THE MASCULINITY CONSPIRACY

01: Conspiracy, Problem, Solution completed

with 28 comments

The thing about the proposed solutions is that you have to give them a fair go, even if they initially appear counter-intuitive. I’m a big fan of intuition: I employ it all the time. However, intuition has a near-fatal weakness, and that’s when we are dealing with a subject in which we have little self-awareness. In our context of masculinity this means we have to be fully aware of how we are conditioned to think about masculinity. If we are not fully aware of that conditioning, our intuition tends not to draw on that elusive store of inner wisdom, rather upon the conditioning. So if I suggest a solution about masculinity that leaves you with a gut feeling of nah, that’s just not right…, I want you to seriously consider the possibility that this is not actually a gut feeling, but a “conditioning feeling.”

You might—after that serious consideration—feel the same, but it remains a useful exercise in maintaining an open mind. I’ll keep on telling it the way I see it, responding to the demands of one charming woman who engaged me on an internet forum with the statement “give us access to the fucking information and do it for free.” I can’t, however, force you to believe it. Following conspiracy logic (again, in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner), the fact that you don’t believe me is proof itself that the Masculinity Conspiracy has you successfully conditioned. Equally (and you won’t get this admission in many books: the absence of which is also part of the conspiracy), I might just be wrong. I have thought through these issues for a number of years, including in a well-received Ph.D. dissertation, but nevertheless continually entertain the possibility I might be barking up the wrong tree. But, you know, I have a gut feeling that says I’m right… 🙂

The other thing to remember about the solutions is that sometimes they can appear almost boringly obvious. However, while something may appear obvious, it does not mean anything is actually being done about it. Indeed, it is almost as if the more obvious the truth, the more it is ignored (we’ll get into exactly why this is the case later). I woke up rather late in the game to this fact. You see, I used to believe that if everyone knew something was obviously nonsense, then clearly it wouldn’t be allowed to eventuate. Anything else would be an incredulous manifestation of collective stupidity. Then we witnessed the second invasion of Iraq. I used to shy away from making obvious statements because they appeared to me rather vulgar. Not any more. The obvious-but-ignored is the point of greatest importance.

There’s something else to remember about obvious solutions. People often throw their hands up in defeat because while the solution is obvious, the process required for making it happen appears to be out of the control of the individual. A clear example of this is the eradication of world poverty. Most people can get their heads around the fact that there are enough resources on our planet to solve world poverty. However, it appears beyond the ability of the individual to do something about it, as it requires the international cooperation of governments, NGOs, corporations, and so on. The big difference about the Masculinity Conspiracy is that while its effects are of a similar magnitude to world poverty, it is possible to do something about it on an individual level. Indeed, in our context, the individual level is the main site of activity which, in turn, goes on to influence governments, NGOs, corporations, and so on. Furthermore, as we will see in the Money chapter, the Masculinity Conspiracy plays a significant role in world poverty and a host of other global problems with solutions that appear beyond the ability of the individual. So by dealing with the Masculinity Conspiracy we kick off a chain of events that have genuinely world-changing results. I’m aware here of the danger of over-promising and under-delivering, but hey, the delivery is as much up to you as me.

So the solutions will be a mix of the predictable and the unexpected. Sometimes you will be able to accommodate them with ease; sometimes they will be hard to accept. This will depend on where you’re at in life, the degree to which you’ve been conditioned into the conspiracy, and your ability to keep an open mind. For most of you, I’m going to completely subvert the way you think about masculinity, leaving it shattered on the ground in a thousand pieces. And what’s more, I’m going to do it in such a way that you have no inclination whatsoever to put it back together again. Are you ready? Ok, let’s begin at the beginning.

Written by Joseph Gelfer

April 25, 2010 at 1:42 pm

28 Responses

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  1. Hi Joseph,
    I am finding it particularly rewarding and uncanny that I am laughing at all the funny bits. Especially when I came to this through a recommendation from a friend around your work on unpacking masculinity. I’ll point out ‘the obvious’, you are the first person with a Ph.D that I have laughed ‘with’ in their work.
    It’s unusual enough to find a good stand-up comedian, its more unusual to find a good stand-up academic – or whatever you are. Who knew this could be so enjoyable, now I really don’t care that my conditioning will be shattered, if it’s accompanied by joy and humility!
    Thanks!!!
    Gregor

    abracada

    March 26, 2012 at 10:04 am

    • You’re most welcome: in this domain, a chuckle is a deeply subversive act 😉

      Joseph

      March 26, 2012 at 10:21 am

  2. Now this is clarity: “I woke up rather late in the game to this fact. You see, I used to believe that if everyone knew something was obviously nonsense, then clearly it wouldn’t be allowed to eventuate. Anything else would be an incredulous manifestation of collective stupidity. Then we witnessed the second invasion of Iraq.”

