#metoo – an alarm for men

Today, nearly one-third of men would be what one could call the ‘lapdog type’, the Cologne rheingold institute has discovered in a depth-psychological study of men. They have no clear self-image and prefer to behave properly and obediently, for fear of losing the love of their wives. But this trend also provokes the return of the old macho. An interview with Stephan Grünewald published in the ‘Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger’ newspaper.

Mr Grünewald, the allegations by alleged victims of sexual violence against director Dieter Wedel have had a shocking effect in Germany, as has the scandal surrounding producer Harvey Weinstein or Hollywood star Kevin Spacey in the USA. What rhyme do you make of the severity of the reactions?

Grünewald: In the #metoo campaign that brings assault and sexual violence to the public eye, I see a counter-movement to a counter-movement.

rheingold men's study

That sounds complicated ...

Grünewald: But it’s easy to break it down. The first movement in relation to gender was a fundamental change in the male self-image over the past two decades. Despotic, humiliating, sexually motivated behaviour seemed to have worn out as a proof of masculinity. The ‘new man’ of postmodernism defined himself as reflective, communicative, open-minded and attentive to the needs of his partner in particular, but also to women as a whole. But this was also accompanied by confusion in male self-image.

What kind of confusion?

Grünewald: This new man no longer knows exactly how he is actually supposed to behave, so he is very much oriented towards his partner.

The understander of women

Grünewald: In our psychological study of men, we referred to him as the ‘lapdog type’. These include 27 percent of men today: They have no clear self-image and instead place any application of ‘old masculinity’ in themselves under suspicion of machismo. For fear of losing the love of their wives, they often behave properly and obediently. To put it bluntly, this type of man shakes hands obediently with his paw, at best biting a slipper to pieces on his little escapes on the Internet.

Is there a secret longing for the old macho?

Grünewald: Of course the macho also still exists in real life. But it’s a dying species, a dinosaur. We categorise just under 15 percent of all men as belonging to this type. However, a much larger proportion of men in the working world still evoke the patterns of ‘old masculinity’. In the firm or office, many of these lapdogs mutate into leaders of the wolf pack. This is where they find clear rules and a solid power base. And this is where they act confidently and winning – sometimes even invasive. At home, though, they shed this functional potency and return to private insolvency.

And the film industry is a particularly suitable field to act out on this potency?

Grünewald: A preserve for machos, perhaps. Even though most of the events that have now come to light date back a long time. In recent years, however, we have seen a counter-movement to the politically correct and tame man – a rollback to the old masculinity.

How did this come about?

Grünewald: The new man noticed that he looks uninteresting to women if he comes across as too adaptable, softened and smoothed, with no corners or edges, with no argumentativeness or willingness to engage in conflict.

And what are the consequences?

Grünewald: They can be read in a whole host of trends. Take, for example, the return of the beard. The hipster comes as a bearded combination of bear and tiger. I also view the craft beer fashion as part of this movement. While pils, for example, is served in ways that are more and more cultivated and champagne-like, the craft beer marks a return to the elemental and original brew. Strong beer for strong men. We also celebrated strong men at the 2016 European Football Championships – with the Icelandic hype and the resurrection of the Viking, articulating himself in dull sounds and performing wild archaic dances at the edge of the pitch. In literature, Michel Houellebecq’s novel ‘Submission’ describes, in a mixture of horror and fascination, the triumphal trajectory of the – Islamic – patriarchy that permits men to manifest themselves and keeps the annoying competition of women at bay in their professional lives. Alexa, Amazon’s language assistant, reduces the woman to the role of full-service provider – always obedient and always ready. And in politics, with its traditional notion of the family, the AfD is working diligently to restore the old male image.

Maybe you should mention Donald Trump, too?

Grünewald: Absolutely. With his election victory, which his sexist escapades could not stop, the old man literally regained world power. But Vladimir Putin in Russia or Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey embody this role model, too. In this situation, #metoo is the aforementioned counter-movement but an alarm, too: ‘Watch out, men! Don’t revert to archaic behavioural patterns that have led to the suffering of countless women! Let us find a third way for the man, somewhere between crazed oppressor and moral coward!’

In what might that way consist?

Grünewald: In men’s willingness to openly address their own needs and to argue for their wishes. But in an argument on an equal footing, one that takes women’s demands into account as well. Not only in politics, but in relationships, too, we have lost sight of the art of the debate and a culture of compromise. We need to rediscover these.

Stephan Grünewald was interviewed by Joachim Frank.

The rheingold expert

Stephan Grünewald

The psychologist Stephan Grünewald from Cologne is founder of the market and media research institute rheingold. Grünewald was with the books "Deutschland auf der Couch" (2006) and "Die erschöpfte Gesellschaft" (2013) and "Wie tickt Deutschland?" (2019) bestselling author. Tel .: +49 221-912 777-17 E-Mail: gruenewald@rheingold-online.de