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Fist Bumps: Have They Lost Their Manly Meaning?

24 June 2008 4 Comments

Fist Bump Heard Around The WorldThe fist bump has taken on a whole new meaning as of late. Barack and Michelle Obama gave each other a fist bump recently and it turned the desperate, right-wing media folk on their heads – looking for anything to hang around their competition’s neck. One literally insane, woman commentator actually insinuated it as a “terrorist fist jab”. Of course, unless you took a whole bottle of crazy pills, smoked your breakfast, or simply decided to forget you had a brain, you dismissed this as just plain absurd. (You can watch the video here, and then watch the apology as well.)

Time magazine even went so far as to write a whole piece on the act, its origins and what it really means in today’s society. This just shows how this modern day high-five has taken center stage, literally overnight. God bless 24 hour news channels…

The New York Times recently republished an article that was written back in 2001 about the origins, history and meaning of this congratulatory gesture. I thought this article was good reporting. They originally wrote it in 2001 way before all this silliness, so it was just reporting the facts and trying to explain its history.

Also, with all my articles, I always want to know what Wikipedia has to say about the fist bump.

Where did the modern fist bump start?
There is this Nonverbal Dictionary that many people will cite as the authority on this type of thing. They say the clenched fist signals ”an aroused emotional state, as in anger, excitement or fear.” Not sure if this is what it was meant to be, but nevertheless, it is meant to be a more masculine form of a high five or a hand shake.

No one really knows for sure when and where this started, but in American culture, few will argue that it became mainstream when sports figures started doing it back in the 70’s. Many feel Fred Carter of 1970’s NBA fame was the Godfather of the modern-day fist bump. Here is a quote from an interview he gave:

”The high-five was for a team accomplishment, and the bump was more an individual thing,” said Mr. Carter, who remembered the great Earl Monroe as another early bumper. ”You bumped when your testosterone hit a peak. It was a crescendo of success; and when we did it, it was manly.”

Back in 50’s, men would do something called the fist pound. This was to punch the shoulder in a downward motion or punch them in the chest. In either case, it was manly back then to do this and was a way for men to have manly touch interaction.

Finally, some claim the superheroes, the Wonder Twins, started this modern day gesture when they would smack fists (actually touching their rings) right before turning into frozen pond or a hammer or something silly that could save the day.

Where did this manly gesture go terribly wrong?
Nowadays, the gesture is moving away from its sports roots. When Tiger Woods performs the gesture, it is a sign of strength. He leaves the open handed high-fives at home for his wife and kids, but when on the course with Stevie, he clenches the fist and gives the manly fist bump.

But when you see non-sports figures implementing the fist bump, it quickly loses its manliness and its true meaning for which it was adopted. I was watching a political news show the other night and they gave each other fist bumps at the end of the interview. The guys (and gal) on Fast Money on CNBC give each fist bumps at the end of each show and even have started throwing in a couple during the show.

This has to be stopped or the fist bump will go the way of the chest bump (another very masculine thing to do in sports that is now COMPLETELY out of favor when soccer moms and grocery clerks started to make this mainstream).

When Michelle put up her fist to give her husband the fist bump, I am certain that this once masculine gesture had jumped the shark. Then I saw her, somewhat tongue and cheek, give fist bumps to the women on The View. If it was not clear that fist bumps had lost their manliness already, then this one act had officially killed off the bump. Watch the video below and try not to cringe…I dare any man to tell me they not only cringed, but they had a profound pucker affect…

This just kills me every time I see it…the coolness is officially over.

How to pull off a manly fist bump.
OK, so you don’t want to give up on it quite yet, but you don’t want to be compared to the Obama’s or the women on The View. You want to be a man and do the manly fist bump, but not sure how since it has been hijacked by mainstream? Below is a great list I found of do’s and don’ts associated with fist bumps. I changed nothing from the original article from TastyBooze as I thought it was just perfect.

