Gender Ironies of Nationalism: Sexing the Nation

Gender Ironies of Nationalism: Sexing the Nation

Gender Ironies of Nationalism: Sexing the Nation

Gender Ironies of Nationalism: Sexing the Nation

Synopsis

Gender Ironies of Nationalism provides a unique social science reading on the construction of nation, gender and sexuality and on the interactions among them. The contributors offer both the masculine and feminine perspective on exploring gender in Jewish and Chinese nationalism, and the anger of white men. They expose how nations are comprised of sexed bodies, and exploring the gender ironies of nationalism and how sexuality plays a key role in nation building and in sustaining national identity. The contributors conclude that control over access to the benefits of belonging to the nation is invariably gendered; nationalism becomes the language through which sexual control and repression is justified masculine prowess is expressed and exercised.

While it is men who claim the prerogatives of nation and nation building it is, for the most part, women who actually accept the obligation of nation and nation building.

Excerpt

Setting the stage

Tamar Mayer

The nation is a process of becoming

(Bauer 1996 [1924])

In his famous 1924 essay “The nation,” Otto Bauer asserted that “national character is changeable” (1996 [1924]: 40), and that the idea of nation is bound up with ego (1996 [1924]: 63). He suggested that “if someone slights the nation they slight me too…[F]or the nation is nowhere but in me and my kind” (ibid., emphasis added). The ideology which members of the community, those who are of the same kind, share—through which they identify with the nation and express their national loyalty—is what we call nationalism. Hence nationalism is the exercise of internal hegemony, the exclusive empowerment of those who share a sense of belonging to the same “imagined community” (Anderson 1991). This empowerment is clearly intertwined with what Bauer called “ego.” But what kind of ego is at stake in the case of the “nation”? The chapters in this volume argue that the national ego is intertwined with male and female ego, that it is inseparable from gender and sexuality. They further argue that nationalism becomes the language through which sexual control and repression (specifically, but not exclusively, of women and homosexuals) is justified, and masculine prowess is expressed and exercised.

Because nationalism, gender and sexuality are all socially and culturally constructed, they frequently play an important role in constructing one another—by invoking and helping to construct the “us” versus “them” distinction and the exclusion of the Other. The empowerment of one gender, one nation or one sexuality virtually always occurs at the expense and disempowerment of another. But because people have multiple identities, the interplay among nation, gender and sexuality often pressures people to negotiate their identities in complex ways.

The title of this book, Gender Ironies of Nationalism, is meant to convey the idea that the links between “gender” and “nation” tell us about some of the more profound ironies of modern social life. Despite its rhetoric of equality for all who partake in the “national project,” nation remains, like

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