What do Putin, Firemen, and Macho Men Have in Common?

One of my clients, a young man, has a learning disability that caused him significant difficulty in school. When he came in for his appointment recently, he opened with, “Putin is trying to start World War III in the Ukraine.”  The young man has wisdom far beyond his learning disability. Anyone who is watching and listening can see for themselves that the pot is being stirred, in what geopolitical writer Richard Maybury (in his newsletter, Early Warning Report) likes to call, Chaostan. So let’s talk Vladimir Putin.

I love Dr. Drew and I don’t watch his show, Dr. Drew on Call, nearly as often as I’d like. A few weeks ago though, while running on the treadmill, I caught a segment about Putin.

There was a discussion among his guests about the meaning of all the “manly” pictures of Putin that have circulated in the media. We’ve seen pictures of him with an assault rifle, on a Harley Davidson, in a race car tracked at 240 mph, fielding ice hockey pucks, in judo matches, collaring a polar bear, scuba diving, arm wrestling, swimming in freezing Siberian lakes, and shooting a tiger in the wild. His shirtless pictures include shirtless with a weapon, shirtless on horseback, and shirtless fishing in shark-infested waters. OK, I made that last part up. There were no sharks, but he was shirtless, and he was displaying his big catch, so you get my point.

One of Dr. Drew’s guests called it “machismo.” What a great word. Merriam-Webster defines it as: a strong sense of masculine pride, an exaggerated masculinity, an exaggerated or exhilarating sense of power or strength. Of course machismo is a derivative of macho (or vice versa depending on who you believe).

This same guest told a story that George Bush Jr. recently shared in a Today Show interview (with his daughter Jenna) that illustrates further machismo from Putin. Putin had travelled to the U.S. and in the course of the meeting, was introduced to Bush’s small, fluffy Scottish terrier, Barney.  Bush said Putin “dissed” Barney (who had a special place in Bush’s heart) with this comment, “You call it a dog?”

Then a year later, when George and Laura traveled to Russian, Vladimir said, “Would you like to meet my dog?” and this huge black Labrador comes bounding in. Putin looks at Bush and says through his interpreter, “Bigger, stronger, and faster than Barney.”


This reminded me of a story a client told me a few years ago. Her husband, now retired from the fire department, once expressed feelings of anguish from a personal crisis among his fellow firemen brothers.

He was promptly made fun of with snide comments like: “Do you need a hug?” and “Can I get you a Kleenex?” It was a pattern of ridicule that was apparently part of the boys’ club.

For the record, not all men are macho. My husband is not; he’s metrosexual. Not all politicians are macho. What about sun-tanned, but highly emotional Speaker of the House John Boehner, who has been called the “Weeper of the House.”  Not all world leaders are. Think compassionate southerner Jimmy Carter and high emotional quotient Barack Obama. And most definitely not all firemen are. I know several firemen who are perfect gentlemen, and express their feelings easily.

So shouldn’t machismo go out of style, become old-school? In my research I found one blogger who suggested that artists should be running countries. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but what do you say we  make fun of macho men, instead of making fun of men who express their feelings? My small, fluffy dog, Picasso, agrees: Woof!

Sanity now!


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