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asculinity/ininity and uality

In which I use commentary on some other commentary and its subject to talk about gay culture and gender roles.

Let us consider this article by JJ McCulough, which is a review of Jack Donovan's book, 「Androphilia」. JJ McCulough is a conservative gay Canadian political webcomicist (whom I generally find interesting and respect, but also often disagree with), and Jack Donovan is a far-right conservative pagan, also gay (this might seem odd to you, but I've met several people like this, many of whom have self-identified as Odinists. I've also found them to be unbearably awful people). The gist of 「Androphilia」 is that cultural feminism is damaging to masculinity, and that it is a tragedy that gay men have adopted it because it does not empower the way men are supposed to be. JJ McCulough considers this in his blog entry, and perhaps I and you, dear reader, can walk along and add our own thoughts. We'll initially track JJ's commentary and add our own, and perhaps branch off after that.

Disclosing my biases first, I am not a conservative and I am bisexual rather than gay, and their attempts forge a gay conservative identity are not targeted at people like me. I strongly disagree with the multiculturalist left, but enlightenment liberalism is a separate branch and just as legitimately liberal. Further, I am skeptical of the need for a strong sexual identity. I also confess a very strong bias against Donovan for his involvement with 「The Spearhead」, and I am a (second-wave) Feminist, so Donovan is more-or-less a cultural enemy on many fronts.

Going through:

  • I have a concurring-opinion in skepticism about the gay community, or at least gay culture. I don't see the long-term need for a gay culture, separate from straight culture, and I am very bothered that to the extent that it has severed ties enough to mainstream culture, it has allowed one notion of gender-theory to become normative and expected for all those who take part in it (at least partly because I reject that gender theory and it makes me very angry that I am expected to validate (rather than just accept) transexual desires and that if I don't talk about gender the same way everyone else does in that subculture, I am perceived as hateful). We need more diversity than that, and people should not be so demanding on the worldviews of others. That said, I believe a gay community *is* desirable as a stopgap measure to produce non-heteronormative social content, and gay movements are necessary for political and social change.
  • I note the argument that homosexual partners do have the ability to step through life without making concessions to the other set of gender-norms in the way most heterosexual partners do. This is fair; if we imagine fanaticism for hunting and beer as one form of masculinity, or painting the entire inside of the house pink and knitting all one's clothes to be a form of femininity, two people who share that same ideal would never need to negotiate or moderate their goals when merging their life with a partner. I've noticed in some friends-with-rough-edges that some of the excessive features of their personality (masculine or feminism, or just plain crazy) were tamed by their partner.
  • I don't know if Donovan is correct in his perception of gay men overall. I've known gay men and women in reasonable numbers since heading to college, and they varied a lot. Being a bit older and a second-waver, many of the lesbians I've known did have one butch member of the pair and one more-feminine member, while the gay men have been varied enough that they were hard to classify. I'd certainly say that as a whole the gay men I've known have been far less heteronormative than men-on-average (this may seem facile, but let's divorce the having-sex-with-men aspect from lifestyle/personality elements).
  • Donovan's explanation for why gay culture formed and why it pushes non-masculinity onto gay men is plausible; the idea that there has to be more meaning in being gay than just a preference easily leads to the idea that being something different than most men is desirable, and so gay men essentially become a third, female-trait-leaning gender-identity. If correct, I find this distasteful, but not for the reason Donovan gives. My liberal/feminist identity is distinct from my classification (and very mild identity) as being bisexual. I hold that femininity and masculinity are both the enemy, for all humans; they are both damaging to who we can be, and they are both limiting. Instead of reestablishing the idea of how-men-should-be and how-women-should-be, I want to destroy these identities, for people of whatever sexual preferences. We don't need bravado or obsession with honour, nor do we need an emphasis on being submissive/demure. We need to reinvent ourselves in ways that bring us a new identity divorced from these things, open equally to people of both sexes. Whether we are XX or XY, we should reject the elaborate constructs of maleness or woman-ness, not let it be pushed on us.
  • I partly dismiss Donovan's complaint that the gay-rights movement has moved beyond correcting dire injustices into cultural shaping; while we are not done correcting these dire injustices, there is no way to achieve the consensus on doing so without cultural shaping. Second-wave feminists are still chopping down the formal inequalities that first-wave feminists were focused on, and the same will be the case for gay rights. I would concur that acceptable feminism and acceptable gay-rights groups do not need to be anti-war or otherwise specifically leftist, and there is no need to link generically left perspectives into this. There will be some natural tension over this (just as atheist movements tend to be leftist and secular-humanist, but there are right-wing atheists too)
  • I would half-agree with Donovan that a stereotypically gay set of traits is not necessary or positive for gays, but disagree that masculinity is a good solution. As above, I see both femininity and masculinity as broken, bad ideals. To the extent that queer culture is a synthesis of the multiculturalist left, we should reject it too because we reject multicultural liberalism.
  • Donovan's criticism of "marriage culture":
    • I believe marriage is a positive institution, as societal recognition of monogamous life-partnerships between two people.
    • However, the traditional ceremony of marriage, as he notes, might not feel right for many homosexuals. I extend this; it might not feel right for many heterosexuals. I'd rather see more variety tossed into this than see it tossed. At the moment I'd imagine being married under a chupa with a very large hammer and sickle, wearing a kilt, in the middle of a large field, with maybe 20 people there. Philosophy would be read, and the Internationale would be played. Why not? Being single means I can imagine finding a nice socialist gal who wants the same thing (even if in reality whatever's done would be a compromise)
In sum, while I concur partly that gay culture (and feminist subculture in general, to a lesser extent) is problematic, I think the break from gender roles is liberating and should be extended to everyone rather than limited to gays and socialists. It needs to adopt a big-tent mentality in doing so though. The type of men Donovan wants to build are not what we want; like all liberals, we are future-looking rather than past-looking (although we are looking to a specific future rather than for newness for its own sake).

