Reactionary role-yearning

Oh, this should stimulate some discussion around the blogtraps. Sara Robinson, a blogger I’ve linked to before for her pieces on religious-authoritarian childrearing practices, has written about the call for a return to traditional masculinity from religious conservatives, and its attraction to a significant subset of men. Coturnix has asked other feminist bloggers to respond, which I plan to do after I’ve read some more of the other contributions, but this piece from Amanda Marcotte is a great start:

I honestly think that despite his Christian orientation that might turn off some non-Christians, Hugo Schwyzer is one of the most interesting bloggers out there on the issue of redefining masculinity in a feminist era. Since he writes about it and he’s also a youth minister who takes his ideas and puts them into action, he’s pretty insightful about what it is about “traditional” masculinity that’s good and what’s not and trying to preserve the good and develop this new view, in much the way that Sara’s suggesting liberals really do. And reading him and Susan Faludi’s somewhat messy book Stiffed, I think the main thing that really causes problems is that the traditional definition of manhood has always been primarily about dominating and being superior to women. However, as part of that tradition, other fine things have cropped up like fraternity, responsibility, self-reliance, moral uprightness and possibly creativity have all gotten attached to the concept of masculinity. And when we see men drifting around looking for these latter things, we have to support their mission.

Amanda takes issue with Sara’s claim that it is some liberal advocacy of androgyny in denial of sex differences that drives some of the reaction, asking who actually advocates androgyny amongst feminists, let alone liberals generally? The conservatives’ own rhetoric against icons of female independence (Vagina Monologues being most notorious) shows that it’s not androgyny they fear.

I have some of the same problems with the way that Amanda grounds the reactionary yearning in a race/gender superiority complex that feels threated by egalitarianism and feels that all those good old fashioned male fraternity icons could be reinvigorated if only they were allowed to make women more subservient. Obviously, that is the way that some of the religious-conservative men’s rights advocates are framing it, but it’s not the whole story. As commentor La Lubu points out: much of the traditional masculinity model that the reactionaries want back has been lost not to feminism but to industrialism, a point I myself often make but not necessarily so clearly.

(edited to add this quote)

There’ve been books written on the changed face of fatherhood because of the rise of industrialization; MRAs claim feminism is what caused the devaluation of fatherhood, but nothing could be further from the truth. Industrialization is what pulled fathers out of the home, away from their children. Previously, fathers were very close to their children, as you would expect””they were farmers, blacksmiths, tailors, etc. They worked in or close to their homes, and their children were present during the workday. Read some old folktales. Men used to be present in the lives of their children, and not just as the guy who came home with the bacon. He didn’t have to come home, for starters. He was already there.

Too much to wade through clearly this early in the morning, but I think this is going to go round the houses quite a bit in the American feminist blogs this week, and be a very worthwhile discussion. I’ll add links to other blogs discussing this as I find them.
Other commentary:
Shakespeare’s Sister
Echidne of the Snakes
One Big Jack Goff
More from Shakespeare’s Sister
The Peace Train
Coturnix links to an older post of his about how our attitudes towards sex, gender, marriage and hierarchy develop
(crossposted at Larvatus Prodeo)

Categories: gender & feminism, Sociology

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