In this scattershot treatise Daw, a trauma surgeon, identifies machismo as a pattern of reckless, violent, sexist, domineering, thoroughly jackassed behavior and thinking produced by a surfeit of testosterone, especially in adolescent males.
The list of health problems Daw links to machismo is a long one. Macho men, he avers, are prone to smoking, drinking, car crashes, football injuries and hunting accidents. Their love of loud music leads to deafness, he warns, and their disdain for motorcycle helmets to brain damage. He notes that domestic abuse by men kills 1,500 women a year and that countless marriages fail because of macho habits ranging from uncommunicativeness to neglect of the female orgasm. (“Alligators and crocodiles spend more time on foreplay than humans do,” he somehow observes.) And the propensity for challenging eye contact among the macho, he insists, gets them killed in countless miscellaneous contexts from road-rage incidents to hostage situations. Daw’s unfocused analysis of male stupidity, boorishness and bravado, highlighted by pained memories of his own youthful misadventures, isn’t exactly original. Its most distinctive feature is his trauma surgeon’s sensitivity to the harm that befalls the incautious and impaired, and his critique eventually wanders off into a tutorial on bizarre modes of death and dismemberment. Daw wallows in case studies of freak accidents and random maimings: electrocution by light-bulb chain; suffocation by beach-hole cave-in; decapitation by flying lawn-mower blade. Dogs provoked by careless eye contact are a special fixation, but he rehearses many animal-attack scenarios, from sharks to moose to killer bees. (“If the bees’ relatives visit you, run!”) This all goes well beyond the subject of excessive masculinity; indeed, some of the dangers that haunt the author—skin cancer from beauty tanning; long hairdos and flowing scarves that get snagged in machinery à la Isadora Duncan—are downright feminine. Daw’s meandering text rides innumerable hobbyhorses around in circles, lurching haphazardly from grisly mayhem to icky sexology to tossed-off investment tips. The result is less a sustained argument than a fretful, disjointed, repetitive tour of one man’s obsessions, but the many reports of outlandish carnage do make for a diverting browse.
A feckless but at times morbidly captivating catalog of misconduct and misfortune.