The Idiot Man-child Stereotype

What’s with all the male-bashing in this thread? (n.b.: Calling your husband or s.o. a shiftless pantywaist is a Pit rant. Quotes like those below are male-bashing).

You get the idea. I’m not going to address the question of whether men really have a lower tolerance for pain because it would be like arguing to a KKK member that black people really aren’t dumber than white people, because it’s impossible to prove and wouldn’t make a difference even if you could prove it. Instead, I have a theory on why this particular genre of male-bashing flourishes:

The Idiot Man-Child.

You’ve all seen him on sitcoms and in commercials. He’s the guy who whines ‘Honey, you up?’ in the old Nyquil commercials. He’s the guy who can’t figure out how to work the VCR so his three-year-old daughter has to show him. He’s the guy who can’t control his kids’ behavior, the perpetual foil for the ubiquitous precocious preteens all over TV.

Not only is he a total failure in terms of what he can do (cf. “Tim ‘the Tool Man’ Taylor”), but he can’t even be expected to have the emotions and empathy of an adult (cf. “Everybody Loves Raymond”).

The Idiot Man-Child is a harmful stereotype. His presence justifies the “men won’t ask for directions” kind of low-grade sexism that is the meat and drink of the female stand-up comic. I’d like to banish the Idiot Man-Child to his own special desert island.

City Gent, my hat’s off to you for a well-thought out rant. I suppose I should support my “sisters” that make those kind of comments, but I’ve often wondered why it’s OK for women to bash men in this way. If a man says this type of thing about a woman, he is liable to get (and richly deserves) a slap across the face.

FWIW, I think your guess about the Idiot Man-Child is pretty close to the mark. It’s much like the Hysterical Woman stereotype. It all sucks, no matter which side of the chromosome you’re on.

That’s my thread you linked to, and I must say, I don’t disagree with your Idiot Man-Child theory. Trouble is, I haven’t yet actually met a man who doesn’t really go overboard with the whining when he’s sick. Believe me, I wish it were different. My statements about my own husband, while couched in humor, are not exaggerations.

I don’t understand it, and I don’t like it. If I could wave a magic wand and make him be some other way, I swear to the Goddess, I would.

I posted a dissenting opinion on that thread, which it seems was lost beneath the waves of “me too”. I agree with the OP that it is an offensive overgeneralization. I do not agree that the stereotype needs to be banned from the public airwaves. Hey, it’s funny when done well.

Of course, Amos 'n Andy was funny, too.

Persephone, I’m sorry you married a wimp. I thought your OP was amusing and believable, but generalizing his weaknesses to all men is still a sign of sloppy thinking. Not all women obsess about their appearance. Not all women are bad at math. Not all women break down in tears during a crisis. And not all men whine when they are sick.

And if you have never met a man who doesn’t go overboard when he is sick I can only assume you haven’t met many men.

Unfortunately for both of us, your assumption is most incorrect. Although I did make a mistake in saying that I hadn’t met any men that didn’t whine when sick–I forgot about my dad. He’s a serious stoic when it comes to illness.

Now I have a question: Do men buy in to the Idiot Man-Child thing that City Gent speaks of? I don’t disagree with what he said about it, that’s for sure (although in most instances, my husband is not an idiot, or a Man-Child–he just gets really bad when he’s sick). It is a bad stereotype, and I don’t like it any more than you do. But too many people (male and female) behave a certain way because they think they’re supposed to, simply because of their gender.

It sounds to me like it was your statement that was incorrect.

As to the stereotype, I certainly have never felt any social pressure to behave like a whining baby when sick.

Ummm… you do realize that the ones who don’t whine about it are the ones you don’t notice?

I don’t whine when I’m sick. What’s the point?

Yeah! That’s exactly what I meant when I said it was a harmful stereotype. Thank you for stating it so concisely. I think men really are starting to buy into this notion that the male gender is inherently incompetent and basically a waste of natural resources except as the butt of jokes, to the detriment of society.

When I get a bad cold, I can be fairly demanding. But when I extracted five stitches from my thumb to save making a doctor’s appointment, I was criticized for not taking care of myself. It’s well known that women tend to go to the doctor far more often than men, even correcting for pregnancy and childbirth, and of course, women live longer than men in nearly every society. Yet we somehow get portrayed as whiners.

I’m not advocating censorship of any kind. And it is very funny when done subtly (Archie Bunker - mainly funny because of his over-the-top chauvinism and ignorance, but with a hint of the IMC in him). I just wanted to see if anyone else had noticed the stereotype and felt it was linked to whining sick guys and perceptions of same.

Hey perhaps it might have occurred to a few men not to exactly “buy into” the idiot man child thing, but milk it for what it’s worth. Anyone remember the old Bill Cosby routine where he admits to behaving like an incompetent boob just so he doesn’t have to actually do anything? I’ve seen plenty of people “pretend” to be stupid because they know someone will cover their ass. It isn’t stupidity or even whimpiness it’s being trifling, lazy and willing to get over on someone.

