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EN 2012

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Gender Studies II EN2012 – Winter 2011 – Terry Goldie Reading – ‘Loving Men’ by Leo Bersani – Jan 19 - Recent feminist, Marxist, subalternist, gay and lesbian, and race studies, we were reminded, ‘have helped expose the bigotry and intransigence of current gender divisions,’ and the section on masculinity and representation – this one – would, it was predicted, explore ‘the extent to which overt and sublimated images of male domination and power are complicitous in the formation of sexist, racist, classist and homophobic attitudes.’ - Task as authors would be to suggest how ‘these complacent representations of masculinity [can] be subverted in order to refigure the balance of power in dominant culture.’ - A gay man hardly be uninterested in the possibility of such subversions, and yet there is a certain complacency in the assumption that it is unnecessary to examine how we might be complicitous in the complacent representations of an oppressive masculinity. - It seems to me not entirely irrelevant also to explore what might be called the erotic complicity of gay men in the very representations of masculinity that excludes us. - While it is indisputably true that sexuality is always being politicized, the ways in which having sex politicizes are highly problematic. - In his desires, however diverse they may be, and however many other determinants help to constitute them, the gay man always runs the risk of identifying with culturally dominant images of misogynous maleness. - A more or less secret sympathy with heterosexual male misogyny carries with it the narcissistically gratifying reward of confirming our membership in (and not simply our erotic appetite for) the privileged male society. - Same-sex desire includes the potential for a loving identification with the gay man’s enemies. - Our phantasmatic investments are frequently countered by more consciously and more rationally elaborated modes of reaching out to others, such as liking our admiring people we do not necessarily desire. - In that tension lies an important moral dimension of our political engagements. - The cultural constraints under which we operate include not only visible political structures but also the phantasmatic processes by which we eroticize the real. - Even if we are born straight or gay, we still have to learn to desire particular men and women, and not to desire others; the economy of our sexual drives is a cultural achievement. - Perhaps nowhere are we manipulated more effectively and more insidiously than in our most ‘personal’ choices or tastes in the objects of our desires. - To seek to understand what might be called the line of constraint running from one to the other is itself a political imperative. - For a gay man, there may have been no time at which the object of his desire did not include a socially determined and socially pervasive definition of what it means to be a man. - An authentic, gay, male, political identity therefore implies a struggle not only against definitions of maleness and of homosexuality as they are reiterated and imposed in a heterosexist social disclosure, but also against those very same definitions so seductively and so faithfully reflected by those very same definitions so seductively and so faithfully reflected by those male bodies that we carry within us as permanently renewable sources of excitement. - Lesbians are an oppressed group sexually invested in an oppressed group. - Gay men are an oppressed group not only sexually drawn to the power-holding sex, but also belonging to it themselves. - Feminists speak with distaste of our promiscuous male sexuality; African- Americans accuse us of neglecting the crucial issues of class and race for such luxuries are our ‘gay identity’. - As white, middle-class, gay men, we are too much like our oppressors, which means that, fundamentally, we can never be sufficiently oppressed. - We are mortified if we are white and prosperous; and insofar as the ‘male ‘I’ has enjoyed something of a psychic and cultural monopoly on subjectivity that needs to be dissolved’, we will seek to be born again, this time ‘engendered’, as a recent volume puts it, by feminism, in the anxious hope of ‘deconstructing’ our repellently renascent male selves. - Male homosexuality has always manifested itself socially as a highly specific blend of conformism and transgression. - For an impoverished African-American to conform is to embrace the racial and economic injustices from which he or she suffers; for a woman, to conform is to accept a heterosexist definition of female identity; for most gay men, to conform is to pick up the privileges waiting for them as men. - Nothing a woman agrees to do for the dominant culture will ever give her all the privileges intrinsic in our society to maleness. - The pressures of the double lives gay people have been forced to lead can of course be enormous, but even those pressures are something of a luxury. - If we can live with them, and if we do not get caught (and those ‘ifs’ should not be minimized); the advantages are very gre
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