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SEXIST BEATDOWN: I Don’t Know But I’ve Been Told (That You’re Fired) Edition


All right. Yes. You hear me. PROBABLY. Now, it’s time to disassemble and re-assemble the implications of this incident re: performative gender! While blindfolded! And not an expert on military policy and culture in any way! In the pages of the UK Guardian!*

McChrystal, Hastings makes clear, fashioned himself a “bad-ass” early on in life. At the military academy he attended, he cultivated the art of insubordination, and was rewarded for it: when he got 100 hours of demerits, his classmates applauded him as a “century man”. In the Bush administration, his willingness to go rogue in the name of accomplishing his objectives, and his commitment to ignoring niceties like the chain of command, the truth (he was accused of involvement in the cover-up of a friendly fire incident) or the rules of engagement (he was connected to a prisoner-abuse scandal) were likewise rewarded. He was not disciplined; he was given Afghanistan. And when he had Afghanistan, and found that the new president didn’t agree unreservedly with his ideas about what to do there, well: it was time to be insubordinate again.

And there’s more! About nunchucks! SO GO READ IT, MAGGOTS. But not before you read this, with Sergeant Amanda Hess of The Sexist. READ READ READ. GIVE ME TWENTY (MINUTES OF READING). ETCETERA.

ILLUSTRATION: One of these things is not like the other. But go ahead and say unflattering, borderline-treasonous stuff to it anyway! No, I mean it. GO ON.

AMANDA: Why hello!

SADY: Are you wondering, perchance, how you got screwed into this chat? The answer is that it is scheduled! It comes with the position! Feel free to wave a middle finger and utter a popular middle-school joke in my direction!

AMANDA: That’s gay! Or something!

SADY: Dear Lord. This McChrystal profile: I cannot get over it! Like, four pages in, it starts becoming more generous. Which is kind of startling, because on page one it kind of presents McChrystal as this overgrown eighteen-year-old drinking Bud Light Lime and playing World of (Actual) Warcraft (In Which People Die) with his buddies. Bud Light Lime. BUD LIGHT LIME! The reputation-killer!

AMANDA: Right. And also strangely (and earnestly?) appropriating light satirical commentaries on American patriotism, like Team America and Talladega Nights. Maybe he drinks Bud Light Lime and attends Irish bars in Paris ironically? I can’t tell.

SADY: I just don’t know. But it seems to me that this whole article is profiling McChrystal as like this sad doomed exemplar of a certain kind of machismo. The kind that doesn’t overthink, doesn’t do things that are “fucking gay” like attend restaurants with candles or drink wine or respect the President, and is dead set on getting its way no matter what the consequences of getting your way when you’re resolutely opposed to thinking about stuff or opening your mind at all might actually be. Like, he’s this lone soldier who’s gonna make everyone see it his way and share his favorite Bruce Lee quotes with everybody and get called a “Jedi” (!!) and it does… not work out well. At all.

AMANDA: The lack of self-awareness is the main thing. I’m amazed that no one had their guard up around Hastings—or better, that this is what they look like with their guard up. I mean, looking at the hilarious photographs accompanying the story of Hastings in hipster jacket and beard and sunglasses hanging out with all these dudes in uniform, you have to wonder what they were thinking.

SADY: Right. Like, that’s what’s kind of alarming. That not only are they being frat-house homophobic and hostile to diplomacy — although part of their job is supposedly understanding this culture that they’re trying to singlehandedly break down and reconstruct — but that they’re being quoted as talking smack about everybody in the administration. They’re all identified mostly by their positions, not names, but does being anonymous really help with the impression that this entire operation is just Out Of Control?

AMANDA: And insulting the administration in the laziest way possible. Biden? More like Bite Me! France: Gay! Beer: Good! Us: America! THAT BEING SAID. I have employed the middle finger in a professional capacity more than once. I’m not saying I should be appointed Overlord of Afghanistan or anything, but the juvenile culture didn’t come as much of a shock to me.

SADY: Yeah. I mean, the sort of cult of macho in the military has been pointed out or critiqued by a lot of people more skilled and nuanced than I. The whole thing, though, about this very specific, juvenile, macho thing is that it prizes the Rugged Individualist who Gets His no matter what and Shows ‘Em All… that’s also apparently been the downfall of McChrystal, as a dude. Much as I enjoyed the flashbacks to his early days of “rat fucking” (stripping dudes and covering them with shaving cream? Or something?) and taking his wife to Jack in the Box in formal-wear for their erotic date liaisons, it’s easy to see that this military culture sort of made him the man he is, and positioned that man for a fall in some very big ways.

AMANDA: Rat-fucking has predicted many a man’s downfall.

SADY: Indeed! Rarely has the phrase “enjoys a spirited round of rat fucking” been attached to the resume of a stellar man! Although “he carries a custom-made set of nunchucks in his convoy” is slightly more promising. A custom! Made! Set! Of nunchucks!

