The Man: a Compilation
June 10, 2021 7:03 AM   Subscribe

The Man: a Compilation. A poem by Rebecca Hazelton about the particular man that many women have not encountered, but know regardless.
posted by Drastic (38 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
 
I’m glad this person wrote this piece. I’m guessing this is at least in part based on David Foster Wallace, due to graduation speech and table throwing?
posted by rogerroger at 7:12 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I’m guessing this is at least in part based on David Foster Wallace

I had Junot Diaz and Sherman Alexie floating in and out of my consciousness while reading. It's a compilation, so I guess that's the whole point.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:33 AM on June 10 [16 favorites]


this thread is going to turn into a running commentary on all the men, isn't it?

I suppose that is the point. Man here, I sure feel this poem. Sending it to my niece.
posted by elkevelvet at 7:44 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]


I found it interesting that sometimes she integrated male bad behaviour into her composite and sometimes she set particular examples of it outside the composite and had the composite react to it -- in particular the Louis CK and Matt Lauer stories are reacted to. I'd be interested to know what sets them apart. Do all the other stories come from someone in the literary world? Are Louis CK and Matt Lauer just so much more famous that they seem to stand apart from the more "ordinary" abusers?
posted by jacquilynne at 7:46 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I think it was to point out how the egregious actions of some bad men serve as cover for others. Maybe he groped you, but he never had a desk button!

Anyway hoo boy this was good.
posted by emjaybee at 7:57 AM on June 10 [19 favorites]


this thread is going to turn into a running commentary on all the men, isn't it?

In before I am a flawed man, but I am not this man.

p.s. First to post a "not all men" comment gets a special little prize from me.
p.p.s The prize is my unyielding and everlasting disdain.
posted by phunniemee at 7:58 AM on June 10 [71 favorites]


Women are the context against which men are men.

ooof.
posted by suelac at 8:02 AM on June 10 [12 favorites]


sometimes she set particular examples of it outside the composite and had the composite react to it

But that's the pattern with men. The really egregious things that come out in public? Of course we decry that and say "how could he" because it makes us seem like allies. Does that cause us to examine our OWN behavior? No, it doesn't, because we wouldn't ever want to think that what WE do is abusive.

At the very far end of this spectrum is SNL's "Girl at a Bar" sketch.
posted by hanov3r at 8:09 AM on June 10 [7 favorites]


To be clear, I am not questioning her reason for doing that -- I recognize the pattern that she's demonstrating. I just wonder if there's something that connects the examples that she sets outside of her composite man versus the ones she retained inside.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:13 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


That line stuck with me as well, suelac. I spent some time in the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Lots to unpack.

There has always been a not even hidden undercurrent of toxic masculinity that instead of being brazen, hot, chest thumping is this insipid, depressed, callow youth, power broker, temper, explosion, explain endlessly style.

edit: It is probable to look at where Rebecca went to do her MFA and/or taught and what famous, problematic male writers were around then and puzzle out who's being talked about.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:13 AM on June 10 [5 favorites]


Are Louis CK and Matt Lauer just so much more famous that they seem to stand apart from the more "ordinary" abusers?

The loud denouncing of truly beyond-the-pale behavior is one way in which The Men like this man justify the OK-ness of their own behavior.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:13 AM on June 10 [21 favorites]


I’m glad this person wrote this piece. I’m guessing this is at least in part based on David Foster Wallace, due to graduation speech and table throwing?

And love of footnotes.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 8:43 AM on June 10 [8 favorites]


Who's not being talked about in this piece? There are so many candidates, not all of whom have been publicly discussed yet. I also thought of Junot Diaz, who came to Kenyon fairly recently and was embarrassingly fangirled by the faculty member (a woman) introducing him at the largest of the events of that week. I have wondered since then how she feels about the behaviors that were detailed in several articles not very long after that visit, it sucks to realize you are complicit in abusive systems. Abusers depend so much on our shame and complicity.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:44 AM on June 10 [7 favorites]


I just wonder if there's something that connects the examples that she sets outside of her composite man versus the ones she retained inside.

Perhaps those examples had the most distinctive "oh, yeah, I know who she's talking about" details. Consider: if she had been trying to hint at Harvey Weinstein, what details could she have dropped that were "unique" enough for us to know that we were talking about him as opposed to, say, Woody Allen?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:47 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


The loud denouncing of truly beyond-the-pale behavior is one way in which The Men like this man justify the OK-ness of their own behavior.

I totally caught myself thinking, "well I'm not as bad as that guy" as I read it as if being better than Woody Allen is really an accomplishment.
posted by octothorpe at 9:07 AM on June 10 [18 favorites]


"Every woman knows the man."
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 9:09 AM on June 10 [9 favorites]


I don't think the poet is dropping hints about particular unnamed men we are supposed to guess. I say this because the poem specifically criticizes "raising meaningful eyebrows / innuendo / waving red flags in complicated patterns" as being insufficient.

