01: Conspiracy, Problem, Solution

with 17 comments

The Conspiracy

I want to start with an exercise, one that is going to put a slightly different spin on reality. It’s a very small investment of effort and time. There’s no need here to meditate in an Indian ashram, or guzzle some psychedelic brew in the Amazonian rainforest. It takes five minutes, and you can do it at home for free. We’re going to look through the looking glass, quite literally.

Go and find a mirror. Look at yourself in the mirror closely for a full five minutes. Look first into your eyes, notice their color and pattern. See the imperfections in your skin, the asymmetry to some parts of your face. Twitch your nose, and have a think about how that thought signal reaches your nose, and that your intention to twitch seems almost unrelated to the act itself. Contemplate the idea that it is the person in the mirror who moves through the world and that everyone sees and interacts with, not you. Notice that there is an increasingly large disconnect between who you feel you are and the person in the mirror, a distance between the two yous that is difficult to articulate in words. Now imagine that gap between the mirror and every man in the world alive right now. That’s a lot of gaps, right? Now imagine that gap for every man who has ever lived. That’s a lot of disconnect, a vast space between men and the men in the mirror. This is the space we’re going to navigate in this book. It’s in this space of disconnect that we can locate the Masculinity Conspiracy. But what exactly is the Masculinity Conspiracy? A brief definition of terms is in order.



Written by Joseph Gelfer

April 25, 2010 at 10:24 am

17 Responses

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  1. You should refer to this site on natural masculinity written by an Indian. Kindly give your views on this blog,it is interesting as it exposes a lot of masculine facades.

    Tom Jacks

    April 9, 2013 at 1:33 am

  2. Compliments for taking on this huge, fascinating, highly over-politicised theme… From what I’ve read so far you seem to take the middle ground between what has become known as “the mytho-poetic men’s movement” and the “pro-feminist men’s movement”, so I’m more than curious to see where this is going to lead.

    One organisational request though… Would it somehow be possible to publish completed chapters as seperate ‘epub’ files, or otherwise as a pdf? I find reading of a screen like this very uncomfortable – there’s something about a computer screen and scrolling and mouse-clicking that’s simply off-putting. Nothing’s more unfriendly to wisdom, knowledge and texts than the four-hundred-word-terror-templates of a computer screen…

    Signed up; as said: curious to read more. I’ve noticed I have my bullshit radars triggered and on full alert, which probably means you’re getting damn close or maybe even into my comfort zone, which is where any hidden and preconceived notion tends to reside.


    November 25, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    • You might like to read my book, “Numen, Old Men” where I write quite a bit about the mythopoetic movement:

      Less of a middle ground, and more of a *different* ground, IMHO.

      I’ll look into a pdf of each chapter, yes.

      Thanks for reading.


      November 25, 2010 at 6:40 pm

  3. I don’t agree that ‘masculinity’ is hard to define.There is a bedrock definition that lies at the heart of all apparent ‘masculinities’and that definition is that to be MASCULINE, in any culture, at any time, is to be NON-FEMININE.This has the obvious implication that the ‘ feminine’ must be defined first in order for the’ masculine’ to be reflexively formed in relation to it.As the world has been continuously male-dominated, the power to define has always been a male prerogative. The consequence of this has been that ‘the feminine’ historically became the repository for all the qualities that were repudiated by men as ‘unmanly’. No-one ever asked women what they thought about it, no-one ever asked women to define ‘the feminine’ or even if they wanted to be defined by the term at all.
    The consequence of dumping pro-personal, pro-social and pro-emotional qualitites into the ‘feminine’ domain left men with a template for manhood which over-egged the somewhat nastier side of human nature and left them bereft of a psychological framework for personal growth and development…the consequences of which are writ large both on their individual psyches and on our world.
    This is the subject of my own free-to-read e-book which is based on nearly twenty years of interviewing both men and women.This can be found at…
    I strongly believe that the adoption of the central doctrine of’multiple masculinities’within Men’s Studies has served to very effectively obscure the fundamental defining of the masculine as not-feminine. I would go further and say I believe this to be an integral, and very effective, part of the Conspiracy of which you write !

    gaia charis

    September 24, 2010 at 3:36 am

    • I agree that defining masculine in terms of what is not feminine is something that has happened to a lot. Although if you take the impact of psychoanalytical thinking seriously on feminism (in the way Luce Irigaray mobilized Lacan, for example), it is more accurate to say that the feminine is defined as that which is not masculine: masculinity is the norm, the subject, the presence; femininity is abnormal, the object, the void. Chicken and egg, perhaps, but both lead to the following point:

      The very fact that men define anything suggests masculinity (and femininity) is a social construction which, in turn, suggests it will change with society rather than having some innate and fixed quality. This means masculinity MUST be multiple: to suggest it is not is to deny an epic body of evidence that can be found in most situations in most times (although generally running quietly in the background to the dominant male hegemony which indeed functions along the lines you suggest).