AMANDA: When mass-produced nunchucks just won’t do.

SADY: Also, this quote, which I just love so much: “The fucking lads love Stan McChrystal,” says a British officer who serves in Kabul. ‘You’d be out in Somewhere, Iraq, and someone would take a knee beside you, and a corporal would be like ‘Who the fuck is that?’ And it’s fucking Stan McChrystal.” That fucking quote, man. I’m like, what the fuck is up with that quote? And it’s a quote by a British fucking officer, is what it is. And he’s fucking like, “let’s use the fuck word some more, mate! Pip fucking pip! Fucking cheerio!”

AMANDA: And it’s essentially about how McChrystal is like fucking God of Iraq. Which, you know: That guy who thinks he can do anything he wants with an entire region without either respecting the opinions of his superiors or appearing to take any actual interest in understanding how that region works and what it needs (Bud Lite Lime) — he’s gone now, but how did he get this far?

SADY: Yeah. And that’s the thing: He participated in cover-ups, he found himself in the middle of scandals, but he endeared himself to the previous administration by embodying the sort of soldier they wanted — one who would do what “had to be done,” whether or not it was, like, actually permissible. And now he’s carrying that same mind-set forward. It’s hubris, I think. At some point, in some administration, Stan McChrystal’s sense of entitlement or potential was probably proportionate to his actual mandate or talents. Now, at this point in his life, that seems to be clearly not the case. But what kills me is the part where Dude tries to adopt a more nuanced way of moving forward, and the troops aren’t buying it, and it looks like the plan once advanced by… Joe Biden. BITE ME BIDEN. HE’S BECOME THE THING HE HATED. WHICH IS APPARENTLY THE VICE-PRESIDENT.

AMANDA: Except only one of these men is not unlike an older version of Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn! This makes his military strategy instantly more relevant.

SADY: True. Indeed, comparisons to Christian Bale always inspire me with trust in the professionalism and stability of the man being compared. Maybe he actually IS Christian Bale. In his most method role yet!

AMANDA: Where does a hotshot uber-American Bud-Light-Drinking Frenchman-hating black ops military genius go from here?

SADY: I’d kind of like to see him host a cooking show? Or — better! — a new and improved Loveline. “DID YOU TRY TAKING HER TO JACK-IN-THE-BOX? THAT’S YOUR FUCKING PROBLEM RIGHT THERE, PUSSY.” These are flippant answers, but I honestly don’t know. Dude’s been disgraced. I somehow don’t see him comfortably taking on consultancy roles. Although Lord knows he just may.

AMANDA: I SEE MY WIFE 30 DAYS A YEAR. YES I’M RETIRED NOW BUT THIS IS THE OPTIMAL RATIO OF DAYS TO SEE YOUR WIFE FOR MAINTENANCE OF A ROGUE MASCULINE PERSONA. OK, so I just think he’s just going to type in all caps all the time, on the Internet. Maybe he could write for Tiger Beatdown? I’d like to see him attempt feminist blog comment moderation.


AMANDA: I mean at the very least he could point us to his custom nunchuck tailor. I’ve been looking for an upgrade. Also, I’m tired of taking the effort to actually insert fruit into my beer. Surely there’s an easier way!

SADY: Have you considered — PRE-FRUITENING? The fruit invades the beer, then assimilates into it! It re-structures the beer to better fit its own juicy flavor! Maybe he could just think of new things to flavor with limes, disgustingly. That’s an ongoing market.

AMANDA: Nevermind, it sounds French.

*Hey, here’s something fun: I am actually going to show up in the non-metaphorical pages of the print edition of the UK Guardian this weekend! With a slightly different version of this very article! So, if you live in the UK, you can buy a paper, and I will be in it. Which, assuming that you like the look of my name in print as much as I do (IT IS A LOT) should be fun for you. Look at me, I’m jealous already!


  1. This is actually the droid McChrystal commentary I have been looking for. No, for reals! I keep getting into these blog discussions, and I want to say “It’s the patriarchy what done him in, muthafuggas” but I don’t want to do the *work* of connecting all the patriarchy-blaming dots. So yay! I shall link to you instead.

    You may also like SF writer (and vet) Elizabeth Moon‘s analysis, which outlines all the ways the Rogue Macho mindset is not wanted in the military.

    Friday, June 25, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink
  2. tree wrote:


    i wish i were in the UK so that i could buy a copy of the guardian!

    however, i am particularly enjoying the comments to the online edition. no offence sady and amanda, because you are obviously competent at the humour (for a couple of ladies), but have you thought about turning teh beatdown over to the guardian’s dude commentors? i mean, their insights are truly profound. also, some of them are trufax feminists.

    in the name of gender equality, i beseech you! let them dudesplain!

    Friday, June 25, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Permalink
  3. dillene wrote:

    In honor of this post I am starting a band called “Bespoke Nunchucks”.

    Friday, June 25, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Permalink
  4. AUGH. The commenters!

