Monday, October 29, 2007

"Fag talk" and Feminism

C.J. Pascoe investigates the way straight young men enforce the rules of masculinity with what she calls "fag discourse"--using the term "fag" to label behavior that is out of the norm for young male expectations. As she points out, a lot of "fag talk" has nothing to do with gay men, but is a pervasive way for young men to exert dominance and control over one another. In the end, she points out that several states have taken legislative action to prohibit this kind of language in high schools. But she thinks what is needed are not disciplinary measures that will just pull another power play over the young men (after all, "fag talk" is about power and pulling rank over others), but finding a way to show them the dynamics that are involved in this kind of behavior.

This excerpt from Robert Jensen's new book, Getting Off: The Pornography of Masculinity, reveals the dangers of letting "fag talk" go unaddressed. He provides three very chilling examples from his real life about the way grown men continue to exert dominance over one another in a variety of social settings. Jensen says he feels trapped by the masculine roles that he himself partakes of, and then realizes there is a way out: feminism. Its a fascinating read and tries to outline the remedies called for by Pascoe.

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At 10:56 AM , Blogger sary said...

Much like Robert Jensen, i had an experience this weekend in which i heard an adolescent male call his friend a "faggot", and i spun on my heels and called him on it, which he ignored and my male companion, having thought the kid was calling him a derogative, asked if the kid had directed it towards him, whereupon when the kid said "no", my companion immediately let it go, but found i could not. I yelled after him about the masculinity complex that was totally unnecessary, but i was ignored.

I was angry 1) because the word had been said, 2) because my concerns had been ignored, almost spitefully, and 3) because my companion only cared if it was directed towards his own masculinity. As a female, i felt like i had to create my own complex on a level perhaps the kid would understand, through perhaps giving him a whooping. But alas...

Is there anything we can do at a situation to situation level to dissuade such behavior, especially as women? And not be laughed at, or discounted, as i was, standing in line for a movie and trying to confront such a sick complex?

At 5:03 PM , Blogger Joseph Orosco said...

Sary: An excellent question. I think that one must always be careful about these kinds of situations. As Jensen's examples point out, violence does not lurk very far behind "fag talk" (and indeed is tightly wound up in it). Its interesting how your male companion reacted. I wonder whether this is the reverse version of the male bond (see the post of Can Men be Feminists)

At 6:19 AM , Anonymous MidniteZebra said...

I wonder if it is possible to teach people not to be victims. Because 'watch-dogs' like Sary are not everywhere, nor should one expect them to be. When a person is called a 'fag' for participating in some activity his peers dislike, this person needs to shrug and participate anyway. I know that this occurs mostly in younger men, and that peer pressure is a difficult thing to fight but if no one reacted to this word, it would not be used. We no longer use crossbows on the battlefield because our enemies can withstand this weapon. Likewise, 'fag' will stop being used when it does not affect others' actions. This is why I'm wondering if we can teach these people to stand up for themselves. Crossbow bolts cannot go through tank armor.


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