Three days in one

Mostly this posting is about Fathers Day, but today is also Commencement Day at Stanford and World Music Day in Palo Alto (and other places; here, music of all sorts — including shapenote singing in the Sacred Harp tradition — is performed in locations all over downtown Palo Alto). Then tomorrow comes Juneteenth, recognizing the emancipation of the slaves in the American South. Meanwhile, we’re in the middle of Pride Month.

Fathers Day is at root a commercial and sentimental holiday, officially devoted to a celebration of fathers and fatherhood, but equally devoted to a celebration of conventional, in fact stereotyped, modern American masculinity — gently mocked in this Bob Eckstein cartoon:


A commercial holiday parade, with giant floating balloons. For Fathers Day, a huge manly sandwich, a recliner chair for Dad, and power tools.

From last year, a manly tv spot for Stihl, makers of outdoor power equipment, which you can view here. Slogan: “Real Dads. Stihl Dads”, with offerings of trimmers, blowers, and chain saws (the last regularly referred to as “legendary”) for your “All-American dad”.

Classic Fathers Day gifts:

tools, hardware, and equipment (e.g., lawn mowers, esp. riding mowers), grilling equipment, barware, electronics, cameras, watches, wallets (of the duofold, bifold, or two-fold  variety, not like women’s wallets), gadgets (Swiss Army knives, etc.), men’s clothing (esp. ties and underwear), grooming items, men’s fragrances, sports gear, golf stuff, hunting and fishing stuff, sports fan items, car items, bike and motorcycle items, beer, whisk(e)y, steaks

Can you give chocolates to men? Possibly, if you give candy bars or M&M’s. But otherwise, probably not, though there’s a posting of mine with with a Rhymes With Orange cartoon offering absurdly masculine Fathers Day Whitman’s chocolates.

Can you give flowers to men? If they’re in the hospital, yes, but unless the recipient is gay, probaby not.

Contrast these Fathers Day presents with typical Mothers Day presents:

flowers, chocolates, brunch, breakfast in bed, perfume, lingerie, cosmetics, jewelry, cookbooks, kitchen gadgets, massage / spa visit, fruit basket

For men, the gifts are ostentatious trappings of modern American masculinity, with assertions of competence and expertise, while for women, the gifts, with one exception, offer sensuous pleasures. (The exception is items having to do with everyday and “fancy” cooking — that is, with “women’s work”.)

This massive gendering of artifacts extends to things that are equally appropriate for both sexes, but have male-oriented or female-oriented versions, separately marketed. Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky has passed on to me Tumblr postings on unnecessary gendering of products (toothpaste, bath soap, Q-tips, dog shampoo, earplugs, Mancan “wine in a can”, ManCandles, Bounce for men, face soap, toilet paper, Head and Shoulders shampoo (with the exact same ingredients, but the men’s version is is cheaper), etc. (Meanwhile, Bic has gone through pens for women, and on to lighters for women to use on candles, while men use them to start barbecue fires.)

Mancan has been scathingly reviewed on the Barstool Sports site, under the heading “Mancan – Men Should Drink Shitty Wine Out Of A Can So They Don’t Look Gay?”:


“Thought up by a guy who lives in an old firehouse, walks to work with his dog, has two bikes and a trike, and wanted to move beyond stemware,” the product copy reads. Yes, drinking from a glass is a real hassle, we quite agree. “At Mancan we believe wine is for drinking, not pouring, and our ‘notes’ are more rock than classical. Crush one at the game, throw one in your back pocket on a camping trip, or pop one open at your favourite dive bar. Just do us a favour and don’t talk about the ‘aroma’.”

How uncomfortable are you with your own sexuality if you can’t drink wine out of a glass without worrying about people thinking you’re a girly man? This manly wine in a can is such a classic over compensation, the only guys who say shit like “Crush one at the game” or feel the need to tell us they live in a firehouse to prove their manhood are obviously gay as fuck.

