Friday, July 29, 2016

Further thoughts about "real" men...

In a recent post I did some speculating about socially constructed identities. I've been thinking about such stuff off and on since then and something occurred to me that was right in front of me but also quite invisible.

I recently ran across a graphic that triggered some of my thoughts about this "real man" stuff.


What's nifty about this graphic is that it addresses veganism as well as the socially constructed notion of "real men".

It seems to me that applying the adjective "real" to a living being is often a clue that you're dealing with a socially constructed phenomenon.

Weirdly enough, back in 2010, I wrote a little about John Wayne, who is looked up to (especially by many older white men) as exemplifying the essence of a "real man" and it turns out that some aspects of the image versus the actual reality are rather different.

One way to think of the idea of "socially constructed" is that it means something that was made up by humans (usually white men) and that it was made up because those folks (again, usually white men) thought it benefited them or it promoted some notion that was positive for them or upheld their power in some way. (P.S. I'm not so much picking on white men so much as I'm pointing to the reality that U.S. culture or western European culture has (and is) essentially controlled by white men both currently and for all the centuries since its inception. Which, by the way, we're encouraged to not notice or see because that would serve to make that control not invisible...and that might mess up the control.)

Now that I consider if further...maybe it's a good idea to always realize that whenever the "real" adjective is stuck in front of a reference to a living being that's a signal that the opposite is probably the case. "Real" doesn't have anything to do with the essence of a being...it has to do with how well or skillfully they're enacting a script or playing a role...and that script or role is socially constructed.

In other words, if "real" is stuck in front of a word used to designate an Earthling it almost invariably means "skillfully fake". It tells us that we're dealing with with ways of behaving that are made up or artificial (socially constructed).

Hence..."real man" signals "fake or artificial man" or "person performing a man act". Judith Butler (a philosopher and gender theorist) takes this idea further in her thinking. She maintains that all gender roles are constructed (made up) by societies...her term is that gender roles are "performed".

Here's a quote from a website that writes about Judith Butler's thinking about gender roles:
 Butler underscores gender's constructed nature in order to fight for the rights of oppressed identities, those identities that do not conform to the artificial—though strictly enforced—rules that govern normative heterosexuality. If those rules are not natural or essential, Butler argues, then they do not have any claim to justice or necessity. Since those rules are historical and rely on their continual citation or enactment by subjects, then they can also be challenged and changed through alternative performative acts. As Butler puts it, "If the 'reality' of gender is constituted by the performance itself, then there is no recourse to an essential and unrealized 'sex' or 'gender' which gender performances ostensibly express" ("Performative" 278). For this reason, "the transvestite's gender is as fully real as anyone whose performance complies with social expectations" ("Performative" 278).  
Hmmm....

She's arguing that ways of "performing" the roles of "man" or "woman" are rules that are imposed on us by others (via history and convention) and she doesn't need the adjective "real" to signal that they are artificial or fake or made up.

Thinking about all this was (is) rather mind blowing for me...and interesting...very interesting. "Performing" gender...considering that notion expands your ways of conceptualizing this stuff, eh?

Just to further complicate your thinking...you might want to consider how (at least here in the U.S). it's not possible to realistically consider the roles of "woman" or "man" without also considering other socially constructed notions like "race".

Kimberle Crenshaw notes this in her writings about intersectionality. She points out that gender roles and race (among other factors) are not separate and mutually exclusive but rather that they overlap and always occur together. Hmmm....

Once you start pulling some notions apart, like "woman" or "man", and looking at them in detail...what might seem simple and easily understood rapidly becomes amazingly complex and much more difficult to comprehend.



1 comment:

Have Gone Vegan said...

Yep, always be suspicious when you see the word "real" in front of something. Reminds me of the REAL Women of Canada organization ("REAL Women speaks for women who support the values of traditional family and marriage.") that some mistook for a feminist group when they first got on the scene in the early '80s because they (and rightly so) supported a woman's choice to stay at home if that's what she wanted. But using the word REAL (even though the acronym is supposed to mean Realistic, Equal, Active, for Life) is misleading when most folk will take that word at face value. And are women who don't believe in their socially conservative positions (they're not keen on abortion, contraception, gay rights, sex work, etc.) any less real?

Don't usually like the word real in "Real vegans blah blah blah..." type statements either.

Oh, and "real" is kinda like "pushing an agenda", eh? ;)