A number of posts are in the pipeline: some more thoughts on Brave New World, some reflections on what I’m currently reading, Terrorism and Communism by Leon Trotsky, especially regarding the infamous ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’. I’m also preparing some comments on the recent events in Guinea-Bissau.
Right now though, my attention has been caught by two recent posts with interestingly contrasting points.
This post, by the Loner Grrrl, discusses the reaction to that woman who won University Challenge, and the way that intelligence in women is often unexpected and seen as unfeminine. So intelligence is associated with masculinity. Got it.
But wait! As argued in this post, by Hugo Schwyzer, intelligence is actually often opposed to masculinity. He talks about the US presidency, but the same pattern can be observed all over the place: the ‘real men’ are the active, muscular, ones, not the ‘nerds’.
So wait, intelligence is opposed to masculinity. So it’s a bad thing for both men and women?
Yet something else that the latter post points out, and which can be confirmed by anyone familiar with racial stereotypes in western culture, it is precisely the stereotype of that unintelligent masculinity, thuggishly aggressive, athletic, gansterish, virile, hyper-masculinity, that is used so much against black men. And this hyper-masculinity hardly serves to help them – instead it’s part of the narrative of danger and stupidity that helps to imprison and marginalise them.
What does this mean? It means that stuff is complicated. Attempts to hypothesise an archetypal ‘eternal masculine’ and ‘eternal feminine’ are not just false to reality, they’re false to the very ideological categories that they try to absolutise.
For example, if I had to describe my gender identity, it would be very much a male one. But at the same time, it’s very different from – indeed, in opposition to – the most conspicuously and emphatically male identity. I’m intellectual, pedantic, socially awkward, hate sports, don’t eat meat, etc. This identity is a common one, and a very definitely male one, but in relation to watching-the-game-having-a-bud, it’s defectively masculine. I don’t remotely identify with ‘men’ as a category, or feel like ‘one of’ ‘the boys’, but I don’t feel remotely feminine either.
Yet in other settings and frameworks, that ‘dominant’ masculine identity can be the basis of marginalisation, when it gets situated as either animalistic (in contrast to the rational, dignified, human) or as child-like (“the savage natives must be educated before they can govern themselves”).