The Masculinist Revolt
by William Tenn
The Coming of the Codpiece
Historians of the period between 1990 and 2015 disagree violently on the causes of the Masculinist Revolt. Some see it as a sexual earthquake of nationwide proportions that was long overdue. Others contend that an elderly bachelor founded the Movement only to save himself from bankruptcy and saw it turn into a terrifying monster that swallowed him alive.
This P. Edward Pollyglow—fondly nicknamed “Old Pep” by his followers—was the last of a family distinguished for generations in the men’s wear manufacturing line. Pollyglow’s factory produced only one item, men’s all-purpose jumpers, and had always operated at full capacity—up to the moment the Interchangeable Style came in. Then, abruptly, overnight it seemed, there was no longer a market for purely male apparel.
He refused to admit that he and all of his machinery had become obsolete as the result of a simple change in fashion. What if the Interchangeable Style ruled out all sexual differentiation? “Try to make us swallow that!” he cackled at first. “Just try!”
But the red ink on his ledgers proved that his countrymen, however unhappily, were swallowing it.
Pollyglow began to spend long hours brooding at home instead of sitting nervously in his idle office. Chiefly he brooded on the pushing-around men had taken from women all through the twentieth century. Men had once been proud creatures; they had asserted themselves; they had enjoyed a high rank in human society. What had happened?
Most of their troubles could be traced to a development that occurred shortly before World War I, he decided. “Man-tailoring,” the first identifiable villain.
When used in connection with women’s clothes, “man-tailoring” implied that certain tweed skirts and cloth coats featured unusually meticulous workmanship. Its vogue was followed by the imitative patterns: slacks for trousers, blouses for shirts, essentially male garments which had been frilled here and furbelowed there and given new, feminine names. The “his-and-hers” fashions came next; they were universal by 1991.
Meanwhile, women kept gaining prestige and political power. The F.E.P.C. started policing discriminatory employment practices in any way based upon sex. A Supreme Court decision (Mrs. Staub’s Employment Agency for Lady Athletes v. The New York State Boxing Commission) enunciated the law in Justice Emmeline Craggly’s historic words: “Sex is a private, internal matter and ends at the individual’s skin. From the skin outwards, in family chores, job opportunities, or even clothing, the sexes must be considered legally interchangeable in all respects save one. That one is the traditional duty of the male to support his family to the limit of his physical powers—the fixed cornerstone of all civilized existence.”
Two months later, the Interchangeable Style appeared at the Paris openings.
It appeared, of course, as a version of the all-purpose jumper, a kind of short-sleeved tunic worn everywhere at that time. But the men’s type and the women’s type were now fused into a single Interchangeable garment.
That fusion was wrecking Pollyglow’s business. Without some degree of maleness in dress, the workshop that had descended to him through a long line of manufacturing ancestors unquestionably had to go on the auctioneer’s block.
He became increasingly desperate, increasingly bitter.
One night, he sat down to study the costumes of bygone eras. Which were intrinsically and flatteringly virile—so virile that no woman would dare force her way into them?
Men’s styles in the late nineteenth century, for example. They were certainly masculine in that you never saw a picture of women wearing them, but what was to prevent the modern female from doing so if she chose? And they were far too heavy and clumsy for the gentle, made-to-order climates of today’s world.
Back went Pollyglow, century by century, shaking his head and straining his eyes over ancient, fuzzy woodcuts. Not this, no, nor that. He was morosely examining pictures of knights in armor and trying to imagine a mailed shirt with a zipper up the back, when he leaned away wearily and noticed a fifteenth-century portrait lying among the pile of rejects at his feet.
This was the moment when Masculinism began.
Several of the other drawings had slid across the portrait, obscuring most of it. The tight-fitting hose over which Pollyglow had bitten his dry old lips negatively—these were barely visible. But between them, in emphatic, distinctive bulge, between them—
This little bag which had once been worn on the front of the hose or breeches—how easily it could be added to a man’s jumper! It was unquestionably, definitively male: any woman could wear it, of course, but on her clothing it would be merely a useless appendage, nay, worse than that, it would be an empty mockery.
He worked all night, roughing out drawings for his designers. In bed at last, and exhausted, he was still bubbling with so much enthusiasm that he forgot about sleep and hitched his aching shoulder blades up against the headboard. Visions of codpieces, millions of them, all hanging from Pollyglow Men’s Jumpers, danced and swung and undulated in his head as he stared into the darkness.
But the wholesalers refused the new garment. The old Pollyglow Jumper—yes: there were still a few conservative, fuddy-duddy men around who preferred familiarity and comfort to style. But who in the world would want this unaesthetic novelty? Why it flew in the very face of the modern doctrine of interchangeable sexes!
His salesmen learned not to use that as an excuse for failure. “Separateness!” he would urge them as they slumped back into the office. “Differentness! You’ve got to sell them on separateness and differentness! It’s our only hope—it’s the hope of the world!”
Pollyglow almost forgot the moribund state of his business, suffocating for lack of sales. He wanted to save the world. He shook with the force of his revelation: he had come bearing a codpiece and no one would have it. They must—for their own good.
He borrowed heavily and embarked upon a modest advertising campaign. Ignoring the more expensive, general-circulation media, he concentrated his budget in areas of entertainment aimed exclusively at men. His ads appeared in high-rated television shows of the day, soap operas like “The Senator’s Husband,” and in the more popular men’s magazines—Cowboy Confession Stories and Scandals of World War I Flying Aces.
The ads were essentially the same, whether they were one-pagers in color or sixty-second commercials. You saw a hefty, husky man with a go-to-hell expression on his face. He was smoking a big, black cigar and wore a brown derby cocked carelessly on the side of his head. And he was dressed in a Pollyglow Men’s Jumper from the front of which there was suspended a huge codpiece in green or yellow or bright, bright red.
Originally, the text consisted of five emphatic lines:
MEN ARE DIFFERENT FROM WOMEN!
Wear Pollyglow Men’s Jumpers
With the Special Pollyglow Codpiece!
Early in the campaign, however, a market research specialist employed by Pollyglow’s advertising agency pointed out that the word “masculine” had acquired unfortunate connotations in the last few decades. Tons of literature, sociological and psychological, on the subject of overcompensation, or too-overt maleness, had resulted in “masculine” being equated with “homosexuality” in people’s minds.
These days, the specialist said, if you told someone he was masculine, you left him with the impression that you had called him a fairy. “How about saying, ‘Dress masculinist?’ ” the specialist suggested. “It kind of softens the blow.”
Dubiously, Pollyglow experimented with the changed wording in a single ad. He found the new expression unsavory and flat. So he added another line in an attempt to give “masculinist” just a little more punch. The final ad read:
MEN ARE DIFFERENT FROM WOMEN!
Wear Pollyglow Men’s Jumpers
With the Special Pollyglow Codpiece!
(And join the masculinist club!)
That ad pulled. It pulled beyond Pollyglow’s wildest expectations.
Thousands upon thousands of queries rolled in from all over the country, from abroad, even from the Soviet Union and Red China, Where can I get a Pollyglow Men’s Jumper with the Special Pollyglow Codpiece? How do I join the masculinist club? What are the rules and regulations of masculinism? How much are the dues?
Wholesalers, besieged by customers yearning for a jumper with a codpiece in contrasting color, turned to Pollyglow’s astonished salesmen and shrieked out huge orders. Ten gross, fifty gross, a hundred gross. And immediately—if at all possible!
