Marked Men: White Masculinity in Crisis

By Sally Robinson | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION
Visibility, Crisis, and the
Wounded White Male Body 1

Much of the recent work on specifying, theorizing, or analyzing masculinity and whiteness in society and in culture takes as its starting point the notion that invisibility is a necessary condition for the perpetuation of white and male dominance, both in representation and in the realm of the social. 2 Masculinity and whiteness retain their power as signifiers and as social practices because they are opaque to analysis, the argument goes; one cannot question, let alone dismantle, what remains hidden from view. This line of argument makes a good deal of sense, for it is clear that white male power has benefited enormously from keeping whiteness and masculinity in the dark. What is invisible escapes surveillance and regulation, and, perhaps less obviously, also evades the cultural marking that distances the subject from universalizing constructions of identity and narratives of experience. It is in this sense that Donna Haraway speaks of the privilege of inhabiting an unmarked body that has been the patrimony of white Western man, his inheritance through the ages that have witnessed an ever more precise marking of the bodies of others: “From the eighteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, the great historical constructions of gender, race, and class were embedded in the organically marked bodies of woman, the colonized or enslaved, and the worker. Those inhabiting these marked bodies have been symbolically other to the fictive rational self of universal, and so unmarked, species man, a coherent subject” (210, emphasis added). Implicit in Haraway's claim is the connection between the unmarked and the disembodied, the marked and the embodied. To be unmarked means to be invisible—not in the sense of “hidden from history” 3 but, rather, as the self-evident standard against which all differences are measured: hidden by history. 4

Making the normative visible as a category embodied in gendered and racialized terms can call into question the privileges of unmarkedness; but visibility can also mean a different kind of empowerment, as the history of move

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