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Masculinity as Homophobia

Masculinity as Homophobia

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Published by: Malkin on Jul 06, 2011
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05/28/2012

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MasculinityasHomophobiaByMichaelS.Kimmel
F7587Z
~RECONSTRUCTING
GENDER
t~
f
AMulticulturalAnthology
ThirdEdition
EstelleDisch
Universityof'Massachusetts
Boston
BostonBurrRidge,ILDubuque,IAMadison,WINewYorkSanFrancisco3t.LouisBangkokBogotaCaracasKualaLumpur
Lisbon
LondonMadridMexico
City
Milan
Montreat
NewDelhiSantiagoSeoulSingapore
Sydney
TaipeiToronto
 
10
MASCULINITYASHOMOPHOBIA
MICHAEL
S.
KIMMEL
E·
en
if
wedonotsubscribetoFreudianpsychoanalytici.deas!wecanstillobservehow,
in
lesssexualizedterms,thefatheristhefirstmanwhoevaluatestheboy'smasculineperformance,thefirstpairofmaleeyesbe-forewhomhetriestoprovehimself.Thoseeyeswillfollowhimfortherestofhislife.Othermen'seyeswilljointhem-theeyesofrolemodelssuchasteach-ers,coaches!bosses,ormediaheroes;theeyesofhispeers,hisfriends,hisworkmates;andtheeyesofmillionsofothermen,livinganddead,fromwhoseconstantscrutinyof
his
performancehewillneverbefree."Thetractitionofallthedeadgenerationsweighslikeanightmareonthebrainoftheliving,"washowKarlMarxputitoveracenturyago(1848/1964,p.11)."ThebirthrightofeveryAmericanmaleisachromesenseofpersonalinadequacy,"ishowtwopsychologistsdescribeittoday(Woolfolk
&
Richardson,1978,p.57).Thatnightmarefromwhichweneverseemtoawakenisthatthoseothermenwillsee
that
senseofinadequacy,theywillseethatinourowneyeswe
arenotwhowe
arepretending
to
be.
Whatwe
callmasculinityisoften
a
hedgeagainstbeingrevealedasafraud,anexaggeratedsetofactivitiesthatkeepothersfromseeingthroughus,andafrenziedefforttokeepatbaythosefearswithinourselves.Ourrealfear
U
isnotfearofwomenbutofbeingashamedorhumiliatedinfront
of
othermen,orbeingdominated
by
strongermen"(Leverenz,1986,p.451).This,then,istheeatsecretofAmericanmanhood:
Weareaaid
0
other
men.
Homo
obiaisacentraloranizinrincipleofourculturaldefinitionofmanhood.Homophobiaismorethantheirrationaear
0
gay
men,morethanthefearthatwemightbeperceivedasgay.IJTheword'faggot'hasnoth-ingtodowithhomosexualexperienceoreven
with
fears.ofhomosexuals,"writesDavidLeverenz(1986).
Hit
comes
out
ofthedepthsofmanhood:alabelofultimatecontemptforanyonewhoseemssissy,untough,uncool"MichaelKimmel,excerptfrom"MasculinityasHomophobia"(1994).Copyright
©
1994byMichaelS.Kimmel.Allrightsreserved.
 
GenderSocialization
i
(p.
455).!i--.omDPhobiaisthe,!~thatothermen
will
unmaskus,emasc~
fJ
us,
reveal
tousandthe
""odd
that
we
donotmeasureup,thatwearenot
~Weare-'toJetothermenseematrear.
Fear
makesus-
asamecCbecause
the
reCD
ition
of
fear
inourselvesisroof
toourselvese
are
notas
manly
asweretend,that
we
are,liketheoungman
in
aoemb
T
Yeats,one
t
at
ruffles
in
a
man
asefora1his
timI
eart."
Ourfearisthetear
0lumI
iution.We
are
ashamedtobeafraid.
-sIiiimeleadsto
SIlence
-the
s!lences
that.
k~e12.
oth;;;
~b~l~vl..ng
that
we
actuallyapprove
of
thethingsthat
are
donetowomen
t
to!_l1inorities,togays
ana
lesDIansInour
cu1ture.
The
frightened
silenceaswe
scurry
past
awomanbeinghasslecfb
y
men
on
the
street.
Thatfurtivesilencewhenmenrnak~:
iads!
jo~es
#l
aE~hat
clammy-handed
silencewhenguysin
the
(;iCe
make
gay-bashingjokes.
q.l!L
feals
aretl"Mi-sOJlrcesof
ayr
sj-.>
lenees,and
men'ssilence
iswhat
kee
sthesystemrunnin,
This
mighthelp
toexplainwhywomen
0
tencornplfrin
thattheir
male
friends
orpartnersare
oftensounderstandingwhen
theyarealoneand
yet
laughat
sexist
jokesor
even
makethose
jokesthemselveswhen
they
are
outwithagroup.
Thefear
of
beingseenasasissy
dominates
thecultural
definitions
ofmanhood.
It
startsso
early.
"BQ,Ysamon
bo's
areaShaIlledto
be
n"wrote
oneeducatorin
1871
(Cl
e
In
Rotundo,
1993,p.264).Ihaveastand-
ingbet
with
a
friend
thatIcanwalk
onto
any
playground
in
Americawhere
6-year-oldboysare
happilyplaying
andbyaskingone
question,
Icanpro-
~Keafight.
TIiat
questionis-simple:
ff
1...
'issvaroun
here?"
Once
posed,
thechallenge
ismade.
Oneoftwothi~is
likelyto
happen.Oneboywillaccuse
another
ofbeingasissy,
to
which
thatboy
will
respondthat
heis
nota
sissy,that
the
first
boy
is.
Theynlayhavetofight
it
out
to
seewho's
lying.
Orawholegroupof
boys
willsurroundone
boy
andall
shout
"He
is!Heis!"That
boywilleitherburst
into
tears
and
run
home
crying,disgraced,orhewillhavetotakeonseveralboysatonce,toprovethathe'snota
sissy
(And
what
will
hisfather
oroldeJ:br9f:hers
tell
him
if
hechoosestorunhomecrying?)
It
will
be
S01ne
time
beforeheregains
any
senseof
self-respect.
I·
Violence
is
often
the'Ie
mostevidentmarkerofmanhood.-
ather
it
7f..
is
the
WI
inegs
tofi
ht,
the
desire
tofight.Theorigin
0
our
expression
t
a
one
asachiponone'sshouer
res
ill
t
epracticeofanadolescentboy
inthe
country
orsmall
town
attheturnofthecentury,who
would
literallywalkaroundwitha
chip
ofwoodbalancedonhisshoulder-asignalofhisreadinesstofightwithanyonewhowouldtaketheinitiativeofknocking
thechip
off(seeGorer,1964,
p.
38;Mead,1965).Asadolescentswe
learnthatour
peersareakindofend
r-
elice-can.;;stantlthreatening
tou:rirt18:S
usaseminine,assissies.Oneof
the
favorite
tricks
w
enwasana
-6'€scertfwas
toaska
oyto
00
at
his
fingernails.
If,
_II
he
heldhispalm
towardhis
faceandcurledhisfingersbackto
see
them,he'passedthe
test.
He'dlookedathisnails"likeaman."
But
if
heheldthe
back
ofhishandawayfromhisface,andlookedathisfingernailswitharmout-
stretched,hewasimmediatelyridiculedasasissy.

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