THE MASCULINITY CONSPIRACY

05: Fatherhood completed

with 7 comments

I would argue that the absence of fathers—both literally so, and those emotionally withdrawn within the home—can be understood in some circumstances not as the result of selfishness on behalf of those men, rather their lack of self. It is the conspiracy that demands that fatherhood functions in a particular kind of way and which divorces men from themselves before their wives. It is the trauma of a man either consciously realizing (or, just as potently, unconsciously feeling) that he is not the person he used to be that puts him into self-imposed exile, or to act out in the kind of destructive ways that result in him being exiled by his partner. These are the hidden casualties of the conspiracy: not capable of being winners on the conspiracy’s terms, yet not capable of proactively resisting the conspiracy.

Do not hear me say this is a problem due to wives or families: it is a problem with the way the conspiracy demands men to function in society. It is crucial that the “blame” be correctly located, which is where a lot of men’s rights advocates go wrong: the problems men face have little to do with women, their advancements and characteristics; it has a lot to do with the conspiracy which traps men and women in different ways.

The solution, then, relies not just on focusing on the genuine needs of the child, but also the genuine needs of the father. Fathers must be true to who they are (mothers too, of course). If, as a result of fatherhood, men enter a new sense of self that is both more elevated and satisfying than their previous experience, everyone’s a winner: I know this happens a lot, and it’s great to see. If, on the other hand, fatherhood (or at least those expectations imposed by the conspiracy) proves a fatal blow to one’s sense of self, changes are necessary. Given there are only two likely outcomes from this (men are either fully engulfed or mercilessly rejected by the conspiracy), it is in everyone’s interest to ensure these men remain connected with what they perceive to be their true sense of self. This is not about privileging the self at the expense of all other people, as is often the implicit suggestion behind a lot of narcissistic personal development literature. Rather, it is about finding ways for families to co-exist in genuine mutuality that does not involve unsustainable sacrifice, rather fruitful exchange.

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Written by Joseph Gelfer

June 14, 2011 at 2:15 pm

7 Responses

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  1. “Do not hear me say this is a problem due to wives or families: it is a problem with the way the conspiracy demands men to function in society. It is crucial that the “blame” be correctly located, which is where a lot of men’s rights advocates go wrong: the problems men face have little to do with women, their advancements and characteristics; it has a lot to do with the conspiracy which traps men and women in different ways.”

    Fantastic! That is what patriarchy is all about. This is the biggest evidence that patriarchy harms not just women but also men.

    Tom Jacks

    April 9, 2013 at 2:23 am

  2. I’m liking this a lot.

    But I’m missing diagnostic criteria. What are the signs that a man can see in his thoughts, feelings and behavior that tell him that he’s losing the Real Men™ game and/or his resistance isn’t keeping him safe from his own or others’ judgment.

    Apel Mjausson

    July 5, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    • That’s a good point, and I’m not sure how to answer it without leaving out numerous criteria: I’m always surprised, for example, at the diverse reasons people have for waking up to different levels of awareness.

      I’d be inclined to bring it up a level and refer not to specific criteria, but the feelings those criteria invoke. For example, fear and anxiety (lack of ontological security, in Giddens-speak) might be good indicators of falling out of favor with the conspiratorial status quo, or that the status quo is false.

      Joseph

      July 5, 2011 at 6:31 pm

      • I can see how that description would help men who start feeling fear and anxiety and react to the new feelings by trying to trace them back to their source.

        It’s probably outside the scope of the book but it would be useful to read detailed descriptions by people who have felt what Giddens calls ontological insecurity. If you have a pointer, I’d be interested.

        Apel Mjausson

        July 6, 2011 at 2:41 pm

        • I can’t think of anything specifically at the moment, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find such accounts in various recovery narratives (substance and physical abuse, workaholics, and so on).

          Joseph

          July 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm

          • Unfortunately it would surprise me. From what I’ve seen of recovery literature that’s specifically aimed at men it seems to support the conspiracy whole hog. Even in books specifically targeted at women, feminism often isn’t mentioned even when it would be totally appropriate.

            *sigh* This is so typical. On my coffee table I have a US book about shame that’s aimed at women. The title sounds promising: “I Thought it was Just Me (but it isn’t). Telling the Truth about Perfectionism, Inadequacy and Power.” The author is Brene Brown, PhD.

            Part of Brown’s definition of shame is “Women often experience shame when they are entangled in a web of layered, conflicting and competing social-community expectations.” Looking at the index, “domestic violence” is discussed 3 times, “sexual abuse/assault” 6 times etc. Neither feminism, nor sexism are in the index. *head desk*

            Counter-conspiracy examples and feminist examples would be very welcome. (Yay, Charlotte Kasl!)

            Apel Mjausson

            July 9, 2011 at 8:35 am

            • Fair enough: I was feeling optimistic there, chiefly because I recently received a link from some 12-step-type blog, and it seemed plausible 🙂 I’ll keep thinking on it.

              It was this line of thinking that was the inspiration for this text really: feminist discussion (let alone queer theory or critical studies on masculinity), so often resides in a preaching-to-the-choir context. And then there is this gulf between that and what most other people are reading and thinking, the people who most need to be engaged. So bridging that gap is the high hope of The Masculinity Conspiracy. Interestingly, I’m finding those who are quite well versed in feminism are less keen on the conspiracy motif, whereas those who are not run with it more.

              I spent a number of years looking for examples of anything that I find satisfying around these subjects, and didn’t find much that was both theoretically sound and useful in a practical sense. I tend now to wheel out the rather cheesy “be the alternative” line, as it seems the only way. “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” genuinely resonates with a number of people I speak to.

              Joseph

              July 9, 2011 at 9:01 am


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