Assault rifle company issues “man cards”
The maker of the assault weapon that killed 27 people in Connecticut quizzes its customers on their manhood
By Alex Seitz-Wald
You see, you’re not officially a man until Bushmaster tells you you are. “To become a card-carrying man, visitors of bushmaster.com will have to prove they’re a man by answering a series of manhood questions. Upon successful completion, they will be issued a temporary Man Card to proudly display to friends and family,” a press release for the campaign reads.
By Paul Waldman
That's the message of ads the company has been running, along with a particularly ridiculous social media campaign. Until today--the page has apparently been taken down, but parts of it are visible here--you could learn on the "Man Card" section of Bushmaster's website that "In a world of rapidly depleting testosterone, the Bushmaster Man Card declares and confirms that you are a man's man." Then you could fill out a little form to bust on your buddies for not being manly enough, to "Revoke a Man Card." Just enter a brief description of the offense and put it into one of five categories: "Cry baby," "Cupcake," "Short leash," "Coward," or "Just unmanly."
The symbol for the last is the female restroom icon (a stick figure wearing a dress), but "Short leash" gets some of the best action, like "Steve A. missed a much-anticipated poker night to attend a movie musical instead," or "Heath K, where 'Yes I will' always becomes 'If she'll let me.' " All it takes to get that Man Card back is to get yourself a Bushmaster.
You don't have to be a Freudian analyst to grasp the hidden meaning. It's not even subtext--it's text. As we begin a long-overdue examination of where gun culture in America has gone, we can't avoid the way guns have become so entwined with masculine anxiety, as so many men seek to find their identity in instruments of destruction.
This isn't particularly new, of course. Male anxiety has produced backlashes before, enacted through our fantasies as the world changes and tradition gender roles are challenged. A 1959 cover story in Time magazine described how at that time there were no fewer than 30 westerns on the three networks in prime time. For the post-war American male, an office job and a house in the suburbs offered few opportunities to prove one's manhood, so tales of two-fisted cowboys wielding six-guns became irresistible. "How long since you used your fists?" Time quoted one sociologist saying by way of explanation of the western's popularity. "How long since you called the boss an s.o.b? The western men do, and they are happy men."
As author Tim Wise put it:
Can we put all the gun nuts in a reality show a la The Hunger Games and let the best man win? That's really what they want, isn't it?
For more on gun control, see Changing Our Gun Culture and Sensible Gun Control.