Friday, April 13, 2007

Androphilia: random thoughts

I’ve been quite taken with Jack Malebranche’s Androphilia (my review of April 9th, below).

It is not a call for the gay community to reform. It is an announcement of his departure from that community and an invitation to others of like mind to do the same. Definitely not a plea to expand our sexual Yugoslavia into Lesbian, Gay, BiSexual, Transgender, Intersex, Questioning and Androphile.

It is not a call for a monochrome style of manhood, either. He asks each man to put himself together with his own unique combination of the physical, essential and cultural aspects of masculinity. But it’s not a totally open field. That’s part of his point: manhood is knowable, recognizable.

My own take is that manhood is by its nature controversial…because it is a challenging concept, especially in these days of the cultural Levelling Complex, where making anyone feel bad or excluded is the cardinal sin. The whole point of manhood is to set a standard which you either achieve or you don’t. You CAN fail. But, from a man’s point of view, only the possibility of real failure makes real achievement possible.

On-line comments I’ve read that respond critically or negatively to the book mostly prove his point: arch put-downs, rhetorical posing, superior throat-clearing, ad hominems…haven’t run into a serious critic who starts out entertaining the possibility that Malebranche could be on to something.

One guy huffily announced that he was in favor of cooperation instead of competition, so if that made him less a man, then the hell with manhood. God, the internet is full of stupid people.

I myself am not a man who runs around Dodge City with my finger on the trigger. But if I have to, I’ll push. And frankly, the farther from home I go, the more likely I am to downplay the cooperation. I’ll work to get a commonly agreeable outcome with my friends and family, coworkers and neighbors. With Iran? Not really.

Consider the image of men, especially men-as-fathers, on TV commercials, eg Capital One, or various cellphone companies, or the recent "SpongeBob NoPants" piece for BurgerKing...almost uniformly portrayed as idiots, viewed with disdain or worse by a coalition of wife and children. Most of these commercials are surely composed by males. Can you imagine a commercial with a scatterbrained mother being viewed with this kind of contemptuous attitude by her husband and children? Sexist! If Burns and Allen were alive today, they'd be charged with hate crimes.

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