Alas, Gender…pt. 1

14Sep08

Rachel and I have found ourselves consistently confused by the unavoidable coupling of the dumb husband and nagging wife found throughout the television-scape. Our consensus is that post-sexual revolution, men and women found themselves in a situation where masculinity has become infantalized and femininity has become powerful only in stereotypical mother roles and thus men become another child thereby embracing the worst stereotypes whereas feminism remains, due to no fault of its own, anchored to a caricature of the second wave femi-nazi.

The undying (maybe zombic?) Madonna-whore complex remains the center of this discussion. If our interest in Eliot Spitzer’s infidelity is any indication, it would seem that social views of morality and sexuality are simultaneously shocked and reinforced by such ‘throwbacks’ to a pre-sexual revolution separation of enjoyment and marriage. Does the perfection of the semblance of feminitity follow any other logic, or is the Realdoll just an extreme cause of the mortifying effects of masculine desire? Returning to the nagging wife, it’s important to notice that one of the Realdoll’s reported advantages is its deafening silence – her propensity to listen.

Over a year ago an article by Joe Zobenica appeared in the Atlantic which discussed the downward spiral of masculinity viewed from the singular perspective of men’s magazines. One of the focuses of the article is the standard attitude towards the term girlfriend – in Playboy a man afraid of the term is, in the advice columns, told to get over it, in FHM or Maxim to be afraid of the term is deemed normal. Whereas contemporary men’s magazines infuse the Madonna-whore complex with new blood endorsing a perpetual man-child identity, Playboy attempted, surely with debatable success, to engender a bohemian cosmopolitanism – essentially that, when one finds the sexy girl who likes to talk about Nietzsche in the hot tub, commitment should be pursued and not fled.

This is not to say that such immaturity is a vice only of the up and coming youth. In a fairly recent episode of The Colbert Report, Colbert had on Phil Weiss who, in the wake of the aforementioned Spitzer affair, stated that he sympathized with Spitzer because men are not meant to be monogamous. A similar logic surrounds the website AshleyMadison.com which is a dating site meant for married couples seeking affairs. Weiss, like many older men, instead of embracing the youth attitude of girlfriends are scary, hold on to a sexual-revolution nostalgia, a throwback mentality to places such as the Sandstone Retreat sex resort of the 1970s, which mentally edits out inequality.

The porous and endless nature of feminine sexuality and femininity itself, is smuggled under slightly altered notions of motherhood in various cultural visualizations. As I’ve discussed before, it may be that gender has been regulated to a symbolic battle where men try (vainly) to assert authority in language (the realm of feminine enjoyment according to Lacan) and women enjoy the combat since, ultimately, they cannot loose as long as that enjoyment remains maternal (as a form of the Superegoic Law). To put this back into cultural terms, it seems that, in a heternormative space, women embrace the Madonna-whore split utilizing it as a weapon against the neurotic masculinity of the contemporary father. To return to Zobenica’s piece – men have simply forfeited the battle by adopting the worst stereotypes – by becoming Al Bundys and Peter Griffins without it being a joke.

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