Friday, September 28, 2007

Blue Gal

Has this fascinating post up.

Covers (among other things) body-image, arm candy, “homoerotic dating” and titty-fucking.

(If you have ever wondered what combination of topics will immediately get my attention...)

Actually it gave me a lot to think about, and is exactly the sort of exchange into the middle of which only a fool would lightly wander (and Mom driftglass didn’t either nature or nurture any idiots.)

However there was this one, paragraph --

“There are men who think they need arm candy in order to impress other men. They are actually engaging in homoerotic dating, pleasing other men rather than themselves.”

-- which I think cries out for an, um, let's call it an "amplifying rebuttal".

Because while that may be the case sometimes, I would argue there is a different male dynamic at play the rest of the time. And when I thought about the best way to explain it, a fascinating story by and about a man named Griffin Hansbury (via "This American Life") came immediately to mind.

Hansbury -- who used to be a woman – goes on at length about his experience with seeing the world with male eyes for the first time.

(I can’t trace the quotes, so this is from memory. However here’s a link to a somewhat similar interview with Hansbury in case you are interested in background .)

One of the things that surprised him was that people weren't nice to him anymore.

No one extended the little courtesies. Other men shoved him off the sidewalk. Where once there had been an edgycool lesbian for whom crowds parted, now there was another pale, little guy.

And this world is not kind to pale, little guys.

Yes, absolutely there are real, tangible advantages still deeply wired into gender and race, but when he reformatted his gender, Griffin discovered one of the terrible secrets of being male: that almost from the beginning you are thrust into competition with every other male, every minute of every day, until they plant you.

Its waaaay down there in the circuitry, and it colors the whole world.

To see this conduct on full, frantic display look no further than the overtly reptilian behavior of our own American Authoritarian Party: a Party specifically constructed to cater to the psychodramas of Panicky White Men.

Built on the bones on the Confederacy -- which was premised entirely on making an ideology of unearned, God-given superiority so central to the sense of identity of hateful, pig-ignorant white men that they’d willingly (Eagerly!) commit mass-murder to defend it -- the modern GOP is made for men who feel lost and frightened unless they can reach out and touch their place in the Great Caucasian Jebus Hierarchy with both hands.

It is a Party of men who shit themselves in terror unless they have a Big White Daddy in uniform to salute and obey, and an ample supply of Scary Others to hate and blame for their miseries.

To be clear, the existence and prevalence of such creature in the world does not mean that men don’t have deep friendships among themselves, or that we are somehow incapable of overcoming our instinctive doggishness. Quite the opposite; good upbringing – being raised a gentleman – good friends, good examples, and having your universe rocked and re-written by strong, smart women have powerful, civilizing and lasting effects.

But for men, the domains of school, work, and dating (Ah! A theme emerges.) are always churning with rivals (with whom we struggle not to feel almost obligated to contend) and Evil Alphas, who can disappear our livelihoods and status on a whim.

This is one reason I appreciate Mamet. Quite apart from the sheer quality of the writing, Mamet drills right through the nerve-sheathing and shows us – up-close and sweaty-desperate – a distillation of the male soul ensnared in the brutal, never-ending 14th round of a heavyweight title-match where the stakes are the food on your table and the woman in your bed.

It works as drama

because it gets at something ugly and terribly real incessantly chewing away in the male heart.

Deep in the boiling mud of evolution’s fever swamp, the pressure to slug your way up the hierarchy is always present, and it comes down to the character of each man as to whether he recognizes this primal urge as a chronic, vestigial irritant to be gallantly managed, or a bellowing compulsion to be blindly obeyed regardless of the devastation it wreaks.

The men you have known, BG, might well have been “engaging in homoerotic dating”.

But the status seekers and hierarchy free-climbers I have known fought a hundred invisible (and often entirely imaginary) battles every day to establish and maintain dominance and position, whether it was a question of who steps aside on the sidewalk, who sinks the eight ball, who sucks up better, who gets the office, or who leaves with the cute brunette.

And whether it is showing Gaia who's the fucking boss with your monster SUV, barnacling yourself in bling, pluming yourself in $1,000 silk neckware, or cutting yourself a big slice of arm-candy, it comes to the same thing.

These are all tools of that trade.

These are the swords and shields and signifiers of these miserable fuckers' forever war with every other male on the planet.


chautauqua said...

