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Violence and Conventional Male Posing

By Jack Nichols

bodybuilding.jpg - 8.80 K We who are gay-identified often enjoy unique insights that help us see through the facades that pass for masculinity in our culture. Instinctively many of us know when somebody's being too butch, when posture is too rigid, or when tough-guy expressions are too emphatic. We know when the cold, stern, unsmiling faces of conventional men—practiced poses-- become mere masks for frightened boys.

Men, whether straight or gay-identified are taught, nevertheless, to admire or cling to such "manly" and threatening poses with greater urgency than they are taught anything else. A man may lose everything he considers valuable, including his youth, his philosophy, his money, home or auto.

But there's one thing he continues to own, that he thinks he has mastered, and he hopes, by its means, to maintain his 'solid' reputation as a man. It is his ability—consciously or unconsciously absorbed—to affect his idea of the macho pose.

Watch him walk menacingly across a room—his stride telling others what he wants them to know—that he's a tough guy. This bully's promenade—suggesting the presence of a corn cob in his anus--marks his last, pitiful grasp at respectability. And, unfortunately, there are all too many women and men fooled by his prehistoric, theatrical affectation.

And while such a swagger boasts its outward evidences, it takes less conspicuous forms as well, in intellectual one-upmanship, for example.

During the past thirty years women's roles—inculcated over long centuries-- have begun to mollify. Male roles, however, have remained mostly ignored and changing them has proved a more difficult task, one the media and even feminists themselves have seemed reluctant to pursue.

The lynchpin which in great part keeps the macho role intact is the gay taboo. This is why military moguls regularly malign the same-sex lovers in their midst. The gay taboo has long served as masculinity's litmus test. John Keegan, writing in London's Daily Telegraph (September 28) expresses his misgivings about the European Court's condemnation of Britain's military ban against gays. He says:

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"Young men want to become soldiers for all sorts of reasons but foremost among them is to demonstrate their masculinity, often in a sort of ritual and tribalistic way. Historically, any tendency to homosexuality has been viewed in the ranks as a negation of manliness, something to be mocked, scorned and, ultimately, attacked if detected. To be accused, in the barracks, of homosexual tendencies is the deepest of insults, demanding expiation in violence."

As the gay taboo withers, I believe, so will the macho ideology that Keegan has shamelessly described.

Why has so little attention been given thus far to the perils of male role conditioning? My experience as a male liberationist in the mid-1970s taught me that early feminist activists feared that any talk of men's liberation might detract from the public's attention to women's plight. What these women failed to realize was that any change in women's roles would—of necessity—require major changes in male roles in order to be successful.

At the same time, gay-identified men were reacting against effeminate pre-lib stereotypes, and many 1970s bars began to decorate with spurs, whips, chains, and other instruments signaling dominance, torture and restraint— themes that screamed we're really 'real men' in status quo terms.

Some gay men became overly emphatic about highly-prized old fashioned masculine images. They were likely to shriek, "I am a man. I'm not a drag queen! I can be just as masculine as the next guy." Little did these sufferers know that the "next guy" –faced with newly liberated women in rebellion—was wrestling with the authenticity of his male facade as well.

stonecold.jpg - 10.02 K Stone Cold Steve Austin is a role model to many of today's youth in America Vast forces of reaction were quickly put into motion against all those deemed to be enemies of patriarchal patterns. They continue unabated to this day. Male Liberationist awareness has advanced through entertainment venues in like manner as have the reactionary WWF and the WCW spectacles. The continuing war against gay liberation is being waged by theologies as ridiculous as Tinky Winky and as cruelly vicious as the patriarchal pronouncement of the 'Holy Father's' Vatican, namely, that same-sex love is "intrinsically evil."

Nevertheless, what gay muses, philosophers and activists like Walt Whitman, Edward Carpenter, David Fernbach, Arthur Evans, and certain others realized early on was that many factors—economic not being the least— have set in motion what Fernbach calls "a world-historical transformation in the relationship between the sexes."

Women seeking equalized male companions have been frustrated as long as men around them remain unable to see how destructive has been their unquestioned fundamentalist approach to relationships.

Male Domination-- unquestioning submission to men's authority in relationships--must be examined for its effects on their relationships. I'd wager that the damage to those relationships has been phenomenal.

But few have seemed ready to explain to either gender the much-needed changes men will undergo—and women too-- in order to effect this hoped-for utopia of gender equality. Presently, unfortunately, the state's safety is in the hands of 'masculinity-happy' males who—in this nuclear age—might too readily choose Solution-Violence.

Solution-Violence was hatched in pre-history—with, at one point, a growing need for warriors-- at the end of the hunting and gathering period. Women were thereafter confined to tending their domestic nests while men roamed afar, bonding as warriors.

arnoldsch.jpg - 6.45 K Arnold tells young men to "pump up" As we cross into the 21st Century, however, women fly combat planes. Many men are in a dither about how to prove themselves as masculine. A mindless Machismo gives them leeway, therefore, to be the cold-blooded hero images offered them by Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwartzennegger, or that punch-king himself, Sylvester Stallone. What is more, mindless machismo—undeterred—is celebrating itself in American and thus in world culture as never before.