P. Edward Pollyglow was back in business. He produced and produced and produced, he sold and sold and sold. He shrugged off all the queries about the masculinist club as an amusing sidelight on the advertising business. It had only been mentioned as a fashion inducement—that there was some sort of in-group which you joined upon donning a codpiece.
Two factors conspired to make him think more closely about it: the competition and Shepherd L. Mibs.
After one startled glance at Pollyglow’s new clothing empire, every other manufacturer began making jumpers equipped with codpieces. They admitted that Pollyglow had single-handedly reversed a fundamental trend in the men’s wear field, that the codpiece was back with a vengeance and back to stay—but why did it have to be only the Pollyglow Codpiece? Why not the Ramsbottom Codpiece or the Hercules Codpiece or the Bangaclang Codpiece?
And since many of them had larger production facilities and bigger advertising budgets, the answer to their question made Pollyglow reflect sadly on the woeful rewards of a Columbus. His one chance was to emphasize the unique nature of the Pollyglow Codpiece.
It was at this crucial period that he met Shepherd Leonidas Mibs.
Mibs—“Old Shep” he was called by those who came to follow his philosophical leadership—was the second of the great triumvirs of Masculinism. He was a peculiar, restless man who had wandered about the country and from occupation to occupation, searching for a place in society. All-around college athlete, sometime unsuccessful prizefighter and starving hobo, big-game hunter and coffee-shop poet, occasional short-order cook, occasional gigolo—he had been everything but a photographer’s model. And that he became when his fierce, crooked face—knocked permanently out of line by the nightstick of a Pittsburgh policeman—attracted the attention of Pollyglow’s advertising agency.
His picture was used in one of the ads. It was not any more conspicuously successful than the others; and he was dropped at the request of the photographer who had been annoyed by Mibs’s insistence that a sword should be added to the costume of derby, codpiece, and cigar.
Mibs knew he was right. He became a pest, returning to the agency day after day and attempting to persuade anyone at all that a sword should be worn in the Pollyglow ads, a long, long sword, the bigger and heavier the better. “Sword man is here,” the receptionist would flash inside, and “My God, tell him I’m not back from lunch yet,” the Art Director would whisper over the intercom.
Having nothing else to do, Mibs spent long hours on the heavily upholstered couch in the outer office. He studied the ads in the Pollyglow campaign, examining each one over and over again. He scribbled pages of comments in a little black notebook. He came to be accepted and ignored as so much reception-room furniture.
But Pollyglow gave him full attention. Arriving one day to discuss a new campaign with his account executive—a campaign to stress the very special qualities of the Pollyglow Codpiece, for which, under no circumstances, should a substitute ever be accepted—he began a conversation with the strange, ugly, earnest young man. “You can tell that account executive to go to hell,” Pollyglow told the receptionist as they went off to a restaurant. “I’ve found what I’ve been looking for.”
The sword was a good idea, he felt, a damn good idea. Put it in the ad. But he was much more interested in certain of the thoughts developed at such elaborate length in Mibs’s little black notebook.
If one phrase about a masculinist club had made the ad so effective, Mibs asked, why not exploit that phrase? A great and crying need had evidently been touched. “It’s like this. When the old-time saloon disappeared, men had no place to get away from women but the barber shop. Now, with the goddamn Interchangeable Haircut, even that out’s been taken away. All a guy’s got left is the men’s room, and they’re working on that, I’ll bet they’re working on that!”
Pollyglow sipped at his glass of hot milk and nodded. “You think a masculinist club would fill a gap in their lives? An element of exclusiveness, say, like the English private club for gentlemen?”
“Hell, no! They want something exclusive, all right—something that will exclude women—but not like a private club one damn bit. Everything these days is telling them that they’re nobody special, they’re just people. There are men people and women people—and what’s the difference anyway? They want something that does what the codpiece does, that tells them they’re not people, they’re men! Straight down-the-line, two-fisted, let’s-stand-up-and-be-counted men! A place where they can get away from the crap that’s being thrown at them all the time: the women-maybe-are-the-superior-sex crap, the women-outlive-them-and-outown-them crap, the a-real-man-has-no-need-to-act-masculine crap—all that crap.”
His eloquence was so impressive and compelling that Pollyglow had let his hot milk grow cold. He ordered a refill and another cup of coffee for Mibs. “A club,” he mused, “where the only requirement for membership would be manhood.”
“You still don’t get it.” Mibs picked up the steaming coffee and drank it down in one tremendous swallow. He leaned forward, his eyes glittering. “Not just a club—a movement. A movement righting for men’s rights, carrying on propaganda against the way our divorce laws are set up, publishing books that build up all the good things about being a man. A movement with newspapers and songs and slogans. Slogans like ’The Only Fatherland for a Man is Masculinity.’ And ’Male Men of the World Unite—You Have Nothing to Gain but Your Balls!’ See? A movement.”
“Yes, a movement!” Pollyglow babbled, seeing indeed. “A movement with an official uniform—the Pollyglow Codpiece! And perhaps different codpieces for different—for different, well—”
“For different ranks in the movement,” Mibs finished. “That’s a hell of a good idea! Say green for Initiate. Red for Full-Blooded Male. Blue for First-Class Man. And white, we’d keep white for the highest rank of all—Superman. And, listen, here’s another idea.”
But Pollyglow listened no longer. He sat back in his chair, a pure and pious light suffusing his gray, sunken face. “None genuine unless it’s official,” he whispered. “None official unless stamped Genuine Pollyglow Codpiece, copyright and pat. pending.”
Masculinist annals were to describe this luncheon as the Longchamps Entente. Later that historic day, Pollyglow’s lawyer drew up a contract making Shepherd L. Mibs Director of Public Relations for the Pollyglow Enterprises.
A clip-out coupon was featured in all the new ads:
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT MASCULINISM?
WANT TO JOIN THE MASCULINIST CLUB?
Just fill out this coupon and mail it to the address below. Absolutely no charge and no obligation—just lots of free literature and information on this exciting new movement!
FOR MEN ONLY!
The coupons poured in and business boomed. Mibs became head of a large staff. The little two-page newsletter that early applicants received quickly became a twenty-page weekly, the Masculinist News. In turn, it spawned a monthly full-color magazine, the Hairy Chest, and a wildly popular television program, “The Bull Session.”
In every issue of the Masculinist News, Pollyglow’s slogan, “Men Are Different from Women,” shared the top of the front page with Mibs’s “Men Are as Good as Women.” The upper left-hand corner displayed a cut of Pollyglow, “Our Founding Father—Old Pep,” and under that ran the front-page editorial, “Straight Talk from Old Shep.”
A cartoon might accompany the editorial. A truculent man wearing a rooster comb marched into cowering masses of hippy, busty women. Caption: “The Cock of the Walk.” Or, more didactically, hundreds of tiny children around a man who was naked except for a huge codpiece. Across the codpiece, in execrable but highly patriotic Latin, the words E Unus Pluribum—and a translation for those who needed it, “Out of the one, many.”
Frequently, a contemporary note was struck. A man executed for murdering his sweetheart would be depicted, a bloody axe in his hands, between drawings of Nathan Hale being hanged and Lincoln striking off the chains of slavery. There was a true tabloid’s contempt for the rights or wrongs of a case. If a man was involved, the motto ran, he was automatically on the side of the angels.
