Thursday, March 11, 2010

White Educated Men and Sexist Illiteracy. Q: What does "The End of Manhood" mean? A: Assumptions by White Men Vary Depending on the Gender of the Person who Writes about it

Click on the image above to enlarge it, if you're having trouble reading the small text under the photograph.
[image above is from here]

Below is the cover of a decidedly unfascistic, anti-genocidal book, that, were it written by a woman, far too many men would assume was fascistic and pro-genocidal. I'll prove this point in this post.

[image of John Stoltenberg's book cover is from here]

Let us consider this thoughtful review of a book from *here*, by John Stoltenberg, by a named Andrew Sherblom:

The End of Manhood:

A Book for Men of Conscience

By John Stoltenberg
New York: Penguin, 1994. 308 pp. $21.00, $10.95 (paper).

If all violence committed by males were somehow eliminated from the planet, we wouldn't need a special issue on violence. And yet, discussions of gender, and especially "masculinity," as a socially constructed identity that needs to be engaged and deconstructed are often marginalized into gender studies, or, worse yet, women's studies (as if it's their problem) and are virtually missing as a focus within debates about violence and violence prevention. The detailed critiques and impassioned common sense of feminist thinkers through twenty-five years of "women's liberation" in the women's movement have helped make possible the current men's movement, with its similar aspirations of "liberation." Exactly what men need to be liberated from is, of course, the first central question one must address before any meaningful movement toward male liberation can begin. In The End of Manhood: A Book for Men of Conscience, author and lecturer John Stoltenberg addresses this question and a host of others with a bold passion, sense of humor, gift for story telling, and a deep commitment to what he calls "loving justice."

Stoltenberg presents a radical critique of the very concept "manhood," arguing that it serves no socially desirable function — only hurtful functions that can and should be eliminated from men's personal identities and social interactions. He presents a provocative alternative to most thinking about men and the problematic aspects of our behavior and identity. He bases his critiques on the claim that "manhood," in all of its various masculine incarnations, is at odds with, and in fact mutually exclusive of, an authentic sense of "selfhood" — a selfhood necessary for relating to others in just, moral, and non-violating ways. He argues:

This book therefore rejects the widespread notion that "manhood" can be somehow revised and redeemed — the contemporary project variously described as "reconstructing," "reinventing," "remythologizing," "revisioning," and re-whatevering gendered personal identity so as to bring its hapless adherents back into the human fold. That project is utterly futile, and we all have to give it up, as this book will carefully explain. (p. xiv)

Stoltenberg's book provides a detailed and complex analysis of gender relations and identity formation around his underlying argument that gender is nothing more than a means of social control that is harmful to individuals, families, and society because the culturally defined ways of "being a man" are generally at odds with intimacy and real interpersonal connection. As boys take on a "masculine" identity in place of a true sense of themselves, they lose those parts of themselves in conflict with "manly" values — their sensitivity, vulnerability, emotions, affections — all of which are needed for achieving intimacy and love. The falseness and distance of their own ways of being in relationship typically leave males feeling lonely, insecure, and scared of honest intimacy, which in turn makes it difficult for them to have loving relationships where they can finally get the love they've always wanted. In the face of this downward spiral, Stoltenberg argues, the only reasonable response is to change our focus from achieving manhood to achieving "personhood," and do away altogether with the concept and social institution of "manhood." Stoltenberg illustrates the social coercion and shame used to pressure boys into accepting, rather than resisting, this social identity and way of being, despite its obvious costs to them as human beings. He argues that the true philosophical nature of this conception of masculinity is based on competition, a lust for power, domination, mistrust, insecurity, and a deep-seated disconnection from life.

In addition to being a thorough presentation of a radical theoretical perspective, Stoltenberg's book is a practical guide to living as a human raised to be a man. Even his chapter titles reveal the practical nature of his questions and discussions. In "How Can I Be Closer to People — In Friendship and In Love?" the author crystallizes his central concerns about the relationship between manhood and intimacy:

We often experience the dichotomy between manhood and selfhood in our daily lives — but without knowing quite how or why. Lacking words to comprehend the contradiction, we suddenly stumble upon it when we feel blocked about revealing ourselves in a close relationship, for instance, or when we emotionally withdraw from intimacy without any apparent reason. (p. 12)

