exactly go out and buy a new car every time they feel bad lol.

Actually, now that I think about it, I remember getting into a huge argument with someone a while back over whether it was smarter for women to spend loads of money on expensive shoes or men to spend loads of money on expensive cars.

Personally I can't see how anyone couldn't appreciate the magic of a Christian Louboutin.


Chris Evans said...

Also, I don't think John was saying women have less sexual desire than men, but rather that they're expected to.

Jason Heat said...

Interesting. There is nothing I can immediately think of that i can just buy and feel better. The immediate answer is comics, but it doesn't actually work like that - I enjoy the act of reading them, but even then I can get frustrated if their bad. And buying comics is certainly not enough to get me out of a bad mood.

I guess food is the other obvious answer but whatever short term satisfaction I get is certainly negated by the immediate regreat and self loathing.

So. I guess I understand more why i just don't understand.

Meg said...

Frankly, I think all this only really proves that John Ozkirbas is, in fact, Errol Flynn. That is all.

Jason Heat said...

Well, if John is Errol Flynn, who are the rest of us?

Ozkirbas said...

@Chris - Thanks. That's exactly what I was trying to say

@ Jason - Materialism?

@Everyone -

Ya hear that? Errol. Flynn. Boom. Good day.

Alex said...

Hm, I don't think I can agree with the shoe-shopping-as-therapy argument. As much as I love shoes, I consider shopping for them to be torture. Personally, I find buying cute underwear to be a much cheaper and more effective mood booster.

Jason Heat said...

@ John

I don't know that I understand your question.

Ozkirbas said...

@ Jason - I was wondering if the acceptance (or lack thereof) of materialism (or consumerism?) had something to do with the discrepancy between your love of comics and how they make you feel and a woman's love for shoes and how that makes them feel. In short, I was just wondering if that may be the integral difference between the two.

Jason Heat said...

I dunno - I'm loathe to make any grandiose statements like 'I'm immune to materialism' or 'girls are a product of that' because I don't think either are true.

It may be more an individual aspect of my personality that makes finding enjoyment or satisfaction more difficult.

I don't feel accomplished buying things and accomplishment is really the positive feeling that drives me, along with validation.

B.Graham said...

@chris - hear hear!

Capt. said...

My List: to swell my head.

-Swung a Bat for a home run
-Grilled a steak
-Climbed a Mountain
-Cooked steak over an open fire
-Jumped off a waterfall
-Put up a zip line and rode it down the waterfall.
-Bought and fired an AR-15 open sight at a target 150 yards away and grouped 10 rounds inside a 4" circle
-Wore a cowboy hat
-Paddled a canoe
-Got my Captains license
-Got my motorcycle license
-Climbed trees with chainsaws
- and course Dueled with swords and won