As for men and being whimpy when they are sick…I’ve seen guys crush their fingers with a hammer and keep on working. I’ve seen them play tackle football until every muscle in their body and every inch of them was brusied. I’ve seen guys pull muscles and keep working, but for some reason a cold will lay them flat out. I’ve never thought men were whimpy when it comes to pain. I watched my stepfather suffer stoically while he passed a huge kidney stone, geez! My X husband was tough as nails when it came to stamina and being able to take a hit, but if he got a cold…Perhaps men are more tolerant of a different type of pain. I know I’ve been working for the past three weeks with a terrible upper respiratory infection. None of the men in my life would have been able to carry on with this shit. But when I slipped a disk in my back I thought I wanted to die! Of course I had no one to help me with the kids by then and someone had to take care of them. Maybe men are designed to take pain in a different way than women. That’s what I’ve always thought. Cause I sure as hell don’t want to get out there in a field with a little oblong ball and be pounded into the ground by my buddies in the name of fun!


I’m sure we can all think of women who become eligble for the Best Dramatic Actress the minute they get a mild headache. The whiny routine easily works both ways, Perseph.

Oh, and the reason men couldn’t “deal” with being pregnant is simply because we don’t have an expandable urogenital orifice that a neonate can pass through. Thinking that it’s indicative that the Lord God made women more able to deal with suffering is pretty spurious. Besides, there’s hardly a shortage of knocked-up whiny broads.

Thank you for giving this syndrome a name–my husband and I have been struggling to come up witha good one, and Idiot man-child will do nicely.

I really shudder when I see young guys embrace this stereotype, in the same way girls will mold themselves after really unattractive female stereotypes (the Rules, for example). My 18 year old brother-in-law would watch The Man Show with no sense of irony at all–he just reveled in the idea of being nothing but a walking, pulsating, drunk hormone. And why shouldn’t he? It sounds like alot of fun, and he hasn’t been exposed to a whole lot of alternate models.

Part of it, I think, is that the Consumer Industrial Complex (which, to be fair, I blame for everything down to and including a reduced cuteness in kittens) has invented this stereotype (as well as a parellel female one–that of the vain, self-absorbed, bitchy coy goddess) because this sort of person buys alot of products.

I think the center of the stereotye is the idea that men think about sex and nothing but sex all of the time, and if they make any claims to the contrary, well then they are lying. Any attempts at higher thought end in farce. This message is constantly repeated in ads, in sit-coms, by comedians, in magazines (check out a copy of Maxim). A teenager in this atmosphere is being discouraged from ever growing up–the message is that he is abnormal if he does.

How does this sell products? Simple. Near as I can tell, many ads work along the following lines:

  1. Great sex is the most important thing in the world, in fact the only thing that matters. (established above)

  2. Everyone else is having great, mind-blowing orgasms day and night.

  3. You aren’t.

  4. We have a product for that.
    One trend I have noticed in the last couple of years that I think is indicitive is bragging about masterbation rates. Now, I am all for being open about your sexuality and all, but it seems like in recent years both among my male peers and in the media it has become hip to bragg (in a joking fashion) about how much you jerk off. I think this is just a reaction to the idea that “real men” when left alone for more then 10 minutes imediatly start thinking about thier dicks and begin to jerk off. If you are single and you don’t jerk off twice every night you must be spending your time doing sometihng suspect, like thinking.

Another interesting trend is the way there are virtually no men in most liberal arts programs (as students anyway). Those that are are pre-law. The idea of going into thinking as a career apparently never comes up in K-12. This is made worse by the fact that men are not exactly welcome in many liberal arts programs because academic feminism tends to agree that men are nothing but bungling sperm-donors lurching around,looking for something to rape. What men you do see in the liberal arts have to practically take a loyalty test “I agree that men are pigs, and I am ashamed of my genitals”. Now that I think about it, the idiot man child stereotype almost certainly began here, but I do think that mass marketing has certainly taken thh ball and run with it.

I have a bigger theory about this, which is that so areas of society (those areas defined by pop-culture) no longer put much value on the idea of self-control. Thus, the individual who does not display his sexual nature is no longer assumed to be controlling it, but is rather assumed not to have one–a very different thing indeed.

This is a bit of a ramble, but this is a topic that gets me worked up.


So if a woman uses the Idiot ManChild stereotype, is it okay for a man to slap her across the face?

I’ve seen this too, and that’s one of the things that I really don’t get. Is this part of the stereotype? My husband is a musician–he plays guitar. He’s also got tendonitis, and when it flares up, he’ll mutter “gee, my arm hurts today,” pop a Motrin, and move on. No whining, no complaining, no nothing. He’ll go to work and play through the pain.

How did this odd stereotype come to be?

And I do agree with Alphagene about the whining women, too. My dad’s wife was a serious Oscar contender the last time she got a cold.