Using guided fantasy, stories from his own life and knowledge, and careful theoretical attention to language and conceptual framework, the author further explores relationships that create manhood and those that create personhood. Stoltenberg walks readers through portrayals of various types of interpersonal relationship and their consequences — for example, of having one's parents' and friends' love and acceptance of you be conditional on your conformity to gender expectations. He contrasts these conditional relationships with relationships that would support the health and growth of one's selfhood:

The ideal experience of having a father [is a close relationship with] an influential grownup who plays a significant role in the development of a child's relation to selfhood. This imagined ideal father [is] depicted as having passed on to the child not only a core of self-esteem, but also an indelible memory of how self-esteem can be bestowed: When one is the recipient of a love that is not conditional upon conformity to gender expectations, one not only learns something very important about the reality of one's own selfhood; one also learns a crucial lesson in the process by which human selfhood is passed on: One human being initiates another into selfhood by beholding them, affirming them, supporting them, and not betraying them. (p. 50)

In discussing father-son relationships, the author highlights the ways in which traditional fathers hurt their sons, often inadvertently, in teaching them to be men. By not being critical of "manhood" themselves, especially in its emotional distancing — a major ramification of manhood right in their own relationships with their sons — fathers are abandoning their sons and teaching them the same empty, out-of-relationship, emotionally disconnected manhood they embody. This kind of father-son relationship, Stoltenberg argues, leaves the boy feeling hurt and betrayed, a critical feature of this ongoing cycle of disconnection, because it creates in the boy an ability to betray others, to violate as he has felt violated. This has enormous implications for anyone interested in violence by adolescent boys and violence prevention with younger children.

Stoltenberg argues that it is males' insecure striving to live up to this socially imagined standard of manhood and a blind allegiance to it as their true identity and deepest self that allows — even makes inevitable — their betrayal of the women in their lives. In a chapter called "A Six-Pack of Tools for Deconstructing Dad," Stoltenberg investigates the traditional husband-wife relationship in this culture, and the typical ways in which wives were/are expected to diminish themselves in relation to their husband: to be less outspoken, less forthcoming, less present, and less real as a whole person. The author points out that if men bring this expectation to their intimate relationships with women, there is an inevitable contradiction:

The ironic thing about being stuck inside a manhood mask — especially if you're a husband and father — is that if you make your love for someone else conditional upon whether they properly diminish themself, you inevitably end up trying to be in love with someone who keeps slipping into nonexistence right before your eyes. If they assert their whole personhood, you find ways to make clear that you might punish them with your anger and withhold your love. . . . They must get smaller, weaker, less confident, less capable, less forthright, less intelligent, less interesting, less exuberant, less robust, less initiating — less themself in many ways. (pp. 68–69)

Stoltenberg also argues that single mothers are unjustly faulted for not providing a "father figure" or, as he puts it, "a carrier of manhood" in the home. He asserts that nothing about a child's secure sense of selfhood — nothing about one's assurance that one is loveable and knowable — depends developmentally on the child's conformity to the strictures of proper gender role:

The love of a child's unique human self does not come from a parent's manhood, and no child becomes eligible for such a love by embodying manhood. Selfhood-affirming love is what each child deserves, and it can be amply and variously expressed to any child by any concerned and present grownup — someone born penised as well as the human who gave the child birth. (p. 81)

The author acknowledges that while many young men experience a "longing for manhood," what they are really longing for is the fulfillment of basic human needs: to feel safe, to feel sustained, to feel seen, and within that safety and being known, to feel sexual (p. 95). He argues that we must learn to recognize our longing for manhood as an ineffective means of meeting our basic human emotional needs, and that this recognition is a crucial stage in the lifelong process of learning to love moral ways of being more than one loves the identity of "manhood" (p. 100).

There are many themes in this book directly relevant to male violence, especially against women. The author's discussion of gender anxiety, especially as it relates to sexuality, and the overriding need to prove one's manhood speaks directly and cogently to questions of sexual objectification, date rape, sexual harassment, pornography, and homophobic violence, and the ways that these are predictable outcomes of a conscious and unconscious social process creating men out of humans.

