01: Conspiracy, Problem, Solution cont’d

with 4 comments

So, now that we have some definition of terms on the table, we can get down to introducing the business at hand. The Masculinity Conspiracy plays out in diverse ways. In fact, there are not many aspects of our experience that escape its influence. In this book I’m only going to scratch the surface by addressing some broad themes where the Masculinity Conspiracy is at its most potent. But remember, this is just a jumping off point: the chapters are grouped around high-level themes, but the conspiracy runs deep. Specifically, the book is grouped around chapters addressing History, Sexuality, Relationships, Fatherhood, Archetypes, and Spirituality. The following paragraphs give a snapshot of these themes: these are the primary elements of the Masculinity Conspiracy that will be exposed as confining rather than defining masculinity.

History. The Masculinity Conspiracy appeals to history in two fundamental ways. The first argument focuses on biological determinism, which means that men are physically programmed in a certain way, which both explains and justifies certain male behaviors. The second argument focuses on the social construction of history, which means that because men have historically done things in a certain way that has been largely accepted by society, they should continue to do so today.

Sexuality. The Masculinity Conspiracy frames sexuality in two fundamental ways. First, following biological determinism, it is suggested that men are subject to certain sexual impulses, which both explain and justify male behaviors. Second, a particular form of heterosexuality is presented which suggests a natural order to the way men engage with women and with other men.

Relationships. The Masculinity Conspiracy uses its understanding of biological determinism and sexuality to frame relationships in two fundamental ways. First, relations between men and women echo the age-old roles of hunter, nurturer and so on, which largely allocate men and women to the public and private domains respectively. Second, relations between all people are ordered in a way for men to achieve success in the eyes of both men and women.

Fatherhood. The Masculinity Conspiracy distills the lessons learned from history, sexuality and relationships in the role of fatherhood in two fundamental ways. First, more than any other, fatherhood provides a forum through which men can understand their role in the perpetuation of the species. Second, more than any other, fatherhood provides a way of communicating the values of the Masculinity Conspiracy to the next generation.

Archetypes. The Masculinity Conspiracy interprets and uses archetypes in two fundamental ways. First, following a similar argument to biological determinism, it is suggested that archetypes are unavoidable aspects of humanity, whether hardwired in the reptilian part of our brains, or somewhere deep and undefined in our psyches. Second, following Carl Jung, it is suggested that archetypes are not just part of our psyches, but our collective unconscious which binds humanity in both space and time.

Spirituality. The Masculinity Conspiracy adopts spirituality in two fundamental ways. First, it develops the theme of archetypes, suggesting there is a spiritual realm that contains archetypal models of being a man. Second, via both the holy books of major religions and the more diverse teachings of newer faith traditions, spirituality argues that there are certain codes attributable either to enlightened human beings or some creative entity that define masculinity: these must be adhered to or we risk being out of line with the divine plan for men.

In the concluding chapter, I will draw together the lines of argument presented in the above themes. However, these themes are simply the way the Masculinity Conspiracy plays out: they do not explain why it plays it. In the conclusion we’ll revisit that space between men and the men in the mirror, as it is in this space of disconnect that the bottom-line answers are to be found about the source of the conspiracy and all our roles within it. In short, it’s about looking into those big existential issues (remember those?): freedom, isolation, meaninglessness and, ultimately, death (eek!).



Written by Joseph Gelfer

April 25, 2010 at 1:58 pm

4 Responses

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  1. I did read your note on the red book. Its a fair assessment. Jung was on the one hand a radical who challenged cherished beliefs about gender, and yet in other places upholds the tired old stereotypes. there is both in his writings. For instance he made much of Anima being woman’s biologically predominant archetype (all archetypes were biologically based, he claimed), and likewise Animus for males. He said that males and females were impelled to cultivate thier “contra-sexual” opposite as a path toward individuation or wholeness. To be fair it is the classical Jungians who expanded a sex-based elaboration of archetypes. Take this sentence from classical Jungian A. Jaffe who claims that it is, “biological fact that the smaller number of contrasexual genes seems to produce a corresponding contrasexual character, which usually remains unconscious.”[Jaffe in Jung’s ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’ 1963 p.410].


    April 27, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    • Yes, there’s so much that passes for “Jungian” that it’s impossible to talk about it in a singular way. What’s interesting about the Red Book is that what little there is about sex and gender doesn’t even sound that Jungian, now we’re used to neo-Jungian texts.


      April 27, 2010 at 7:29 pm

  2. Sounds a great collection of topics, looking forward to reading further.

    PS. I hope your definition of archetypes do not rest on one definition of them only- the classical Jungian definition. The Archetypal Psychology school of thought, which branched from Jung in the work of James Hillman, and was popularised by Thomas Moore (eg care of the soul) is at least as popular as the classical definition of archetypes. Difference being that the classical school perpetuates stereotypes under the name archetypes, whereas the movement launched by Hillman and co has philosophically corrected the limitations of the former. The Archetypal Psychology branch of Jung’s Analytical psychology is almost completely compatible with the notion of a plurality of masculinities and indeed promotes the cause very strongly among the masses! For instance, Hillman and co state that both sexes have equal access to roles of nurturer (Geb/Gaia), the Warrier (Athene/Ares), the lover of beauty (Adonis/Aphrodite), the power/staus seekers (Zeus/Hera),

    Of course they do not reduce the notion of archetypes to Greek or other dieties (even though I proffered a few counterparts as examples) which pantheons themselves promote stereotypes. Dreams, fictions and the widest array of behaviors of modern folks are all used as valid examples of archetypal possibility.

    BTW, I think I posted it somewhere before, but here’s a small definition of Archetypes from Hillman:

    “By ‘archetype’ I can only refer to that which manifests itself in images. the noumenal archetype per se [from Jung and Kant] cannot by definition be presented so that nothing whatsoever can be posited of it. In fact whatever one does say about the archetype per se is a conjecture already governed by an archetypal image. This means that the archetypal image precedes and determines the metaphysical hypothesis of a noumenal archetype. So, let us apply Occam’s razor to Kant’s noumenon. By stripping away this unnecessary theoretical encumbrance to Jung’s notion of archetype we restore full value to the archetypal image.” [An Enquiry Into image. Spring Journal 1977]

    That shows part of the way he got out of the labyrinth.


    April 26, 2010 at 6:03 pm

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