- I don't think that misogyny is intrinsic to cowboy culture. But I also don't think it's a coincidence that traditionally male characteristics and virtues and activities are preferenced by far over traditionally female traits and roles. And I think the nostaligia for a time when everyone knew their place and their role and didn't try to buck the system is often tinged with misogyny. For one thing, that time and place never really existed as we imagine it. And to the extent that it did exist, it was an era of prosperity-for-some built upon the exploitation-and-silencing-of-the-many.
- I don't think that taking a conservative political stance is intrinsic to cowboy culture. I could conceive of a liberal cowboy. It's logically possible.
- I think it's true that some women did carve out a special niche in the wild west, as one anonymous commenter mentioned. My own great-great-grandmother was a widowed homesteader who took on the work of running and expanding the farm while raising two children and earning the respect of the entire community. But I think that, generally speaking, these women only earned the respect and approval for their work because it was undertaken out of necessity. I also have a great-aunt who was a skillful manager of land, crops, animals, and children. She had the misfortune of marrying an under-motivated man who was a bit too fond of the drink, so she basically kept her family from financial ruin by running the ranch herself. But because she had a man and was not undertaking the management of the ranch out of tragic necessity, she was branded a nagging shrew and unwomanly, and the fact that she "wore the pants in the family" was widely held to be the cause of her husband's failings. To this day her kids are terribly bitter about the way their mother was portrayed and treated by the community when they witnessed the reality of the situation and are grateful for her strength and resourcefulness.
- I also think that when the women discussed in #3 were respected, it was only insofar as they approximated masculinity. But I admit that that may be a bit of an over generalization.
- I do think there's a strong link in our cultural mythology between the cowboy and the soldier, as it has been eloquently pointed out. I'm a bit out of touch with the country music scene, but it seems like there was a strong tendency to riff off of September 11 and advocate war and oversimplify the complex political landscape in favor of the picture of the brave patriot and the rugged cowboy-soldier defending freedom in the country music world. But this seems kind of strange to me, because I've known a lot of people in the military, and real life in the military doesn't seem to mesh with our mythology of the cowboy at all. The first thing they do in the military is purge you of your independence and your identity and whatever tendencies you may have to stand on your own two feet and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. So it seems to me like our idealized cowboy would be bitterly unhappy in the military. Similarly, I don't see why being willing to take a bullet for others is a mentality that would have to be limited to cowboys. No doubt some cowboys were so loyal to their friends and family that they would take a bullet for them. But there are also instances of many, many non-cowboys doing the same. So I don't think this connection withstands any scrutiny.
- I also thought this comment, from our previously mentioned anonymous commenter was very apt
sometimes the individualism card is overplayed, when in reality government helped to build the west, especially in the case of the railroads
- The parallel between playing at being a cowboy and playing at being a princess that frank pointed out seems right to me.
- Beatriz's explanation of the roots of cowboy culture and Spanish imperialism was informative and really helped round out my understanding of cowboy culture.
- Similarly, Kelly's comment about the realities of the relationship between ranchers and the animals they care for, as well as their relationships with the financial institutions on which they rely, was valuable and informative.