Saturday, June 7, 2014

Andrew Sullivan, Et Al., on Testosterone, Tradition, and Natural Law in the Construction of Masculinity: A Rejoinder

Andrew Sullivan says that he (along with Ross Douthat) is "kinda tired of" arguments like Fredrik DeBoer's recent assertion that the "association of male value with aggression, dominance, and power is one of the most destructive forces in the world, and so it has to be destroyed." 

You know what I'm kind of tired of? I'm sort of weary of hearing Andrew Sullivan defend dubious male behaviors rooted in cultural norms — in nurture — as natural manifestations of testosterone-driven male behavior. And I'm kind of tired of hearing Ross Douthat say that it's only the "back alleys of 'bro culture'" that exhibit toxic misogyny, while men wedded to "our culture’s older images of masculine strength and self-possession" are just peachy when it comes to dealing with women and treating women like equals. (Read: lower-class men, especially lower-class men who happen to be black or brown, are more prone to mistreatment of "their" women than  are we men in the elite enclaves that run the nation.)

And I'm kind of tired of hearing Andrew Sullivan defend people like Ross Douthat and Rod Dreher when they make these fatuous claims about how there's some nobler, "older" tradition of masculinity in our culture that was unfailingly courtly towards women, that tamed testosterone-driven masculinity and protected vulnerable women in a way that salvages women's sense of self-worth and surpasses, redeems, and corrects the raw misogyny of lower-class "bro culture."  None of these claims looks honestly at the ways in which insupportable assumptions about male superiority and inferiority drive almost everything in many cultures around the world, both cultures of raw misogyny and those of polite, hidden misogyny within social elites that imagine themselves above "bro-culture" enclaves.

All of these claims try to root in nature — at a gross level, in testosterone! — insupportable behavior on the part of men that is clearly rooted, instead, in culture. And in grotesque religious assumptions that are only growing stronger in our culture and many other cultures today, and, no, not in the "bro cultures," but right within the polite social elites whose polite and muted misogyny Sullivan, Douthat, and Dreher defend as naturally rooted and traditional — whose polite and muted misogyny Sullivan, Douthat, and Dreher defend as they defend a male entitlement they want to root in divine will expressed through nature.

I'd like to hear Sullivan, Douthat, and Dreher frankly address, for once, low-culture ideas that have great hidden strength in the ruling elites of the nation — like David Ortiz's conflation of American identity and Christian faith with masculine strength, as Ortiz (who appears never to have read the history of ancient Greece) declares "you cannot be a masculine nation and support homosexuality." And as Peter LaBarbera replies, "Masculine men do not have sex with other men."

You know what I'm kind of tired of? I'm kind of tired of the conflation of all these toxic notions of masculinity —as God-given nature — with the Christian faith, when Jesus never said a single word about homosexuality or testosterone or penises fitting into vaginas, but called us to repent of our desire to lord it over others and puff ourselves up at the expense of others. I'm beyond tired of the attempt of many men at this point in history to read male power and privilege into the foundations of religious traditions and to stamp culturally developed and culturally determined formulations of male superiority and female inferiority with the stamp of natural law and testosterone and noble "old" tradition and a God who — naturally —  just happens to mirror the aspirations of those who happen to have been placed on top of the social ladder by testosterone/nature.

The graphic is from izquotes.

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