Monday, July 14, 2014

What Is To Be Done?

[I'm trying to clear out my drafts folder; this one seems worth keeping.]

I sorta ran out of steam towards the end of "Dude I'm a Fag." Ever since the Sixties I've heard that those of us who criticize society shouldn't just criticize, we should come up with constructive, responsible suggestions for positive change! ("Withdraw US troops from Vietnam/Iraq/Afghanistan," for example, is too negative and critical. "Send more, better equipped troops until the Vietnamese/Iraqis/Afghans are ready to take responsibility for their own country" is positive and constructive.)

As you will no doubt have guessed, I'm not very concerned with being positive, constructive, or responsible. I am concerned with being practical, and I admit that it is not practical simply to say stuff like, "If more males simply refuse to play these games, and stop backing up the would-be Alpha Boys who play them, then 'that's so gay' will lose its sting." I know, I know: if everybody would just eat less, obesity would disappear. If everybody would ride the Peace Train, there would be no more war. Is that gay, or what? If it were that simple, we wouldn't be in trouble now, on any front.

After all, even a militant feminist movement let itself be slowed down and distracted by dyke-baiting, though there were noble exceptions who argued that feminists shouldn't be intimidated by accusations that they were lesbians. Mainstream feminists reacted by trying to purge lesbians from their organizations. To this day, women who try to distance themselves from feminism will fret about this and insist that they like men, for all the good it does them. Women in the military, "straight and gay, are accused as lesbians when they rebuff sexual advances or report sexual abuse. ... Lesbian baiting is a powerful tool to keep women 'in their place', not just in the military but in other societal contexts as well." As with fag-baiting, lesbian-baiting has little to do with a woman's actual sexual orientation or practice; but even many adult women with strong political consciousness have found it difficult to counter this move. Simple denial is not very effective, because a woman's heterosexuality is not the point; her willingness to be subordinate to men is.

Fag-baiting is one of the methods boys and men use to negotiate their place in male society. Sometimes it looks to me like a game of Musical Chairs: whoever can't unseat someone else loses and is the Fag. Stephen O. Murray wrote (Latin American Male Homosexualities [New Mexico, 1995], p. 55), "Topping other men (usually verbally or symbolically, but occasionally physically) is central to machismo, perhaps as important as maintaining the subordination of women. As [Roger] Lancaster [Life Is Hard (California, 1992, 236-37)] explained, machismo 'is not exclusively or primarily a means of structuring power relations between men and women. It is a means of structuring power among men.'" C. J. Pascoe shows that this applies among adolescent boys. One of the most striking passages in Dude, You're a Fag! recounts
just one of many instances from my field notes: two boys walked out of the PE locker room, and one yelled, “Fucking faggot!” at no one in particular. None of the other students paid them any mind, since this sort of thing happened so frequently. Similar spontaneous yelling of some variation of the word fag, seemingly apropos of nothing, happened repeatedly among boys throughout the school [59].
In a more sensible world, the boy who yelled "Fucking faggot" out of nowhere, at nobody, would be regarded as one views a derelict having an argument on the street with the voices in his head.