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Representing Women, Defining Masculinity - The role of female sex & sexuality in Fight Club and Falling Man.

Representing Women, Defining Masculinity - The role of female sex & sexuality in Fight Club and Falling Man.

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Kate Quigley. Originally submitted for Arts with Creative Writing , with lecturer Rebecca Barr in the category of English Literature
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Kate Quigley. Originally submitted for Arts with Creative Writing , with lecturer Rebecca Barr in the category of English Literature

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 30, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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10/27/2013

 
Representing Women, Defining Masculinity -The role of female sex & sexuality in
Fight Club
and
Falling Man.
1
 
AbstractSince the 1970s, the rise of feminism has made the role of gender and the female an integral part of studying literature and other art forms. However, it is not until recent years that scholars have begunto turn their attention to the role of the male specifically. After so many years of having been ignored,despite their obvious presence in our books, how have modern men in literature reacted to the falloutthat so many years of feminism and female-focused interrogation of literature created in male role andidentity?This essay will focus on the roles of women inhabiting the testosterone-fuelled and male-dominated worlds of Don DeLillo’s
 Falling Man
and Chuck Palahniuk’s
 Fight Club
and the impactthat their deviance from traditional female roles has on the identities and self-concepts of the men in both books, all of whom seem to be undergoing a deep-set crisis as a direct result of their lack of asense of self. If the traits and roles that were once considered quintessentially masculine have now become commonplace in women, what do men have left to define themselves by, and what effect isthis newfound lack of identity having on the male psyche?
2
 
‘Masculinity is not something you are born with, but something you gain’ (
 Phallic Critiques,
17) – so Norman Mailer says, echoing Simone de Beauvoir’s commentary on how women achievewomanhood, but for a less fair sex. The problem with studying masculinity is that, no matter whereone turns, feminism always seems to be close behind. In many ways, masculinity studies can only bedefined by the boundaries of feminist studies that have come before. However, whilst feminism (atleast early feminism) could be defined by a struggle against oppression & the desire to emancipatewomen as a gender from this oppression, pinning down exactly what sort of oppression is causing themodern crisis in masculinity is far more difficult, particularly in light of men’s traditional role as theoppressors in many struggles, both gender & race based.This essay will deal with the issues of using post-feminist women to define post-feminist (& perhaps pre-masculinity?) men in Don DeLillo’s
 Falling Man
& in Chuck Palahniuk’s
 Fight Club
,focusing on the themes of sex and physicality
.
Due to constraints of the essay’s length, we will deal primarily with only the two main ‘couples’ in each novel Keith and Lianne in
 Falling Man
andMarla and the narrator /Tyler in
 Fight Club
(the
 Fight Club
narrator will hereafter be referred to asJack, for the sake of convenience). Although neither woman is particularly successful in creating astable identity for Keith or Jack, it is apparent throughout both books that the men have anexpectation, or at least a hope, that this will happen. The modern generation of thirty-year old boysraised by women, as Jack refers to himself, really do seem to want another woman to come along andfix their problems.
 
It is important to note here that in using the word ‘successful’, I do not intend tosuggest that either Marla or Lianne are in any way responsible for the men they interact with or thatthey are trying to make them into men; in fact, it seems to be more often the case that Jack and Keithattempt to extract this help themselves, using the femaleness of their respective partners as a sort of  backdrop or comparison for their confused ideas of masculinity. Jack’s comment in the first chapter of 
 Fight Club
sums up the vital importance of women in creating masculinity: ‘I know all of this: thegun, the anarchy, the explosion is really about Marla Singer.(
 Fight Club,
14). The idea of masculinity simply cannot exist without femininity and women to give it weight by opposing it -women create and validate masculinity because they are
not 
masculine, but rather, the opposite.
3

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