The Warrior or Wuss myth: How to grow a patriarchal hero
Within the patriarchal mythos of the hero, there lies a strong destructive variant aimed point-blank to men and boys in our society. The high-stakes story of Warrior or Wuss gives men and boys essentially two roles to play in life and, obviously, the warrior role is highly favored as the wisest choice by patriarchy. The Warrior or Wuss narrative tells boys and men they must act like a warrior, a hero, or a winner, to prove they are:
- truly a man,
- unquestionably masculine,
- a “boy’s boy,” a “man’s man,” or a “real man” to anyone who might be looking.
To prove you are a real guy, chock-full of all our masculine cultural norms, the Warrior or Wuss narrative states that a male must act like a warrior from the time he is a child into his declining years. To be born male is simply not enough to demonstrate masculinity in a patriarchal culture. Instead, patriarchy continually tells boys and men the story that they have “earn” or “prove” their maleness—and they can only do that by acting like a warrior.
Patriarchy also claims that masculinity is a slippery character trait for males to hang on to. No matter, if a guy has acquiesced to stepping into the warrior strait-jacket, his masculinity, manhood, or even intrinsic maleness is still precarious; it may still be in question at any time in the future. And, if a male’s masculinity is in question or challenged, he is in danger of being labeled and treated as a wuss.
Who you calling a wuss???
The role and label of wuss—a very effective stigma—can be laid upon any boy or man that resists sacrificing a full emotional life, connectivity, vulnerability, sensitivity, and intimacy. A boy or man may also be called a wuss because he chooses not to be aggressive, wants to be gentle, or hesitates to dominate another.
There is real constant pressure to conform to being a warrior because being a wuss puts a guy into the social role of a nobody or a loser. This rigid social denigration can happen externally at any time depending on who a boy or man is with at the time, as well as through internal self-criticism. The onslaught rarely lifts due to the continual push from this patriarchal conditioning.
A wuss is typically categorized as:
- passive, submissive, or compliant
- physically weak, or reacting to pain (emotional or physical)
- “girly” which can mean softer physical features, being good friends with girls/women, or exhibiting supposed “metro-sexual” behaviors
- and exhibiting emotion, vulnerability, or fear.
A boy or man may also be labeled a wuss if he is perceived as:
- being a coward or a push-over,
- failing to show other boys or men that he can “boss”women,
- showing emotional sensitivity or caring
- being non-aggressive in business dealings
- or seen as an “easy target.”
On the flip side, to act like a warrior, and claim masculinity, this widespread cultural myth dictates the following to boys and men:
- act tough
- always be in control of yourself and strive to control others
- be forceful, be “hard”
- display rage, anger, or ruthlessness
- don’t take “no” for an answer,
- be impervious to pain or fear (“shake-it-off” quickly)
- don’t back off or down (keep going, “never say die”) when pushed to extremes
- don’t be emotional, don’t show any vulnerabilities;
- spring into decisive action at a moment’s notice
- be willing to hurt or harm others (not limited to physically)
- act as though you are generally superior to certain others
- and remain alert to any or all threats to your status, position, or manhood.
The Warrior or Wuss myth gets promoted through social entities that are rooted in control, competition, violence, and dominance—the military, corporate America, politics, law enforcement, and sports such as football, wrestling, boxing, ice hockey, and, increasingly, basketball and baseball. However, this myth simply pervades our lives. Thus, it’s trumpeted through our media, in our daily lives, in our schools, and by natural extension, in our homes.
This chart offers familiar portrayals of the polar opposites that Warrior or Wuss myth promotes: