01: Conspiracy, Problem, Solution cont’d

with 3 comments

The Solution

In the past I thought that exposing and deconstructing what was wrong with something was a significant part of constructing an alternative to the subject of my critique. In particular, in my first book, Numen, Old Men: Contemporary Masculinities and the Problem of Patriarchy I devoted a lot of words to critiquing various forms of masculine spirituality. I released the book into the world with the assumption that these (in my mind) watertight arguments would make people cast the subjects of my critique to one side. Quelle surprise, I was wrong.

I received lots of feedback suggesting that while pointing out what is wrong with something piques folks’ interest, it also leaves them rather cold. People don’t just want to be shown what’s wrong, they want to be shown what’s right. Largely, I feel this has something to do with the strange relationship lots of folks seem to have with the idea of “criticism.” We often hear the phrase “everyone’s a critic,” and this has negative connotations. In some circles, being critical is perceived as an attitude problem, or even some kind of psychological disorder that explains everything bad in one’s life from a lack of satisfaction, through to illness and not being sufficiently wealthy. In this way, everyone has to be a “positive thinker” if they want to succeed in life. Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America makes a good case for how this type of thinking has become problematically engrained in society.

I certainly believe in the power of positive thinking: there is indeed a long way we can go in life on our attitude alone. However, the downside is that by shying away from criticism, our bullshit detectors are rendered silent and we remain exposed to nonsense. However, somewhat ironically, unless it is used as a way of putting people down, criticism is actually a positive thing: a continual process of unpacking, refinement and improvement on ideas (akin to the “scientific method”). How could it be anything other than positive? In a sense, by resisting criticism, the positive thinking crowd negates its own worldview, which ultimately leaves it in a meaningless void, or alternatively exposes its worldview as something other than positive thinking (such as a strategy to secure capital and power). But that’s getting a bit critical, and is more appropriate for The Problem sections…

The point here is that The Solution sections do exactly what it says on the tin: in other words, they provide solutions. This moves beyond the mere exposing of the Masculinity Conspiracy, which is an important task, but not an end in itself. Sometimes this is going to involve looking at the same issues outlined in The Problem sections, but from the other—positive—direction. Sometimes this is going to involve something new about the chapter theme in question, akin to a manifesto (or if, like me, you have a weakness for puns, a MANifesto). The Problem offers the critical thinking, The Solution offers the visionary thinking: between the two we get the best of all worlds.

Of course, implicit in The Solution sections is the necessity for solutions. This might need some spelling out. I believe that the Masculinity Conspiracy has been blinding us to the reality of what it is to be men and women. It’s like being burdened by a cumbersome weight that prevents us from being as agile as we might otherwise be, but without even knowing the weight is present. When the Masculinity Conspiracy is exposed and inevitably cast aside, it leaves a gap, a lack of “something.” If that gap is not filled, the conspiracy will come rushing back in as the only option on the table. That gap must be filled with solutions, as this is the only way we can reach our human potential that to date has been thwarted under the conspiratorial regime.



Written by Joseph Gelfer

April 25, 2010 at 1:41 pm

3 Responses

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  1. PS. I hasten to ad that when such men show hostility to other forms of masculinity it is appalling.


    April 26, 2010 at 8:32 pm

  2. Talking about only the cons, or only the pros of a particular subject are perhaps veiwed as too selective an unpacking or as an ‘accenting’ as its sometimes referred. I maybe why I felt to mention archetypes can perpetuate gender stereotypes or on the other hand can champion a plurality of masculinities or femininities (or indeed humanities) depending on which definition one unpacks. Its definately a worthy task to unpack gender stereotypes but I imagine its worth salvaging whatever is positive in people’s cherished orientations.

    I’m thinking back now to a comment I made on the previous page about conservative patriarchal males being suspicious that ‘thier’ brand of masculinity (which admittedly they often view as “the true” masculinity) will not be accepted in a proposed plurality of masculinities. I think we have to give them some credit for this belief as I think they are making an intelligent assessment. They feel they dont have a place in the circle which is why they say “you just want us all to become pooftas”. Next time I hear that kind of (legitimate) suspicion that their brand of ‘manhood’ will be left out, perhaps we should ask them how they would feel if they were assured a respected place at the table of many. Naturally a portion of these men would say “no way am i gonna associate with a bunch of poofs”, but I would wager a significant portion of this category of men would take a leap of faith if welcomed.



    April 26, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    • Maybe. I think it would be easier if the communication to them was less “be like us” and more “let’s all be different”: more about collective responsibility than scapegoating.


      April 27, 2010 at 6:17 am

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