Stoltenberg connects his discussion of gender and being with other philosophical and spiritual traditions, such as the work of Martin Buber, acknowledging that

very near the end of writing The End of Manhood, I realized I had unconsciously borrowed Buber's concept of "I-You." I had renamed it the two-way truth of selfhood: your sense of yourself as a real human self that can only come from recognizing and regarding someone else as a real human self also; your sense of yourself as a real human self that can only come from being recognized and regarded by someone else as a real human self also. Or, as I had inadvertently restated Buber yet again: you are never more real than when someone else is real to you. (p. 303)

Given this understanding of being an authentic "self," the author says, for all practical purposes and in everyday, practical effect — in how one deliberates, in what one cares about, in the values one bases all one's relational choices upon — the beginning of selfhood means the end of manhood (p. 308). Moreover, Stoltenberg says, these are not simply questions of personal philosophy or spiritual integrity, they are matters of the utmost social importance:

The manhood problem is everyone's, even if everyone doesn't have the same problem. We all must confront whatever it is that makes communication between people raised to be a man difficult, or stressful, or less than truthful, or hostile, or threatening and predicative of violence — to one another or to a third party. Whatever it is that gives rise to threats and standoffs and various temperamental outbursts between people raised to be men . . . whatever that drama is, it has consequences and implications for everybody, not just for humans raised to be a man. Everyone is affected when manhood masks clash, or trash, or collide, or collude. So, whatever can be learned from telling our truth, we must let everyone in on it. Everyone, somehow, has a stake in that knowledge. Everyone's well-being ultimately depends on it. (p. 24)

While The End of Manhood is a genuine contribution to understanding the effects of "masculinity training" on boys' and men's relationships with others and themselves, including male violence, there is one area that I believe needs further attention. The central metaphor of males learning to identify with and adhere to a socially constructed manhood ends up carrying all the weight for men's dysfunction, insensitivity, cruelty, selfishness, and desire to control others. The ideology of manhood is only one of several ideologies that embodies and contributes to disrespect, domination, exploitation, and violence in society, or, put differently, perhaps manhood should be seen as one site among many in which a domination-oriented, violence-prone ideology is acted out. While this masculinist ideology is an important site for social change, it is perhaps a mistake to subsume all of men's hateful and hurtful behavior under the gender umbrella.

While the author argues that other typical sites of disconnection in men's lives — for example, racism, economic exploitation, and ethnic and religious hatred — are modeled on the manhood ideology, it is easy to feel they are being given secondary status in a hierarchy of ideological oppressions. In addition, in centering one's critique of men's violence in their manhood, it becomes difficult to extend the argument to include women, many of whom support not only traditional male "gender identification," but also the values and worldviews advocated by traditional masculinity: competition, hierarchy, exclusion, exploitation, and the use of force. While women's disconnected behavior, such as voting for Ronald Reagan, Adolf Hitler, or Maggie Thatcher, their active participation in the Klan, or their abuse of children, is beyond the scope of this book, it would be helpful if this critique of men's disconnection could dovetail with similar critiques of other human disconnection.

The author's dichotomy between "manhood" and "selfhood," while useful for illustrating his points and intriguingly provocative, loses a sense of the complexities and contradictions within individual people. It is unclear whether "personhood," which by Stoltenberg's definition embodies a way of being based on equality, concern, and connection with others, is a global disposition and way of being, or whether one can be a "person" in some relationships and at some times, and be a "man" at others.

All things considered, Stoltenberg's arguments do challenge educators to take up this discussion and confront their own ingrained reluctance to question social relations that are as personal as gender identity. In this important and clear-sighted book, educators will find new perspectives on intimacy, identity, gender, and violence that promise to enliven and clarify discussions around violence and youth. These perspectives will also push each reader, male or female, to question their own allegiance to "manhood," and to gender identity generally. As Stoltenberg points out early in his book, and then illustrates throughout, "the very manhood act we embrace is inimical to intimacy and trust. And so long as we keep up the manhood act, we miss the point of being human" (p. 11).

Stephen Andrew Sherblom 
Now, anywhere in that review, does Andrew assume Mr. Stoltenberg is calling for the mass extermination of men? No.
And yes, let a woman make a similar critique and she is assumed to be the resurrection of Hitler, even when she's dead. Witness the following, about John Stoltenberg's life partner:

From *here*.
David writes:


David F Mayer
While reading it, I wondered what kind of nutcase wrote it.
Mon Mar 8, 2010 3:43pm
99.174.179.44

It was clearly written by someone who has never been to Israel, or at least, never seen anything in Israel with open eyes. When I saw the by-line at the end, then I knew: Andrea Dworkin! From perusing her books, one gets the idea that she wants men exterminated utterly. I suspect that she favored phylogenetic cloning of women, permitting the species to survive entirely without men. See the first quote below, where she wants manhood destroyed entirely.