“Straight Talk from Old Shep” exhorted and called to action in a style reminiscent of a football dressing room between halves. “Men are a lost sex in America,” it would intone, “because men are being lost, lost and mislaid, in the country as a whole. Everything nowadays is designed to sap their confidence and lessen their stature. Who wouldn’t rather be strong than limp, hard than soft? Stand up for yourselves, men of America, stand up high!”
There was a ready audience for this sort of thing, as the constantly rising circulation of the Masculinist News attested. From shower to washstand to wall urinal, the word sped that the problems of manhood were at last being recognized, that virility might become a positive term once more. Lodges of the Masculinist Society were established in every state; most large cities soon boasted fifteen or more chapters.
Rank and file enthusiasm shaped the organization from the beginning. A Cleveland chapter originated the secret grip; Houston gave the movement its set of unprintable passwords. The Montana Lodge’s Declaration of Principles became the preamble to the national Masculinist constitution: “…all men are created equal with women…that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of the opposite sex…from each according to his sperm, to each according to her ova…”
The subgroup known as the Shepherd L. Mibs League first appeared in Albany. Those who took the Albany Pledge swore to marry only women who would announce during the ceremony, “I promise to love, to honor and to obey”—with exactly that emphasis. There were many such Masculinst subgroups: The Cigar and Cuspidor Club, the Ancient Order of Love ’Em and Leave ’Em, The I-Owe-None-Of-It-to-the-Little-Woman Society.
Both leaders shared equally in the revenues from the movement, and both grew rich. Mibs alone made a small fortune out of his book, Man: The First Sex, considered the bible of Masculinism. But Pollyglow, Pollyglow’s wealth was heaped up beyond the wildest dreams of his avarice—and his avarice had been no small-time dreamer.
He was no longer in the men’s wear line; he was now in the label-manufacturing business. He made labels to be sewed on to the collars of men’s jumpers and inside the crowns of brown derbies, cigar bands for cigars, and little metal nameplates for swords. One item alone did he continue to manufacture himself. He felt an enduring and warm affection for the little fabric container bearing the legend Genuine Pollyglow Codpiece; it seemed to involve him in the activities of his fellow men everywhere, to give him a share in their successes and their failures.
But everything else was franchised.
His imprimatur came to be needed, needed and paid for, on a vast variety of articles. No manufacturer in his right business mind would dream of coming out with a new model of a sports car, a new office swivel chair or, for that matter, a new type of truss, without having Official Equipment—Masculinist Movement of America printed prominently on his product. The pull of fashion has always been that of the stampeding herd: many men who were not card-carrying Masculinists refused to buy anything that did not bear the magic phrase in the familiar blue isosceles triangle. Despite its regional connotations, all over the world, in Ceylon, in Ecuador, in Sydney, Australia, and Ibadan, Nigeria, men demanded that label and paid premium prices for it.
The much-neglected, often-dreamed-of men’s market had come of age. And P. Edward Pollyglow was its world-wide tax collector.
He ran the business and built wealth. Mibs ran the organization and built power. It took three full years for a clash to develop.
Mibs had spent his early manhood at a banquet of failure: he had learned to munch on suppressed rage, to drink goblets of thwarted fury. The swords he now strapped back on to men’s bodies were always intended for more than decorative purposes.
Swords, he wrote in the Hairy Chest, were as alien to women as beards and mustaches. A full beard, therefore, and a sweeping handlebar mustache, belonged to the guise of Masculinism. And if a man were bearded like the pard and sworded like a bravo, should he still talk in the subdued tones of the eunuch? Should he still walk in the hesitant fashion of a mere family-supporter? He should not! An armed male should act like an armed male, he should walk cockily, he should bellow, he should brawl, he should swagger.
He should also be ready to back up the swagger.
Boxing matches settled disputes at first. Then came fencing lessons and a pistol range in every Masculinist lodge. And inevitably, almost imperceptibly, the full Code Duello was revived.
The first duels were in the style of German university fraternities. Deep in the basement of their lodges, heavily masked and padded men whacked away at each other with sabers. A few scratches about the forehead which were proudly worn to work the next day, a scoring system which penalized defensive swordplay—these were discussed lightly at dinner parties, argued about in supermarkets.
Boys will be boys. Men will be men. Attendance at spectator sports began to drop sharply: didn’t that indicate something healthy was at work? Wasn’t it better for men to experience real conflict themselves than to identify with distant athletes who were only simulating battle?
Then the battles became a bit too real. When a point of true honor was involved, the masks and padding were dropped and a forest clearing at dawn substituted for the whitewashed lodge basement. An ear was chopped off, a face gashed, a chest run through. The winner would strut his victory through the streets; the loser, dying or badly wounded, would insist morosely that he had fallen on the radio aerial of his car.
Absolute secrecy was demanded by the Code Duello from all concerned—the combatants, seconds, officials, and attending surgeons. So, despite much public outcry and hurriedly passed new laws, very few duelists were ever prosecuted. Men of all walks of life began to accept armed combat as the only intelligent way to settle an important controversy.
Interestingly enough, swords in an open field at dawn were used mostly in the East. West of the Mississippi, the two duelists would appear at opposite ends of the main street at high noon, pistols holstered to their thighs. Advance warning would have emptied the street and pointedly suggested other locales for police officials. At a signal, the two men walked stiff-legged toward each other; at another signal, they pulled out their pistols and blazed away. Living and/or dead were then bundled into a station wagon which had been kept nearby with its motor running. At the local Masculinist Lodge, there would be a rousing discussion of the battle’s fine points as well as medical treatment and preparations for burial.
Many variations developed. The Chicago Duel had a brief and bloody vogue in the larger cities. Two cars, each driven by a close friend of the duelist sitting in the rear, would pass in opposite directions on the highway or a busy metropolitan street. Once abreast, foe could pound at foe with a submachine gun to absolute heart’s content: but firing was expected to cease as soon as the vehicles had drawn apart. Unfortunately—in the intense excitement of the moment—few antagonists remembered to do this; the mortality rate was unpleasantly high among other motorists and open-mouthed bystanders, not to mention the seconds and officials of the duel.
Possibly more frightening than the Chicago Duel were the clumps of men—bearded, sworded, cigared and codpieced—who caroused drunkenly through the streets at night, singing bawdy songs and shouting unintelligible slogans up at the darkened windows of the offices where they worked. And the mobs which descended upon the League of Women Voters, tossing membership lists and indignant members alike pell-mell into the street. Masculinism was showing an ugly edge.
Pollyglow became alarmed and demanded an end to the uproar. “Your followers are getting out of hand,” he told Mibs. “Let’s get back to the theoretical principles of Masculinism. Let’s stick to things like the codpiece and the beard and the cigar. We don’t want to turn the country against us.”
There was no trouble, Mibs insisted. A couple of the boys whooping it up—it was female propaganda that magnified it into a major incident. What about the letters he’d been receiving from other women, pleased by the return of chivalry and the strutting male, enjoying men who offered them seats in public conveyances and protected them with their heart’s blood?
When Pollyglow persisted, invoking the sacred name of sound business practice, Mibs let him have it. He, Shepherd L. Mibs, was the spiritual leader of Masculinism, infallible and absolute. What he said went. Whatever he said went. Any time he felt like it, he could select another label for official equipment.
