04: Relationships cont’d

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The Problem

It’s a cliché, but the old adage of “be careful what you wish for because it might happen” is pertinent when looking at these two books and what they say about relationships between men and women. Both DeAngelo and Gray have a particular vision of what men and women are like: they have certain expectations and those expectations are fulfilled. But the thing is, those expectations are fulfilled not because they are “real” or “correct”: they are fulfilled firstly because of a confirmation bias, and secondly because we are again witnessing the socially-constructed conspiracy at work.

First, the confirmation bias. We don’t need to unpack this too much, but if DeAngelo and Gray expect to see men and women in a particular type of way, the likelihood is that is exactly how they will see men and women, regardless of whether that is actually the way they are. It is absurd to claim that people are the caricatures presented in these books, and to suggest that these are “tendencies” which are in general correct is simply not good enough. Even if this were the case (which I do not believe), it erases all the personalities of those who do not follow such tendencies, which is a power strategy on behalf of the conspiracy to give the impression of its terms of reference being the only terms available (which is completely false), which brings us to the second point.

Even on those occasions where men and women do seem to demonstrate the characteristics outlined by DeAngelo and Gray it would be a mistake to say we are witnessing any inherent “truth.” Again and again, we witness the conspiracy at work. The whole conspiracy—like gender—is socially constructed, which means we make it what it is: it is not “natural.” We shape the masculine reality, the masculine reality does not shape us. It is crucially important to get this distinction in place in every instance the conspiracy operates.

In the case of DeAngelo, we witness the power aspect of the conspiracy operating with complete transparency. The conspiracy revolves around power, and one of the primary ways it does this is by co-opting men as agents of power, over both women and men who either actively resist being co-opted or whose social status make them less capable of asserting power due to issues of sexuality, class, physical ability and so forth (although power plays still happen among such marginalized groups of men).



Written by Joseph Gelfer

December 14, 2010 at 3:25 pm

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