    Dahh! but who will listen when you say obvious things… They always respond: “yes but we have to live our petite life… there nothing we can do… lets watch the football game”

    Jose Ricardo Fuentes

    April 25, 2011 at 4:29 am

    • Yes, that’s the worst bit: having the clarity, but no one listening!

      Joseph

      April 25, 2011 at 7:30 pm

  3. Have just read your first chapter and I find it sitmulating, I agree with you about maculnity beig about who we are and not about what we do. I have fought al my life to resist this misconception, funny that the first tthing men talk about is their work and not how they are as people and feelings-hard for mne who have been programmed not to express them!
    Alos as a Christian myself I accept the biblical records of how Jesus showed true masculinity, and for me that is modle thoguh it cuts across the cultural assumtptions- he was-is compassionate, gentle strong, spoke out about injustice and expresed his emotions healthily.
    I get tried of men talking about the hunting, fishing, shooting- as a way that defines a man-thosie things tunr me right off and make me want to get awayf romsuch people. Some say, that becuase of this I might be gay as I don’t like/do the ‘men’ things determijed by my culture-O I feel we have so much to learn!
    Thanks again Joseph, your parents put me onto your site and I love it!
    Paul

    Paul Reet

    October 28, 2010 at 9:33 am

    • Thanks for dropping by Paul: glad the site is of some interest.

      This issue is particularly tricky for Christians, as most Christian discussion about masculinity does not focus on the kind of compassionate Jesus that you correctly identify, rather the warrior-like Jesus, which models some unfortunate ways of doing masculinity. A good example of this would be John Eldredge’s book Wild at Heart, which has even recently been taken up by a murderous drugs cartel to boost the morale of the troops:
      http://numenoldmen.wordpress.com/2010/07/03/john-eldredge-speaks-on-la-familia/

      As you’ll see from other text here, my suggestion is not to look back for any exemplars of masculinity, but to create them anew. As Gandhi said, “be the change that you want to see in the world”. Easier said than done though, of course.

      Joseph

      October 28, 2010 at 9:47 am

    • Surely these qualities are Jesus, a biologically human male, being a fully developed human being ? This is ‘true humanity’ encated by a man, why is it ‘masculinity’ ???

      gaia charis

      October 30, 2010 at 4:01 am

      • My comment has appeared below Joseph’s but I’m replying to Paul’s reference to Jesus showing true masculinity….

        gaia charis

        October 30, 2010 at 4:09 am

        • Good point. It’s not reasonable to assume that something done by a man is automatically a signifier for masculinity. Also, one of the points I make in Numen, Old Men is the need to de-gender values: for example, let’s stop calling “nurturing” feminine and “strength” masculine; we don’t have to scrap the values, just the gendered assumption, leaving them open to all.

          That said, for those men who have yet to figure out the implications of all this (in short, that masculinity is far harder to define than they imagine, and may not even exist), exercises like these can be useful at least to bringing some depth to men’s behaviour (if not masculinity, and even if it is a line of reasoning that must be later discarded). People have to be extracted gently from the conspiracy, or the trauma closes down their ability to accommodate change.