The old man swallowed hard a few times, little lumps riding up and down the tightly stretched concave curve of his throat. He patted Mibs’s powerful shoulders, croaked out a pacifying pair of phrases, and toddled back to his office. From that day on, he was a wordless figurehead. He made public appearances as Founding Father; otherwise, he lived quietly in his luxurious skyscraper, The Codpiece Tower.
The ironies of history! A new figure entered the movement that same day, a humble, nondescript figure whom Mibs, in his triumph, would have dismissed contemptuously. As Trotsky dismissed Stalin.
Masculinists had rioted in a California town and torn down the local jail. Various pickpockets, housebreakers, and habitual drunks were liberated—as well as a man who had spent eighteen years in the alimony section of the jail, Henry Dorselblad. More than anyone else, Dorselblad was to give Masculinism its political flavor and peculiar idiom. Who that has heard it can ever forget the mighty skirl often thousand male voices singing—
Oh, Hank Dorselblad is come
out of the West,
Through all the wide Border, his
codpiece is best…
Hellfire Henry, Hank the Tank, Give ’Em Hell Henry, Damn ’Em All Dorselblad—this was a culture hero who caught the American imagination like no other since Billy the Kid. And, like Billy the Kid, Henry Dorselblad was physically a very undistinguished man.
Extremely short, prematurely bald, weak of chin and pot of belly, young Dorselblad had been uninteresting even as prey to most women. His middle-aged landlady, however, had bludgeoned him into matrimony when he was only twenty-two, immediately purchasing twelve thousand dollars worth of labor-saving household machinery on the installment plan. She naturally expected comfortable and diligent support thereafter.
Dorselblad fulfilled her expectations during several exhausting years by holding two full-time jobs and a part-time one on weekends. He was a skilled programmer for payroll computing machines: in his day, such men had each replaced two complete staffs of bookkeepers—they were well worth their high salaries and substantial job security. The invention of the self-programming payroll computer destroyed this idyllic state.
At the age of twenty-five, Henry Dorselblad found himself technologically unemployed. He became one of the shabby, starving programmers who wandered the streets of the financial district, their punching tools in their right hands, looking for a day’s work in some old-fashioned, as yet unconverted firm.
He tried desperately to become a serviceman for the new self-programming computers. But twenty-five is an advanced age: personnel interviewers tended to classify him as “a senior citizen—junior grade.” For a while, he eked out a bare living as a computer sweeper, clearing office floors of the tiny circular and oblong residues dropped by the card-punching machines. But even here, science and industry moved on. The punch-waste packer was invented, and he was flung into the streets again.
Her bank account shrinking at an alarming rate, Mrs. Dorselblad sued him for nonsupport. He went to jail. She obtained a divorce with alimony payments set at a reasonable level—three-fourths of its highest recorded earning power. Unable to make even a token payment as a demonstration of good faith, he was kept in jail.
Once a year, a visiting panel of women judges asked him what efforts he had made in the past twelve months to rehabilitate himself. When Dorselblad cunningly evaded the question with a speech on the difficulties of looking for a job while in prison, he was given a severe tongue-lashing and remanded to the warden for special punishment. He became bitter and sullen, a typical hardened alimony criminal.
Eighteen years passed. His wife married three more times, burying two husbands and jailing the third for nonsupport. His responsibilities in no way affected by the vicious negligence of his successors, Henry Dorselblad lived on behind bars. He learned to steep raisin-jack in a can under his cot and, more important, to enjoy drinking it. He learned to roll cigarettes made of toilet paper and tobacco from butts stomped out by the guards. And he learned to think.
He spent eighteen years brooding on his wrongs, real or imaginary, eighteen years studying the social problems from which they sprang, eighteen years reading the recognized classics in the field of relations between the sexes: Nietzsche, Hitler, the Marquis de Sade, Mohammed, James Thurber. It is to this period of close reasoning and intense theorizing that we must look if we are to understand the transformation of a shy and inarticulate nonentity into the most eloquent rabble rouser, the most astute political leader of his age.
A new Henry Dorselblad was released upon the world by the Masculinist mob. He led them, drunken rescuers and cheering prisoners alike, out of the smoking wreckage of the jail, beating time with the warden’s hat as he taught them the riotous verses of a song he had composed on the spot, “The Double Standard Forever—Hurrah, Boys, Hurrah!”
One by one, the movers and shakers of his time learned to reckon with him. Re-arrested in another state and awaiting extradition, Dorselblad refused to grant the governor an interview because she was a woman. A free-born male citizen, he maintained, could not accord legal or political dominance to a mere female.
The governor smiled at the paunchy little man who shut his eyes and jumped up and down, chanting, “Kitchens and skirts! Vapors and veils! Harems and whorehouses!” But she did not smile a week later when his followers tore down this prison too and carried him out on their shoulders, nor the next year when she was defeated for re-election—both disasters to the accompaniment of the self-same chant.
Nor did Shepherd L. Mibs smile much after Henry Dorselblad’s guest appearance on “The Bull Session.” Once it became apparent that he was political dynamite, that no state and no governor would dare move against him, he had to be tapped for the Masculinist program. And almost every viewer in the United States and Canada saw Shepherd Mibs, the moderator of the program and the National President of Masculinism, forced into a secondary, stammering position, completely eclipsed by Hellfire Henry.
Throughout the country, next day, people quoted Henry Dorselblad’s indictment of modern society: “Women needed the law’s special protection when they were legally inferiors of men. Now they have equality and special protection. They can’t have both!”
Columnists and editorial writers discussed his pithy dictum: “Behind every successful woman there stands an unsuccessful man!”
Everyone argued the biopsychological laws he had propounded: “A man who enjoys no power during the day cannot be powerful at night. An impotent man in politics is an impotent man in bed. If women want lusty husbands, they must first turn to them as heroic leaders.”
Actually, Dorselblad was simply rephrasing passages from Mibs’s editorials which he had read and reread in his prison cell. But he rephrased them with the conviction of a Savonarola, the fire and fanaticism of a true prophet. And, from the beginning, it was observed, he had almost the same impact on women as on men.
Women flocked to hear him speak, to listen to his condemnations of their sex. They swooned as he mocked their faults, they wept as he cursed their impudence, they screamed yeas as he demanded that they give up their rights and return to their correct position as “Ladies—not Lords—of Creation.”
Women flocked; men massed. Dorselblad’s personality tripled the membership of the Movement. His word, his whims, were law.
He added an item to Masculinist costume, a long, curling eagle’s feather stuck in the brim of the derby. All over the world, eagles were hunted down relentlessly and plucked bare for the new American market. He added a belligerent third principle to those enunciated by Mibs and Pollyglow: “No legal disabilities without corresponding legal advantages.” Men refused to be breadwinners or soldiers unless they were recognized as the absolute monarchs of the home. Wife-beating cases and paternity suits clogged the courts as the Masculinist Society pledged its resources to any man fighting the great fight for what came to be called the Privilege of the Penis.
Dorselblad conquered everywhere. When he assumed a special office as the Leader of Masculinism—far above all Founders and Presidents—Mibs argued and fought, but finally conceded. When he designed a special codpiece for himself alone—the Polka-Dotted Codpiece of the Leading Man—Mibs scowled for a while, then nodded weakly. When he put his finger on Masculinism’s most important target—the repeal of the Nineteenth Amendment—Mibs immediately wrote editorials damning that irresponsible piece of legislation and demanding the return of elections held in saloons and decisions made in smoke-filled cubicles.
