Sep. 5th, 2016

highlyeccentric: French vintage postcard - a woman in feminised army uniform of the period (General de l'avenir)
I have been arguing that constructions of modern Western gay male identity tend to be, not in the first place "essentially gay", but instead (or at least also) in a very intimately responsive and expressive, though always oblique, relation to incoherences implicit in modern male heterosexuality. Much might be said, then, following this clue, about the production and deployment, especially in contemporary US society, of an extraordinarily high level of self-pity in nongay men. Its effects on our national politics, and international ideology and intervention, have been pervasive. (Snapshot, here, of the tear-welling eyes of Oliver North.) In more intimate manifestations this straight male self-pity is often concurrently referred to (though it appears to exceed) the cultural effects of feminism, and is associated with, or appealed to as a justification of, acts of violence, especially against women. For instance, the astonishing proportion of male violence done on separated wives, ex-wives, and ex-girlfriends, women just at the threshold of establishing a separate personal space, seems sanctioned and guided as much as reflected by the flood of books and movies in which such violence seems an expression not of macho personality but of maudlin. (One reason women get nervous when straight men claim to have received from feminism the gift of "permission to cry".) ... This vast national wash of masculine self-pity is essentially never named or discussed as a cultural and political fact; machismo and competitiveness, or a putative gentleness, take its place as subjects of nomination and analysis. Poised between shame and shamelessness, this regime of heterosexual male self-pity has the projective potency of an open secret. It would scarcely be surprising if gay men, like all women, were a main target of its scapegoating projections - viciously sentimental attributions of a vitiated sentimentality.
The sacred tears of the heterosexual man: rare and precious liquor...


From The Epistemology of the Closet

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