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Parts 5 and 6 of 6: A Long Overdue Conclusion

December 20, 2009

Part 5:

In one of the original Brüno clips, Sacha Baron Cohen attends an Arkansas gun show and interviews a hunter named Daniel, a slow talking, thickset, provincial male. After asking Daniel a few questions, Brüno thickens his stereotypical gay accent and asks “What do you think it is that makes shooting the number one leisure activity for gay guys at the moment?” The hunter replies, “Now that I don’t know. I don’t know any gay people. And I’m not gay!” With Daniel’s homophobia all but obvious, Brüno poses one final question—“Why are you denying it? I’m gay too.”to which Daniel responds, “If you call me gay one more time, I’m fixin’ to knock every tooth out of your head!” The interview ends with Brüno stumbling over his words, too afraid to ask another question.

Having watched this and most other Sacha Baron Cohen clips numerous times, I’ve often wondered if any other insinuation than that of homosexuality could have possibly elicited the same response from Daniel. Would he have threatened to knock every tooth out of Brüno’s head if the implication had been that he was a poor hunter or a Democrat or a drug dealer or even a Klan member? Perhaps, but I doubt it.

Part 6:

Distinguishing between things masculine and feminine is largely a matter of interpretation nowadays. In fact, within the burgeoning academic field of Masculinity Studies—yes, there is such a thing—theorists seldom speak of “masculinity,” opting instead to speak of “masculinities,” highlighting the political nature of the former term—after all, who gets to say what’s “masculine” and what’s not?

But the definition of masculinity hasn’t always been as elusive as it is today. Throughout just about all of known history, the meaning of manhood—political in all times—was as rigidly defined as the M.A.’s Code of Chivalry. I think a case can be made that the intellectual shift from an unbending (though ever-changing) conception of masculinity to the masculinities of today coincided with the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Early on in the Industrial age, working-male fathers maintained a claim to masculinity by assuming the role of “provider” or “breadwinner.” As industrialism’s dependency on manual labor eventually waned, however, so too did the biological basis to sexual differentiation. Think about it: Isn’t brute strength essentially superfluous in an age when a large portion of the American labor force sits in front of a computer terminal from 9:00 to 5:00?

Is it really that hard to understand why so many of today’s males find themselves struggling to maintain their rightful, God-given claim to maleness?

Fortunately, for those insecure in their manhood, the current vagueness of masculinity actually makes it more attainable than ever. As counterintuitive as this might sound, it’s true; among all of the warring societal interpretations of masculinity today, there’s really only one feature of what it means to be a dude that remains common to nearly all (heterosexual) conceptions thereof: Real men aren’t gay.

Males know this to be true; the further we distance ourselves from gay men, the louder we express our antipathy for homosexuals, the more frequently we use terms such as “gay,” “fag,” or “homo” in reference to other males, the manlier we feel and the manlier we are held to be among our male friends and even some females.

This works because heterosexual masculinities are currently constructed in relation to homosexuals and, for fear of confusion, women. A male’s claim to masculinity, in other words, is, in a strange sense, actually predicated on homophobia and sexism. But are males, even those pushed to the margins of masculinity, willing to admit this?

When pressed, most heterosexual males can produce the most elaborate justifications for their sentiment of hatred toward homosexual males. (I’ve even heard a self-proclaimed nihilist appeal to moral axioms to support his contempt for homosexuals!) But, as a society, and especially as males in American society, do we really believe our hatred for homosexuals stems from our moral integrity? Could it be that our alleged morality on the topic of homosexuality is really nothing more than a smokescreen for our innermost insecurities and fears associated with being anything less than manly?

So what’s the solution? Is there one?

As always, antiquated masculinities and femininities will eventually give way to new gender roles in response to the emerging exigencies of men and women in specific times and places, and we need not interfere with this natural evolutionary process. Our need today is not for manipulated or contrived gender roles but for tolerance and acceptance rooted in understanding—self-understanding.

Again, let me stress that I’m not promoting Brüno! Still, if you were to see the movie, I think you’d be amazed to find just how much a scantily clad gay Austrian fashion reporter can tell us about ourselves and the actual source of our hatred.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. cranfordscorner permalink
    March 25, 2010 8:49 am

    “Hatred always says more about its subject than its object, more about the hater than the hated.”

    How are you Matt? I’ve enjoyed reading some of the stories you’ve written about your apparently awful tenure at the school. I don’t have much to say to you regarding the school or “Ryan Billups”, but I am curious about this statement you made in your post on “The Source of Hate.” In all of your rantings about Mr. Billups, M.A. (ok, the M.A. bit is pretty funny), did it ever strike you that your words of malcontent towards Billups might, as you said, say a lot more about the “hater” than the “hated”? If your purpose in writing on the subject of hate is to teach others to be more tolerant, do you not think you’re…well…shooting yourself in the foot? I’d love to hear a response. Take care man.

    • March 28, 2010 12:18 am

      Thanks for the comment. Happy you’re reading. Unfortunately, I fail to see the connection you’re trying to make in your comment. Why must my “words of malcontent” towards Billups imply hatred on my part for the Master of Arts? I feel confident in saying that I can call a person out, even sarcastically, for saying (and teaching) asinine, hateful things like “fags aren’t good for anything but burning!” without hating said person.

      So, to answer your question, no, I don’t think I’m shooting myself in the foot at all.

  2. cranfordscorner permalink
    April 13, 2010 3:31 pm

    Well, having heard that story before, I have to at least state that you’re embellishing his comment a bit. In fact, I would submit to you that Billups’ comment about the “bundle of sticks” was satirically addressing behavior that he believes is contradictory to his faith. While you seem to be a guy who likes and appreciates satire, you fail to even acknowledge that Billups might not literally want all “fags” to burn.

    I appreciate your response, but I do think you’ve shot yourself in the foot. The tone of your words suggests that the fact that you don’t like Billups may be more of a driving factor for your speaking out against him than what was actually said. You have every right to express your opinions, but as a believer, you have an obligation to avoid slander; and what you’ve written about Billups is indeed slander.

    Do you agree? If not, I hope you’ll show me where I have erred.

    Thanks again for the response.

    …one other thing: do you really think it’s fair for you to claim that a male’s claim to masculinity is actually predicated on homophobia and sexism? Would you say that instinctual masculinity is, at its core, dependent on these biases? Would you not agree that the “feminine” boy and “masculine” girl are exceptional rather than typical? If they are exceptional, which I believe they are, then are you willing to say that children, in their earliest years, are sexist homophobes?

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