At the first National Convention of Masculinism in Madison, Wisconsin, Old Shep shared a docile anonymity with Old Pep, in a corner of the platform. He yelled and stamped with the rest when Hank the Tank thundered: “This is a man’s civilization. Men built it, and—if they don’t get their rights back—men can tear it down!” He chuckled with the others at the well-worn barbs that Dorselblad threw: “I didn’t raise my boy to be a housewife” and “Give me the name of one woman, just one woman, who ever—” He was in the forefront of the mob that marched three times around the hall behind Hellfire Henry, roaring out the Song of Repeal:
Cram! Cram! Cram! the ballot boxes—
Jam! Jam! Jam! the voting booths.…
It was a stirring spectacle: two thousand delegates from every state in the union, their derbies bouncing rhythmically on their heads, their eagle feathers waving in majestic unison, swords jangling, codpieces dangling, and great, greasy clouds of cigar smoke rolling upwards to announce the advent of the male millennium. Bearded, mustachioed men cheered themselves hoarse and pounded each other’s backs; they stamped so enthusiastically on the floor that not until the voting began was it discovered that the Iowa delegation had smashed themselves completely through and down into the basement below.
But nothing could destroy the good humor of that crowd. The more seriously injured were packed off to hospitals, those with only broken legs or smashed collar bones were joshed uproariously and hauled back to the convention floor for the balloting. A series of resolutions was read off, the delegates bellowing their agreement and unanimity.
Resolved: that the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, granting universal female suffrage, is unnatural biologically, politically, and morally, and the chief cause of our national troubles…
Resolved: that all proper pressure be brought to bear on the legislators of this nation, both holding and seeking office…
Resolved: that this convention go on record as demanding…
Resolved: that we hereby…
There were midterm congressional elections that year.
A Masculinist plan of battle was drawn up for every state. Coordinating committees were formed to work closely with youth, minority, and religious groups. Each member was assigned a specific job: volunteers from Madison Avenue spent their evenings grinding out propagandistic news releases; Pennsylvanian coal miners and Nebraskan wheat farmers devoted their Saturdays to haranguing the inmates of old-age homes.
Henry Dorselblad drove them all relentlessly, demanding more effort from everyone, making deals with both Republicans and Democrats, reform elements and big city bosses, veterans’ organizations, and pacifist groups. “Let’s win the first time out—before the opposition wakes up!” he screamed to his followers.
Scrabbling like mad at their beloved fence, the politicians tried to avoid taking a definite position on either side. Women were more numerous and more faithful voters than men, they pointed out: if it came to a clear contest, women had to win. Masculinist pressure on the ballot box was considerable, but it wasn’t the only pressure.
Then the voice of Hank the Tank was heard in the land, asking women—in the name of their own happiness—to see to it that the long, long winter of feminism was definitely past. Many women in his audiences fainted dead away from the sheer flattery of having Henry Dorselblad ask them for a favor. A ladies’ auxiliary to the Masculinist Movement was organized—The Companions of the Codpiece. It grew rapidly. Female candidates for office were so ferociously heckled by members of their own sex that they demanded special police protection before addressing a street-corner rally. “You should be ironing your husband’s shirts!” the lady masculinists shouted. “Go home! Your supper’s burning!”
One week before election, Dorselblad unleashed the Direct Action squads. Groups of men, wearing codpieces and derbies, descended upon public buildings all over the country and chained themselves to lampposts outside. While officers of the law chopped away at their self-imposed bonds with hacksaws and acetylene torches, the Masculinists loudly intoned a new liturgy: “Women! Give us your vote—and we will give you back your men! We need your vote to win—you need to have us win! Women! Give us your vote on Election Day!”
Where, their opponents inquired cruelly, was the vaunted pride and arrogance of Masculinism in such an appeal? Were the Lords of Creation actually begging the weaker sex for a boon? Oh, for shame!
But Dorselblad’s followers ignored these jeers. Women must themselves return the vote they had falsely acquired. Then they would be happy, their men would be happy, and the world would be right again. If they didn’t do this of their own free will, well, men were the stronger sex. There were alternatives…
On this ominous note, the election was held.
Fully one-fourth of the new Congress was elected on a Masculinist platform. Another, larger group of fellow travelers and occasional sympathizers still wondered which way the wind was really blowing.
But the Masculinists had also acquired control of three-quarters of the state legislatures. They thus had the power to ratify a constitutional amendment that would destroy female suffrage in America—once the repeal bill passed Congress and was submitted to the states.
The eyes of the nation swung to its capitol. Every leader of any significance in the movement hurried there to augment the Masculinist lobby. Their opponents came in great numbers too, armed with typewriter and mimeograph against the gynecocratic Ragnarok.
A strange hodge-podge of groups, these anti-Masculinists. Alumnae associations from women’s colleges fought for precedence at formal functions with Daughters of 1776; editors of liberal weeklies snubbed conservatively inclined leaders of labor unions, who in turn jostled ascetic young men in clerical collars. Heavy-set, glaring-eyed lady writers spat upon slim and stylish lady millionairesses who had hurried back from Europe for the crisis. Respectable matrons from Richmond, Virginia, bridled at the scientific jocosities of birth controllers from San Francisco. They argued bitterly with each other, followed entirely divergent plans of action and generally delighted their codpieced, derbied, cigar-smoking adversaries. But their very variety and heterogeneity gave many a legislator pause: they looked too much like a cross-section of the population.
The bill to submit repeal of the Nineteenth Amendment to the states wandered through an interminable Congressional labyrinth of maneuver and rewording and committee action. Mobs and counter-mobs demonstrated everywhere. Newspapers committed themselves firmly to one side or the other, depending on their ownership and, occasionally, their readership. Almost alone in the country, The New York Times kept its head, observing that the problem was very difficult and asking that the decision—whatever it eventually was—be the right one—whatever that might be.
Passing the Senate by a tiny margin, the bill was sent to the House of Representatives. That day, Masculinist and anti-Masculinist alike begged and battled for a gallery pass. Hellfire Henry and his followers were admitted only after they had checked their swords. Their opponents were forcibly deprived of a huge sign smuggled to the gallery in four sections. “Congressman!” the sign shouted. “Your grandmother was a suffragette!”
Over the protests of many legislators seeking anonymity on this issue, a roll-call vote was decided upon. Down the list of states it went, eliciting so many groans and cheers from the onlookers that the Speaker finally had to lay aside his damaged gavel. Neck and neck the two sides went, the Masculinists always holding a slim lead, but never one large enough. Finally the feverish talliers in the gallery saw that a deadlock was inevitable. The bill lacked one vote of the two-thirds majority necessary.
It was then that Elvis P. Borax, a junior Representative from Florida who had asked to be passed originally, got to his feet and stated that he had decided how to cast his vote.
The tension was fantastic as everyone waited for Congressman Borax to cast the deciding vote. Women crammed handkerchiefs into their mouths; strong men whimpered softly. Even the guards stood away from their posts and stared at the man who was deciding the fate of the country.
Three men rose in the balcony: Hellfire Henry, Old Shep, and white-haired Old Pep. Standing side by side, they forebodingly held aloft right hands clenched around the hilts of invisible swords. The young Congressman studied their immobile forms with a white face.
“I vote nay,” he breathed at last. “I vote against the bill.”