Easily your best post ever. Thank you, Mama Driftglass!

Blue Gal said...

sigh. I'm speechless. sigh.

But I'll get over it and respond at my place tomorrow. It's dang late here I don't know where the hours went.

Spartacus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
larue said...

So, Drifty, we're either with them, or we've been against them.

I been fighting this devil since I was a little boy.

There's right.

N there's wrong.

It's easy to tell.

And if a male can't step up and fight the wrong, then he's doomed to a life of abuse from EVERYONE!!! Life is not kind to the weak.

Mama Nature is ruthless. You fight to survive, or you live in fear and die early.

Better to die fighting for right, than living in fear for wrong.

It's a male thing, yes . . . but we all learn to grow some and stand our ground, or be kilt sooner or later.

Great post, BTW. The weak align with their General Daddy's to crush the others. Gang mentality at its most specious inbred worst.

It's tough not being in a gang, if yer weak.

And I think BlueGal is tougher than most hoomans . . . I gotta feeling yer gonna take incoming. Hard. ;-)

But posit on, hoss, posit on . . . I'd stand in a trench with you anyday, long as Tanbark does his share of the cooking and lets me play some newgrass once in a while . . ;-)

Tan's another hoss I'd stand with, anyday. He's a hoss, and so are you Drifty.

"That's a wrap! Strike the set . . . "

res ipsa loquitur said...

Bravo, dg. Easily one of your best posts ever, and that's saying something.

The "who steps aside on the sidewalk" thing is an entire treatise in itself.

So women pursue fashion in order to impress other women, but ultimately that fashion winds up being for benefit of other men, just not the men the women were attempting to impress. So it goes ...

Blue Gal said...

And I think BlueGal is tougher than most hoomans . . . I gotta feeling yer gonna take incoming. Hard. ;-)

Thanks for the inspiration, Larue.

tech98 said...

Wordy McWord, as the kids say.
You frequently exhibit a fresh and interesting take on sociological issues.

Blue Gal said...

I got yer incoming right here. xo

Thursday said...
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Thursday said...

"[...] touch their place in the Great Caucasian Jebus Hierarchy [...]"

Invoking a prayer to the Blue-Eyed Jesus, as Parke Godwin called it.


I just posted a bit about Denver banning motorcyclists with loud after market pipes attached to their bikes back in July: it highlights your point perfectly. Owning a deliberately noisy vehicle (pipes, sound system, what have you) is nothing more than a symptom of the perpetual pissing contest, and a crude one at that.

Sharoney said...

Hey, drifty, it also works as comedy. Take a looksee:

A recut version of the trailer, for today's sensitive, gender-confused male! Enjoy!

Bustednuckles said...

Damn straight.
I will never forget the time a lady was walking towards me with her child in a mall and she grabbed the boy's arm and told him to get out of the man's way.
I think I was all of twenty three.

Comrade Kevin said...

Excellent post.

My person reflections are these: I find the whole idea of "masculinity" and "machismo" so repulsive that I have deliberately refused to give them the time of day.

You're quite right--many men, particularly many GOP men, feel this compulsion for male approval and this desire to worship the alpha male drill sergeant type. It stems from insecurity, often times.

The sort of hero worship of the alpha male can often mimic homosexual attraction.

This is why this sort of pandering to be King of the Hill can often be characterized as homoerotic.

And there is something deeply paternalistic about male/male attraction. Men are raised to hold their fathers in high esteem. They idolize them in childhood and then rebel against them in adolescence.

The sad fact about this culture is that often times, men are fearful that they aren't being masculine enough and, conversely, women are fearful that they're not being feminine enough.

This is why many in my generation have advanced the idea that we should effectively do away with the strict separation between gender roles that currently exists.

And yes, it does come down to personal responsibility whether we allow our societal conditioning to dictate our behavior.

BAC said...

Comrade Kevin said something that I absolutely agree with ... and that is to "do away with the strict separation between gender roles that currently exists.

For me, that is what feminism is about. It frees both genders to just be whoever the hell they want to be.


skunqesh said...

