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October 04, 2004

Comments

Ampersand

I'm awfully sorry to hear about your computer going ppphfft!, Hugo. That really sucks. I hope you didn't lose too much that can't be replaced.

As for Jon's comment, I was less impressed than you were (not a surprise!). Jon made up something I never said - "all hierarchies are bad" - and then based his whole argument on the fictional words he put into my mouth.

I never attacked "positive conceptions of masculinity because they're mean, nasty, hierarchies." I attacked the concept of "real manhood" because "when boys are told they aren't 'real men,' they learn to hate themselves; and meanwhile, other boys who are desperate to remain 'real men' will do almost anything to defend their manhood." But it's easier to make up a straw man about "mean, nasty hierarchies" than it is to respond to what I actually wrote.

When I was a child, I was beaten up frequently; I was a social pariah; on those days that nobody hit or kicked me, I spent my time fearing the next attack; and I learned to hate myself so much that I'd stand in front of a mirror berating myself for not being a regular boy and occasionally punching myself. All of that happened primarily becuase I was seen as insufficiently manly; the other kids, with their hatred, taught me to hate myself.

In retrospect, I realize that the other kids (well, mostly other boys) weren't acting from a position of security. On the contrary, they were acting from a position of deep insecurity; they struck out at me because I represented a threat to them. "Be a real man or you'll end up like Barry!" was the implicit message they were taught; and if they shunned me and (occasionally) beat me, it was because they had to do that to maintain their position in the "real manhood" hierarchy.

I think childhoods like mine are unavoidable so long as boys are brought up to believe that their masculinity is vulnerable and must be achieved or earned, rather than it being something that comes automatically. Insecurity about "am I a real man" is a natural by-product of a culture that distinguishes between "real" men and other men; and that insecurity will inevitably lead to violence (mental and physical) against those males deemed not "real" men. Or, in your terms, not deemed warriers.

* * *

I'm also against the idea of gender hierarchy because it (in my view) inevitably reifies sexism, but that aspect has already been well-discussed, in the responses on your blog, on mine and on MouseWords. (I am genuinely sorry for how unkind many of the comment-writers on "Alas" are, but I also think many of them have a point. In particular, I encourage you to read Charles Seaton's posts with an open mind.)

I hope your computer problems end up being short-lived and of little consequence... Good luck!

Stentor

I wouldn't call my post taking you to task, although as I said to Joe Perez in my comments, I should be more careful about universalizing my own experience. It's just that the mytho-poetic perspective you bring does not resonate at all with my own life.

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