Capitalizing on social trends is hardly a new phenomenon. Conservative zealots like Ann Coulter have struck gold by tapping into collective fears and festering anger. George Ouzounian's "Alphabet of Manliness," which debuted at Number Four on The New York Times Bestseller List, slides smoothly into this category. The book, based on his blog "The Best Page In The Universe," reached Number One in Amazon's preorder list relying almost exclusively on word-of-mouth marketing. The blog itself, which allegedly receives one million hits per month, is a series of machismo-soaked diatribes on topics from movies to buying airline tickets to the frustrations of driving in Idaho.
While written in a clever and vivid style, Ouzounian's rantings about Cameron Diaz and Bill O'Reilly are hardly distinct from countless other soapboxes for petulant twenty- to thirty-something males swarming the internet. So what makes him so popular? The answer can be encapsulated in single word: misogyny. It's his entire gimmick, the source of critical shock value that differentiates his site from the masses and wins the delight of male readers. He publicly abhors "puss-onification" and utilizes the phrase "[insert graphic adjective here] vagina" as practically a catchall. A post entitled "How to kill yourself like a man" culminates in the entry "Lick a hooker's ass." The subsequent paragraph reads, "What you need: A hooker, $0.75. How to do it: find a hooker and inquire about her 'ass buffet.' If she doesn't know what you're talking about, punch her."
Ouzounian's brand of animosity towards women is neither new nor unique. A movement of male glorification at the expense of feminism has recently swept through the publishing world, swinging its proverbial dick like a solid gold pendulum. One example is Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield's controversial "Manliness," a nostalgic cry for the survival of masculine stereotypes such as men possessing an inherent advantage in science and women playing the role of "nester," and Thomas Ellis' The Rantings of a Single Male: Losing Patience with Feminism, Political Correctness...And Basically Everything. Miller Lite ad campaigns featuring manly icons like Burt Reynolds and Jerome Bettis trumpeting "Man Laws" such as "salmon is a food, not a color" are peppering the airwaves. The sudden flood of testosterone-infused pop culture has led The New York Times to profile the trend, dubbing it "fratire."
The "frat-lit" scribes are generally white middle-class men with banal day jobs (Ouzounian is a former computer programmer, Times-profiled chauvinist "Tucker Max" a former lawyer) who awoke one day to realize that current waves of anti-feminist backlash could be finagled into a lucrative business. Their writing predominantly appeals to a similar male audience teeming with resentment against the current social order. It's the era of revenge for the "persecuted white male," and the frat-lit crew consequently relies on bulldozing lines of political correctness to win the admiration of "pussified" men nationwide. Women present the last easy target; attacks on racial or ethnic groups would hardly be accepted with such a welcoming "boys should return to being boys" attitude. While it's still not "cool" to be racist, frat-lit has become a frontier for acceptable female-bashing under the guise of humor.
Overall, Ouzounian's blog reads like a vast cyber-landfill in which to dump years of rotting anger. With entries containing material such as, "She got up and was uglier than before, so I did what I always do when women start to cry: I went back inside to play video games," he seems to have found an outlet in the internet, the world's greatest source for venting bottled pain and rage. Don't get me wrong, I'm hardly one to judge for using a personal website as a means of psychological catharsis. Better a computer screen than a bruised girlfriend or maimed dog.
But when confusion about masculine identity translates into thousands of men hanging on your every word, like it or not your therapy takes on new significance. And when you begin to cash in from your subsequent popularity, pseudo-satirical tirades cross into the realm of dangerous, because so many men are taking them seriously. In a recent interview with Salon, Ouzounian insists that many of his readers get the joke, then later contradicts himself, saying, "My fans, a lot of them are really smart, but some really aren't. And they take some of the things I say at face value. It's almost a fight-club mentality. I've even received e-mails from people in militias, saying 'Hey Maddox, we have 20 soldiers around the country waiting for your orders.' It's kinda scary." Common sense dictates that the avid fans he describes are not sophisticated readers with a strong sense of the larger sociopolitical spectrum who can laugh at statements like "If you hear [a whistling noise coming from between her legs], your prospective woman may have a condition commonly referred to as 'whore'" with a full concept of its role as satire. As such, Ouzounian is admittedly feeding the beast, fueling the rage of a generation of men pissed off by society's new demands for equality, and pushing women into the role of readily-available punching bags.
Ironically, Ouzounian falls to pieces when revealed as the voice behind the curtain. Put to Rebecca Traister's questioning about his book's urine-stream of anti-female statements, he deflects responsibility for spreading misogynistic messages with responses like, "The types of women who read my material and don't get offended and like it are really smart women who get it" (the implication being that, if a woman thinks his material is anything but hilarious, she's one of the "[un]shaved girl[s] burning her bra, standing on campus screaming at everybody"). At one point, he makes the ludicrous argument that, because "for the first time in history there's a woman who might run for president and has a good shot of winning," referring to women as "canyonesque twats" is no longer harmful. By the same logic, Barack Obama's rising popularity should accompany a widespread acceptance of derogatory racial jokes. As a bottom line, if you're going to create a public identity based on colorful use of the word "vagina," at least own your audacity. Be the icon of "manliness" you purport to be, tell the media to print whatever they like and don't pussyfoot (pun absolutely intended) around the fact that you're cashing in on the current trend of male anger towards a changing social order.
The true irony is that Traister describes Ouzounian as "soft-spoken." His picture in Salon reveals a young man with sleepy eyes and dark features wearing a crooked smile, a far cry from the traditional images of raging masculinity personified. Through the internet, he has created the ultimate alter-ego, a tunnel between his deepest id and the public sphere, an alternate reality where he can be a god of the misanthropic, vagina-filled world of his own choosing. The problem is, the rest of the world doesn't necessarily know it's all an act.