Analysis of Gretel Ehrlich’s “About Men."
Gretel Ehrlich’s “About Men” is an interesting non-fiction piece of text. The purpose of the text is to explore the different stereotypes that exist about men. More specifically, the text focuses on the stereotypes surrounding the cowboys of the west and tries to solve the situation through the use of personal examples. Ideally, the author employs several devices and strategies to achieve the purpose by using detailed syntax and pathos. Also, she uses personal stories to make clear her argument. One of the most evident themes that present itself in the text as mentioned is the way Gretel tries to un-stereotype the stereotype of the men ranchers. Also, the themes of conformity and rebellion are clear in the text. In this essay, I argue that Cowboys conform to the tough, machos and trigger happy stereotype men and in the process rebel to their actual nature of soft-hearted, friendly and quirky individuals who are dedicated to what they do.
The ‘cowboy’ as discussed in the text embodies the theme of conformity and rebellion. Gretel uses her personal experience with the Cowboys to show the stereotyping that faces them since she comes from Wyoming and has had a first experience with the ranchers. She explains the stereotyped nature by explaining:
‘…if he's robust and silent, it's because there is probably no one to talk to, if he rides away into the sunset, it's because he's been on horseback since four in the morning moving cattle and he's trying, fifteen hours later, to get home to his family..' (Ehrlich)
Usually, the Cowboys are depicted as people who are tough, machos and trigger-happy men by the society, and they tend to conform to the dictates of the society. However, the author argues that ‘the cowboy is more apt to be convivial, quirky and soft-hearted’ (Ehrlich). To show conformity, the author quotes a rancher who maintained, ‘now don’t go telling me these lambs are cute’ (Ehrlich). In the statement, the cowboy seems to conform to the dictates of the society by adopting a harsh and macho spirit through denying the cuteness of the lamb. That is, the society expects a cowboy to be a tough individual who is not intrigued by the cuteness of a sheep and he conforms to the idea by making a statement that only a tough person would make. However, the author goes ahead to explain that the next thing she saw was the cowboy holding the lamb expressing the cuteness of the lamb, ‘…ain’t this little rat good-looking…?’ (Ehrlich). The statement proves that indeed Cowboys have a soft heart and they only tend to conform to what the society expects them to be.
Cowboys tend to match attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to societal norms. The text explains that people who settled in the West were Southerners who were in search of a new life after the Civil War. As a result, they came in with chivalrousness and strict codes of honor that were later taken to be a way of life for the Westerners. One major thing that was common in those territorial days was a lack of women. Therefore, there was a kind of stand-oafishness between the sexes and a formality after the women arrived. Looking at the relationship that existed between men and females at that time explains the reason why the ranchers conform to various ways of behavior. For instance, Gretel tells that ranchers still tip their hats and say, ‘Howdy, ma’am’ instead of shaking hands with the women (Ehrlich). Apparently, the ranchers tend to conform to a particular kind of life that is characterized by an evasive nature of men towards women. Gretel explains that even the young cowboys tend to be evasive with the ladies. However, she explains that the equivocal nature should not be mistaken for roughness but rather a lack of knowing how to bring tenderness into the house and vocabulary to express their feelings (Ehrlich).
The rebellious nature and machismo of the cowboy is a distorted image of the cowboy since it is built on the American notion of heroism (Ehrlich). The intended audience of the text are the people who cling to the idea of a rough and tough cowboy stereotype and tend to use the stereotypical cowboy in their advertisements and commercials. Gretel explains that what they portray is not toughness but toughing up to the different circumstances that they face in their daily activities. The conformity of the Cowboys to the set standards and what they are expected to be- masculine and cold hearted I highly believe a form of rebellion to their actual nature.
It is important to note that, the clarity and coherence on how the text depicts the two themes are surprising and more so because the book is written by a woman who so much understands the cowboy’s way of life. Furthermore, the fact that the text is based on real facts, people and events make it successful in depicting the two themes. Undoubtedly, the text puts across that a cowboy icon is one whose manly values are measured regarding physical courage (Ehrlich). Therefore, ranchers tend to conform to this standards by acting in a manner that portrays physical courage and machismo. The Marlboro advert is a good example of conformity and an actual rebellion to their actual nature of kind-hearted and loving individuals
Ehrlich, Gretel. “About men.” Occasions for Writing: Evidence, Idea, Essay (2008): 703-05.