I hate to pull the poisoned well on you, but Andrea Dworkin was a nutcase's nutcase. Here are some of her lunacies.

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/andrea_dworkin.html

Only when manhood is dead - and it will perish when ravaged femininity no longer sustains it - only then will we know what it is to be free.

No woman needs intercourse; few women escape it.

A commitment to sexual equality with males is a commitment to becoming the rich instead of the poor, the rapist instead of the raped, the murderer instead of the murdered.

Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice. Rape, originally defined as abduction, became marriage by capture. Marriage meant the taking was to extend in time, to be not only use of but possession of, or ownership.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intercourse_%28book%29
She was violently opposed to all heterosexual intercourse.

http://womenshistory.about.com/od/quotes/a/andrea_dworkin.htm
Romantic love, in pornography as in life, is the mythic celebration of female negation. For a woman, love is defined as her willingness to submit to her own annihilation. The proof of love is that she is willing to be destroyed by the one whom she loves, for his sake. For the woman, love is always self-sacrifice, the sacrifice of identity, will, and bodily integrity, in order to fulfill and redeem the masculinity of her lover.

David F Mayer

I reply *here* and below:


Julian Real
Andrea Dworkin
Thu Mar 11, 2010 7:09pm
70.16.103.145

@David F. Mayer

This is a site for discussion of "ethics", yes? You show yourself to be deeply unethical in your misrepresentation of a Jewish woman who is dead and can't speak back to you. Rather cowardly, eh? Is cowardice one of your ethical positions too, in addition to lying about people and grossly misrepresenting their character and words?

Let's, together, consider each of those quotes and how they DON'T indicate what you incorrectly assume they do.

1. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/andrea_dworkin.html
Only when manhood is dead - and it will perish when ravaged femininity no longer sustains it - only then will we know what it is to be free.

So, um, David, she's not talking about women killing MEN, or for killing at all. She's calling for an end to women's femininity being defined in terms of (and by the acts of) men ravaging women. She's talking about an oppressive social construction called "manhood". Are you familiar with this way of discussing social reality? Apparently not.

I recommend you read John Stoltenberg's book, "The End of Manhood: A Book for Men of Conscience"--Dworkin's life partner, btw. Do you honestly think John is calling for men to die, in his "book for men of conscience"?

Consider this book by a careful, thoughtful reader of Dworkin's writings, Robert Jensen: "Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity". You might try READING both of those books by men--since you obviously don't read any of Dworkin's--and note how neither call for exterminating men. Should you get around to reading Dworkin's essays, you will note how she doesn't either, ever.

Have you actually read one single book by Andrea Dworkin? Honestly. If "honesty" is an ethic you value? Have you read one whole essay of Dworkin's on which to base your rather disgusting opinion of her? And, do you think it would be "ethical" to do so?

The extermination of people was something Dworkin abhorred, being an ethical person and all. Andrea lost female and male family members in HaShoah, you know. Do you get how callous your comments about her are? You know she adored her nephew, her brother, and her father right? You know she loved her male life partner of thirty years, yes, and expressed, in her work, her appreciation to men who supported ending violence against women. How "unethical" of her, eh? What a "lunatic"--you portray yourself to be, in your sloppiness here on this site. I hope you do more careful work elsewhere.

Do you know that she had something very directly critical to say to any woman who did call for believing in "female superiority"? You might want to read that too:

Biological Superiority:
The World's Most Dangerous and Deadly Idea
1977

Which can be found here:
http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/WarZoneChaptIIID.html

2.
No woman needs intercourse; few women escape it.

And, what about that wouldn't be true? And how the hell do you read that as a call for men to be exterminated. That's laughable, David. You really think noting that most women can't avoid intercourse and that no woman needs it is a call to kill men? (Seriously?)

3.
A commitment to sexual equality with males is a commitment to becoming the rich instead of the poor, the rapist instead of the raped, the murderer instead of the murdered.

This is akin to saying a call for African Americans to be socially, behaviorally equal to whites is a call for Blacks to be the lynchers, not the lynched, the racial profilers, not the profiled. In the history of the U.S.'s unethical society, lynching was and profiling is a practice of whites against Blacks (which is to say, not Blacks against whites). I live in a society in which rape and the murder of women is a systematic practice of men against women (that men do not work collectively to stop). Instead eroticise and glorify sexualised violence against women in media.