Pandemonium. Swirling, yelling crowds everywhere. The House guards, even with their reinforcements from the Senate, had a hard, bruising time clearing the galleries. A dozen people were trampled, one of them an elderly chief of the Chippewa Indians who had come to Washington to settle a claim against the government and had taken a seat in the gallery only because it was raining outside.
Congressman Borax described his reactions in a televised interview. “I felt as if I were looking down into my open grave. I had to vote that way, though. Mother asked me to.”
“Weren’t you frightened?” the interviewer asked.
“I was very frightened,” he admitted. “But I was also very brave.” A calculated political risk had paid off. From that day on, he led the counterrevolution.
The anti-Masculinists had acquired both a battlecry and a commander-in-chief.
As the Masculinist tide rose, thirty-seven states liberalizing their divorce laws in the husband’s favor, dozens of disparate opposition groups rallied to the standard that had been raised by the young Congressman from Florida. Here alone they could ignore charges of “creeping feminism.” Here alone they could face down epithets like “codpiece-pricker” and “skirt-waver,” as well as the ultimate, most painful thrust—“mother-lover.”
Two years later, they were just strong enough to capture the Presidential nomination of one of the major parties. For the first time in decades, a man—Elvis P. Borax—was nominated for the office of chief executive.
After consulting the opinion polls and his party’s leading strategists, not to mention his own instincts and inclinations, he decided to run on a platform of pure, undiluted Mother.
He had never married, he explained, because Mother needed him. She was eighty-three and a widow; what was more important than her happiness? Let the country at large live by the maxim which, like the Bible, had never failed: Mother Knew Best.
Star-studded photographs of the frail old lady appeared all over the land. When Dorselblad made a sneering reference to her, Borax replied with a song of his own composition that quickly soared to the top of the Hit Parade. That record is a marvelous political document, alive through and through with our most glorious traditions. In his earnest, delicately whining tenor, Borax sang:
Rule, Maternal! My mother rules my heart!
Mother never, never, never was a tart!
And there was the eloquence of the famous “Cross of Swords” speech which Borax delivered again and again, at whistle stops, at church picnics, at county fairs, at state rallies.
“You shall not press down upon the loins of mankind this codpiece of elastic,” he would thunder. “You shall not crucify womankind upon a cross of swords!
“And do you know why you shall not?” he would demand, his right hand throbbing above his head like a tambourine. The audience, open-mouthed, glistening-eyed, would sit perfectly still and wait eagerly. “Do you know?
“Because,” would come a soft, slow whisper at last over the public address system, “because it will make Mother unhappy.”
It was indeed a bitter campaign, fought for keeps. The Dorselbladites were out to redefine the franchise for all time—Borax called for a law to label Masculinism as a criminal conspiracy. Mom’s Home-Made Apple Pie clashed head-on with the Sword, the Codpiece, and the Cigar.
The other party, dominated by Masculinists, had selected a perfect counter-candidate. A former Under-Secretary of the Army and currently America s chief delegate to the thirteen-year-old Peace and Disarmament Conference in Paris: the unforgettable Mrs. Strunt.
Clarissima Strunt’s three sturdy sons accompanied her on every speaking engagement, baseball bats aslant on their shoulders. She also had a mysterious husband who was busy with “a man’s work.” In photographs which were occasionally fed to the newspapers, he stood straight and still, a shotgun cradled in his arm, while a good hound dog flushed game out of faraway bushes. His face was never clearly recognizable, but there was something in the way he held his head that emphatically suggested an attitude of no nonsense from anybody—especially women.
Hellfire Henry and Kitchen-Loving Clarissima worked beautifully together. After Dorselblad had pranced up and down a platform with a belligerently waving codpiece, after he had exhorted, demanded and anathematized, Clarissima Strunt would come forward. Replying to his gallant bow with a low curtsy, she would smooth out the red-and-white-checked apron she always wore and talk gently of the pleasures of being a woman in a truly male world.
When she placed a mother’s hand on the button at the top of her youngest son’s baseball cap and fondly whispered, “Oh, no, I didn’t raise my boy to be a sissy!”—when she threw her head back and proudly asserted, “I get more pleasure out of one day’s washing and scrubbing than out of ten years’ legislating and politicking!”—when she stretched plump arms out to the audience and begged, “Please give me your vote! I want to be the last woman President!”—when she put it that way, which red-blooded registered voter could find it in his heart to refuse?
Every day, more and more Masculinist codpieces could be counted on subways and sidewalks, as well as the bustle-and-apron uniforms of the ladies auxiliary.
Despite many misgivings, the country’s intellectual leaders had taken up Borax’s mom-spangled banner as the only alternative to what they regarded as sexual fascism. They were popularly known as the Suffragette Eggheads. About this time, they began to observe sorrowfully that the election was resolving an ancient American myth—and it looked like the myth made flesh would prevail.
For Borax campaigned as a Dutiful Son and waved his mother’s photograph up and down the United States. But Clarissima Strunt was Motherhood Incarnate; and she was telling the voters to lay it on the line for Masculinism.
What kind of President would Strunt have made? How would this soft-voiced and strong-minded woman have dealt with Dorselblad once they were both in power? There were those who suggested that she was simply an astute politician riding the right horse; there were others who based a romance between the checked apron and the spotted codpiece upon Mrs. Strunt’s undeniable physical resemblance to the notorious Nettie-Ann Dorselblad. Today, these are all idle speculations.
All we know for certain is that the Masculinists were three-to-two favorites in every bookmaking parlor and stockbroker’s office. That a leading news magazine came out with a cover showing a huge codpiece and entitled Man of the Year. That Henry Dorselblad began receiving semi-official visits from U.N. officials and members of the diplomatic corps. That cigar, derby, and sword sales boomed, and P. Edward Pollyglow bought a small European nation which, after evicting the inhabitants, he turned into an eighteen-hole golf course.
Congressman Borax, facing certain defeat, began to get hysterical. Gone was the crinkly smile, gone the glow from that sweet, smooth-shaven face. He began to make reckless charges. He charged corruption. He charged malfeasance, he charged treason, murder, blackmail, piracy, simony, forgery, kidnapping, barratry, attempted rape, mental cruelty, indecent exposure, and subornation of perjury.
And one night, during a televised debate, he went too far.
Shepherd Leonidas Mibs had endured displacement as Leader of the Movement far too long for a man of his temperament. He was the position at the rear of the platform, at the bottom of the front page, as an alternative speaker to Hellfire Henry. He burned with rebellion.
He tried to form a new secessionist group, Masculinists Anonymous. Members would be vowed to strict celibacy and have nothing to do with women beyond the indirect requirements of artificial insemination. Under the absolute rule of Mibs as Grand Master, they would concentrate on the nationwide secret sabotage of Mother’s Day, the planting of time bombs in marriage license bureaus, and sudden, nighttime raids on sexually nonsegregated organizations such as the P.T.A.
This dream might have radically altered future Masculinist history. Unfortunately, one of Mibs’s trusted lieutenants sold out to Dorselblad in return for the cigar-stand concession at all national conventions. Old Shep emerged white of lip from an interview with Hank the Tank. He passed the word, and Masculinists Anonymous was dissolved.
But he continued to mutter, to wait. And during the next-to-last television debate—when Congressman Borax rose in desperate rebuttal to Clarissima Strunt—Shepherd Mibs at last came into his own.
