Archive for October, 2008


Got Kids? Consider a Manny.

22 October 2008

The Daily Telegraph (Edinburgh, Scotland) recently featured an article on “mannies,” male nannies. They do most of the same stuff as female carers, though they seem to work especially well with little boys, playing hard and showing them what a balanced man can look like. Annie Merrylees, co-founder of manny company My Big Buddy, says, “These days nannies, carers, nursery- and primary-school teachers all tend to be female, and there can be a need to redress that imbalance with a great role model who can not only play sport and relate to boys but also reveal a softer side.” Even girls seem to have good relationships with these very able guys. They play with dolls as well as they do SuperSoakers.

I am impressed with how qualified these young men appear to be. They’re compentent college students for the most part, excelling in school, hard-working and well-adjusted. The wage shows it: at ten pounds an hour, they’re commanding higher compensation than most carers. And, from my experience, boys just eat up time with older males. The most significant down side to this whole deal is that, in some of these cases, children who are feeling distant from their fathers will struggle even more to relate, and not learn how to relate healthily to male authority figures. A “big buddy” only goes so far in communicating that dynamic.

Will this be a new wave in the United States too? I hope so. In a day and age when people are increasingly reluctant to have men around children, the hiring of mannies could be a positive phenomenon.


Presidential Manliness, part 2

4 October 2008

Needless to say, Americans have usually felt most comfortable with a male figurehead in politics. The president especially seems to need to strike the pose of the national pater familias – and never is this more true than with his capacity as commander-in-chief.

I point out the 1988 presidential election, in which Michael Dukakis (D) faced off against George Bush (R). Each were competing to follow the legacy of Ronald Reagan, who, for all of his controversial policies, had established himself as a masculine icon. Reagan had opposed communism unflinchingly, and had expanded the American military considerably. Bush, while not the same imposing figure, had the advantage of association with the Hollywood (Holly-war?) president.

Bush was pressing for further military development, especially with regard to new space technologies. Dukakis urged for cutbacks in these areas, a stance which risked making him look effete in comparison with his opponent. The Democratic candidate attempted to shore up this loss of masculine image by staging some photos in an M1 Abrams tank at a Michigan military productions plant. UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher had utilized similar pictures not long before that, and had seen a boost in her popularity. For Dukakis, however, it backfired. Even though he had spent time in the army, the Bush campaign used the tank footage as ammo against Dukakis, portraying him as an insecure poseur.

There are rules to masculine posturing in America, be it in the schoolyard or on the presidential platform. Stand tall – but never try too hard.