      Surely, your statement that “the adoption of the central doctrine of ’multiple masculinities’ within Men’s Studies has served to very effectively obscure the fundamental defining of the masculine as not-feminine” then becomes self-defeating, as it is precisely such a doctrine that will provide agency to the kind of men who will NOT define the masculine as that which is not feminine?

      That said, to suggest that multiple masculinities is part of the conspiracy which seeks to enforce a singular hegemonic masculinity over women is so deliciously conspiratorial that I almost find it compelling, in style if not argument!


      September 24, 2010 at 5:52 am

      • I will explain my position here by an analogy to autism..if you will bear with me a second. As the parent of a severely autistic child I find a great disconnect between the theorising of ‘experts’ and the knowledge of parents. The theorising of ‘experts’ is fine and dandy but is bugger-all use at grass-roots level. Dare I pop Irigaray/Lacan in the same basket. Well, yes, clearly..because I just have.Two points for you…..firstly I draw my conclusion from interviewing men of all ages, races, cultures over a long period of time plus reviewing views of eminent men taken from the Conspiratorial Canon.Secondly,you refer to my denying..’an epic body of evidence that can be found in most situations in most times.’… this not the Conspiratorial canon that you are writing about ?

        Re ‘multiple masculinities’….Men’s Studies has consistently represented this concept as the existence of multiple and discrete ‘masculinities’ WITHOUT an adequate analysis of common structure.Can I respectfully suggest you read all my chapters before further comment.I have read yours 🙂


        September 24, 2010 at 8:00 am

      • oops, sorry, pressed send too soon…’Anonymous’ is me 😦

        gaia charis

        September 24, 2010 at 8:04 am

        • Also to add…..I would argue that ‘multiple masculinities’ is, in fact, the ‘performing’ of a variety of expressions of the basic definition of masculinity as ‘non-femininity’….not separate forms of masculinity.
          Re Irigaray/Lacan…..don’t you think that those who hold the power to define get to do the defining first ? Don’t you think that to define masculinity as non-femininity as a first move and then to establish masculinity as a ‘norm’ from which femininity is ‘deviant’ is not one seriously, shit-hot conspiratorial move…..keep up Joseph !:)

          gaia charis

          September 24, 2010 at 8:11 am

          • Okay…now I’m going this time ( thank God you say ).But first I’d like to follow the advice of Ibrahim Chaudry (comment below) and make my analogy really simple.To say that masculinities are multiple is akin to saying that all red cars are discretely different to all blue ones whilst ignoring the fact that they all have four wheels, go vroom and pollute the planet.
            I argue
            that there is a common template for masculinity that underlies all multiple enactments.
            There is a simple solution to your repudiation of this….show me consistent times or situations where it doesn’t apply.Also try talking to women and see their views and descriptions of their men’s ‘masculinity’. I think you could take my checklist anywhere and you’d find women ticking those boxes re their menfolk !

            gaia charis

            September 24, 2010 at 8:26 am

            • PS….it doesn’t just enforce a hegemonic definition over women… does exactly the same to men, that is the point of the conspiracy surely….genuine question here. Are you sure you are not perpetuating the conspiracy yourself ? Try my checklist on yourself..try it on your sons….give it to your wife to tick in relation to you !!!!!!!Pass it round at work ( and then send the answers back if you wouldn’t mind, I can always edit them in:))

              gaia charis

              September 24, 2010 at 8:33 am

              • PPS. The fact that, as you say, men define anything does not mean masculinity must be multiple..rather it means it must be artificial.You conflate my saying that there is a singular template for the masculine with a conclusion that I must, therefore, mean it is innate, Nowhere do I say this in my fact I say the opposite.
                Re ‘self-defeating’….if you read my work you will see that my opinion is that the real problem lies in the the way that males learn to construct their sense of SELF through prevailing masculinity.Changing definitions will accomplish nothing unless they also address this .

                gaia charis

                September 24, 2010 at 8:51 am

                • I have read your text, which I see reiterates the points you have made here.

                  You can reject the theorizing if you like, but a retreat into allegedly “common sense” is one of the main tools of the conspiracy: the anti-intellectual stance this implies rarely does anything but support the status quo (which I think we both agree is fundamentally flawed). I’m not that interested in evidence from common sense sources, even if they are from “men of all ages, races, cultures over a long period of time,” because without a suitable analytical lens these run the risk of simply being normative claims of the conspiracy: they can be illustrative of various issues, but not necessarily the “truth” about masculinities, nor useful for constructing alternatives to the status quo.

