Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Case for Due Apprecaition.

Perhaps the problem is that I don't read enough female authors; my shelf only includes Ingalls, Jackson, Korelitz, Oates, Smith, and Tan. Still I don't expect any injection of La Guin, Rand, or Woolf, would remedy the problem.

It appears to me that within our modern culture there is an undeniable romanticism, mysticism, and eroticism given to the female form in literature and pop-culture that is not duly given to the male form, or generally masculinity as a whole.

Jeffrey Eugenides is an author who has an apparent great interest in the role of gender in our lives. This quote comes from The Virgin Suicides:

"We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to facinate them."

Now. Regardless of whether this is Eugenides himself speaking, or his narrator, I would like to point something out: This is nothing more than a well-articulated version of a comedian's "Men are Dopes, and Women do everything" bit, which is increasingly featured (to great applause) in the comedic acts of both genders. For shame.

First of all, whom does this self-deprecation benefit? If we belittle masculinity, and elevate femininity what possible positive role results? None. You're left with unreasonably high expectations on one gender not totally unlike how American Men were regarded in the 1950s. Aren't we still coping with notion of men having difficulty expressing emotion some three generations down the line?

I am not saying that the female form and mystique shouldn't be glorified. Far from it. I think it's healthy, I think it's emboldening, I think it's appropriate as there is an undeniable mystique to the gender but I feel you cannot express a healthy appreciation for one without doing so for the other. Like it or not, there is an equal romanticism, mysticism, and erotism to the male form.

Perhaps I'm making a mountain out of a mole hill, but as I mentally index the novels I've read, or become familiar with, it seem the novels that glorify femininity far outweigh the other. Is this because the opposite would be a "backwards step of feminism"? Really, who better than a female writer can accurately express such notions, and yet-- isn't there a risk there? Maybe.

Yet we see authors like Miller or Roth who use the word "cunt" half as often as they do "the". Where is the cutting objectification from the other side of the fence? Wouldn't is be equally as riveting? Isn't someone writing this?

Can we just stop pussy-footing around and acknowledge both genders as strong, sexual entities? That can exist as both a mystique and as an ideal? Can we stop with the infuriating self-deprecation?

There is an artistic beauty to both genders that can and should be expressed. You can fill volumes about either without it having to cause damage to the other. I simply don't understand why the male form and identity is undersexualized and underappreciated in literature and in our culture.

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