The videotape recording of the historic debate was destroyed in the mad Election Day riots two weeks later. It is therefore impossible at this late date to reconstruct precisely what Borax replied to Mrs. Strunt’s accusation that he was the tool of “the Wall Street women and Park Avenue parlor feminists.”
All accounts agree that he began by shouting, “And your friends, Clarissima Strunt, your friends are led by—”
But what did he say next?
Did he say, as Mibs claimed, “—an ex-bankrupt, an ex-convict, and an ex-homosexual”?
Did he say, as several newspapers reported, “—an ex-bankrupt, an ex-convict, and an ex-heterosexual”?
Or did he say, as Borax himself insisted to his dying day, nothing more than “—an ex-bankrupt, an ex-convict, and an ex-homo bestial”?
Whatever the precise wording, the first part of the charge indubitably referred to P. Edward Pollyglow and the second to Henry Dorselblad. That left the third epithet—and Shepherd L. Mibs.
Newspapers from coast to coast carried the headline:
MIBS CLAIMS MORTAL INSULT
CHALLENGES BORAX TO DUEL
For a while, that is, for three or four editions, there was a sort of stunned silence. America held its breath. Then:
URGES MIBS CALL IT OFF
OLD PEP PLEADING WITH OLD SHEP—
“DON’T DIRTY YOUR HANDS WITH HIM”
DEMANDS A DEATH
As well as:
CLARISSIMA STRUNT SAYS:
“THIS IS A MAN’S AFFAIR”
Meanwhile, from the other side, there was an uncertain, tentative approach to the problem:
BORAX BARS DUEL—
PROMISE TO MOTHER
This did not sit well with the new, duel-going public. There was another approach:
CANDIDATE FOR CHIEF EXECUTIVE
CAN’T BREAK LAW, CLERGYMEN CRY
Since this too had little effect on the situation:
CONGRESSMAN OFFERS TO APOLOGIZE:
“DIDN’T SAY IT BUT WILL RETRACT”
SHEP CRIES “FOR SHAME!
BORAX MUST BATTLE ME—
OR BEAR COWARD’S BRAND”
The candidate and his advisors, realizing there was no way out:
MIBS-BORAX DUEL SET FOR MONDAY
HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMP TO OFFICIATE
PRAY FOR ME, BORAX BEGS MOM:
YOUR DEAR BOY, ALIVE OR DEAD
NOBEL PRIZE WINNER GETS NOD
AS BOUT’S ATTENDING SAWBONES
Borax and ten or twelve cigar-munching counselors locked themselves in a hotel room and considered the matter from all possible angles. By this time, of course, he and his staff only smoked cigars under conditions of the greatest privacy. In public, they ate mints.
They had been given the choice of weapons, and a hard choice it was. The Chicago Duel was dismissed as being essentially undignified and tending to blur the Presidential image. Borax’s assistant campaign manager, a brilliant Jewish Negro from the Spanish-speaking section of Los Angeles, suggested a format derived from the candidate’s fame as a forward-passing quarterback in college. He wanted foxholes dug some twenty-five yards apart and hand grenades lobbed back and forth until one or the other of the disputants had been satisfactorily exploded.
But everyone in that hotel room was aware that he sat under the august gaze of History, and History demanded the traditional alternatives—swords or pistols. They had to face the fact that Borax was skillful with neither, while his opponent had won tournaments with both. Pistols were finally chosen as adding the factors of great distance and uncertain atmospheric conditions to their side.
Pistols, then. And only one shot apiece for the maximum chance of survival. But the site?
Mibs had urged Weehawken Heights in New Jersey because of its historical associations. Grandstands, he pointed out, could easily be erected along the Palisades and substantial prices charged for admission. After advertising and promotion costs had been met, the purse could be used by both major parties to defray their campaign expenses.
Such considerations weighed heavily with Borax’s advisors. But the negative side of the historical association weighed even more heavily: it was in Weehawken that the young Alexander Hamilton had been cut down in the very flower of his political promise. Some secluded spot, possibly hallowed by a victory of the raw and inexperienced army of George Washington, would put the omens definitely on their side. The party treasurer, a New England real estate agent in private life, was assigned to the problem.
That left the strategy.
All night long, they debated a variety of ruses, from bribing or intimidating the duel’s presiding officials to having Borax fire a moment before the signal—the ethics of the act, it was pointed out, would be completely confused by subsequent charges and countercharges in the newspapers. They adjourned without having agreed on anything more hopeful than that Borax should train intensively under the pistol champion of the United States in the two days remaining and do his level best to achieve some degree of proficiency.
By the morning of the duel, the young candidate had become quite morose. He had been out on the pistol range continuously for almost forty-eight hours. He complained of a severe earache and announced bitterly that he had only the slightest improvement in his aim to show for it. All the way to the dueling grounds while his formally clad advisers wrangled and disputed, suggesting this method and that approach, he sat in silence, his head bowed unhappily upon his chest.
He must have been in a state of complete panic. Only so can we account for his decision to use a strategy which had not been first approved by his entire entourage—an unprecedented and most serious political irregularity.
Borax was no scholar, but he was moderately well-read in American history. He had even written a series of articles for a Florida newspaper under the generic title of When the Eagle Screamed, dealing with such great moments in the nation’s past as Robert E. Lee’s refusal to lead the Union armies, and the defeat of free silver and low tariffs by William McKinley. As the black limousine sped to the far-distant field of honor, he reviewed this compendium of wisdom and patriotic activity in search of an answer to his problem. He found it at last in the life story of Andrew Jackson.
Years before his elevation to high national office, the seventh President of the United States had been in a position similar to that in which Elvis P. Borax now found himself. Having been maneuvered into just such a duel with just such an opponent, and recognizing his own extreme nervousness, Jackson decided to let his enemy have the first shot. When, to everyone’s surprise, the man missed and it was Jackson’s turn to fire, he took his own sweet time about it. He leveled his pistol at his pale, perspiring antagonist, aiming carefully and exactly over the space of several dozen seconds. Then he fired and killed the man.
That was the ticket, Borax decided. Like Jackson, he’d let Mibs shoot first. Like Jackson, he would then slowly and inexorably—
Unfortunately for both history and Borax, the first shot was the only one fired. Mibs didn’t miss, although he complained later—perfectionist that he was—that defective sights on the antique dueling pistol had caused him to come in a good five inches below target.
The bullet went through the right cheek of the Congressman’s rigid, averted face and came out the left. It embedded itself in a sugar maple some fifteen feet away, from which it was later extracted and presented to the Smithsonian Institution. The tree, which became known as the Dueling Sugar Maple, was a major attraction for years and the center of a vast picnic grounds and motel complex. In the first decade of the next century, however, it was uprooted to make way for a through highway that connected Hoboken, New Jersey, with the new international airport at Bangor, Maine. Replanted with much ceremony in Washington, D.C., it succumbed in a few short months to heat prostration.
Borax was hurried to the field hospital nearby, set up for just such an emergency. As the doctors worked on him, his chief campaign manager, a politician far-famed for calmness and acumen under stress, came out of the tent and ordered an armed guard posted before it.
Since the bulletins released in the next few days about Borax’s condition were reassuring but cryptic, people did not know what to think. Only one thing was definite: he would live.