Mine is the opposite. I can’t even make him soup if he’s sick. “go away, I can make my own soup, I’m not an invalid”. He’s just a pain in the ass when he’s sick cuz he’s more mad about being sick and invalid and won’t accept it. God forbid if he ever had to go see a doctor under his own power. I watched him break his little toe on a chair leg, mutter obscenities under his breath and keep going… two weeks later, he hits the same toe on something… it’s pointing 90 degrees from usual. Straight out to the side… I say “how bout we go to the doctor… cuz…that looks BAD”… he says, “Fuck that, they’ll just charge me 100 bucks or so to put some tape on it”… and after some profuse profanity, he grabs it, snaps it into place, weaves a nice web of colorful anecdotes that would make a sailor cry (He was a Marine, after all…if he knows anything, it’s how to swear)… and picks up where he left off. I WISH he would whine a little and let me know he is capable of acting human sometimes.

It may be true that men complain about illness more than women, but in my experience women generally complain far too much about minor injuries - if I accidentally bump my wife’s head rolling over in bed or rub her the wrong way while rubbing her back, she’ll exclaim ‘Ouch!’, accuse me of trying to kill her, and act mad at me for several minutes, even though she knows it was an accident and it couldn’t have been that painful and it sure isn’t hurting that long. Maybe women have a higher tolerance for the discomfort of physical illness, but they are real wimps when it comes to bumps, scratches, and other minor injuries.

Also, women often will let you know they are suffering when sick without actual whining or complaining about the illness themselves. I’d rather deal with someone whining about how miserable they feel instead of someone being bitchy because of it yet refusing to lay down or take something for it.

I also got tired of this stereotype a long while ago. I went through a phase when I thought it was harmful because it might subconsciously influence kids but really I think it’s just akin to all those ever-so-funny-still blonde jokes i.e. Irritating in its redundancy.

Isn’t it just the humour of burnt out sitcom writers ? ….and the fact that as I write this, I have one eye on the TV screen showing yesterday’s Presidential Address to the joint Houses really doesn’t make me flinch ……at all. No really, I’m serious.

Hmmm. Well, this sort of thing irritates me, particularly the advertising stereotypes (men are whiners, sex-obsessed, need their eight-year-old daughters to explain how computers work, and so on…)

But, when I see these things and grit my teeth at them, I think to myself…

These advertisements are aimed at women. They portray men as worthless and women as strong, competent, beautiful - because that’s what the advertisers think will appeal to their target audience. So that must mean that their target audience are mostly women. So that must mean…

…that, though they may show women as strong and competent, the advertisers really believe, in their black, wizened and scrofulous advertisers’ hearts, that women are safely sat at home watching TV all the time.

I’m not married at the present so I know I’m not your wife Batz but…

You’ve described me almost to a tee. I can walk around with a headache for 3 days but a paper cut will drive me crazy. I think it’s more annoying perhaps. My BF also gets extremely frustrated with me because I won’t “TAKE ANYTHING”. I’ve tried to explain that years ago I was suffering quite a bit more from headaches. (Now I know it was from the estrogen in my birth control pills.) But I also might have had a condition called “rebound headaches” sort of a pain killer tolerance thing. Then more recently after an orthopedic injury I overused Advil and developed an ulcer. So if I can ride a minor headache or a small ache through I do. Don’t worry, if I get bad off or worn out from pain I’ll do whatever is necessary to stop it.

I also think women are a lot more careful about “suface injuries” than men. By that I mean bruises, cuts, scrapes etc. Perhaps it’s an unconscience vanity thing, they’re unsightly and for the most part we don’t like unsightly things showing up on our bodies and faces. And yes, I’m tender-headed as hell. When I was a kid growing up if you pulled my hair that was a sure fire way to provoke me into a cat fight. (Although I played more with boys and was the best wrestler in my neighborhood.) I still don’t like anyone to comb my hair of fuss with my hair.

I do know one thing I’ve had this upper respiratory thing now for 3 weeks, like half the population in my town and nobody is doing well with this thing, men or women. My girlfriends doctor claims he hasn’t been able to “cure” anyone all winter. This thing lingers so long that we’re all walking around just giving it back to each other.


London Calling:

I think you ar too optomistic here. i know many guysin the 16-24 age group who seem ot wallow inwhat they call “guyness” and see nothing wrong with it at all. Afterall, thisstereotype validates worrying about nothing but your dick and turning all other responsibilites over to your mother or your girlfriend. Is it any wonder that some people embrace it?

Steve Wright

But that is not the whole story–you see this same stereotype in beer commercials, in The Man Show on Comedy Central, in Maxim magazine, inthe routines of both make adn female commedians.

Well, yes, Manda JO, it’s not the whole story… but it’s the “too-dumb-and-wimpy-to-live” stereotype that I see most often, so that’s the one that gets on my nerves more. This might be because I have never in my life seen The Man Show, or read a single issue of Maxim. Perhaps if I did, I would get more annoyed by the “only-thinks-with-his-dick” stereotype. Neither is desirable. And the combination of the two is a hideous chimaera which should never have been allowed out of the illegal genetics laboratory where it was created.

Stereotypes are bad, mmmmm’kay?