Today, I did an interview with “Jim, a guy who was a college freshman in 1997. That year, he said, “we all went to the gym and got as big as possible. Weight lifting was the thing to do on his campus that year. Everybody was doing it. To go for extra bulk, they used a substance called creatine.
“Why? I asked him.
“I dont know. People started to notice how a guy looked. Girls would make comments. Youd hear references to abs and pecs. People were joking, sort of, but guys heard them.
This is a lot of things but it does seem in some ways to be the work of feminism. The objective of this social movement, this shift in values, was to discourage us from objectifying women.
But thats not the way things work in our culture. We never seem to roll things up. We are much more inclined to extend the franchise. In pursuit of equity, we began to objectify men, too.
The first generation to experience a cultural innovation, and almost every generation is the first to experience something, usually takes it hard. There is no parental wisdom on offer. There is no “oral culture that records the misadventures of the previous generation. There is only a new imperative that has to be satisfied. (Personally, I believe this is the only way to explain the disco clothing innovations of the 1970s.)
To be the first generation of men to endure the burdens, anxieties, and near compulsions that come from being an object of scrutiny, that must have been unpleasant. And it cant be a surprise that some guys over did it. It is not surprising to hear that they were keen to emulate Mark McGuire, a guy who was apparently using supplements of his own. But it is mysterious. As the member of a generation that sought speed by looking for a trade off of mass and lightness (the so called “speed formulae), the task and the outcome of “bulking up seems (and looks) unpleasant.
But an important lesson of the anthropology of contemporary culture is that it doesnt matter what I think. Ours is a culture in which every generation occupies its own small constellation of values, activities, and preoccupations. With children as our guinea pigs, we experiment endlessly. Naturally, the kids dont mind. Our experiment is their protest. Nor should we. Their protest is our culture.
Some of these quotes are reconstructed from memory and not, therefore, verbatim.