                  And no, the “epic body of evidence that can be found in most situations in most times” is not the conspiratorial canon I have been writing about: quite the opposite. The conspiratorial canon I have been writing about defines masculinity largely in singular terms, not multiple.

                  In your text I find a curious slippage between acknowledging the socially constructed nature of gender and relying upon the solidity of the “nine key characteristics of the masculine paradigm” you critique: you may feel this is the signature of your position which other people have yet to realize with suitable clarity, but to me it appears rather lacking in clarity. I also find your take on Men’s Studies does not acknowledge how broad the field is (for example, much of the study of men and masculinities would reject the phrase “men’s studies” because it does not agree with the kind of “men’s business” stance which you rightly criticize). Nor is “men’s studies” (if we can get over the definitional problem) the only site of investigating men: most useful work, I would argue, is done in the field of queer studies (understanding that queer is about troubling categories, not being “gay”), but I suspect you may also find this part of what you see as the conspiracy (even if we can get over the presence of so many female theorists in this area).

                  I understand your position and agree with some of the issues you raise (and in principle am also sympathetic to the resistance of academic orthodoxies), but I respectfully choose not to agree with your general framework. That said, there is certainly room for both our efforts in trying to make a difference in these matters, and I wish you well.


                  September 24, 2010 at 9:11 am

                  • My work is not a retreat into common sense and I am very surprised that you say are ‘not interested in evidence from ‘common sense’ sources…even if it is from men of all cultures races etc over a long period of time’ as surely what people think and how they live is the source of all decent research !?
                    I am an ex-academic and am not anti-intellectual per se but it is undeniable that a vast body of gender theory has done precious little to change dynamics pertaining at every level from personal to global….otherwise you would not be writing the Masculinity Conspiracy !!! This raises the question as to why precious little has changed ? Which is exactly what I am addressing.
                    I am heftily pro-analysis ! I am, in fact,analysing the analysts and finding them wanting……male, female or otherwise and have taken some hefty whacks from feminists for it ! And I don’t agree that queer theory fills the gap, as I will elaborate as the book progresses.I have included a note on format at the beginning of my book which states where I will place theory and why.
                    Re slippage….I absolutely contest this assertion.The fundamental defining of the masculine as not-feminine is THE social construction of masculinity from which those characteristics are generated and again I would say the test of the accuracy of my assertion is the application of those characteristics across ‘multiple masculinities’ie. Do they all conform to this template beneath the surface appearance of differing ‘performances ‘?.
                    I likewise wish you well in your endeavour and trust you will not object to me quoting your views ?
                    That said, I’ll return to writing said book and just say……see you on the shelf ! 🙂
                    PS. I am horribly tempted to purchase a T-shirt and black out the ‘s..p..i..r..a..c..y.’BUT I PROMISE I WON’T ! See you on Amazon ! :):):)

                    gaia charis

                    September 24, 2010 at 10:12 pm

                    • As I said, those common sense sources are often likely only to be illustrative of the conspiracy, which I already identify: I’m more interested in examples which run counter to the conspiracy, or ways in which I can function as such a counter-example myself.

                      I don’t say this as a snipe, but as feedback: if you feel I am reading you incorrectly, you might want to have a think about how you come over in your text. Sure, there’s a chance that I didn’t read as carefully as I should have; but equally, perhaps you’re sending out some mixed messages, whether that be explicitly or between the lines.

                      Certainly, I’m always happy to be quoted.

                      Maybe go and make some t-shirts yourself: “Masculine=not feminine: think about it”! The company I use is very simply (and free) to set up shop with.

                      Stay well.


                      September 25, 2010 at 6:32 am

  4. Great effort….but it is overtly intellectualized.

    All great wisdom is simple & profound.


    I can hardly understand what you are saying.
    It’s just too complex.

    At many places in your writing…it seems you arent really saying anything. Merely intellectual rambling.

    Just giving you friendly feedback, bro.

    I respect & salute your addressing this issue of ours.

    Peace, Strength
    & Warmth,

    Ibrahim Chaudhry

    August 8, 2010 at 6:42 am

    • I guess you can’t please all of the people all of the time 🙂

      I would argue that it is the push to constantly reduce complex issues to bullet points and instant insights that has got us into our current mess. I have no desire to add to the ocean of simplistic (rather than simple) content out there.

      I don’t say this as a snipe, but maybe it would be more useful for you to meet the content than for the content to meet you? Maybe your dismissal of the content as “intellectual rambling” is part of your conditioning into the masculinity conspiracy which requires people to take an anti-intellectual non-thinking stance in order to perpetuate itself?


      August 8, 2010 at 6:58 am

    • I offer a fuller reply here, as this issue has come up a few times:


      August 12, 2010 at 8:29 am

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