Thursday, 26 January 2012

Experimental Maleness

The sanctity of maleness lies in fatherhood. We all talk a lot about fatherhood and fathers, but who of us has a fixed and clear idea of what a father should or should not be? We are all aware of how easy it is to fail at being a father, but what constitutes a real and good father-figure? Is it possible for a young person to grow up without such a male figure?

It is all to easy for us in the post-feminist orgy to dismiss the importance of men. But it is in fatherhood that men find their redemption. In my view, fatherhood goes way beyond biological fatherhood. It does however, start there. Contrary to the post-feminist default culture, it is also my opinion that we DO have obligations to each other. That women have an obligation to mother, and men have an obligation to father. That is, part of what it means to be a grown human being, a being who is developing maturity, is to offer leadership to the young.

With the breakdown of gender roles, I see something very worrying happening on the back of it. Post-feminism is a culture of indulgence and licentiousness. Post-feminism, erodes the sense that any of us have an obligation to each other. The idea that a woman has obligation to be a mother is treated with contempt. The idea of fatherhood barely exists at all.

Don't get me wrong, the idea of fatherhood under Patriarchy was hardly there at all either. However, in the noise and self-satisfaction of a consumerist culture the very idea that one would have a moral obligation to anyone is out the window completely. Morality is a downer. Morality does not sell products.

But the truth is we have an obligation to our young. As we grow and we develop we have to take responsibility for the emotional legacy. Particularly in these times.
The sort of post-gender culture that we are entering into offers up amazing opportunities for a new kind of leadership that's free of the cuffs of traditional social roles and repressed sexuality. However, we must be careful that this culture does not just free float into a culture of self-indulgence, where our new found freedom becomes nothing more than a opportunity to gain power where we had none before.

Despite what we are told, and what we like to think, even in the post-feminist culture we do actually have gender identities. This is not about intelligence or capacity to do this or that task. What I am talking about is that we cannot deny our gender imperatives. These are not there to control us, on the contrary, they are their to liberate us.

I am not being reactionary. I am probably saying what we all really think. We have all been let down by the parental system. We have all been let down by those who failed to offer leadership when we needed it most. Our whole culture has let everyone down. And under the guise of freedom and enfranchisement, it is my opinion that things are getting worse not better. I am not being doom and gloom about it. I think there are great opportunities ahead of us, but we must face the responsibility of those opportunities.

I'd also like to emphasise that our genders are not the sum total of who we are. I don't advocate an egotistical maleness. Patriarchy developed out of a pathological association with the male principle. It is however, a product of repression in itself. Such attachments and demonic ego-associations only come about when we are compensating for something deep-rooted, something terrifying in our own consciousness. I have a lot more to say about this and will address it on this blog in the future.

What I am trying to say is that we have a challenge ahead of us, and it is a chellenge akin to the traditional warrior, or the Bodhisattva. It is the challenge of living in the world, with a worldly identity, without being consumed by the material ideas and concepts of that world. In a sense, you could call it spiritual. However, I prefer to look at it as a logical continuation of the peaceful warrior tradition. I don't cite this out of some macho fetish, though I could forgive you that accusation. The concept is used and abused continuously.

What I am talking about is acting in the world without being attached. Having a an identity, but allowing that identity to be remain contingent. It is not essential to my humanity that I am a man. I nevertheless find myself with an obligation to live with my masculinity in a way that is ethically sound and which benefits society as a whole. Now how one does that is not a simple issue. This was what Feminism was all about. It showed us that our gender preconceptions were far from given.

We do however, have to salvage a coherence and a workable culture out of post-feminism. Culture itself should strike a balance. This is what I think a healthy culture is characterised by. It gives a map by which we function in the world, but essential to a healthy culture is knowing that the map is not the territory. That despite our moral obligations and our roles, despite the necessity for a clarity around social values, those values themselves evolve according to the evolving needs of the species.

In this blog I am constantly negotiating a tension between finding some grounded essential sense of self for men which incorporates masculinity and all that it brings, while I am also trying to avoid falling back into Patriarchal values, into an intransigence and a reactionary politics of the masculine.

This is our challenge. Despite what many of you think, I am not just rationalising a personal pathology here. I have many of those, and can do that in private any time I want. In fact, I frequently do. I am writing this out of a profound sense of responsibility. Too many of my artistic and masculine heroes have been men who have found liberation from the shackles of Patriarchal manhood, only to leave a legacy of harm and neglect and, at best, emotional abuse to their children.

All the men I would cite as heroes who have pointed me towards my own sense of liberated masculinity, have also been men who have failed miserably to offer solid leadership to their own children. You name him, and the pathology is there. From Brando, to Kerouac, through Hemingway to John Lennon. All these men have in their own way revolutionised the way men can think of themselves. They have provided some kind of leadership in the pop-culture arena.

But it is one thing to reject the old, quite another to innovate the new. Innovating a new masculinity is a massive task. It is our moral obligation. It is non-negotiable. Like experimental artists, we are constantly going to be faced with the challenge of finding a balance of free expression and workable structure. Our art must have an identity, it must take up a place in the world in order to communicate. But it must also be fluid, not defined by its structure, and garner its power by what is beyond its aspects.


  1. Top stuff. Sam from Poetry Unplugged last Tuesday

  2. Hi Sam, cheers. I couldn't make it to the poetry night the other night because I had no money left in my account. I had to use my last spare change to get home. Bukowski would have been proud. Hope it was alright.