In the very first paragraph of this book I asked you to look in a mirror. I asked you to contemplate certain details and to notice that there is an increasingly large disconnect between who you feel you are and the person in the mirror, a distance between the two yous that is difficult to articulate in words. I then asked you to imagine that gap between the mirror and every man in the world alive right now, then for every man who has ever lived. That’s a lot of disconnect, a vast space between men and the men in the mirror.
This is largely a thinking exercise about perception and how easy it is to realize that what you think you know—your image in the mirror—can swiftly be called into question. If we can acknowledge that new perceptions can be established even in our own reflection, then we can acknowledge that new perceptions can be established in all aspects of our identify. But there’s also a more literal sense to this disconnect between men and the men in the mirror. The masculinity conspiracy is chiefly a dissociative exercise: it forces an unwanted space between men and their potential in order to pursue its own ends (which we will explore shortly). Let’s briefly look back on the previous chapters to see where these spaces are constructed:
- Within the context of history the dissociative space is constructed by tethering men to the past. The conspiracy argues there are innumerable historical precedents for its model of masculinity, demonstrating it is not just culturally and socially determined, but also biologically determined.
- Within the context of sexuality the dissociative space is constructed by tethering men to sexual polarity. The conspiracy argues that men’s rightful sexuality is defined chiefly by assertiveness in opposition to women’s sexual receptivity.
- Within the context of relationships the dissociative space is constructed by tethering men to specific relational dynamics. The conspiracy argues that men and women think and communicate differently and that these differences must be decoded and mastered in order for men to be successful with women.
- Within the context of fatherhood the dissociative space is constructed by tethering men to a narrow understanding of boyhood. The conspiracy argues that boys develop in particular ways and that to ignore this is to rob them of their true nature.
- Within the context of archetypes the dissociative space is constructed by tethering men to simplistic behavioral templates. The conspiracy argues there are a small number of mythical or metaphorical models of manhood to emulate that encapsulate its true essence.
- Within the context of spirituality the dissociative space is constructed by tethering men to Biblical masculinity. The conspiracy argues that sacred texts provide a divinely ordained model of masculinity that does not only show men how to behave, but resists the feminization of faith and society in general.
In each chapter I have unraveled some of the initial problems with these lines of thought, and provided some solutions for re-thinking them in more useful ways, all the while opening up a more fruitful space for your own visions of counter-conspiratorial masculinity rather than a specific alternative.