    Why are they always SO FUCKING OBNOXIOUS. Seriously! Who pissed in their breakfast cereal?

    Saturday, June 26, 2010 at 12:44 am | Permalink
  5. Stacy wrote:

    I think this is part of the conundrum of the military man in America. Their job is to kill a bunch of people and exist in a war zone where they could be blown to bits any minute. Or see their friends, the men think of as brothers, do the same. And we feverishly celebrate their balls-to-the-wall machismo culture that is constructed in part so they can survive in the military and the war zone. But wait! Now it is time for diplomacy and nuance! Now you might want to tone down on the swearing and making fun of others! I can understand how they get whiplash and don’t react appropriately in a given situation. Although, obviously, once they attain a rank as high as McChrystal’s, discretion is a reasonable expectation.

    Saturday, June 26, 2010 at 2:18 am | Permalink
  6. Catalania wrote:

    I both live in the UK and am subscribed to the Guardian! Maybe I shall buy an EXTRA copy to demonstrate my approval of their choice to publish your work. Probably not though – financial breakdowns of the Budget just don’t thrill me that much. Look forward to seeing your name in actual physical print!

    Saturday, June 26, 2010 at 6:08 am | Permalink
  7. Gembird wrote:

    GOD, SADY.

    It’s ‘cherri-fucking-o’ not ‘fucking cheerio’. Everybody knows that. JEEZ.

    Yeah, anyway. I’m also a Guardian subscriber so I’ll be reading This Article: Alternative Psper Version later. Not even going near the online version they have. They seem to attract the most awful mansplainers and general douchenozzles despite being a generally liberal and not-embarrassingly-stupid newspaper/site/whatevs.

    Saturday, June 26, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink
  8. Caitlin wrote:

    Fuck yes! I was 100% excited to see your name in the Guarinad.

    ALSO, I feel I must share with you this, from The Independent’s coverage:

    “Reading the piece, you get the impression that its iconic stature in the pop-culture firmament is what gave Hastings access, and that McChrystal’s staff were seduced into being indiscreet in front of him, because they grew to feel comfortable with him and thought he worked for a magazine which might make them look cool.”

    Guys, when a description of you is indistinguishable from a description of Stillwater, I really don’t know what to tell you.

    Saturday, June 26, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Permalink
  9. Victoria wrote:

    If these guys thought Rolling Stone would make them look cool, they haven’t read much of Rolling Stone’s political coverage, um, ever. Which is a perfectly believable possibility.

    Saturday, June 26, 2010 at 10:56 pm | Permalink
  10. Christopher wrote:

    “The fucking lads love Stan McChrystal,” says a British officer who serves in Kabul. ‘You’d be out in Somewhere, Iraq, and someone would take a knee beside you, and a corporal would be like ‘Who the fuck is that?’ And it’s fucking Stan McChrystal.”

    And that British officer was Garth Ennis. And now you know the rest of the story.

    Not having read the Rolling Stone piece or any coverage of it that doesn’t assume you have I find this whole thing incredibly surreal. I just keep hearing these incredibly goofy snippets about nunchucks or something that I can’t fit into any kind of coherent picture.

    It’s like if I skipped the State of the Union and the next day people were saying “Well, that giant robot was amazing, but the pudding chorus was probably a mistake, in the long run”.

    Sunday, June 27, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Permalink
  11. Brimstone wrote:

    Yeah British people on shows like Shameless and Misfits swear heaps.
    There’s probably an Apocalypse Now quote that fit but McChrystal isn’t crazy enough to Kurtz. Maybe the general who cares more about surfing then fighting the war

    Sunday, June 27, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Permalink
  12. katiemonstrrr wrote:

    OH GOD I READ THE COMMENTS. I had no idea Sady was such a promoter of gender-essentialism and military-feminization. 😛
    Seriously, though: do words in articles/blogs just magically appear/rearrange themselves when certain people read them on the internet? My brainmeats are hurting now.
    (Never read the comments, Katie. NEVER. READ. THE COMMENTS.)

    Monday, June 28, 2010 at 12:49 am | Permalink
  13. snobographer wrote:

    I was dying to reply to this hilarious comment at your Guardian piece:

    discosebastian 25 Jun 2010, 4:19PM

    I have known people who own and treasure their sets of nunchucks: they have, almost invariably, been weird, uncomfortable-making men in their teens or early 20s, who believed themselves to be great warriors trapped in the bodies of computer maintenance professionals.

    That’s not macho. That’s a warped interpretation of what men are supposed to be like…

    Monday, June 28, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Permalink
  14. snobographer wrote:

    … ^The implication of discosebastian’s comment being that “macho” is a healthy and authentic – or not-warped – interpretation of what men are supposed to be like.

    Monday, June 28, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Permalink
  15. Mark O. wrote:

    I still cannot get past this:


    what the fuck


    Monday, June 28, 2010 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

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