I don’t give a shit how many bikes and trikes you have bro, if you need to drink wine out of a can to prove your manhood you are obviously a complete pussy. You want to be a man? Show some confidence and sip a nice Grand Cru Bordeaux out of some hand blown crystal like a boss and then sit back and watch the panties drop.

You can drink shitty table wine out of a can with your buddies around the campfire if you want, I’m just saying you’d probably be a lot happier if you’d just come out of the closet and stop the charade before it starts.

I wouldn’t be so scathing, but the reviewer does make the association between displays of masculinity and ostentatious avoidance of femininity, and with it, homosexuality.

Then, while we’re on masculinity and homosexuality, this Chris Hallbeck Maximumble cartoon for Fathers Day:


(Hat tip to Lauren Hall-Lew.)

On to projecting (hetero)normative masculinity in an occupation with significant feminine associations, namely professional cooking and culinary writing. A take from the bon appétit site on the 17th, “A Slightly Ridiculous Father’s Day Wishlist from a Food-Obsessed Dad” by Alex Delany:


These are some of Brad Leone’s personal interests: Surfing, weird fish, grilling, cutting things with knives, drinking beers, chopping down trees, sourcing Maple wood, making tables from Maple wood, and telling people how beautiful Maple wood is. Our test kitchen manager is into some pretty cool stuff. He also happens to be a Dad, so it only seemed right to see what Brad had his eye on for Father’s Day.

We told him to come up with a dream list of food-related gifts, and he did not disappoint. From approachable butter keepers and steamers to knives made from meteorites and Robert Redford-inspired headwear, Brad has quite the eccentric (and maybe a little bit expensive) list. Now, all he has to do is make his case to his 1-year-old son and convince Grif to buy them for him.

Brad’s list:

Yeti Tundra Cooler, Viking Wine (and Beer) Cooler, Stackable Bamboo Steamer, Brooklyn Copper Cookware, French Butter Keeper, Bob Kramer Meteorite Knife, Mortar and Pestle, Filson Bush Hat

The site includes a video in which Brad enthusiastically demonstrating how to make tepache. From Wikipedia:

Tepache is a fermented beverage made from the peel and the rind of pineapples, and is sweetened either with piloncillo or brown sugar, seasoned with powdered cinnamon, and served cold. Though tepache is fermented for several days, the resulting drink does not contain much alcohol. In Mexican culinary practice, the alcoholic content of tepache may be increased with a small amount of beer.

In Mexico, tepache is usually sold as a chilled drink by street vendors. In the U.S., it is sold in juice bars in the Mexican American communities of the Southwestern United States. The fermentation process for making tepache is simple and quick, which makes tepache a drink readily produced at home. Culturally, tepache is a drink common to natives of Mexico and the Mexican immigrant communities of the U.S.

Yes, it’s a sweet, not very alcoholic, drink, but in American eyes it counts as masculine, because (a) it’s Mexican, and hence working-class, not like foofy sweet drinks; and (b) it’s something you make by hand over some days — essentially a DIY project for food.

Fathers Day always comes in the middle of Pride Month, a fact that brings me to LGBT people and their relationships with their fathers. Everybody‘s relationships with their parents are complex; meanwhile, your same-sex parent serves as a kind of image of what you might become — a welcome image or a distressing one, but always a partial image at best. For a gay son with a straight dad, these negotiations of identity can be especially complex, though in fact sexuality is just one more dimension (among many) on which fathers and sons can differ. A while back (in 2002), Bruce Shenitz collected some affecting accounts of gay men in just this situation, in The Man I Might Become: Gay Men Write About Their Fathers:


As for my dad, I written about him here on several occasions, with great affection. We were alike in a lot of ways and different in a lot of ways, and we mostly came to appreciate these things when I was still a child, and then continued to learn about each other as adult friends.

Meanwhile, it’s 1 p.m. and 105.4 degrees F. outside, and I’m blanching at the idea of going out to sing in a few hours. Oi.

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