Being a guy, and knowing how guys work, and self deprecation doesn't mean freedom from the BTO (Ballzman Testicular Overdrive)

I put myself into a pickle the other day over at Shakes Manor cuz I didn't really think before I posted, but I had best intentions in my mind. Short dumb story even shorter - afterward I was thinking bout Hansbury, but couldn't remember the name (h/t dg) The part of the story where he describes the initial experience of taking testosterone, how his change of perception was "unnerving" hit the nail. Testosterone isn't the excuse of the male gender identity and all it's odd behavioral forms, but it frames so much of what males experience, interpret, and how we communicate. It can take more effort than women may realize for a guy to reach escape velocity and move past testicular gravity (BTW, a terrible name for a rock band) and see teh logic.

Also, I know where Comrade Kevin's coming from - I refuse to 'compete' as well, or at least that's what I tell myself. But the macho drive, the constant rutting, all that BS that comes with even an ounce of that hormone finds an outlet somewhere. A little competitive spirit among friends can be inspiring and expand ones abilities in a creative way. Among friends and intelligent collaborators, folks who already have a secure position in the group.

My refusal to compete with alphas I think often gets mistaken as a 'challenge', cuz I don't acknowledge their alphan ass sniffing, or something. I'm not humping anyone's leg, but I'm not letting them hump mine either. It rarely gets mistaken for passivity, and even that sparks an alpha into a dalek-ian like 'DOMINATE. DOMINATE' mode. So much glad handing among men takes the form of Dominant/Subordinate, 'withus or agin'us crap - the hard bone crushing handshake vs the firm, but polite acknowledgment vs the limp cold fish of doom.

It's constant battle, whether you play or not.

Thursday said...

Weird fact found out in Parasite Rex:

The parasite that causes toxoplasmosis is extremely common (in some parts of Europe it infects up to 90% of the population), but is for the most part, harmless.


Women who are infected tend to behave in a more "nurturing" manner than average; men who are infected tend to behave more recklessly and aggressively than average.

skunqesh said...

Interesting, but unconfirmed. Nitpicky geek that i am.


fairlane said...

Our problem as a species is not "competition" or how we're "wired," it's our abject dishonesty, and our crippling fear.

We try to fight against our nature instead of trying to understand ourselves because we desire control.

Saying you "don't compete" is dishonest. We are all competing.

This idea that "competition is bad" is bullshit. Look at this younger generation that was taught "everyone is special." They can't think for themselves, and can't function without constant praise.

There is no "Shangri-La," and even if there was being passive is not how we'll get there.

Competition is what moves our species forward, and brings about progress.

If we all laid down and said, "I'm not competing" our species would be fucked.

"I'm not competing" is either a fear of failure, and when people are afraid the Wingnuts take over or it's another way of trying to control ie the "caregiver" co-dependent who manages everyone in their lives by being "nice" and not rocking the boat.

Name one person in human history that was worth a shit who didn't "compete."

There isn't one.

On both sides of the spectrum the thinking is black and white.

Wingnuts believe crush everything in our path, and "Liberals" seem to think we all should just hold hands, and skip our way through.

The common denominator is both sides embrace fear and look at the result.

The left laid down 25 years ago, and watched the Wingnuts slowly but surely take over, and now we are on the brink of living in a Fascist country.

Maybe you just weren't nice enough.

Cara said...

Good post.

Driftglass, it seems to me that you and BG were saying basically the same thing--was it the "homoerotic" thing that made you rebut? I'm assuming she didn't mean physical sexuality, but the emotional component. After all, if you're dating someone to impress the other guys more than to please yourself (so they'll admire you), who's the primary relationship with, there? ;)

We know men have the constant pecking-order bullshit thrust upon them. (Women do, too; I don't pretend to know if it's as bad, but it's bad enough, just more subtle). We're all competitive; as another poster said, it takes "teh logic" to set it aside for everyone's good.

Cara said...

Oh, and I definitely agree that the sooner people get free from the "real man/woman" crap and can just let each other be, the better off we'll all be.

Blue Gal said...

yeah cara as I've had time to think about it it's actually "homo-SOCIAL" rather than homoerotic. That word is too loaded, anyhow.

Kevin O said...

Have you read Mamet's book of essays, "Writing in Restaurants"? I think it's out of print, but probably still available online.

It consists of about 20 short essays, and at least five of them absolutely blew my mind.

I excerpt from one of my favorites in this post:

I cannot recommend it highly enough to a fellow Mamet fan.

Norma said...

You lost me when you started ripping the Democrats, but I heard Grif describe the effects of testosterone on his thoughts (even developed an interest in science) on NPR, and he's just plain funny.