By the end of the poem I think it is clear that the poem is about #yesallmen. And we men should receive it that way, instead of trying to name the Bad Men who are not ourselves.
posted by splitpeasoup at 9:14 AM on June 10 [46 favorites]


This poem makes me want to passive-aggressively link all the "feminist" essays by the people who have been Those Men in my life, but none of them ever threw a coffee table at me so I still don't feel justified, plus I'm certain the public response will range from underwhelming to victim-blamey. Which I guess means the terrorists win? I don't know.

FUCK that guy, though.
posted by All hands bury the dead at 9:18 AM on June 10 [7 favorites]


I suppose that is the point.

I see it as a chance to reflect and recognize oneself, even if it's only in a few lines about "other men".
posted by bonehead at 9:19 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


You know what would instantly and permanently end the bad behaviour of bad men everywhere? If all #notallmen would instantly and forevermore speak up and shut down bad bahaviour whenever their peers act it out. If you just stand there and let it go, you're #yesallmen

What do allies do? Allies Speak Up.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:53 AM on June 10 [11 favorites]


seanmpuckett, I get why you think this strategy is going to be helpful, and to a certain degree it is, but the way men exploit this strategy is specified in the poem itself. Speaking up about peers' bad behavior is a tactic that Those Men use to make themselves look like allies while they continue to exploit women's socially-conditioned vulnerability and then blame these women for not adequately resisting that conditioning. I wish this were not the case. I wish there was ANYTHING cis men could do to actually be one of the "good ones." Without apologies to Aristotle, call no man feminist until he is dead.

The reality is that grooming, coercion, and taking empty consent at face value is invisible to most people who haven't experienced it firsthand in a gendered context. If you think you know what bad behavior looks like, great. Call it out. But also be ready to believe women about what counts as bad behavior, and expand your definitions accordingly.
posted by All hands bury the dead at 10:37 AM on June 10 [21 favorites]


There were so many points in reading this that reminded me of my father. In particular the asides about being an artist (as mine is one). As far as I'm aware he is not a groomer or a sexual harasser, but many of the other parts of that particular man fit.
posted by Captaintripps at 11:26 AM on June 10


They say, ha ha, listen, can you please believe me.

One day, years later, a woman is at a party telling her funny, funny story, and another woman says, god, I’m so sorry that happened to you.

She pauses, her glass still jauntily raised. She’d been ready to deliver the punch line, but now she can’t.

She’s angry at the other woman for misunderstanding.

She does not want it to be a thing that happened to her.

She does not want to be the punch line.



The first and last lines I quoted here really got me.
posted by Emmy Rae at 11:48 AM on June 10 [13 favorites]


This dynamic is 100% not limited to the arts either. Happens in all the industries I've been involved in when men get even a scrap of power.
posted by LegallyBread at 11:50 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


The man had several terrible things happen to him as a child. No one doubts this and no one should.

The man began as a boy, and that’s the tragedy.


This part dropped into my gut like a boulder. I have loved and been friends with and am related to many men who have said precisely this sort of thing when they are called out for the very messed up and totally inexcusable shit they pull. It's heartbreaking, and it's got to stop.

The troubles with toxic masculinity begin very early on in life and it's pretty much always too little too late by the time anyone notices or says or does anything about any of it.

We need to figure out how to deal with and destroy this poisonous stuff when and where it starts because by the time that boy becomes a man the man is a mess.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 12:16 PM on June 10 [11 favorites]


When I was a girl, my mom and I we always talked
And I picked flowers everywhere that I walked.
And I could always cry, now even when I'm alone I seldom do
And I have lost some kindness
But I was a girl too.
And you were just like me, and I was just like you
***
I'm fond of saying "a boy/girl must learn what a man/woman must know;" but I mean that like "lighting a campfire with one match" or "how to hold a colicky baby" or "righty tighty" or "how reproduction works" or "frying an egg." I wish it didn't have to mean "the bullied become the bullies" or "watch your back" as well.

I'm going to read this again, and slower, but my initial reading made me think of the Dar Williams song where the singer misses her time as a boy, and finds that a "nice man" similarly misses his time as a girl.
posted by adekllny at 12:46 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


Oof. Brilliant and horrible. Thank you for posting it.
posted by bcd at 2:44 PM on June 10


"I hated men because they didn’t stay around and love me like a father: I could prick holes in them & show they were no father-material. I made them propose and then showed them they hadn’t a chance. I hated men because they didn’t have to suffer like a woman did. They could die or go to Spain. They could have fun while a woman had birth pangs. They could gamble while a woman skimped on the butter on the bread. Men, nasty lousy men."

-Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (edited by men)

After Hazeltons' poem, I thought of Ted Hughes and about 100 others.
posted by clavdivs at 3:01 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: A Running Commentary On All the Men
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:19 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


"There was no right woman to tell the story"....
Painful but completely accurate, across all industries.
posted by winesong at 4:11 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


Wow, this is one of the most powerful posts I've ever seen on the Blue. I'm a man, I can relate, and I know I've been guilty of some transgressions on this spectrum.

One thing I've not seen commented on here is the frequent mention of drug and alcohol abuse/overuse in so many points in this story. While drug/alcohol abuse in no way justifies any of this horrible behavior, I think it's worth noting that much of this behavior comes out when abusing these substances.

A lot of my justification, or even awareness, of misogynistic behavior, became apparent once I addressed my alcohol and drug dependency. And recovery has made me a much less horrible representative of the gender. And thank the gods I was raised by a wonderful, strong, loving Irish mother, which always reminded me that any maltreatment of women was just wrong, period.

And finally, the extract from Sylvia Plath's journals: some of the best and most heartbreaking words I've ever read on what it is to be a woman in a man's world.
posted by lometogo at 1:17 AM on June 11


david foster wallace

derek walcott

harold bloom


junot diaz


j.d. salinger

philip roth


philip roth's biographer


roger bonair-agard


thanks for this post--i've been writing an essay about a former friend of mine, and about how/why i stayed friends with him for so long, even when all of his former partners started speaking out about the emotional and verbal abuse they suffered from him.
posted by what does it eat, light? at 7:51 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


The link that what does it eat, light? posted re: DFW eventually leads to this remarkable bit of apologia from his biographer (in this Atlantic interview):
That's one of the most shocking things you discovered: that he considered—granted in a half-baked manner—murdering Karr's then-husband. He later went on to have a tumultuous relationship with her.

Yes, certainly. I didn't know that David had that in him. I was surprised, in general, with the intensity of violence in his personality. It was something I knew about him when I wrote The New Yorker piece, but it grew on me. It made me think harder about David and creativity and anger. But on the other end of the spectrum, he was also this open, emotional guy, who was able to cry, who intensely loved his dogs. He was all those things. That, in part, is why he's a really fascinating guy and an honor to write about.
"loved his dogs." One hesitates to make comparisons with History's Greatest Monster--or one should--but FFS.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:23 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


I knew someone in person like this, and also this could apply to Hugo uh S-something.
posted by XtinaS at 9:48 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Oh, boy, dissing the ex-girlfriend! If EVER there was a red flag..
I was out once with a guy who wouldn’t stop talking about his car. He purposely kept on, after I told him to stop. I said, “stop the car right here; I’ll walk.”
Shortest date and best escape I ever had.
posted by BostonTerrier at 12:31 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


It is probable to look at where Rebecca went to do her MFA and/or taught and what famous, problematic male writers were around then and puzzle out who's being talked about.

Doesn’t parsing the poem for clues, trying to tease out explicitly who Hazelton is referring to sort of do the same thing she brings up in the poem, the taking of a woman, a writer and poet in her own right, and making her a footnote in the man’s story? I get that there’s the sort of implicit invitation to do so by titling it a compilation, but even with specific examples like the table throwing, the behavior this amalgam displays is so damn common that each step of it feels like the naming of a trope of abuse, of being something repeated by uncountable numbers of men at all levels and walks of life, but so heavily sanctified and accepted because “art,” this is still her story, and it’s an amazing one.

I’m pretty torn on this. The names need to be repeated, the actions need to be recognized and condemned, the system that allows these men to continue to exploit the positions that have been granted to them needs to be utterly changed, if not burned to the ground. But Hazleton has written something remarkable here, and I wonder if some of how much I’m impressed by and in awe of the poem is that she’s kind of daring the reader to start looking for clues and continuing the tradition of making female authors the footnote while discussing their own work.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:57 PM on June 11 [7 favorites]


>The names need to be repeated, the actions need to be recognized and condemned, the system that allows these men to continue to exploit the positions that have been granted to them needs to be utterly changed, if not burned to the ground

I suggest 'yes, and...' for this, so that until we have a reckoning describing the truth and making people reconcile their actions with the consequences, #yesallmen will know that people talk and that people won't excuse all the horrible things described in the poem.
posted by k3ninho at 2:31 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


"The devil of it is, a man said in his colleague’s office, that no one else is writing the books that the man is writing.

She agrees. No one else is writing those books.

But, she says, we can’t read the books that aren’t written."


So much of this poem is infuriating to me (in the intended way), and this one always hits me so hard. In this context, and within the context of "own voices" vs. appropriation. How many promising female writers were beat down by/dismissed by manipulative "iconic" men? How many artists of colour were told that their voices weren't as strong as the white artists pandering another culture's story? How many barriers exist that mean only the privileged few continue to publish, while the rest perish?
posted by Paper rabies at 1:32 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


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