06: Archetypes cont’d

with 6 comments

But there remains, nonetheless, some benefit to this line of thought. The Trickster archetype is, I believe, particularly useful. It has the potential to offer a framework for masculine characteristics that may or may not be stereotypical. Importantly, too, its values range from playful through to malicious. The Trickster always resides in shades of gray—rather than being black or white—which, as an analogy, is more representative of the truth when looking for models for masculinities. For those who find the Trickster too akin to a medieval joker or Castaneda-like, I would suggest a more contemporary version of the Hacker. The Hacker archetype again may or may not be stereotypically masculine: he may be imagined as an epic battler with his acts of online transgression, but equally can be a scrawny loser living with his parents. A spectrum of values is also apparent: white hat hackers who are there to transparently highlight flaws in data security; black hat hackers who are overtly villainous and out for personal gain; and that vast section in the middle, the gray hat hacker who, like most real people, comprises a bit of everything. I certainly see myself as a gray hat type.

One other useful archetype that may be worth considering is drawn from gay literature, the Androgyne. Toby Johnson writes of the Androgyne, “a potent blending of male strength and competence and of female sensitivity and feeling makes for a more interesting human being with a more complex and fascinating personality.”  It’s interesting to note that while the Androgyne is discussed here within the context of gayness, there is nothing about it that requires same-sex attraction: any straight man should be able to embody the Androgyne without compromising even his commonly-understood sexuality (let a lone a more fluid version of the same, as suggested in the Sexuality chapter).

There is, however, a word of caution in regard to the Androgyne, which is useful to remember whenever the idea of “balance” is tabled. Johnson’s reference to “male strength and competence” and “female sensitivity and feeling” might initially look like a good idea, but those images of male and female are drawn directly from the conspiracy. A more useful way of thinking about the Androgyne would be to unhook “male” from “strength and competence” and “female” from “sensitivity and feeling” and allow those characteristics to reside side-by-side without any connection to biological sex. The Androgyne is then not a combination of conspiratorial masculine and feminine, but a separate category altogether, and one which itself is not a fixed, prescribed archetype, rather a broad spectrum of positions. We are not looking for a “third gender” here: we are looking for multiple alternatives to the conspiratorial binary understanding of gender.



Written by Joseph Gelfer

July 5, 2011 at 10:45 am

6 Responses

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  1. I like the androgyne idea, but of course, the problem with disconnecting that from ‘male’ and ‘female’ is difficult, given that the concept is already coded in the term “Andro-Gyne”…


    September 28, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    • The elements of the words themselves are part of the conspiracy!


      September 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm

  2. Nit picking, I know. “Toby Johnson writers of the Androgyne” should maybe be “writeS of the Androgyne”?

    Once an editor, always a pain in the… 🙂


    July 14, 2011 at 9:23 am

  3. The people I’ve met who identify to a greater or lesser extent with the Trickster archetype or specific tricksters have been a bit too interesting for my taste. As you no doubt know, tricksters aren’t necessarily flaky, but they’re also not necessarily reliable when you need them to be.

    If I had a son, I wouldn’t send him to Coyote Preschool. I also wouldn’t name a tomcat Loki. That’s just self-preservation.

    If that is the “true” nature of Tricksters or if it comes back to archetypes usually degenerating into stereotypes, I don’t know.

    Apel Mjausson

    July 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    • I know what you mean.

      In Numen, Old Men I talk in greater depth about the value of supposedly “gay” characteristics and call the chapter “Gay Spirituality: A Way Out for Straight Men”: the point being these things are less about being viable alternatives in themselves, rather signposts pointing *towards* viable alternatives (which are often constructed on the fly and as diverse as the people seeking them).


      July 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm

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