Thursday, September 27, 2007

Self/Ish

The Hebrew word for "man" is *ish.* So I'll call the study of the male self's self-concept as male "Self-Ish-Ology."

If we rule out what can't be essentially male, we're left with an interesting question.

It can't be essentially male to prefer pants to skirts--kilts.

It can't be essentially male to avoid cosmetics and facial decoration--Maoris, Aztec rulers.

It can't be essentially male to dislike Judy Garland--Frank Sinatra.

Contra Fight Club, it's perfectly permissible for a male to know the meaning of the word "duvet"--see Louis XIV, XV, and Versailles Palace.

It doesn't belong to maleness to be macho, since on the whole I think pride / honor / reputation / insult fixations are adolescent, and it is not required of adult males that they be essentially adolescent.

It doesn't belong to maleness to be sex-driven, since the most guy guys around are driven not by sex or even money but, as Galadriel says, by power. (Napoleon, for all I know, really loved Josephine, but...Henry VIII was a comprehensive womanizer so far as I can tell, but that wasn't what made him a powerful Tudor king. And so on.

Fighting isn't essential to maleness; see under macho--it's an adolescent and unimaginative response to frustration, finitude, etc. I'm not speaking of actual individual or group self-defense here, but then that is a rare need in a civilized country, even if half-romantically we (think we!) wish it weren't.

Competitiveness? Women seem to be trainable to it enough, and maybe that's because there's not a difference in the aptitude for or inclination to it, but just in the mode of its expression (Devil Wears Prada, Dangerous Liaisons). Men seen as leaders, from quarterbacks to conquerors to religious holy men, enlist enormous cooperation, even if they put *that* cooperation in the service of competition with something or someone else.

Male preference for the friendship company of other men is pretty anthropologically universal, but then this kind of "same-sex preference" (unconnected, except rarely, with anything sexual) is a trait shared with women, who prefer the friendship company of other women. But on the other hand, companionate marriage and egalitarian civil society are maybe showing that it does not eviscerate the maleness of men to enjoy or even prefer the friendship company of women, and vice-versa.

And so...what? Masculinity and femininity are distinguishable from maleness and femaleness, maybe. That's to be pursued. However that turns out, though, what is common humanity? to be commonly human, but male? to be Self/Ish?

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