Anybody else struck by the symbolic convergence of bats and leaf blowers this October? Men swinging big sticks is nothing new, of course, but I find myself both embarrassed and amused by such displays of male aggression. Throw guns into the symbolic mix and the situation suddenly gets serious, deadly serious.

Whatever the embodied origins of these symbolically phallic male obsessions, they manifest as displays of power – power against other men, women, children and nature. When sublimated into ritualized, rule-based sport, displays of male aggression can be quite exciting. I guess this is why gladiators were popular and why baseball sluggers are too. Imagine rocks being thrown at 100 miles-per-hour instead of hardballs and hatchets being swung instead of Ash baseball bats and sport as controlled warfare becomes obvious.

Leaf blowers are an exceptional phallic metaphor. Guys swinging powerful big sticks that force nature to yield before them appeals to our reptile brains, which is why I suppose during the baseball playoffs commercials for chain saws, leaf blowers and Viagra seem to rise up during every pitching change. One should never underestimate the artfulness of Madison Avenue in dressing up popular male activities with symbolic outfits of phallic power. Throw in some beer and booze to lubricate things and before long you’ve got a bar brawl in progress.

It’s shocking how exercised some men get about the regulation of leaf blowers. The threat of being denied access to the powerful big stick is tantamount, it seems, to the threat of castration. This whole situation gets dodgy and dangerous when male obsessions mix sex, power and guns. Talk about emasculation; big bullet-ejaculating sticks will have to be pried from “cold, dead hands” rather than being well-regulated.

The symbolic and emotional get buried under rationalizations – about freedom, law, the role of government, individualism – and this often obscures the primitive male impulse to dominate and control. But when the three women on the Sonoma City Council united to regulate leaf blowers rationality was set aside in favor of loud bluster and outright intimidation. Sensing danger, the Mayor requested the presence of law enforcement at the meeting when leaf blower proponent Stan Pappas chose to make rude catcalls during council deliberation; he left rather than risk confrontation with a cop experienced in dealing with male aggression.

Methinks male defenders of guns and leaf blowers doth protest too much. Something more than legal niceties are at play; such obsessions emerge from deep down in the dark, shadowy, primitive psyche of testosterone. It’s a “don’t touch my junk” kinda problem linked to fear and shame, a deadly combination if there ever was one. “Seek immediate help if you experience an erection lasting over four hours” is what actually sells those little blue pills.

An epidemic of male violence continues to roil society, taking its terrible toll on the innocent. If it could all come down to swinging big sticks in baseball games it would be entertaining, but hundreds of millions of guns in America have made swinging deadly big sticks our real national pastime. Baseball playoff accounts follow the accounts of gun-violence on the evening news.

I understand why the three women on the city council found themselves feeling intimidated by aggressively vocal make opponents. Men are scary and when their virility is threatened they’re downright dangerous. Badda-Bing, Badda-Boom.

10 thoughts on “Baseball-bat-leaf-blower-badda-bing-badda-boom

  1. Thank you, Mr. Barnett, for shining a light on the intimidation and bullying that has taken place. Sadly, it has come to a low point. The bullies now feel emboldened because the Council backed down.
    Now, those of us who dare to speak on behalf of clean air, wellness and a more peaceful Sonoma, may find it necessary to request an officer escort to our car because of past, very unpleasant experiences after we leave the Council chamber.
    We refuse to let these individuals cast a dark pall on free speech and the right to want clean air in our neighborhoods.
    Cee Cee Ponicsan

  2. That which dare not be uttered. Loved the reference to reptile brain and the courage to name the prime example, a ranter without reason, bent on intimidating the council of a city within which he does not even live. This will be the third time he gets his way without a lick of work or a smidgen of logic. Discouraging that Rachel Hundley would bend to that kind of pressure.