My mother, female cousins, my aunt, and female friends have been incested and raped, by men, not by women. None of those men have been prosecuted. Do you call that justice? Does that outrage you as much as what a woman says that is critical of what men do to women with impunity? A woman I knew for years was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, because he couldn't possess her any more. You've heard of things like this happening, yes? And not so much of women murdering men, right?

How is Andrea Dworkin's statement a call for men to be exterminated??? Are you really that incapable of reading and comprehending the simplest things?

4.
Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice. Rape, originally defined as abduction, became marriage by capture. Marriage meant the taking was to extend in time, to be not only use of but possession of, or ownership.

Do you know the history of marriage? She isn't making this up, you know? You can find the same history without reading anything she wrote. Why don't you? Please. And stop misportraying what Dworkin said.

5.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intercourse_%28book%29
She was violently opposed to all heterosexual intercourse.

No, she wasn't. And you have produced nothing at all to indicate she was "violently" anything!

Do you mean "violently" the way too many men violently rape women? The way men crawl into elderly women's apartments, and fathers crawl into their daughters' bedrooms to sexually assault them?

Where's your ethical concern about that, David? You're actually more upset about the writings of someone who died almost five years ago than the violent acts of men against women, daily?

Are you? I'm asking.

If so, what does that say about your own ethics? I await your answer, sir. As for your lies, please see this, for some truth, on Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon NEVER saying anything about "all sex being rape" or being against all heterosexual intercourse:

http://www.snopes.com/quotes/mackinnon.asp

6.
http://womenshistory.about.com/od/quotes/a/andrea_dworkin.htm
Romantic love, in pornography as in life, is the mythic celebration of female negation. For a woman, love is defined as her willingness to submit to her own annihilation. The proof of love is that she is willing to be destroyed by the one whom she loves, for his sake. For the woman, love is always self-sacrifice, the sacrifice of identity, will, and bodily integrity, in order to fulfill and redeem the masculinity of her lover.

Can you tell me, Mr. Ethics (ahem), what the context is for her making that statement? Can you name the essay or chapter from which that quote was "borrowed" and who, speficially, decontextualised it in order to distort her meaning? You're familiar, yes, of people taking quotes out of context to distort meaning and misrepresent the views of the author?

You get that she analysed literature and many other forms of media, yes? She analysed men's behavior in societies in which women are overwhelmed, normally, by men, as romance, and as rape. And have you read romance novels from decades ago, and what it implies about women's agency relative to men?

Can a woman write about what media has to say to women about "femininity" (and masculinity) without being accused of calling for the mass extermination of men?

Can a woman do this, David, without you demeaning and insulting her?

Or are you so delusional as to not be able to tell the difference between each of those quotes and, say, what appears in Mein Kampf? Are you really that dense? You surely are presenting yourself as seriously and misogynistically biased in your perspective on a feminist writer.

Does your G-d call on you to unfairly and unjustly publicly demean deceased writers? Why don't you own what your own hang-ups are, rather than project them onto a feminist? Wouldn't that be the more ethical thing to do?

To clarify more lies about her that you apparently find status in spreading around, please see this page:

http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/LieDetect.html

Again, I await your reply, and your apology to a deceased person. That would be the humane thing to do, yes? A form of atonement for the act of slander you've committed above?

Julian

1 comment:

DanceDreaming said...

That sort of radfem bashing annoys me. One big level it bothers is that those were beliefs that -I- held about radfems, in a loose and more vague fashion, about a year ago. All based on 'knowledgeable people' explaining the 'truth' to me. Guys, one and all. Grr. Glad you set him straight.

On a separate note, the book review sounds quite cool. Seems like a great primer on feminism and gender for man-Id'd people. I might check it out, and if it's good, lob it at guys who accuse me of 'getting militant' about feminism(I've been getting that a bit lately).

But one thing about the review seemed odd. Aside from a brief mention at the beginning, the review seems to ignore the entire fact of feminist theory. From my perspective, the book sounds like a primer in feminism, for men. To read the reviewer, one would think the writer had come up with the whole 'construction of masculinity' all by himself. Now, the fact that it deconstructs gender from a specifically male perspective does give it a twist, but the tone of the review still seems dismissive of the rest of feminism in general.

Irked. Anyway, Yay Stoltenberg, Dworkin and for that matter Real! Meh Sherblom. Boo Mayer.

I am done.