Turning to the issue of «love», I came across the US-American author Michael S. Kimmel and his relatively recent book The Gender of Desire. Essays on Male Sexuality (State University of New York Press, 2005), which is one of the few creditable publications on this topic. Why is there so little of interest being published in this respect?
What absolutely amazed me and abruptly opened and expanded my understanding of the American male psyche like nothing else ever before is the chapter «Masculinity as Homophobia. Fear, Shame and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity.»
Since then, I have a clearer view not only of the U.S.-American male psyche, but, more importantly, of the foundation on which Trumpism has historically developed along with everything else related to it, namely gun fetishism, sexism, homophobia, racism, and ultimately the entire so-called «American Dream».
Here are a few of the most striking passages quoted from Kimmel’s book:
«The notion of antifemininity lies at the heart of contemporary and historical conceptions of manhood, so that masculinity is defined more by what one is not rather than who one is» (p. 31).
«Masculine identity is born in the renunciation of the feminine, not in the direct affirmation of the masculine, which leaves masculine gender identity tenuous and fragile» (p. 32).
«Masculinity is a homosocial enactment…, its overriding emotion is fear… (p. 33–34)
«This, then, is the great secret of American manhood: We are afraid of other men. Homophobia is a central organizing principle of our cultural definition of manhood. Homophobia is more than the irrational fear of gay men, more than the fear that we might be perceived as gay. Homophobia is the fear that other men will unmask us, emasculate us, reveal to us and the world that we do not measure up, that we are not real men. We are afraid to let other men see that fear. Our fear is the fear of humiliation. We are ashamed to be afraid.
Shame leads to silence—the silences that keep other people believing that we actually approve of the things that are done to women, to minorities, to gays and lesbians in our culture…. Our fears are the sources of our silences, and men’s silence is what keeps the system running» (p. 35)
«In one survey, women and men were asked what they were most afraid of. Women responded that they were afraid of being raped and murdered. Men responded that they were afraid of being laughed at» (p. 37).
«Throughout American history, various groups have represented the sissy, the non-men against whom American men played out their definition of manhood, often with vicious results… By the middle of the 19th century, black slaves were seen as dependent, helpless men, incapable of defending their women and children, and therefore less than manly. Native Americans were cast as foolish and naïve children, so they could be infantilized as the “Red Children of the Great White Father” and therefore excluded from full manhood.
By the end of the century, new European immigrants were added to the list of the unreal men, especially the Irish and Italians, who were seen as too passionate and emotionally volatile to remain controlled sturdy oaks, and Jews, who were seen as too bookishly effete and too physically puny to truly measure up. In the mid-twentieth century, it was also Asians—first the Japanese, and more recently the Vietnamese—who have served as unmanly templates against which American men have hurled their gendered rage. Asian men were seen as small, soft and effeminate—hardly men at all.
Such a list of «hyphenated» Americans—Italian-, Jewish-, Irish-, African-, Native-, Asian-, gay—composes the majority of American men. So manhood is only possible for a distinct minority, and the definition has been constructed to prevent the others from achieving it. Interestingly, these very groups were also cast as hypermasculine, as sexually aggressive, violent rapacious beasts, against whom «civilized» men must take a decisive stand and thereby rescue civilization… But whether one saw these groups as effeminate sissies or as brutal uncivilized savages, the terms with which they were perceived were gendered. These groups became the «others», the screens against which traditional conceptions of manhood were developed» (p. 38).
«Exclusion and escape have been the dominant methods American men have used to keep their fears of humiliation at bay. The fear of emasculation by other men, of being humiliated, of being seen as a sissy, is the leitmotif in my reading of the history of American manhood. Masculinity has become a relentless test by which we prove to other men, to women, and ultimately to ourselves, that we have successfully mastered the part. The restlessness that men feel today is nothing new in American history; we have been anxious and restless for almost two centuries. Neither exclusion nor escape has ever brought us the relief we’ve sought, and there is no reason to think that either will solve our problems now. Peace of mind, relief from gender struggle, will come only from a politics of inclusion, not exclusion, from standing up for equality and justice, and not by running away» (p. 41–42).
It is precisely this inclusion that has meanwhile annihilated the «American Dream». We are therefore currently experiencing the violent rebellion of the US-American right-wing forces against the course of events, which, however, cannot be halted in the long run!
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„Neither exclusion nor escape has ever brought us the relief we’ve sought, and there is no reason to think that either will solve our problems now. Peace of mind, relief from gender struggle, will come only from a politics of inclusion, not exclusion, from standing up for equality and justice, and not by running away.“
Absolutely right. There is nothing more to say!