The Male Malady: Fictions of Impotence in the French Romantic Novel

The Male Malady: Fictions of Impotence in the French Romantic Novel

The Male Malady: Fictions of Impotence in the French Romantic Novel

The Male Malady: Fictions of Impotence in the French Romantic Novel

Excerpt

If we are to believe the popular press and popular culture, the women's movement is over: women have won their struggle for equal rights and men have changed for the better. Nevertheless, as Susan Faludi's Backlash: The Undeclared War against American Women argues, recent studies on violence against women, wage differentials, men and women's share of the housework, women's education, and the feminization of poverty show that women are far from enjoying full political, social, economic, or legal equality. Moreover, recent events reveal that the resistance to attempts to "reform" masculinity is becoming increasingly virulent. On the one hand, as Faludi explains, more and more men, in a backlash against affirmative action as well as feminism, are complaining that because the new order does not put men first, they are the "new downtrodden" (303). On the other hand, Robert Bly's "men's movement," for example, seeks a return to an atavistic masculinity that would once again exclude the "second" sex and eradicate what is feminine in men. Meanwhile, however, popular culture, from Tootsie to Mr. Mom , has been heralding the advent of a kinder, gentler, "feminized" version of masculinity to replace old stereotypes of manliness, and is touting this new man as the answer to every woman's dream.

Susan Jeffords argues that this growing myth of a "reformed and performative masculinity" in contemporary American culture represents a disturbing and insidious backlash against the limited gains in equality that women have made. She reveals that the current emphasis on the "feminized." "new man" in television programs, movies, and articles in the popular press serves to essentialize this man's difference from other men and . . .

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