Doctor Science Knows

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Wimp Factor

Amanda at Pandagon (I will post my thinky thots about her 15 minutes of fame! really! and long may they wave) just posted a review of Stephen Ducat's The Wimp Factor, which I've been meaning to read for a while. Get cracking, public library! I'm poor!
Ducat’s basic thesis is that boys grow up having a harder time than girls creating a positive gender identity, and therefore grow up too often to define themselves as Not Women, creating misogyny, war, etc. I think there’s little doubt that this is true, though the reasons it is true are in dispute.
Ducat is a Freudian, which I didn't know before this review. Freudians generally write really, really well, have interesting ideas and make wide connections -- and usually go off the tracks toward Looneyville at some point. But at least their sentences aren't dipped in sociologese, so they're never *boring*.

I can't remember if it was in Louise Kaplan's Female Perversions (she's another Freudian) or in a book (by a male author, maybe?) that is linked to Kaplan in my mind, but whichever Freudian it was pointed out that on trouble with dichotomous gender roles is that it restricts what virtues a person can practice.

As Ducat says, sharing *any* quality with women provokes anxious masculinity. Therefore, if feminism lets women cultivate intelligence, anxious men must act stupid. If some women are prudent, men must be reckless. If women do well in school, men must do badly.

I actually think this is where a lot of the anxious-masculine anti-environmentalism comes from. It's not so much that women are associated with nature, but that women are encouraged to show qualities of caring for the future (especially children), of compassion, of prudence and restraint. So a male can only get guy-points by being reckless, greedy, wasteful, and short-sighted.

It's a kind of subtractive masculinity, where the only qualities that make a guy a Real Man are ones women do not display. So if feminism lets women become more fully human, Real Men must become less -- as though being human is a zero-sum game.

This is why we get so much "feminists deny the important differences between men and women! You think everyone should be androgynously bland!" When we say, "the truly important virtues are ones both men and women can display: honesty, courage, intelligence, compassion" they hear, "the important game is one that doesn't define Manhood." And in that way, of course, they're right.

Speaking of Kaplan, one of her most interesting ideas is "homovestism": getting a sexual charge out of dressing up as a member of one's own gender. I think this explains a lot about what fashion means to many women.

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