ALPHA: A new column exploring current events & concepts from the framework of who & what holds power, fleeting or lasting, in Western pop culture.
By Dawn Pichón Barron
We’ve entered a time where making fun of, while still giving life to, the baby-man is commonplace. A definition found on urbandictionary.com is: “A fully grown man that by all appearances looks normal. However, once you get to know him, you realize he’s a big baby trapped in a man’s body.” Of consideration: Scott Disick, the 45th, the unnamed King who fathered Snow White, Seth Rogen in Neighbors, or how about hipster boys with clean fingernails “gathering” food at a local food bank. Is this phenomena gaining permanence in our culture? Could it become part of our national vernacular and endure for the long haul like "helicopter parent," "jailbait," "MILF," or my above used non-fav, "hipster?"
Many of us know this baby-man type, some even live with one. There is nothing particularly new but the title, and how we’ve come up with a way to call out, in our subversive way, an atrocious behavior, molding and coddling it into a humorous cultural phenomena, worthy of memes, and references in popular shows. Googling the term, one can find other terms such as “manfant,” which sounds like a disease. And perhaps disease is an accurate description as it appears to be contagious if we examine the current male leaders of our country. It is fashionable today, if one doesn’t hear or get what one wants, to publicize shame and blame, and have a full-on temper tantrum. Baby-man-itis is not something one can readily overcome because once the patterns are established, the baby-man would have to undergo intervention and redirection, and most importantly, self-reflection and accountability—these are generally traits and temperament that the baby-man does not possess.
I have heard women describe co-workers, lovers, and family members as baby-men. It’s a nifty catch-all label used to excuse or explain bad behavior. I am culpable; often shaking my head when a grown-ass man texts a woman in my night class, adamant that she get home because the kids are hungry, “baby-man,” I mutter.
In this manner, we have mishandled our men; we’ve (unwittingly) given alpha women the title of bitch and allowed for many alpha men to skirt the asshat label and enjoy the less punitive baby-man status.
To be clear, the baby-man is not a man understanding his feminine side, nor is it a man showing sensitivity or emotion; these are real man-men. There are plenty of them around, thankfully.
Every morning I lug 3-5 bags from my vehicle to my office, some times I make two trips. One morning, not long ago, a fellow worker dude, with zero bags, met me at my car and walked beside me chatting as I carried 4 bags and a hot coffee through the parking lot, across a wide swath of yard, up 6 steps to the front door of our building. A woman inside opened the door, grabbed 2 of my bags and my coffee and with a look of utter disgust handed them to the dude. Not missing a beat, he laughed and said, “I’m all for equality.”
This is 2017. This is a highly educated man. This is a man with a wife and daughters. I like this dude; we are friends.
The woman shook her head and damn near shouted, “Yeah, well I’m all for manners.” Dude shrugged, set my stuff at the bottom of the next set of stairs I had to manage (count: 21) and sauntered off.
If one can saunter in toe shoes.
On psychcentral.com in“Babyman…Is This Your Guy?” Samuel Lopez De Victoria illustrates three ways to evaluate if your guy is one of these, and if so, he asserts: “RUN FOR THE HILLS.”
Unfortunately, we can’t run or hide from elected officials or bosses.
With the recent Ghostbusters, the outcry from baby-men all across the country was loud and picked up by the media. What was the problem? The ghostbusters were women! Their childhood memories were robbed! Really? Does this shed a glimmer of light onto another issue, that one we rarely discuss among mixed company—women hating, shaming, and dismissing, and the possibility that baby-men are the perfect "cover" and sugarcoating for misogyny and patriarchy?
Melville hit upon this when he wrote in Moby-Dick: “However baby man may brag of his science and skill…yet for ever and for ever, to the crack of doom, the sea will insult and murder him….”
Profound words we might want to examine the next time we laugh about the baby-man.
Soundtrack: "I need a man"/The Supremes, "Hound Dog"/Big Mama Thornton, "Jack U Off"/Prince, "Don't Call Me Baby"/Madison Avenue, "You've Got Another Thing Comin'"/Judas Priest, "Piece of Me"/Britney Spears, "No Scrubs"/TLC, "Hit 'Em Up Style"/Carolina Chocolate Drops, "Gold Guns Girls"/Metric, "Gangsta"/Kat Dahlia, "Keep Ya Head Up"/Tupac
Comfort reading (comfort being relative): Serena/Ron Rash, Men Explain Things To Me/Rebecca Solnit, "Biebered! How "Team Edward," "Team Jacob," & Justin Beiber Killed the American Man"/Shana Ting Lipton, "The Problem With Boys"/Tom Chiarella
Dawn PIchon Barron is a mixed indigenous/white writer and educator working at the Northwest Indian College-Nisqually Campus. She is founder and curator of the Gray Skies Readings Series in Olympia, WA where she lives with her wingman and teenage love spawns. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Yellow Medicine Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Pontoon, the anthology Washington 129, the anthology Of A Monstrous Child (Lost Horse Press), Oregon Quarterly, and her chapbook "Escape Girl Blues" will see the light in 2017 (Finishing Line Press). Follow @pigeongirlsgot.