THE MASCULINITY CONSPIRACY

08: Conclusion cont’d

with 2 comments

However, the conspiracy has done a very good job of convincing both men and women that its vision of masculinity is correct. It has, after all, operated in most places throughout most times. But it does not rest on its laurels. It continually regulates the domain over which it reigns and asserts in a mantra-like fashion phrases like “real,” “authentic,” or “true” masculinity. It also continually seeks out other domains in which to function, and is very clever at describing all sorts of “new,” “evolved,” and “counter-cultural” masculinities that continue to perpetuate conspiratorial values, turning over old orthodoxies and creating new ones. The conspiracy is dead! Long live the conspiracy!

Throughout this book I have shown you numerous examples of the conspiracy at work. But let’s dig a bit deeper into how the conspiracy works. Remember Michael Barkun’s description of conspiracy thinking from the introductory chapter? Barkun states it is characterized by three chief elements. First, nothing happens by accident: there is always intent behind actions; the willed nature of reality is paramount. Second, nothing is as it seems: the source of a conspiracy tends to conceal its activities through the appearance of innocence or misinformation. Third, everything is connected: patterns abound in conspiracy; exposing conspiracy is about unveiling these hidden connections.

I confess that when I initially mobilized the conspiracy motif it was done so rather cynically. While I was genuinely interested in finding a different way of discussing masculinity that moved beyond the binary proposed on the one hand by feminists and on the other hand by men’s rights advocates, I was also simply hoping to capture the imagination of readers who were into conspiracy books. Conspiracy logic as defined by Barkun seemed reasonably applicable to gender politics, so I used it. But as I have finished each chapter of this book, I have fallen more into line with the idea that the conspiracy motif is far more applicable than I originally imagined.

As we have seen throughout the text, nothing happens by accident: Each chapter has demonstrated that while the conspiracy claims its presentation of masculinity is simply the way things are, a specific and proactive agenda is being fulfilled. As we have seen throughout the text, nothing is as it seems: Each chapter has demonstrated that while the conspiracy claims its presentation of masculinity is natural and inevitable, there are clear alternatives, and not just imagined and theoretical alternatives, but ones that are surprisingly easy to embody. And as we have seen throughout the text, everything is connected: Each chapter has demonstrated that while the conspiracy claims to be based on “evidence” and “science,” this is often a closed ecology of connected people and ideas that simply choose not to consider conflicting options, referring instead only to those who confirm their worldview.

But how does the conspiracy pull it off? How has it managed to perpetuate itself so successfully for so many centuries and in so many places? Answering that question is in itself another book. Today, one of the chief problems with the conspiracy is that it robs us of the ability to even realize it is in operation. This is what all the “real,” “authentic,” and “true” language is all about. The conspiracy is framed not as a specific regulatory dynamic with a particular agenda; rather, there is no conspiracy, only the way that it is. By concealing the fact that it even exists—by appealing to the supposedly “natural” and “common sense”—the conspiracy hides in plain sight. There are some nice fictional precedents for this tactic. Think, for example, of the movie The Usual Suspects in which the villain, Keyser Söze, secures the potency of his evil persona by creating an aura of doubt about his existence. As he sits before his clueless interrogator, Söze transparently shares his methodology with the memorable line, “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” (The more literary among you may prefer the same point as made earlier by C. S. Lewis, and before him Charles Baudelaire).

CONTINUE >>>

Written by Joseph Gelfer

August 17, 2011 at 6:50 pm

2 Responses

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  1. If masculinity is a conspiracy then so is feminist ideology.

    Anonymous

    October 22, 2012 at 9:17 am

    • Certainly, both are socially constructed. Different forms of feminism have taught us much about how the masculinity conspiracy works, but is only a partial story: always room for improvement that does justice to the experiences of both men and women 🙂

      Joseph

      October 22, 2012 at 9:31 am


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