Thursday, 25 April 2013

Until we face up to the evolutionary function of male violence the gender-revolution will only be skin deep

'I'll never forget how sick it made me the first time I knew he was a cobarde. Go on, say it in English. Coward. It's easier when you have it said, and there's never any point in referring to a son of a bitch by some foreign term. He wasn't any son of a bitch though. He was just a coward and that was the worst luck any man could have.'

For Whom The Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway

As society changes, the forces of a knowledge based economy and the social empowerment of women, have allowed the possibility of men to explore the nuances of masculinity in ways that have been neglected throughout the largest part of human culture, save perhaps the Vedic cultures, or the Italian Renaissance. What this means in practical terms is that men are now, at least on paper, free to explore aspects of their personalities that had previously been off-limits.

Creativity, sexual fulfillment, self-examination, homosexuality, inter-masculine affection, stay-at-home parenting, and really any activity that is not based on an immediate, socially accepted form of productivity. The opposite is true for women. They are now free to explore other aspects of their femininity that don't involve motherhood, and in doing so, such social changes have freed men up to be non-performative men, and to experiment in non-prudential masculinity.

Or have they?

Material changes in the social dynamic have had a disappointingly low level of impact on masculine culture, and indeed the expectation of society on its men. We have a situation now where the floodgates have opened for women, but no such revolution has affected men.

I know what some of you are thinking. Men don't need a revolution. Why do the very people who comprised the elite, need to to be liberated by a revolution?

Well, this is exactly what is wrong with the narrative. I go back to my point about male privilege. Having a penis may have been necessary to be part of the social elite under what is crudely called 'patriarchy', but it wasn't by any stretch sufficient. Most men, and I really do mean about 95% of men, under patriarchy, were hopelessly enslaved to ideals of invulnerability and violent power, to the fetish of warmongering and fear and cruel meritocracies. A woman who was deemed to be transgressive was scandalous. A man who was transgressive was considered a social evil.

The rigidity of what has come to be called homogenous masculinity, or hetero-normative masculinity, was not just an arbitrary cultural dogma. It was, at least in its most primitive form, an evolutionary function, a biological necessity. The fact that it became pathological does not mean it was wasn't natural. In fact, one of the hardest things about dealing with some kinds of social evils, is to confront the fact that some of those evils were at one point in human cultural evolution, a social necessity.

What am I really talking about here? Violence. Integral to our social conceptions about what a man is, is violence. And it is important to accept the fact that the violence of masculine culture, is not simply a social contingency. The most uncomfortable truth about masculine culture is that evolutionary competitiveness gave way to an embedded, pathological violence, that served to create social integrity, justice, unity, and survival in the context of nomadic chaos.

I can't emphasise this enough, because if we are ever going to truly deal with masculine violence, and the social ills that are easily traced to masculine norms, then we are going to have to confront the evolutionary function of violence in masculine culture.

In post-feminist culture, it seems we are all hypocrites. We want the changes when it suits us, we embrace the revolution when it allows freedoms, greater license, and broader material opportunities. But we don't seem willing to confront the spiritual fall-out of that very same revolution. We are still running on evolutionary programmes that embrace violence and competitiveness, and it is for this reason, this hypocrisy of civilisation, that we still have what is rather inaccurately called 'rape culture'; and it is exactly why we seem unwilling to give up our addiction to war. It's why more men in the UK die from suicide than HIV/AIDS, traffic deaths, and murder (despite the fact that the latter list of social ills are treated as 'cultural problems' whereas suicide is always spoken of as a one-off tragedy).

My biggest beef is this. The feminist revolution has only been skin deep. The fact that most women still expect their men to earn more than them, to protect them, to exhibit invulnerability and to possess a universal resource of courage, just goes to prove my point.

Ah. there it is. The academicians start to rattle their foils. Am I making blanket assertions now? Or, am I, just maybe, saying what we all know to be true, articulating the cultural impasse which none of us is willing to face up to?

Some things don't need statistical factoids, and exhaustive logic to make them true. Some things are self-evident social truths. Sometimes the desire for a logical argument, and a conclusive explanatory certainty is just another way to cloud the facts, and deny the painful reality we all know to be true. So philosophers, re-sheath your swords, I could give a fuck.

And what is this reality that I speak of? It is that male violence is something that we are all, radical feminists and sensitive new-age guys alike, deeply invested in. Anger, depression, sexual frustration, and moral rage have a social function. Or at least, they have had, until very, very recently in evolutionary history. We must keep the men of our societies in a functional state of battle-readiness.

So, we are all fond of paying lip-service to the language of gender-revolution. But the very fact that sites like this blog incite scorn from many in the feminist camp betrays a hypocrisy and deep-rooted delusional quality in the cultural consciousness around these issues. Until we are prepared to actually confront male violence as a social and cultural reality, one that we all have something invested in, then we cannot make good on the promises of the feminist revolution.

And men, as well as women, will continue to be imprisoned in homogenous ideals of sexuality and gender that will serve only to entrench archaic repressions, the very repressions that exacerbate and make a dysfunction of, violent evolutionary imperatives that we now have a chance to abandon and outgrow. 

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