          Joseph

          October 30, 2010 at 5:43 am

          • Yes, I did buy ‘Numen, Old Men’….and read it !I do understand the apparent rationale of the notion of going gently with the male psyche to effect change without trauma. I think you will find this is a principle that has been very well entrenched in the female psyche, whether by the ‘conspiracy’, by men themselves, by women and/or policed by women’a subsequent inner policemen…ETC,ETC, blah, blah, blah.( Maybe ask ‘er indoors on this one…or maybe not !) However, and it is a VERY big however, an awful lot of women will attest to men using this as a justification to appear to be committed to change whilst never actually doing it.Many women I have interviewed have spent years respecting this dictum in relationships only to realise eventually that their consideration is being abused re positive change regarding lack of equality in those relationships. In fact, it’s so common it is an identifiable part of what, in my work, I am terming a ‘script’…..whereby the accuracy by which one can determine the dynamics within a heterosexual couple’s relationship is determined by the point they have got to in the script….as determined by both time together and life events such as children and career milestones.
            It’s frighteningly accurate in the vast majority of cases.

            gaia charis

            October 30, 2010 at 6:32 pm

            • Thinking further on this whilst washing up in stereotypical, female multi-tasking mode…this notion of the need to cosset the male psyche with regard to its need to identify with masculinity ie. your comment that if men are too challenged by concepts of change they get traumatised and close down….is really part of the infantilisation of males.As per the intro of my own e-book ‘Dangerous Children’.
              http://www.gaiacharis.com/site/index.php/dangerous-children
              Sadly, many women I have interviewed cite the fact that they ‘can never get it right’ because if they take the gently,gently approach nothing changes but thay also find it can be thrown back at them as treating their man like a child etc.
              I repeat my own premise, as stated in my intro and subsequently developed throughout the book, that the fundamental definitional template of masculinity as non-femininity chronically impedes the capacity for personal and psychological growth aka MATURITY…without which we remain ‘children’ and do not develop coping capacities.I do also emphasise the point that the ‘masculine paradigm’is not inherently male but that systems of transference from one generation to the next do, in reality, mean that males are predominantly the carriers of this paradigm. Which makes it sound like a virus…..draw your own conclusions readers !
              ACDS…Acquired Coping Deficiency Syndrome…..predominantly passed by male-to-male contact ! Oops, sorry..we’re back in the Gay Assumption !

              gaia charis

              October 30, 2010 at 6:55 pm

              • Further, to return to Jesus..we have the perfect example of what happens to men who are fully human ie. who incorporate and enact ‘conspiratorially defined ‘feminine’ qualities…the rest of the macho pack turn on them and finish them off !!!!
                Which then leads to further interesting thoughts about Christianity. As a once Christian friend encapsulated when he left the church because he could no longer adhere to a model which provided a manifesto for the domination of both women and the natural world…but which has as its front man one of the best examples of both a fully developed human being and a fully deceloped man.

                gaia charis

                October 30, 2010 at 7:07 pm

                • RE: finishing Jesus off: indeed, doing the right thing (or even attempting to) has always been a lonely and dangerous job.

                  Joseph

                  October 30, 2010 at 7:17 pm

            • Thanks for reading the book: part of me is an old school salesman selling it one copy at a time.

              You make a fair point. I find the idea of the script a compelling one, as you describe it. I also see it working to a lesser extent in both directions.

              I’d locate the kind of “faux change” you refer to as part of the most complex part of the conspiracy: even a lot of pro-feminist types seem to be stuck in normative visions of masculinity. A radical break seems simpler, in some ways: more traumatic, perhaps, but less prone to being co-opted.

              Joseph

              October 30, 2010 at 7:01 pm

              • They’re not stuck in normative masculinity as such….what is going on is that they have learned, virtually from birth, to construct their sense of self by the determinants of the masculine paradigm. This is a dreadfully shaky construct as it’s an outside-in approach, leaving no central core of self-definition as a firm foundation for a consolidated self-concept. The consequence is that even when a man may logically reject the concept of normative masculinity he will fins himself inexorably enacting its DYNAMICS. So even if he crochets, co-parents, arranges flowers or attempts to have a truly egalitarian relationship he will find himself very bewideredly falling into gendered trouble over and over again, despite his best intentions.
                I can only refer both you and readers of this dialogue once again to my own e-book which I am trying desperately to finish !This is difficult as my situation is an embodiment of all these ‘dynamics’…I hope my comments are a testimony to my thinking but it is an interesting challenge to get words onto pages when most of my time is taken up caring for a son who cannot even go to the toilet by himself and whose father we have not seen in ten years because he found it all too ‘traumatising’ and ‘could not cope’. Unfortunately, globally women are where the buck stops and we do not have the luxury of ‘closing down’ under trauma.
                However, the demands of mundanity do not stop us thinking.

                gaia charis

                October 30, 2010 at 7:53 pm

                • Yes, getting the writing finished is not easy in the best of circumstances (although I rarely meet anyone in the best of circumstances).

