Marked Men: White Masculinity in Crisis

Marked Men: White Masculinity in Crisis

Marked Men: White Masculinity in Crisis

Marked Men: White Masculinity in Crisis

Synopsis

White men still hold most of the political and economic cards in the United States; yet stories about wounded and traumatized men dominate popular culture. Why are white men jumping on the victim bandwagon? Examining novels by Philip Roth, John Updike, James Dickey, John Irving, and Pat Conroy and such films as Deliverance, Misery, and Dead Poets Society -- as well as other writings, including The Closing of the American Mind -- Sally Robinson argues that white men are tempted by the possibilities of pain and the surprisingly pleasurable tensions that come from living in crisis.

Excerpt

In a 1974 self-help book entitled The Male Dilemma: How to Survive the Sexual Revolution, Anne Steinmann and David J. Fox describe the “pain of transition” suffered by ordinary Middle American men attempting to come to terms with the radical changes wrought by the civil rights and sexual liberation movements. Steinmann and Fox draw attention to the forced invisibility of these normative Americans who have been decentered in an era marked by the coming to visibility of others:

Whenever there is a major revolution or change in the power structure of some aspect of society, the outs, the insurgents, the underdogs always become the center of attention and receive the major share of publicity. Thus, in the United States, the activities of racial minorities and youthful rebels are given center stage, while their adversaries, the white, middle-class, middleage establishment, sink into the shadows. in the sexual revolution, the male has been cast as the adversary, the “enemy.” (9)

The felt social, cultural, and political marginalization of Middle American white men that Steinmann and Fox allude to here gets most famously articulated through the metaphor of the “silent majority.” Like Richard Lemon's The Troubled American, in which he laments the American “common man's” lack of a spokesperson or voice, Steinmann and Fox's contribution to the portrait of white Middle American male angst represents ordinary American men as the victims of a profound silencing. Whereas for Lemon “Middle American” is mostly defined as white, victimized by civil rights legislation and racially conceived entitlement programs, for Steinmann and Fox the villain is feminism and women: “The publicity surrounding the ‘women's lib’ movement has been formidable, but rarely, if ever, in the avalanche of words by or about women . . .

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