In the end, we should hope for a society where sexual preference is almost as invisible as hair colour, with broad mainstream acceptance and presence in stories and media. We should hope for a post-feminine, post-masculine world where XX and XY are there but don't really matter most of the time and there is one cloud of norms for people rather than one for XX and one for XY. We may accept intermediate steps of strong-and-unusual gender identities portrayed positively, but only to shatter traditional views and norms, and never in the service of multiculturalist liberalism. In the meantime, our involvement in existing gay culture or reminist culture should be nuanced and supportive-but-reformist; we should continue to push feminism and gay-acceptance, but push against opposing philosophical factions. Likewise, we should limit our relations with masculinist figures like Donovan to productive cooperation on first-wave gay rights issues(see 1).

  • Note 1: Throughout this, I have synthesised, possibly ahistorically, the terms describing the three waves of feminism (formal rights, cultural acceptence, postmodernist reconstruction) onto the struggle for gay rights/acceptance.


I also confess a very strong bias against Donovan for his involvement with 「The Spearhead」

Yeah, that pretty much destroys any credibility I may have extended to him. It seems like his book is just more of the same gender essentialism. I admit it's almost refreshing to see it not paired with heteronormality (since so many homophobic arguments depend on gender essentialism)... except that he just pairs it with misogyny instead.
Interesting. Thanks for writing!

I have often wondered why homosexuality is coupled with the "gay identity" and specific mannerisms. My theory is that this is not a cultural universal, and specifically that strong identities tend to arise from being an oppressed group (similar to the way a "common enemy" unites people).

I wonder if gay men in gay-tolerant societies (say, present-day Netherlands or Ancient Greece) have/had a weaker identity.
One of the things I am not sure I understand is whether the mannerisms are actually genetically linked to whatever extent sexuality is genetic, or whether there's a much broader set of possible mannerisms that is then sharply curtailed because of heteronormativity.

As I noted, I'm bi. When I was younger, I remember my mom trying to heavily shape my mannerisms (how I held my hands, how I walked in a somewhat swishy way, etc). Do I have the same instincts as a straight person? That is, would a straight person "need no correction" to heteronormative mannerisms, or are most people's mannerisms so shaped but they don't remember it?