THAT SINKING FEELING: READING DAVID GILMORE’S MISOGYNY: THE MALE MALADY

David Gilmore is an American anthropologist who specialises in Spanish masculinism in recalcitrant local areas, which, I’m sure, is enough for several academic careers. Having puzzled over his volume Manhood in the Making (1991), which deals with the rites of passage devised by men around the world to access ‘proper’ masculinity, I embarked this summer on his book on Misogyny: The Male Malady (2009). You may read Jenny Diski’s thorough review at LRV online (https://www.lrb.co.uk/v23/n17/jenny-diski/oh-andrea-dworkin) and I’ll save thus myself the trouble of expressing in too much detail how annoyed I am with Gilmore. Let me quote a tongue-in-cheek bit from her review, and you’ll get the idea of how his main argument runs: “Of course, it’s not women’s fault that it’s all their fault (…) but men suffer from having been given birth to by women from whom they have to separate in order to become men; they suffer from having to desire people of the same gender as their mother (my, this is very awkward, Jocasta), and they suffer because they cannot perform the miracle of reproducing the species directly from their own bodies. Men suffer. No, they do. It’s awful.”

Gilmore piles up an impressive catalogue of misogynistic attitudes and institutions all over the world but remains unimpressively blind to what links them all: it’s patriarchy, stupid! Once more: yes, patriarchy, the masculinist, hierarchical, power-based social arrangement, which IS NOT THE SAME AS MASCULINITY (men needn’t be patriarchal at all). My sinking feeling has much to do with this selective blindness but also with his blanket dismissal of feminism and his deciding to ignore the worst consequences of misogyny for women (‘hard to spell, easy to practice’ reads the t-shirt slogan). This is like discussing racism without listening to its victims, just as a white problem. Quite unscholarly to begin with and implicitly, if not overly, racist. Cheeky, cheeky… My little voice remonstrated with me as I finished the book: ‘what did you expect, silly?’ Yes, you’re right. What did I expect? To be honest: I expected to learn about the patriarchal enemy’s camp but I simply got too much of that. Really not that much, if I think that Gilmore is a nice, highly educated, politically correct man and not at all the kind of bastard who calls 016 (the Spanish number for victims of male violence) to insult and demean –maybe he’d like to study these… But still…

What irks me most (and it’s amazing how often I use this phrase in this blog) is how easily Gilmore dismisses feminism, even calling a feminist author who is in favour of a more androgynous approach to gender ‘stupid’ (I have avenged her now a few lines above). This is still too frequent in the texts by male chauvinist authors who seem to believe that we feminists don’t have degrees but just a hazy, unspecified self-training in trashy, men-hating ideas not worth the name. I believe that feminism, which is a pro-equal civil-rights ideology, has this bad reputation because it’s got a misleading name: it should actually be called ‘anti-patriarchalism’ and be open to all genders. However, how can this change as long as patriarchy is, like Poe’s famous letter, hidden in view of all? Apart from this, please some man explain to me how you can bear your own portrayal as animals dominated by uncontrollable (sexual) urges, which is how Gilmore characterises you in his analysis of your psychogenetic (?) make-up. Here, in the feminist frontlines, we are fighting for the acknowledgment of women as much more than just bodies (to be controlled…). Men, fight your own fight!! I can’t believe you’re just bodies out of control. How can you?

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