What’s that five-letter word for cat?

By Scott Cohen

At the beginning of each semester, everyone has the moment when they realize, “I need to go work out.” This realization came when I noticed myself huffing as I climbed the stairs of Greg Hall. So we brave the treacherous winds of the Midwestern flatlands and make our way to the ARC. While this acronym stands for Activities and Recreation Center, I think a more adept title would be the “Arms and Reps Competition.”

Sitting in the basement as if it were a pair of testicles, the ARC’s weight room appears to be the epicenter of campus masculinity where men go to grunt, sweat and compare their hunter-gatherer virility.

This hyper-masculine atmosphere is accentuated by the weight room’s setup. Tightly confined by mirror-wrapped walls, men are not only constantly sizing each other up, but are aware of the fact that they are being sized up. This male-on-male gaze is not the same kind of look we might get (or give) on Northalsted. Rather, we might convince ourselves, “I can do as many reps as him.” And, if you’re me, this is what causes you to avoid the ARC for a week because you’ve pulled a muscle in your chest. FML.

Anyway, I was talking with a competitive, well-built gym fiend who explained the nature of the male-on-male gaze. “Well, I’m always the biggest dude at the gym. And while I can’t say exactly what a person’s thinking, if he’s staring at me, I take it as a challenge to my masculinity. So I’ll reassert my dominance by doing more reps at a higher weight. Then he knows I’m the sh*t. It’s like Bush’s foreign policy. America had to reassert its dominance over the Middle East after its masculinity was challenged on 9/11.”

The destruction of two phalluses on the Manhattan skyline was, of all things, an audacious taunting of the chauvinistic swagger that characterizes American foreign policy. And, in the spirit of this hegemonic masculinity, Uncle Sam responded by grabbing hold of a little country called Iraq as if it had just dropped the soap. During his two-term tenure, Bush’s participation in this senseless cycle has only perpetuated this country’s history of imperialistic aggression.

Like an obstinate frat boy, America has been under some deluded and misguided notion that it must assert its dominance. However, since Obama got into the Oval Office, it appears that a different type of masculinity is going to dominate (so to speak) America’s foreign policy.

Obama has stated a different approach to foreign affairs. Breaking this gym-like competition, his approach consists of diplomacy and dialogue. As an example, Obama has said that he is open to talks with Iran, which would break a 30-year streak of dialogic abstinence between the two nations. Instead of brute force – a style fitting for the ARC – Obama has shown warmth to the notion of direct engagement with Iran. But if Bush’s foreign policy can be characterized by hyper-masculine competitiveness, does this imply that our current president’s foreign policy ideals are feminine? Dare we compare him to a certain five-letter word for “cat”?

While it is inevitable that our Bush-supporting, “Bomb Iran,” GOP friends will be swift to bark an emphatic “yes!” I believe that it is not that simple. Diplomacy, discretion and good judgment are neither feminine nor masculine attributes. We should resist labeling Obama like this, for his level-headed foreign policy principles are completely transcendent of gender. If anything, Obama is demonstrating a paradigm shift where our foreign policy is becoming less reactionary and notably more mature.

However, it is important to keep in mind that Obama has yet to make any crucial decisions in global politics. In the meantime, all nations are giving him the male-on-male gaze, sizing him up, waiting for him to make a move. Let’s just hope he doesn’t pull a muscle.

Scott is a sophomore in political science and he has a sore chest. Owww.