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November 2007 Archive

What maketh the 'man'... some musings.....

27 November 2007, 04:57

....The point is, that life is no longer, to steal the very old words of Mr. Hobbes; "nasty, brutish and shorte."
Before we try to move forward in the quest for an equality and an egalitarian focused ideology for all of the peoples on the planet, we most imperatively must look back into the mists of time, to epochs when the planet was very much younger, and we must put our viewpoints within the following lines of enquiry: If society and culture can only ever be constituent results of not just our need to interact with other humans, but in the sense its most fundamental level, also the results of this interaction, then we are all of us - and not just the 'meeja hoors' and 'culture creators' - authors of culture in some shape or form.
As humankind learned to write, and thus make firstly history, followed shortly by culture, surely then, we can postulate a ideology of humane versus non-humane notions, rather than this race versus that race or this gender versus that gender; or to put it in plainer easier terms, of good versus evil; this being inspired in no small way, of course, by contemporary advances in the sciences that tell us huge amounts about our origins.
Fish, I believe.
So who is he or she to say, then, that before hominids emerged in their present form; currently an evolutionary state where the body no longer needs to physically evolve [anyone fancy a third arm or eye?] and so primarily is currently focused on the evolution of the cognitive senses; who is to say that there was not a 'point zero' where any differential, and thus any possible cause of any repressive regime, was nil, non-applicable and thus without effect. Can we not call loudly to our Science and Anthropology departments then, to find for us, somewhere, a nexus or a point in history wherein these primordial states could surely direct us to a possible stage in hominid evolution when the birth giving females were producing androgens? It would certainly move us along huge inroads towards making our understanding of many 'gender theorists' much more accessible. In our turbulent times, we need to strive towards an androgyny of the self, of the mind and of our dealing with all people in all walks of life. And until it is proven otherwise wrong, this early androgen theory could remain a possibility....

...And should we in the humanities possibly attempt to hurry along our fellow fellowes in the sciences, both social and medical, to discover for us some evidence of such an epoch? Or are their monies and scholarship hours best placed elsewhere, perhaps in curing some of the illnesses, both of the body and the mind, that our current and hugely unhealthy view of the sexualities and genders has left us with, in these, what we can finally mark [with no small sigh of relief] as the closing decades of the Modernist Epoch, post or otherwise....

...Much speculation has sparked much canny debate, both formal and otherwise, of just what we should call this age within which we live. After "second wave feminism" [how many bras do you reckon actually got burned?, apart from Germaine Greer's overlarge over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder?] which in itself was a huge catalyst for new and enlightening ways of looking at literature and writings about literature, and a way of creating new cultural labels for a huge amount of new marginalist critics who are, by all accounts, all apparently striving towards the same common ground - the aforementioned 'ideology of egalitarianisms' - Second wave feminism and its theoretical hangovers had undergraduate students spending more time worrying about which critics to read rather than the actual consideration of the critic's written work and philosophies. With such new epoch making and ground breaking protocols, which indeed were happening before our very eyes back in the 1970’s and on into the greedy 1980’s, can we not now be simply content with uncovering exactly what we strive to discover, to not label so hastily and so therefore to not be "standing in the way of ourselves?" And is it not possible to subsequently do so by looking only to literary and cultural theory? In the evolutionary sense of a natural history of the human body, human languages, cultural, societal and gender organisation, we could think the answer to be a short, swift and oh so sharp ‘no!’ .....

…. what could be of fundamental importance or significance in the power play of either the discursive sexual act [Foucault. 11:1976] or the coital act itself is whether or not one takes the sexual role of penetrator or penetrated.
If we understand it to mean that the penetrator appropriates and thus encompasses all or the majority of the power in the sexual relationship, and ergo in whatever other relationships the partners have together outside of their sexual arena, then the power has traditionally lain in the hands of the male. Sex is, in itself, a patriarchal act. However, in traditional monogamous heterosexual relations, women have, throughout history, regained their power through the fine art of [sometimes elongated] courtships. Even in long-term monogamous partnerships, the prime example being marriage, the male partner is often represented as the ever willing, ever ready sexual being. The woman can and does postpone sexual practice. The female then, by deciding when and where sexual activity is to happen has expropriated power. She must, assuming she wishes to remain within a traditional female sexual paradigm, eventually relinquish her newfound power when coitus takes place. However, this is only to regain it once more when the question of sexual activity is raised again. By this reasoning alone it is not surprising if many women may choose to keep a sexual undercurrent present in the relationship outside of sexual practice, keeping the promise of sex ever present. This she must achieve by employing and adhering to a culturally inherent given set of sexual semiotics. Operating directly as an icon on the sexualise woman via the sign-systems of clothing, hair, cosmetics and jewellery etc, and furthermore crossing through the spectrum of semiotic systems, via the indexical through to the highest level of the symbolic where the male will carry a ‘token’, i.e., a symbol of the female.