                  I appreciate your point, both in articulating your own circumstance and that which is generally the case for women, even if there is a danger here of referring to some essentialized category of “women”.

                  The luxury of closing down under trauma may seem rather lame relative to not having the luxury, but it is still a very complex issue. Just as existential anxiety is a rather middle class luxury relative to the human security of those in poverty, it is still a bleak place to be (and in some ways the former is responsible for the latter).

                  Joseph

                  October 30, 2010 at 8:20 pm

                • Further re subject of Jesus ( this time generated whilst cooking ) When we consider that the scenario I describe above took place with the foreknowledge and consent of his father ( God ) the concept of the Bible as an allegory/agenda of the masculine paradigm becomes even more piquant and appropriate….especially given the pivotal role that fathers play in the transmission and perpetuation of the masculine paradigm.

                  gaia charis

                  October 30, 2010 at 9:47 pm

                  • Theology (if not the church) is actually pretty good about accommodating such critiques, sometimes even having a chuckle along the way:
                    http://stalinsmoustache.wordpress.com/2010/10/24/available-now-on-scribd-too-many-dicks-at-the-writing-desk-or-how-to-organise-a-prophetic-sausage-fest/

                    Joseph

                    October 31, 2010 at 5:39 am

                    • Quite so but unfortunately given the pervasive influence of the thing and the uses to which it has been put it’s not overly funny !Theologians chuckle while women burn….not sure the latter were too concerned with the concept of being an essentialied category while their feet were going up in smoke and the fat was running out of their firgertips.
                      But before you make the point…I am aware some men were barbied too.
                      Very good of said theologians to be so accommodating though…..what exactly do they find chuckleworthy ?

                      gaia charis

                      October 31, 2010 at 8:34 am

                    • The vast majority of people are not theologians. Here in rural Ireland I have met women who will still not buy something without their husband’s permission, a subservience instilled in them through an unquestioning adherence to hierarchical religious doctrine re male dominance….God, man, woman.On one occasion I’ve watched a swaggering teenage boy take this role in the absence of his father, denying his mother the right to make a purchase of her own choosing. This kind of influence is real and undeniable, it’s not a theological abstraction.

                      gaia charis

                      October 31, 2010 at 8:52 am

                    • [End of the thread nesting again: so up a level…]

                      To suggest that there is a theological justification for the themes we have been discussing does not negate the fact that there is also a theological critique: clearly the two happen concurrently. All or nothing thinking glosses over subtlety and nuance, which is precisely where the useful answers are to be found.

                      Joseph

                      October 31, 2010 at 9:14 am

                    • Yes, I agree and am not advocating all or nothing thinking…..I’m not a theologist so cannot comment on how it ‘accommodates’ said critiques.I am just pointing out that the reality of the influence of all major religious ideologies is rarely chuckle-inspiring from the outside.
                      http://www.gaiacharis.com/site/index.php/poetry/woman/150-remember-aishawritten-for-all-ireland-poetry-day

                      gaia charis

                      November 1, 2010 at 1:08 am

  4. Hey, Thanks for doing the work my new friend, this is stuff I have been working over in my own way, in my own little life, for a long time.
    I am now looking forward to the next installment, and have passed the links to my friends.

    Good days to you
    jhafar I

    jhafar I

    May 3, 2010 at 7:10 am

    • Thanks for reading, jhafar.

      It’s great to hear other folks have been coming to similar conclusions in their own way: this demonstrates that the time is right for a collective shift forwards.

      Joseph

      May 3, 2010 at 9:01 am

  5. Oh, just realised you havn’t written it yet! Guess I’ll have to wait then….

    Butters

    April 26, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    • End of May for the History chapter. This will be a year-long journey in total.

      Joseph

      April 27, 2010 at 6:27 am

  6. Eye eye cap’tn, ready as I’ll ever be.

    You making this too much fun BTW…. I’m supposed to be upset by now but I’m feeling quite the reverse. Lets unpack

    Butters

    April 26, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    • Good. If we can’t have a bit of fun along the way, we really are in trouble 🙂

      In all seriousness, fun is another one of those queer aspects that we could all do with learning from.

      Joseph

      April 27, 2010 at 6:24 am


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