Many rumors circulated. They were subjected to careful analysis by outstanding Washington, Hollywood, and Broadway columnists. Had Mibs really used a dumdum bullet? Had it been tipped with a rare South American poison? Had the candidate’s mother actually traveled all the way to New York from her gracious home in Florida’s Okeechobee Swamp and hurled herself upon Old Shep in the editorial offices of the Hairy Chest, fingernails scratching and gouging, dental plates biting and tearing? Had there been a secret midnight ceremony in which ten regional leaders of Masculinism had formed a hollow square around Shepherd L. Mibs and watched Henry Dorselblad break Mibs’s sword and cigar across his knee, stamp Mibs’s derby flat, and solemnly tear Mibs’s codpiece from his loins?
Everyone knew that the young Congressman’s body had been so painstakingly measured and photographed before the duel that prosthesis for the three or four molars destroyed by the bullet was a relatively simple matter. But was prosthesis possible for a tongue? And could plastic surgery ever restore those round, sunny cheeks or that heartwarming adolescent grin?
According to a now-firm tradition, the last television debate of the campaign had to be held the night before Election Day. Mrs. Strunt gallantly offered to call it off. The Borax headquarters rejected her offer; tradition must not be set aside; the show must go on.
That night, every single television set in the United States was in operation, including even the old black-and-white collectors’ items. Children were called from their beds, nurses from their hospital rounds, military sentries from their outlying posts.
Clarissima Strunt spoke first. She summarized the issues of the campaign in a friendly, ingratiating manner and put the case for Masculinism before the electorate in her best homespun style.
Then the cameras swung to Congressman Borax. He did not say a word, staring at the audience sadly out of eloquent, misty eyes. He pointed at the half-inch circular hole in his right cheek. Slowly, he turned the other cheek.
There was a similar hole there. He shook his head and picked up a large photograph of his mother in a rich silver frame. One tremendous tear rolled down and splashed upon the picture.
That was all.
One did not have to be a professional pollster or politician to predict the result. Mrs. Strunt conceded by noon of Election Day. In every state, Masculinism and its protagonists were swept from office overwhelmingly defeated. Streets were littered with discarded derbies and abandoned bustles. It was suicide to be seen smoking a cigar.
Like Aaron Burr before him, Shepherd L. Mibs fled to England. He published his memoirs, married an earl’s daughter, and had five children by her. His oldest son, a biologist, became moderately famous as the discoverer of a cure for athlete’s foot in frogs—a disease that once threatened to wipe out the entire French frozen-frogs-legs industry.
Pollyglow carefully stayed out of the public eye until the day of his death. He was buried, as his will requested, in a giant codpiece. His funeral was the occasion for long, illustrated newspaper articles reviewing the rise and fall of the movement he had founded.
And Henry Dorselblad disappeared before a veritable avalanche of infuriated women which screamed down upon Masculinist headquarters. His body was not found in the debris, thus giving rise to many legends. Some said that he was impaled on the points of countless umbrellas wielded by outraged American motherhood. Some said that he escaped in the disguise of a scrubwoman and would return one day to lead resurgent hordes of derby and cigar. To this date, however, he has not.
Elvis P. Borax, as everyone knows, served two terms as the most silent President since Calvin Coolidge and retired to go into the wholesale flower business in Miami.
It was almost as if Masculinism had never been. If we discount the beery groups of men who, at the end of a party, nostalgically sing the old songs and call out the old heroic rallying cries to each other, we have today very few mementos of the great convulsion.
One of them is the codpiece.
The codpiece has survived as a part of modern male costume. In motion, it has a rhythmic wave that reminds many women of a sternly shaken forefinger, warning them that men, at the last, can only be pushed so far and no farther. For men, the codpiece is still a flag, now a flag of truce perhaps, but it flutters in a war that goes on and on.
This is what I wrote about “The Masculinist Revolt” when it was published in my collection, The Wooden Star (1968):
I have lost one agent and several friends over this story. A woman I had up to then respected told me, “This castration-nightmare is for a psychiatrist, not an editor”; and a male friend of many years put the story down with tears in his eyes, saying, “You’ve written the manifesto. The statement of principles for all the guys in the world.” My intention was neither castration-nightmare nor ringing manifesto; it was satiric, very gently but encompassingly satiric. I may have failed.
1961, the year in which the story was written, was well before the hippies created a blur between the sexes on matters of clothing and hair styles. The first few editors who saw the piece felt that 1990 was a bit too early for such major changes as I described. My own feeling now is that I was subliminally aware of rapidly shifting attitudes toward sexual differentiation in our society, but that what I noticed as an anticipatory tremor was actually the first rock-slide of the total cataclysm.
I would like to add now (2001) these observations: Apparently I picked the wrong sex, but I was right about the nuttiness either of the two could develop as it wriggled in the throes of gender-political militancy. I further thought that I clearly portrayed in my male leads, Old Pep, Old Shep, and Hellfire Henry, three different kinds of utter failures as men, but I have been assured—by the equivalents of Germaine Greers and Catherine MacKinnons in my own circle—that these characters are to most women the most typically typical of men. So what do I know.
I was between agents at the time I wrote this—because my then agent, among the top ones in New York at the time, told me she’d rather not represent me if I insisted on writing such vicious trash. So I sent it on my own to A.C. Spectorsky (he was, I had discovered, called Old Spec by his subordinates!), the editorial director of Playboy to whom I had been introduced by the minstrel-cartoonist Shel Silverstein. Spectorsky was kind enough to tell me at the time of the introduction that he had so much enjoyed my story “Down Among the Dead Men,” that he had memorized whole passages of it. He kept “The Masculinist Revolt” on his desk for a year and a half, calling me up from time to time to tell me that he was thinking of asking me to have it expanded so that he could devote an entire issue to it, a la The New Yorker and John Hersey’s Hiroshima.
I almost went mad during this time; I priced Mercedes-Benzes up and down the island of Manhattan.
Finally, some assistant editor or other (or, possibly Hugh Hefner himself) happened to read the story and went in to Spectorsky with the comment that the piece was a ringing satire on the Playboy empire. The story was bounced back at me by the next post.
All right, maybe it’s not the stuff of immortality, but I still think it’s pretty good and pretty funny. And, for readers who are generous and will tell me they liked it, I have this to say:
Blame it on E.B. White. His short piece, “The Supremacy of Uruguay,” is ultimately responsible for most of my stories of this type. It showed me that you didn’t need individual characters prancing about if you saw a story as a kind of pseudo-history—something told at a remove by a reasonably objective historian. It occurred to me, immediately upon reading “The Supremacy of Uruguay,” that the pseudo-history belonged above all in the literature of science fiction. And then, later, of course, I encountered Olaf Stapledon’s novels and was privileged to see how a really great science-fiction writer managed the form.
These have been a bunch of miscellaneous remarks. But just one more. Henry W. Sams, the great English Department head at Penn State, gave me a job, a teaching job, the only job I’ve ever liked better than writing. He actually hired me as a professor, after he read two stories of mine, “My Mother Was a Witch” and “The Masculinist Revolt,” despite the fact that I didn’t have the necessary doctorate.
(Of course, I also didn’t have—and Henry knew it at the time he put me in front of a university classroom—either a Master’s degree or a Bachelor’s. I did have, as my brother Morton, a real professor, is quick to point out, a high-school graduation certificate and an honorable discharge from the Army.)
Henry Sams, bless him, was the only member of the Establishment I have known who was in permanent revolt against the Establishment.
Written 1961/Published 1965