06: Archetypes cont’d

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So the conspiracy mobilizes archetypes in a very specific way: it suggests there is a narrow range of characteristics that are “natural” to masculinity: it allows very little diversity, suggesting anything which falls outside these characteristics is insufficiently masculine or, in Bly’s words, “soft.” Note another strategy here: the lip service to a broader range or archetypes and balance. Certainly, both Bly and Moore and Gillette refer to a broader range of archetypes than those that are overtly dominating and combative. Certainly, both Bly and Moore and Gillette refer to the danger of identifying with the shadow aspect of archetypes and the pathologies that can result. This allows them to have their cake and eat it. When people like me come along and point out the problematic nature of pathological Kings and Warriors, they point to the other archetypes as evidence that the criticism is selective, yet their massive weighting towards Kings and Warriors is itself selective, and it is deceptive to suggest that alternative archetypes are given equal consideration within the movement.

At the end of the day, these writers know that if they want to sell books and get bums on seats at workshops they have to appeal to a populist understanding of masculinity, which until the conspiracy is overturned at a systemic level can only ever mirror the conspiracy. I suspect that a lot of writers who appear to support the conspiracy do so not because they firmly believe in what they are writing, but because they know there is a market for what they are writing, and because they enjoy the privileged position of being a thought leader within that market. Speaking out against the conspiracy is, after all, a lonely place to be, and certainly does not pay the rent (we’ll explore the financial motivation behind the conspiracy in more depth in the concluding chapter).

So to recap, there are various problems with the way the mythopoetic men’s movement uses archetypes as models for masculinity:

  • The archetypes used have none of the subtlety or nuance intended by Jung, rather they reflect commonly held conspiratorial perceptions of masculinity.
  • Those perceptions of masculinity are largely pathological: the violence of being a Wild Man or Warrior, or the domination of being a King.
  • There is no adequate system in place to explain how men should identify with the archetype, but not so much that they inhabit its “shadow” aspect.
  • References to a broader range or archetypes and the “shadow” give the impression of balance, but this is at best lip service or at worse deception.



Written by Joseph Gelfer

July 5, 2011 at 10:42 am

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