Machismo is central to the theme in the novel ‘The Honorary Consul‘ by Graham Greene. While the novel was a risible take on machismo in Latin America, it never sought to alter the meaning of the word. I can’t remember if Greene’s novel was my introduction to machismo but when I read it, the loanword machismo wasn’t in common use. Neither was the calque ‘macho,’ now widely used by females synonymously with Neanderthal. Language being one of the many subversive elements used to change society, which is now moving inexorably towards that portrayed in ‘The Worm That Turned’. How long will it be I wonder before this transformation is complete? The male becoming mere chattel, a plaything, not worthy of education, relieved of his suffrage. How long I wonder before his role in the reproductive process becomes a myth, leading to his acceptance that procreation occurs when the female turns her hindquarters towards Boreas?
Personally, I place a large part of the blame for all this male feminist stuff on that Australian export Germaine Greer. Her trite comment, “The tragedy of machismo is that a man is never quite man enough” being widely used to undermine man’s self-esteem. Her liberation of women from their bra’s, a bra that would later make Madonna famous, a liberation resulting in generations of men unable to make eye contact with women. Buds were appearing that needed nipping. But perhaps it was already too late, Greer’s empowerment of women, when accompanied by the new genre of theatre and cinema such as The Rocky Horror Show and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, was all part of a cunning plan. Such entertainment encouraged men to openly display their feminization. Men were so busy looking for high heel shoes in their size and straightening their seams, that they never saw their outing as Dorothy being the first step on the yellow brick road to perdition. The expression ‘getting in touch with your feminine side’ became a common idiom, but something that I strongly eschewed. Sycophantic soul-searching stupefies some sentient seniors; suasively showing strong, strapping, skill sets, subdues such spurious siren songs. I’ll continue to assert my machismo by rising up and standing proud.
Given the Australian heritage of Germaine Greer, it seems somewhat paradoxical to discover the Aussie male leading a machismo revival, and the source of this revival being found in a shed. This discovery reminded me that my dad always had a shed. He used to spend a lot of time in it when he wasn’t at work, only coming indoors to eat and sleep.
During WWII I lived with grandad and grandma, sitting outside the shed on grandad’s allotment I have no memories of him digging for victory. I suspect that grandad didn’t do much digging, having enlisted as a sapper in previous wars, he probably thought he’d done enough digging to last him a lifetime. As he was now too old to enlist, to escape from grandma he either went to the shed or the Lock Vaults. I now realise why so many allotments look neglected, it had never occurred to me they were simply somewhere to put a shed. I do recall visiting grandad in another shed during WWII, he used it when taking bets as a bookie’s runner. He would always put a bet on a horse named ‘Paperweight’ for me, which turned out to be a horse that could win races when it was dead. He used to spend a lot of time in that shed when he wasn’t in the Lock Vaults playing dominoes.
But I digress; as I understand it, the point of shed machismo is the total exclusion of females and the selective inclusion of males. The key part that a shed played in this assertion of machismo was obviously known to my dad and grandad, to them the loanword ‘machismo’ was unnecessary. It was simply an attitude passed down from father to son, an unspoken lesson learnt by observation, which needed no word to convey its purpose. Being unaware of the cunning plan, following generations became emasculated through seductive advertising promoting the use men’s deodorants, men’s shampoos, and french knickers disguised as ‘boxer shorts’. Devoid of any pheromones and unwittingly feminized, modern man became putty in a woman’s hand.
Thanks to the Oz male, real men are rising up in their sheds, firm in their resolve. So my plan is to build a shed. Not from a kit, I mean building a ‘real shed’ from cut timber. It will be a truly machismo venture; hauling and cutting timber, carrying a big tool around, and looking thoughtfully at plans. Looking thoughtful with a tool in your hand never fails to impress (except for my wife that is, on such occasions she inexplicably looks heavenward and wanders off muttering something about ‘trivial pursuits’). As I can’t whistle or spit, something that put me at a great disadvantage in the street where I spent my formative years, I shall sing while I work. Singing while you work (as indeed does whistling and spitting) gives the impression that you know what you’re doing. In my formative years singing would have resulted in me being beaten up. Except at Saturday morning pictures, where everyone sang, reading the lyrics being pointed to by a bouncing ball (saying ‘lyrics’ would’ve also got me beaten up, it wasn’t wise to use words that wouldn’t be understood). We could all read at a very early age as in those days we learnt the three ‘Rs’, apart from Eddy Sconse who struggled to learn anything and who didn’t seem to get motivated by the cane as did the rest of us.
I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK
But I digress; in a machismo environment, where image is everything, and size really does matter, the song ‘I‘m a lumberjack and I’m OK‘ sounds quite apt. I now need to buy a hard hat, steel capped boots, check shirt, jeans and braces and I shall look the part. When the shed is complete, I intend to fill it with in real men (just like in Oz) and break out a cask of real ale. According to my brother-in-law real men only drink real ale, or so he keeps telling me when I order a lager. He always remarks, with some disdain, that lager is a boys drink. While I’m not a particular fan of real ale, I shall keep my end up and order in some ‘Golden Rivet’, or ‘Global Warning’, or ‘Bent Copper’, or whatever other ridiculously named ale it is my brother-in-law recommends. If becoming a convert to real ale is a necessary sacrifice in this pursuit of machismo (at least while in the shed), then I’ll not resist this change of wind. I’ve researched the shed construction starting with ‘5 secrets to building a better shed’ from ‘Popular Mechanics’ and have a set of plans. I’ve already taken a machismo stance by telling my wife of my shed plan (I do wish she’d stop rolling her eyes and muttering under her breath). When the weather improves and my wife tells me where I can put my shed, I’ll order up the materials. Every man with machismo should have a shed. Meanwhile I’ll compose my list of real men. There’s my brother-in-law (I do wish he’d switch his bloody hearing aid on when he’s not with his wife)……..