Real Men Don’t Court
The question of the exchange of sexual power and the roles of penetrator or penetrated are, of course, transgressed and subverted within the realms of homosexual sexual practice. Just who is to be penetrator? Is this role fluid and transient as has been identified in the very nature of sexual desire itself or is it fixed? Perhaps it varies with differing sexual selves, from the partner to partner, or even within a long-term monogamous sexual relationship. And if the passive partner maintains sexual power outside of the coital act itself, in the traditional heterosexist sense, does this indicate that gay men must look to the heterosexual paradigm for a workable role model? Does this heterocentric modelling already operate, function and thrive within the gay community, or, more specific to any examination of sexualised masculinities, within same-sex sexual practice and relations. Is it the only paradigm from which homosexuals may set precedent? Or have gay men created their own set of power play parameters within which to operate? For, given the deep entrenchment of gender roles and hierarchies within western society, coupled with the recognition that we are still some distance away from any emancipation from these roles, surely the passive gay man must experience gender anxiety when he attempts to play a traditionally female role during non-sexual activities within a relationship? He must always, in a sense, be to some degree, sexualised. To overcome these difficulties and therefore optimise his full potential as a human being operating within his world, the passive gay man must find a place within his existentialist growth where he can happily remain fully male and truthful to his own sense of and set of masculinities. It must be a place within both his physical and emotional schema where he is not constantly [no matter how unconsciously] negotiating the sexual act thus loosing power, or where his sexualised self only needs to come to the fore for sexual practice. Does such a mindset exist? Have passive gay men arrived there? The iconography and sign-systems with which the homosexual life, as a lifestyle choice, present themselves unto the greater world would, by virtue of their semiotics, posit to the contrary; and indeed do this long before I or any theorist can arrive at the same but unfortunately foregone conclusion.
The presentations that the passive gay man makes of himself unto the world is of course, a two-fold process. Firstly, by digesting culturally inherent notions of how he should present to the greater community he will formulate ideas as to what could constitute a successful icon of himself. Then he must set about creating this iconicity and turning it into a reality.
But he is, sadly, only ever operating as an icon, as a representation of himself…..


....What we seem to forget about Kate Millet, Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinham and all those wonderfully emancipating, bra-burning feminists of the early 1970s is that when we look at them as part of the forming entity that finally got us thinking about what it might exactly be, this thing that is ‘feminism’. What can it now mean to be, firstly a feminist and secondly a male feminist? And especially now in the midst of what has been contemporarily identified as a third wave of feminisms, the very plurality of the theory in its tertiary incarnation, whereas in earlier evolutions it had but a singularity. What we see, what we see there, fair creatures, is an example of a form of theoretical natural selection within the macro-cosmic world that is literary and cultural theory.....

......There is a certain pleasing philosophical logic to be found in the cultural reflections, both comparative and corrective, in the theatrical experience, especially when we begin to ask probing questions about hierarchies and ideologies of gender. Within dramatic literature and in theatre practice specifically, the staged male is a minefield of ideological sign systems. I move myself towards, then, an examination of Irish and English notions of masculinity in contemporary theatre practice as reflected our National Theatre’s literary heritage. As our small Island moves towards not just a sometimes uneasy peace with ‘Britain’ but also onto a Global Cultural and Economic platform I wish to enquire, or set up lines of enquiry at least, towards questioning, in the ontological sense, as reflected in perceived dramatic performatives, of what is the masculine, and for who, and why is that masculine, and why does that make me ask why that isn't.... and what was masculine yesterday, and today and tomorrow... and why is that masculine to me and not you, and will that change or even, can that change; and if so how can changes come about?....

...Once we apply those frameworks of ontological questioning, of enquiring from the base of history up, from our perceived 'point zero', our viewpoint; and more importantly our understanding of who we are and how we relate to others about us as they operate within our reality; has irrevocably changed. We are "lost in theory" and we can never "go home." Readership and spectatorship change, readership and spectatorship contribute to and even create culture; culture itself then creates gender ideologies and gender hierarchies which can sometimes affect us even before we germinate. [If it is a boy, he shall wear blue, play rugby and be an engineer; why not a rapist?] And thus we find that the search for the true given of what is to be perceived as a 'man' and 'masculine' as opposed to what is acceptable as a 'man' and 'masculine', this search is well and truly on. The prey is elusive, and the chase, as often in any labour of love, is certainly better than the catch. 'Man', 'manly', 'masculine' and 'one of the boys' are all notions of being that were constructed by culture anyway, and once we remember that culture is the result of a need for human interaction, and that actual interaction itself, then by any dialectic of argument, these notions of manhood and masculinity are surely not natural, but artificial, false and most worryingly, difficult for the twenty-first century male to live up to....
....
Men have lost their way.....

In the words of Dorothy Sayers....
The first thing that strikes the careless observers is the women are unlike men. They are the "opposite sex" (though why "opposite" I do not know; what is the "neighbouring sex"?) But the fundamental things is that women are more like men than anything else in the world. From: "The Human Not Quite Human".....


Ah sure, its all bollox anyway....

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