1. If sports are involved, fist bumping is always acceptable.
2. If you are wearing a suit, you may only fist bump if you are drunk. Or if you have just wrapped part of your suit around your forehead.
3. You may not fist bump under any circumstances, in a hospital. Unless Rule #1 (or Rule #2) applies.
4. Do not fist bump someone else’s misfortune, even if it helps you. Just look down, furrow your brow, and nod sternly.
5. No fist bumping between the hours of 7am and 10am. And if you’re watching sports at this time, it’s probably soccer or NASCAR, and then you should really not be fist bumping. High fives will suffice for both.
6. Do not fist bump in a meeting. Even if you are drunk.
7. Do not fist bump your children. Unless you’re drunk, then it’s OK.
8. Girls can fist bump anytime they want. And yes, guys think it’s cute.
9. Do not refuse a fist bump. If you, as a bumpee, believe the bumper is violating a rule, speak to him afterwards. Refusing his bump is not going to help anything.
10. Do not fist bump yourself.

Epic list and fits all my criteria of manliness.

Finally, the question comes to mind on just “how” to pull off the manly fist bump. I have included some pictures below of the good, the bad, and flat out ugly.

Classic and timeless. The traditional fist bump that occurs in sports. There are plenty of variations on this and they all pretty much work in the sporting arena.

The Wonder Twins are credited with the first fist bump (along with our pal Fred Carter of NBA fame). It doesn’t matter who was the first or who brought it mainstream, the Wonder Twins pull off the manly fist bump. See the straight arms in a heroic situation of cartoon fame. Nice…

The classic politician (in this case Joe Lieberman) doing a fist bump in order to garner votes. I don’t like this one, but it can be pulled off. In this case, it is between men and it somewhat works. Not as cool as a couple of sport guys (or gals) but acceptable.

What the hell is this? You never fist bump an inanimate object. I understand there was probably some booze involved and I really hope this guy just lost a bet. Good photo opp, but manly it is not.

Fist bumping your child is always OK. It is not your traditional nor is it very effective for your manliness quotient, but you can never go wrong with high-fiving or fist bumping a baby. It is almost always OK.

I’m not sure what to say. Looks like they are having fun, soooo…moving on….

Interracial fist bumps are always cool. This will be me and my newly adopted interracial son one day. I will update this post in 15 years when he and I are playing hoops and we find that moment.

Freaking terrorist fist bumps. Maybe there is something behind the whole terrorist claim….

Have any comments or suggestions on fist bumps? If you think any of my manliness thoughts are not manly at all, feel free to let me know…


  • Kevin S. said:

    That’s some pretty good stuff right there.
    I just sent you an efist bump. I think that is manly? Don’t leave me hangin’ Kev.

  • Dave said:

    It’s probably been beaten to death, but there should not be any sort of limits on the analysis of the drivel that E.D. Hill spewed forth about the “terrorist fist jab.” Not like you’d expect anything less from her organization, but that’s just SO across the line.

    I have one bone to pick with the list:
    “7. Do not fist bump your children. Unless you’re drunk, then it’s OK.”
    Dude. Come ON. I fist bump the prodigy all the time – when he does a good thing around the house, when he plays baseball well, when he brings home good quality work from school. This is totally acceptable and I will not entertain any thoughts otherwise. Trust me – you and the new prodigy will be doing this in mere months. And you’ll love it and so will he.

  • Kevin said:

    @Dave – Nothing to pick a bone with here. I like the idea of the fist bump of the kids. This list is from TastyBooze and I did not not want to change it. I love that name BTW…TastyBooze.com….classic

    @Kevin – I’ll take the efist bump. Right back at ya… Definitely manly…

  • Mitur Binesderti said:

    The WHO, the World Health Organization not the band, suggests using the fist bump instead of a hand shake because it is a proven method for stopping the transmission of disease. Plus it’s way cooler looking.

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