  3. Larry, I couldn’t agree more. I recently had a past life memory of thousands of years ago. The talk around the campfire was that the men were getting carried away with those notorious phallic symbols, knives, clubs and spears. I’m not sure about “reptile brains” but those darn mammalian males sure seem excited by all this phallus-stuff. Obvious examples include bows and arrows, lances, levers, blowguns and drills of all kinds. Don’t even get me started on those “talking sticks” used in the camp councils.
    Of course, in more modern times we have nails, screwdrivers, awls, ice-picks, hoses (so obviously a mere phallic projection), clarinets, flutes, saxphones, etc.. I mean it’s obvious that virtually all musical instruments are a result of male-dominated phallic obsession: bows of stringed instruments, drum sticks, all those “wind” instruments that you “blow”. I mean come on (no pun intended).
    Stick shifts, knives, forks and spoons, ladles, fly-swatters, sky-scrapers, antennae, rockets, rakes, shovels, brooms, telescopes—– All these are deep, dark, shadowy primitive manifestations of fear and shame with which males have been dominating and controlling our society . I say ban them all. Oh, and don’t forget cigars. and tennis rackets.

    1. Well, in so far as any human artifact represents an extension of our physical or sensory selves, spoons and the like are included, but not necessarily are phallic. “Phallic” in the sense I employ it is intended to indicate the the sublimated psycho-sexual force of male aggression, not simply a matter of shape or form. Thus the baseball bat is used aggressively, as are the leaf-blower and the gun. A spoon, for example, is an extension of the finger, not a phallus…although used aggressively, I suppose a spoon suffices in both contexts.

      1. A few questions come to mind- How do you determine that a baseball bat is an extension of the penis and a spoon is an extension of the fingers. though the use of a spoon somewhat replicates using finger so deliver food to the mouth, I cannot for the life of me figure out how using a bat to hit a ball replicates any use of the penis. That is the last thing I would want to do with mine.
        The other question- When girls and women play baseball, does that change the symbology? Are they emulating men when they “play ball”? Or is that just penis envy? Besides, who says using a bat to hit a ball is “aggressive”?
        I could see it if you use a bat to hit someone.
        You also say that things are phallic only when it’s used as a psycho-sexual force of male aggression. Why does “phallic” only indicate aggression? That seems completely arbitrary to me, and totally leaves out the life-giving force of the erect phallus, which. let’s face it, is the only phallus worth talking about in this context . It sounds like you have very negative view of the phallus.
        To repeat a theme, sometimes a leafblower is just a leafblower.

        1. Put your metaphoric hat on, Michael; your appreciation of poetry will help you dive through the maze of logic and literial meaning that seems to have jammed your gears. Of course there is more than one way to view any topic, subject, set or words or idea; I am not offering either The Truth or the only viable opinion. Yours is just as fine as mine as long as your difference of opinion does not come down to the damage you might inflict on me from a spoon, or that matter, a bat. All generalities are subject to falsehood.

  4. Michael, Ahhh, you forget the clarinet and flute, though they may be phallic in shape do not pose a threat us females. We may look at them as symbols representing lovers or friends and not as a threat. While the leaf blower, guns and clubs will threaten our calm and time with nature or cause us to fear for our lives and flee.

  5. So it something phallic can be either good or bad, creative or destructive, why not just evaluate the thing itself, such as a leafblower, on its own terms without reading “phallic” into it? In Larry’s column there are only negative terms used in reference to the phallus- “obsessive, dark, shadowy, primitive, domination, aggressive, power and guns”, etc, etc.
    Don’t get me wrong, I am not a supporter of leaf blowers, and I am not unaware of the pervasiveness of patriarchal thinking in our society. Hey, I’m not even wild about the internal combustion engine. As a friend once said, ” Leave it to Western Civilization to come up with a form of energy based on a series of small explosions.” But I do own a car.
    I just think one can get a little carried away with overly psychoanalyzing something, that’s all, and my intent was to have a little fun with that.
    “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”- Sigmund Freud

  6. This is my favorite online discussion to date. Left out of the phallus debate are the names Dick, Rod, John Henry, Jackson and Prober (made that one up). Obviously men with those names are phallus-obsessed and must be carefully monitored. In a show of solidarity with my female friends and all the ladies everywhere I’ve given female names to all my male children. Must start somewhere.

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