The extraordinary world-wide growth of World Wrestling Federation. and World Championship Wrestling—clearly theatrics courtesy of macho-mania—should give us pause. Children in the Middle East are fascinated by such antics. The contestants'dialogues –or monologues—preach Domination-Pride and Solution-Violence in non-stop programming.

Upping the theatrical ante, wrestling as theatre has now become rife with male-only sexual epithets, words more colorful than sissy, for example, and tastier too, like "candy ass".

I listened in only two days ago to hear a wrestler-gorilla threaten his competitor with a genital hold, after which time he said he would perform a penis-rip-off and would stuff the offending organ into the victim's own mouth.

I thought: This contestant's mind hosts the imaginary forces of faggotry with which he thinks he must do battle to save his own self-image in his sadly conditioned brain.

WWF and WCW are mind-boggling for their macho uses of abuses. In the person of a muscular macho woman, China, macho ideals get pasted approvingly on women. This tough female brawler beats and is beaten by challenger-males, thus setting new standards in each home for the establishment of domestic tranquility.

In the meantime, Solution-Violence, goes unquestioned and men continue—with this woman wrestler's help-- to glorify a now-obsolete warrior role as well as its accompanying validation through shows of forceful threat and physical domination.

Gender programming in the male, therefore, has often led men who might otherwise have learned to relax to suffer instead a crippling rigidity. Many of those affected find their release by literally celebrating the monumental brutalization of life.

The conventional and obsolete male role teaches men to both inflict and experience such brutality. These cultural demands for manliness are hangovers from a previous age, and are presently near the core, if not at the core of the socially-conditioned male's agonies. These agonies cause person-centered pain and a general social ruin as well.

The self-fooled macho male's difficulty with intimate behavior—his rigid love life or lack of it—is clearly a microcosm spreading to many social ills.

This is why new kinds of revolutionaries are called for: men who know that a person's elasticity, rather than his or her rigidity is the key to long term personal and social survival. Men die, on the whole, eight years ahead of women.

The cause for this disparity may have been addressed 2,500 years ago by the great Chinese sage, Lao Tzu:

Man, born tender and yielding,
Stiffens and hardens in death.
All living growth is pliant,
Until death transfixes it.
Thus men who have hardened are 'kin of death'
And men who stay gentle are 'kin of life.'
Thus a hard-hearted army is doomed to lose.
A tree hard-fleshed is cut down:
Down goes the tough and big,
Up comes the tender sprig.

Those who would take over the world
and bend it to their will, never, I notice, succeed.

The new revolutionaries, therefore, must celebrate male responses to life better suited to survival. They must not be afraid to enter machismo's holy of holies, to tread boldly on that all-too-sacred turf; to inspect, question, and finally doubt concepts of masculinity that currently reign and to show them as crippling diseases.

Why is it that males presently commit nearly 95% of all violent crimes?

A redefinition of masculinity promises a new way of interpreting such statistics. It enables us to see how brutal confrontations spread venomously—inspired by macho mental sets. These happen not only in local communities, but give a thoughtless green light to atrocities practiced on a global scale. karatekid.jpg - 6.19 K Movies, too, reinforce the image that violence is the way to manhood, even in "positive" films like The Karate Kid

Before presenting further evidences of inculcated-machismo's contribution to violence as a solution, prudence calls for a pre-emptive strike against Darwin's misinterpreted 'survival of the fittest' theory which happened at the hands of Thomas Henry Huxley, his 'Bulldog' and whose approach to evolutionary thought during the Victorian Era lent support to world-wide plunder.

First, I recommend Peter Kropotkin's (1842-1921) Mutual Aid. Kropotkin, who was a scientist, showed how it is cooperation, not competition, which prolongs the life of a species. His greatest work was written specifically to discredit Huxlian-Darwinism.

It is a chief task of our generation to redefine what we mean by defense. America's approach to self-preservation is better geared to self-destruction, weighted down by paranoia Either individuals or nations become so conscious of maintaining their defensive postures, that they invite violence upon themselves, causing self-fulfilling prophecies.

In the heat of expectation, as today's victim looks about anxiously for the approach of an attacker, he often finds social misfits who believe that masculinity requires attack . They catch his eye at the very minute he spots them. His aggressive carriage becomes an open invite for compulsive assailants to prove their skills.

Here comes a person whose father proposed a game of fisticuffs to him before he was capable of walking or standing on his two little feet. At the dinner table he was ordered: "Put up your dukes!" A primitive paranoid interior-warrior was thereupon shaped, possibly to become a half-wit who, at any given moment, is primed to step forward armed with his highest calling, namely to beat or shoot all supposed enemies.

(To be continued later)
Jack Nichols: GayToday's Senior Editor, is author of The Gay Agenda: Talking Back to the Fundamentalists (Prometheus Books, 1996) and of Men's Liberation: A New Definition of Masculinity (Penguin Books, 1975, 1980)

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