Toxic Masculinity and the Western American Lawn

I don’t have a TV, but I was sitting in an airport restaurant recently where there’s no option but to see a TV, and I saw a commercial from a lawn mower company. This commercial was your normal lawn mower commercial — an overweight suburban dad sitting on a lawnmower being encouraged to be a good husband, father and homeowner by buying this gigantic riding lawnmower. Keep the grass perfect, keep up with the Joneses, take care of your property, etc. — all the right modern manhood stuff. The commercial ended by saying that “long-term financing” was available from the lawnmower company.

That’s right — they were offering a mortgage on a lawnmower.

It’s all the rage these days to talk about “toxic masculinity” — i.e., that men’s macho-ness is killing the planet and all the other species on it, as well as being one of the major problems being addressed by the #MeToo movement. In addition, I’m going to add a little more context and a different spin on this topic based on the lawnmower mortgage commercial. I’m also going to offer a way out.

The advertising industry creates, escalates, and preys on toxic masculinity at every opportunity. The industry doesn’t just encourage men to drink too much, act degradingly towards women, and try to repress and rule the world, it also snares and entraps men in the psychologically vortex of a maniupated definition of “manhood”. Endlessly, men are fed messages trying to enslave them in a mortgaged-based life where just about everything — and I mean everything — can be financed by debt to make sure men remain the omni-present cog in the capitalist wheel propping up quarterly profits of the multi-national corporate death machine.

Fellas, know this: The world runs not by the fruit of your labor, but by the debt in your bank account. Nearly every single advertising message you see is trying to take your life away from you and mortgage it for someone else’s shareholder profit, including the lawn business.

The Western American lawn is one of the stupidest, most deadly, capitalist schemes every perpetuated on mankind. The endless amount of time, toxic chemicals, pollution, noise, water, and financial commitment spent on enslaving men in this grass-trap must be one of the most successful corporate brainwashings of all time.

But now there’s a way out.

The Western American lawn requires a lot of water, and drought-stricken cities across the Southwest U.S. are increasingly offering incentives for homeowners to tear out their lawns and replace them with lower maintenance, non-toxic, lower water usage, and much more natural landscaping. These programs are often called “cash for grass” wherein instead of you guys paying into the endless time and money-pit for a grass lawn, these cities actually pay you to hire a landscaping company to tear it out.

Las Vegas has been one of the leading Southwest cities to incentivize tearing out lawns. Over the last twenty years, Vegas has spent several hundred million dollars paying people to tear out their lawns. Elsewhere, during the extreme California drought of 2011–2014, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California spent $350 million paying people to tear out their lawns. The idea is spreading, even here in Colorado where my local city, Fort Collins, has started a tiny pilot project to pay people to tear out their lawns.

The payout is escalating too — as drought further parches the American Southwest, the price of water is getting higher and higher, which has allowed cities to pay more and more money to homeowners to tear out their lawns. In fact, it’s now often cheaper for a city to pay you to tear out your lawn than it is for that city to get new water by any other means. Just a few weeks ago, Las Vegas upped the ante and is now paying homeowners a record-setting $3/square foot to tear out the grass. San Diego just announced $2.75/square foot. Will it get higher? Let the liberation contest begin, I say!

I know, it sounds like some sort of communist plot, right? It undercuts corporate capitalism, saves money for homeowners and water utilities, and frees up men’s time to do other more fun stuff.

Guys, here’s what you can do to begin to set yourself free: If your city has a “cash for grass” program, enroll in it as soon as possible. If your city doesn’t have one, rally the neighborhood men to storm City Hall and demand that your city start a program.

You didn’t move to the American West to sit on your ass on top of a mortgaged lawnmower all weekend. Get some cash for your grass and spend more time in the mountains running wild and free.